Bill Walton Is Here To Help You Fill Out Your Brackets

            It was on this date 249 years ago that the British Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, an oppressive and widely protested taxation on the fledgling American colonies. And yet, my friends, here we are, two and a half centuries later, released from the shackles of royal tyranny, filling the coffers of our co-workers with a “bracket tax”—the entry fee to the office pool that you never win because you treat your brackets the way Steven Tyler of the planet-shifting band Aerosmith treated his face: with absolutely no regard! Heed my simple words of bracket wisdom, and like the brave, forebearing pilgrims, unmoor yourself from the ironclad yoke of your ESPN Tournament Challenge entry fee. Collect the currency that’s due you. Say to your competitors, your friends, your co-workers across the cubicle, in the revolutionary words of Steven Tyler and Aerosmith, “Dream On!”

            Don’t pick a 1-seed to lose in the first round. Oh, the stories we tell ourselves! David over Goliath! The United States over Russia! The English in the Battle of Agincourt! Friends, we long for the day when a tiny 16-seed like Coastal Carolina, a burst of joy in the small town of Conway, South Carolina, can dethrone the principalities and powers that have been erected in mighty hoops fortresses such as Lexington, Kentucky; Lawrence, Kansas; and Los Angeles, the home of my alma mater, where I was shaped from a gangly teenager into the man I am today by a golden king of a man, my coach, John Wooden. John Wooden taught us to love, to give our lives in service to one another. A 16-seed will never beat a 1-seed—never! The love, the connectedness, the joy we are all bound by is just too strong for a scrappy band of misfits to knock off the giants of our sport.

            Think outside the box. When I was a young man, spurred on by the intercolution I experienced on the campus of UCLA, and by the rising tide of the conversation about race, about politics, about love, about sharing, a conversation that was sweeping America like a Grateful Dead song, improvised yet steady, I began to think for myself. I am so, so thankful for my teachers, for Dylan, for Otis Redding—these great, marvelous human beings who widened my sense of self and purpose. I learned to ask provocative questions—why do we brandish military force? Where is the love? How do we unite and foster peace, on the court and on our streets? Peace, harmony, love—things I had experienced in the swinging of the basketball on offense, or in the flawless execution of a defensive rotation, or in the brotherly camaraderie of my teammates. How could those experiences translate into the broader national conversation about race, about war, about justice? I began to think outside the box. Which is what you, my dear friends, must do to actualize your most perfect bracket. Everyone is picking Kentucky. And rightfully so! They have great players! The Bluegrass State is the Roman Empire! John Calipari is Caesar!  But in the spirit of the Grateful Dead, who said to “put your money where your love is,” I am choosing the Arizona Wildcats, from the peaceful and enchanted desert, the alma mater of my gorgeous and talented son Luke, of whom I am extremely, extremely proud. The Wildcats of Arizona will cut down the nets.

            Have fun. Basketball is a gift, my friends. As human beings, we have enjoyed the gifts of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chris Rock. The soaring, sprawling wonders of a Jimi Hendrix concert, the hearts that beat to Pavarotti and a bottle of red wine, an existential splendor reserved for holding your girl under the majesty of a starry night in the middle of nowhere. Basketball, that grand old game of Russell, Wilt, Jordan, Kobe, Steve Nash and Boris Diaw, basketball is Mozart. It is Beethoven. It is Jimi Hendrix joined on stage by Dylan and McCartney and Bono. And the NCAA tournament is the pinnacle of this great human mountain. The players! The joy! The cheerleaders! The bands! The brackets! Have fun, my friend. You have a bracket to fill out, and, most importantly, a life to love.    

Some Ways My Dad Has Tried To Get Me And My Brother To Embrace Our Irish Heritage And Some Ways He Hasn't

            My Dad used to be real big on genealogy. Had an profile and everything. (An profile is just like a profile, only it’s for incest.) It doesn’t take much snooping around to discover the pot of gold at the end of our familial rainbow: we’re Irish. McCool’s. There are Irish pubs scattered across America bearing our surname, their Yelp profiles my father has no doubt scoured and possibly reviewed, not commenting on the restaurant, but instead just connecting, one family member to the next.

            Anyway, our forefathers came over the way the rest of y’all’s did—huddled on a very unsanitary ship without access to Purell or a proper toilet. They landed on the Atlantic coast, caught the first Megabus to middle Tennessee, and permanently set up camp.

            When my dad found this out, that our family left a pretty traceable path directly back to Ireland, he got pretty into it. He’s already a guy who’s pretty into things anyway—I really love and admire that in my dad. When he first started liking sushi he got so rolled up in it he bought a rice cooker and started making it at home. Whenever he gets into a new band he launches a frenetic and fan-crazed social media blitzkrieg on all fronts. On our family trip to the Grand Canyon last year he got so jazzed about it he bought a book at the gift shop called Over the Edge: Death at Grand Canyon, a book detailing all the people who’d fallen into the Canyon. Super!

            So he was really into genealogy—and he was really into our Irishness. We were in Gatlinburg once—ah, the traditional Irish pilgrimage to Gatlinburg—and he found this little touristy Irish trinket shop. It was just one of those little Gatlinburgian shops—a nook of a room crammed with knick-knacks, sidled alongside purveyors of salt-water taffy, engraved rice, and airbrushed t-shirts. The shop must have had what you would expect: shamrock shirts, four-leaf clover pins, shot glasses emblazoned with first names like Rachel and Rafael but never Raleigh. But what I remember most about this shop was its music stand, a staple of the Cracker Barrel gift shop: a four-tiered rack of compilation CDs with a nifty digital display and credit card-sized speaker, allowing you to select and play snippets from any of the albums. I must have been 11 or 12 years old, and this—this is how my father introduced me to the music of my forefathers. It was so mystical, serene, and beautiful—to this day, when I hear Celtic music I think, “This would sound great out of a three-inch speaker mounted into a compilation CD stand.”

            Around the same time, my dad started cajoling us into eating at Irish pubs. There was the now-defunct Mulligan's downtown, which my dad was under the impression was a restaurant but I’m pretty sure was a bar of the green-vomit-stains-on-the-wall variety. We suffered through fish and chips one Sunday after church while the day drinkers smoked and wondered what a well-dressed family of four was doing in there on the Lord’s day. We went to Dan McGuiness one year for St. Patty’s Day, figuring we’d hit up the joint before noon and beat the rush. We certainly beat the rush, but my dad had to nearly beat the manager to get my underage brother in the door. “We just want to eat fish n’ chips,” my dad said. “We’re Irish.”

            Recently, as my brother and I have become of age and revealed to our father that we occasionally imbibe, Dad has tried to get us to like Guinness, though I’m unsure if this is an Irish thing or just a poor-taste thing. Guinness truly sucks.

            For as much as he’s jazzed about our Irish history, Dad has shown some un-Irish restraint. He has never had us consume food or drink dyed with green coloring. He eschews whiskey and its carbombing capabilities. He only sort of tried to make me a Celtics fan, but even that was only when Larry Bird was still in green. And, thank the God of Abraham, Isaac, and St. Patrick, he’s never burned me a mix CD with any Dropkick Murphy’s songs on it—but that’s probably because he doesn’t know about them. He’d love them if he knew.

            Please, no one tell him. I’m as Irish as I need to be. 

I'll Take It In A To-Go Cup, Just In Case

           There are a lot of things that could happen between now and the time I finish my coffee, which is why I need it served in a disposable to-go cup.

            I plan on sitting down, sipping my coffee, and sending off a few emails, but beyond that, only the good Lord above knows what’ll happen—hence the to-go cup. For starters, I could finish my emails before I finish my cup! Because of my on-the-go lifestyle, it is helpful to know I can always pack up my things at a moment’s notice and whisk my half-empty (or half-full!) cup of coffee on the road with me.

            I know, I know—it tastes better out of ceramic. You don’t get that straw-like paper taste you do with to-go cups. But what if, in the next ten minutes, my kid gets sick and I have to go pick him up from school? Or what about this: say one of the ladies from my women’s group that I haven’t been to in five weeks shows up and I want to make a quick exit? Heck, y’all’s Wi-Fi might even be down. I’m not taking my chances with that—make mine to-go!

             Oh darn—you guys sure are busy. There are almost no empty seats! All the more reason to make it to-go. That, and it’s germ season. The longer I’m in here with this coffee, the more likely I am to catch a cold. Or Ebola. Or something. And really, imbibing my coffee from a to-stay ceramic mug increases my likelihood of experiencing a lot of things: coffee spills, accidental eye contact, unwanted run-ins with exes, people asking me to “watch their stuff” for a second, religious persecution, liberals, and general unpleasantries. 

            Hey, excuse me, I said to-go.

            With my coffee secured in this biodegradable paper vessel I’ll be able to bolt at a moment’s notice if my spleen erupts, the roof caves in, or this café is suddenly overrun by overcaffeinated Gibraltar apes. Affixed with this plastic lid, my now-transportable coffee will allow quick escape from bandits, falsely documented service dogs, and my unfortunate overhearing of a collegiate break-up. Swathed in this eco-friendly, multi-repurposed paper sleeve, my to-goblet won’t burn my hand when I suddenly chase Jack White into the parking lot and ask him to autograph my eco-friendly, multi-purposed paper sleeve. The cup will be hot without the sleeve, but I’ll be so excited, I won’t even notice!

            Also, unexpected bowel movements! Forgetting to DVR Parks and Rec! The rapture! Make it to-go I say! 

            These are just a few of the reasons why I need you to serve my coffee in a portable cup. Say, what’s the Wi-Fi password?

The First Music Pirate, and How Mariah Carey Stole My Heart

            I’ve never had anything stolen from me. I mean, minor stuff maybe. Candy, pair of pants (actually, yes—Brandon, the quarterback of the high school football team, stole my blue jeans one day from the locker room), my heart.

            It seems like most people have a theft story—bikes mostly, or Apple products. I’ve known folks who’ve had their cars broken into, the greatest casualty of those usually being whatever great heap of early-2000s emo CDs they still had laying around beneath the dash. People will claim to have had their wallets stolen—I think “lost” might be more accurate. A select few have the kinds of breaking-and-entering stories I had nightmares about—the kind they show on TV or security alarm commercials, Home Alone-type dudes in ski-masks, with guns or crowbars, grabbing televisions and searching for money. My grandmother got broken into twice when I was little—the predominate feature of the ransacked, post-theft house was, to me, the overturned couch cushions. These motherfuckers were scrounging for couch change.

            Anyway, I’m not particularly sad that I don’t have a great theft story. That I don’t have some awful memory of something being taken from me, a harrowing childhood reminder that things are temporary, and that people might just be bad. I did lose things pretty often as a kid, so maybe that lesson was enough. I remember leaving a pillow in a hotel room in, like, Atlanta or something. We were a few miles down the interstate when I remembered—far enough for my parents to declare the pillow—just your basic, regular-ass pillow, but my basic, regular-ass pillow—a lost cause. That moment was awful. I guess when you’re little you can’t fathom life carrying on outside of your being there. I don’t know where I thought my dad went to work every day, just that he left in the morning and came back in the evening. Something about leaving that pillow, though, sort of like my blankie, my security, part of myself, being left so incredibly far away, opened to me the realization that life carried on without me in it, and coldly so. We called the hotel about the pillow, I must have begged my parents to. They said what they were supposed to say, that they’d look for it, of course. They’d send it back if they found it. But what they actually did was probably throw it directly into the trash compactor or, hell, probably they just washed it and put it into the pillow rotation. Thinking of it out there, though, existing without me, was scary.

            So no, I never had anything stolen from me, but I like to think I know the lesson to be learned from theft, the temporality of things, the losing of what has become a piece of yourself. I learned this from losing things. But also from being a thief myself.

            When I was a boy, probably seven or eight, my babysitter was Mel Mel. She was a friend of the family, probably ten years older than me. I guess it must have been the summer, and I was at Mel Mel’s, my mom having dropped me off on the way to work. Mel Mel was a cool gal—in the prime of her teens, was always spunky and fun, the life of the little babysitting party we had for ourselves there in the mid-90s. Mel Mel was also an avid listener of pop radio, which was really a wholly new experience for my ears.

            Maybe there is a genre of music pre-coded into your DNA molecules, a particular band or radio station you are predestined to love, a God-created zeal for ZZ Top, a preordained predilection for Prince, a for-I-know-the-plans-I-have-for-you, Jeremiahan jonesing for jam bands—you get it. But I think it probably is actually just total luck. That or you glean it from your pater familiaris’ pattern of listening to P.O.D. What I’m trying to say is that my dad listened pretty exclusively to metal—Pantera, Sevendust, Godsmack; Living Sacrifice and P.O.D. as I got older. My only motherly musical exposure came when Gerry House (on the Big 98, WSIX) would play an Alan Jackson song (on which our neighbor, Danny, would have played guitar, to the growing of my own personal and irrelevant bragging rights), or from whatever Way FM (the Christian station) was playing.

            I grew up in a Christian home, but wasn’t exactly sheltered. I don’t remember an exclusive ban on MTV or VH1, though it probably was frowned upon. Rap music was not prohibited as much as it was haughtily scoffed at. Some of the metal my dad was listening to was kind of rough-around-the-edges, which edged a little listening room for me and my brother.

            Still, at 8, or whatever age I was, your eardrums—and future karaoke playlists—are malleable little guys. And Mel Mel had gotten into two CDs pretty exclusively in 1995: TLC’s Crazy, Sexy, Cool, and Mariah Carey’s Daydream.

            This should explain to your eardrums that Mariah Carey vocal run you just heard me doing.

            But for real—Mel Mel was really into those seminal 90s R&B femme fatales. And as the fates had it, I really was too. So much so, apparently, that I had to have those tapes.

            I didn’t really consider it stealing at the time. I rationalized it in my head: I would borrow the tapes one night, record them to another cassette tape, which is just so fascinating and fucking old school and crazy that it blows my mind more than iPods or Spotify or whatever musical wizardry happens now. Then I would bring the tapes back.

            But before I could bring the tapes back, I was caught.

            I mean, I had them with me the next day, but of course Mel Mel already knew they were amiss. My girl was trying to jam “Fantasy” herself. Because eight year olds are so famously bad at stealing things, Mel Mel probably noticed the missing cassettes before I had pressed play and record. She confronted me, as I was the yearning and impressionable youth and she the seasoned, wiser, cassette-owning authority in the situation. She asked if I had taken them, and I like to think I told the truth. I probably cried and apologized, thinking I was in trouble. Perhaps I did get a little slap on the wrist or something, but I’m sure Mel Mel was cool about it. She was the kind of chill-ass, teenage Mariah Carey fan that a music virgin like me could get behind.

            If my roommate’s milk fridge is any indication, I still haven’t found solid moral footing on the “stealing is bad” conundrum. You hear people who have risen from poverty talk about their great moral compass that ushered them to their now-ascendant seat of well-being: “But I told my kids: we will never steal. And that’s why I worked 95 hours a week at Jack in the Box.” And I admire those people. That is some hard-ass work.

            But if it were me, and it was between stealing and working 95 hours a week at Jack in the Box, you better believe I would make like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and steal the blazes out of wherever the hail sold whatever the hail I needed. Sometimes life gives you a shitty hand. Sometimes all Mel Mel gives you is a slap on the wrist. And if life doesn’t give you a couple of life-changing nineties pop albums, well, sometimes you just have to steal that shit.    

Son, All Your Life Your Mother and I Have Prayed You Would Marry A Really Hot Girl

Thank you all so much for being here tonight. We are so honored that you would spend this special day with us. I’m not really much of a public speaker, so I’ll make this quick.

Son, all your life your mother and I have prayed that God would give you a really hot girl to spend the rest of your life with.

As a parent, there is no greater joy than to see your child grow up to become a strong, godly man with a smoking hot babe on his arm. Those of you who are parents know what a blessing this is—also, those of you who’ve gotten a good look at Jenna’s bungalos!

God is so faithful.  

Son, from the moment you were born, we’ve been lifting you up in prayer. Our prayer has been simple: that you would grow up to be healthy, God-fearing, and, married to an absolute knockout. We didn’t request specifics—blonde or brunette, curvy or thin, fake boobs or real—we simply trusted God with everything. Well, mostly everything. Your mother doesn’t know about this, but when you were little I used to let you stay up late and watch Britney Spears videos with me on VH1. Do you remember that? You know, Jenna’s no Britney—but she’s close!

Jenna, we love you. You are so fun, so confident, and you honestly could be in something like Maxim if you wanted to.

Now son, anyone who knows you knows it will take a special woman to put up with you for the rest of your life! But you’ve found a special one, kid. I mean, she is really something else. My God, those legs. We are all just so blessed.  

My wife and I would also like to thank the parents of the bride for this lovely day. Don and Shelley, thank you for welcoming our son into your family. And, most importantly, thank you for raising your daughter to be such a stone cold fox. We know you’ve been praying for her since she was a baby—and we have too. We just never could’ve imagined God would give us such an amazing daughter-in-law, with such a servant’s heart, and such mind-boggling tits.   

Son, we are so proud of you. You deserve the hottest babe. Thank you all for coming. And thank you, Lord, for providing this beautiful piece of ass. Amen.

New Cheers for a High School Cheerleading Squad


F-a-c-e-b-double-o-k, do-re-mi (clap on “a,” “e,” “o,” and “mi”)

It’s Facebook!

Yeah, yeah, it’s Facebook!


(Self) Defense

(Self) defense, ladies! (clap on first syllable of “ladies”)

(Self) defense!



S-e-l! (clap clap clap) F-i-e-s! (clap clap clap)

Take a pic of your face, ‘gram that shit that’s what I say!

Go selfies!


Creepy Dad

C-r-double-e-p-y (clap on “r” and “e”)

d-a-d in the seats (clap on “d” and “seats”),

You’re creepy!


Our Boyfriends Love Us

Our boyfriends love us! (clap after “boyfriends” and “us”)

Our boyfriends love us!

They say they love our racks, but won’t call us back!

They love us!


Badgers in the House

Badgers! (clap after “Badgers”)

In the house! (clap on “house”)

Call animal rescue!




Say what? Say what?


That’s what we do!


We do for you!

We turn around, touch the ground, get back up, and take some pills!


The Cheering Cheer

White tennis shoes and circle skirts! (clap on “shoes” and “skirts”)

Cheering is for the emotionally hurt!

Go Cougars!



Dribble down the court! (clap after “dribble” and “court”)

Dribble down the street!

Dribble through the yard!

Dribble in the grass!







Lean! Lean! (clap on second “lean”)

Side to side! (clap on second “side”)

If you love our Tigers, show your pride!

By leaning!

That's right, by leaning!



Stomp, stomp, your feet! (stomp on first and second “stomp,” clap on “feet”)

Stomp, stomp, your feet!

Our voices are shrill but our feet could kill!

Stomp, stomp, your feet!


Go Blue Jays




Go Blue Jays!


A Cheer for Thomas

Forever 21 and Auntie Anne’s, (clap on “1” and “Anne’s”)

Just another day out with our gay frand!

It’s Thomas!


Parents Cheer

We’re glad we’re here, (clap after “here”)

And not at home,

Cause our parents hate us and we hate them,

Go parents!


Get Loud!

Everybody! (clap on “bo-”)

Jump up and shout! (clap on “shout”)

Woah, that’s loud!

Everybody chill out!

Go Patriots!



Please Return Our Longaberger Basket!


Nina lives down the street, and she’s right about one thing: we have had their Longaberger basket for three weeks.

She wrote us this note, literally typed it out and taped it to a saran-wrapped plate of muffins, blueberry, from what I can tell. There are two muffins, one for each of us. I haven’t opened them. She also took a picture of the note (before affixing it to the muffins) and sent it in a group text to Laura and me.

The note, and the muffins, are now sitting on the butler’s pantry, beside the basket in question.

Three weeks ago, Nina and her husband Danny had us over for dinner. We had a nice time. We met them at this festival down at the park. Laura and I were on our way out, and we saw this dog—just this AWESOME German shepherd, strolling toward us like royalty. I couldn’t help myself, and I mentioned to the guy (Danny, as it turns out) what an awesome dog he had. He said thanks and not much else, but his wife was on us like raw steak, conversationally speaking.

She went right for it, said something about my Braves shirt to which I responded favorably, and so then her and Laura chatted and LOL’d over words like “MARTA” and “Tech” and “traffic!”

We were all smiling and chuckling. It was a nice moment, but I kind of finished my laugh like, “Well, it was good to meet you guys,” but then Nina astutely pointed out that we hadn’t met each other, so names were proffered, and of course they got all hung up on mine and I had to do the “I can’t take credit for it” line.

I didn’t necessarily want to be talking to these people, but then again they were listening, and laughing, which is honestly a great way to get me to talk to you. Now Laura was the one with her hand on my wrist, ending the banter, leading us away. She could probably sense the dinner invitation coming, probably in some way the future tension, the psychotic bitch-venom that Nina would in a fortnight spew.

They asked us to dinner.

Well, they asked us where we lived. I of course offered up precise directions, which turned out to be a few doors down from their place on Gale! That settled dinner right then and there. As we walked away Laura seemed actually excited, while I, aware that my uncontrollable wit and verbiage would have us sitting down for dinner in a stranger’s house, forced to make conversation about, you know, things, flagellated myself. “Ehhh, sorry about that,” I told her. “About what?” she asked. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”    

It was sort of fun.

When we left, Nina insisted we take home some banana pudding, insisted the way people do. She gave us what was left, which was over half the pan. To make things less cumbersome, Nina placed the pudding leftovers into a basket, procured from atop the refrigerator. “I’ll put it in this Longaberger basket for you! That’ll make it easier.”

Then she handed it to us. No special instructions. No “PLEASE ENJOY BY” or “PLEASE RETURN BY” date. I mean, we didn’t think she was just giving us the basket. We understood the gesture. And she definitely enunciated that “Longaberger” part.

So that’s how we ended up with it. I carried it in from the car, put the pudding in the fridge, and left the basket on the counter. It’s literally still right there. Nina played it cool for like a day. Dinner was on Saturday, and on Monday afternoon Laura had a text from her: Can you please return my Longaberger basket? Laura said of course she would but then she got home late and forgot. Since then: frantic texts, countless phone calls, and harried voicemails; two really sweet and well-written emails; a handful of unannounced drop-ins (we used to leave our doors unlocked, but last Friday Nina just let herself in—she didn’t go for the basket, though, which would’ve mercifully ended things; she just stood there on the welcome mat, calling our names, while we hid in the laundry room); a bizarre, cryptic Facebook post (Nina’s status: “Real friends help you fly; fake ones help you die. The proof is in the pudding. #realtalk”. The proof is in the pudding???); and now, this note, and these muffins.

We are terrified, and slightly bemused.

At dinner, Nina told a story about the film The Notebook. She is a self-proclaimed “huge Nicholas Sparks girl,” and happened to be living in South Carolina when the movie was being filmed. One day she just wandered over to the shoot, figuring she might get to sneak a peek at one of the scenes or something. Worst that could happen is that they’d make her leave. Well, she hopped a fence, told some guy who hadn’t asked that she was Meggie from costume and one thing led to another and she was in the freaking movie. They put her into one of the carnival scenes towards the start. She’s holding an ice cream cone and laughing and leaning on a man.

I’d been thinking about this Notebook thing, because our life was a barrage of Nina bombs and basket-related threats. When I told the guys at work about it, I always fixated on the Notebook thing—she was just so damn proud of it, still extremely jazzed, what, like, a decade later? In this insane three-week period of basket captivity, I thought that this extra-in-The-Notebook bit was easily the most bizarre. I’d watched the movie many times, mostly because my high school girlfriend loved it, and, thinking I loved her, I loved watching it with her, because of her vague resemblance to Rachel McAdams and my youthful, teenaged conviction that I loved her the way Ryan Gosling did. This might be the banana pudding talking, but did I remember Nina from the carnival scene?

I was sitting at home, kind of hanging out on the porch, reading a book, when Laura got home. We chatted for a second. I showed her the note, the muffins. “Should we eat ‘em?” I asked. “Hell no we shouldn’t eat them!” Laura said, concerned. I was just joking, but she looked, like, actually upset. “You okay, babe?” I hugged her to my chest, and she started to cry. “Sorry, sorry,” she kind of choked out a laugh. “Jesus,” she said, wiping her eyes, “Jesus, this is just so fucking weird.” In this moment, without speaking, we agreed to it. We had opted not to return the Longaberger basket. “She really is an actual crazy person,” I said, letting Laura go from my hug.

We made dinner together and flipped channels. It was getting dark, and, because I like suggesting things heavy in irony, I suggested a movie. “Anything in mind?” she asked. I had something in mind, but wanted it to seem natural, like I had just thought of it right then and there, like it was the most normal and casual movie recommendation of all time. “I don’t know, we could—haven’t seen this in a while…we could…watch The Notebook?” Laura kind of looked at me and paused, then rolled her eyes knowingly and flicked the remote to the MOVIES screen.

I don’t know why we never returned the basket.

Laura forgot, that first night, which was totally understandable. First I heard about it was Tuesday morning, the morning after Laura forgot, when we woke up to a text that said, Hey girl. You got my basket? Laura’s stomach dropped the way it does when you wake up to a text like that, and I felt her pain—I’ve always feared a text like that, to this day, a text from my mom or my bank, my boss or my student loan people. I consoled her, got a little defensive, told Laura not to feel bad, that Nina sure was “putting all her eggs in one basket!” But she forgot it again that day, and that evening, when my phone started blowing up, I took it over but couldn’t find a place to put it. I don’t know, Nina was just freaking out about the freaking basket, plus it sounded expensive—so I didn’t want to just leave it outside.

After those initial miscommunications things just got weird. Couple days later is when Nina just showed up. That honestly scared the crap out of us. Thought it was a freaking robber or something. But then Nina laid low for a few days, sent us a really nice email, talking about how much fun she had, even inviting us to the Belcourt for a film that night. She seemed to have forgotten the basket, or at least chilled out about it, and so did we. Then these distressed voicemails started coming in, and we started locking our doors, and a kind of unspoken, internal decision was made between us and it was decided that we would pretend that Nina and Danny and Rocky and the Longaberger basket did not exist.

Rachel McAdams had locked eyes with Ryan Gosling, and Laura and I were almost through a bottle of wine. She leaned over to me, rubbed her nose with mine, Eskimo kisses. We were only half-watching, the film doing its job by enkindling a spark of romance between us. Laura was leaned into me, and begun to kiss me deeply. I sort of had my eyes halfway open, because I like to kiss that way whatever, and Ryan Gosling says something to one of his buddies and his buddy slings his arm around his girl, and my eyes got as big as those poisoned-ass muffins. It was Nina, licking an ice cream cone with such pure youthful joy. Laura’s tongue was really going for it now, and she had lost all interest in the goings-on onscreen. Didn’t take much wine to get her going. There was a scratching at the door, but there was so much going on—Nina on screen, Laura in my mouth—I hardly noticed. She was biting my lip, and someone was trying the door. I paused the screen and tried to get Laura to stop, but she wouldn’t. A booming bark unleashed itself, and I knew then that it was Rocky, that Nina had come for her Longaberger basket once and for all. Laura bolted up, terrified, and the banging continued and the barking never ceased but we never got up, could not look away, couldn’t be bothered, for we had decided, unspoken, a truce. Plus, there was Nina, on screen, smiling like a school girl, ice cream cone in one hand, Longaberger basket in the other.   

Who Wedding'd Best?

A point-by-point breakdown of who had the better wedding night: me or Mable, the 100 year-old wedding caterer.

Weddings are fine things. Spirits are high, everyone’s wearing their best, their tiniest crannies crammed with flasks (question I’ve never thought to ask: how do they get the liquor into the flask?). A marriage ceremony is one of those rare life events where everyone gets to be there--your high school buddies, your college best friends, your great aunts and little cousins, rando plus-one dates and your squatty, nimble, 100 year-old relative Mable. 

It’s all of these things--the getting dressed up, the lightness of spirit, and the kind of wine-swilling that even Jesus signed off on--tossed onto a dance floor with all of your beloved family and friends, that makes weddings gorgeous events. 

I love weddings also because I am good at them. I am good at dressing up, good at making casual wedding jokes with acquaintances, good at singing Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” good at drinking wine. 

Last week, I met my comeuppance. Mable has been comeupping for right smack dab on a hundred years, coming up on 101 soon. The groom’s geriatric great-great-something-or-other cooked the food, prayed to God for it, and in the eternal tradition of food-cooking female relatives, spent the next several hours shooing people out of their chairs and into the buffet line. 

I had a good wedding night. But was Mable’s better? Let’s break it down.


Arriving on the scene at the be-sweltering strawberry farm, I was swiftly and unanimously praised for my seemingly suspect sartorial choice of shorts. (It was effing hot. I looked great. Shorts at an outdoor wedding in summer? Yes we can.) I complimented my lower half with some crisp, bright uppers--donning a salmon short-sleeved button-down, a navy tie (matching the shorts), and a tie bar. My shoes were dark brown Sperry’s, rescued from the shoe-shelves in the Green Hills Macy’s about 90 minutes before the wedding. Folks used these words when describing my outfit: “Great,” “cool,” “looks great!”   

I can’t say for sure I heard anyone compliment Mable’s attire. Wedding-goers were more likely to laud her surprising alacrity or her green beans (we’re coming back to this!), and I think it says something about her outfit-of-choice that no one said something about it. Fitted modestly in a silky pastel blouse--we’ll call it easter-aqua--Mable carried herself as one less interested in praise than just getting down to business. Maybe, after one hundred years, I’ll tire of praise. Her pants--in a determined and wise heat-beating effort--were flowy and cream-colored. Mable was not attempting to garner any style points, but, of course, not giving a fuck is actually worth a handful style points.

Who took the swag-cake? I vote me, and pretty convincingly.   

View of the Wedding Vows

As the ceremony commenced, with Sigur Ros playing through the speakers hidden in the woods like those little fake speaker-rocks at theme parks, a little sprinkling commenced as well. Around the woodsy, outdoor amphitheatre, umbrellas went up, briefly but decidedly clouding my view of the bridal party’s stroll down the aisle. This is among my favorite parts of a wedding. The groomsmen in their suits and suspenders, the bridesmaids in dresses clutching flowers, all grinning at the groom, who beams. It’s just really nice. And for much of this procession, I stared at a nylon umbrella. 

I have no idea where Mable was during the ceremony. As an honored family member, was she stationed close to the front, her vision unoccluded by parasols? Or perhaps she was standing, in the back, her knees unwilling to bend with the ups-and-downs of bridal processions? It is also entirely possible that, what with her responsibilities at the reception, Mable spent the wedding scooping barbecue into those heated aluminum vats. 

There is no way of knowing what the wedding--or the world--looked like through Mable’s eyes. But I know how it looked through mine. Mable had the better view of the wedding.

Dating History with the Bride

I used to date the bride.

Mable, I’m pretty sure, did not used to date the bride.

I have no idea who wins this one.

Blessing of the Food

I don’t know what your religious background says about women, but mine says they ought to cook the food (ten wedding points for Mable!), clean the dishes, and keep quiet. When there are prayers to be led, the paterfamilias ought to pray them. She’s the family matriarch? Great! Give us a second so all the men can leave so your little female food-blessing can actually get heard by the Lord. (While Mable was praying out loud, I prayed silently in my head. I think that counts.)

But seriously, Mable rocked that blessing. When someone announced that Mable would be praying, sans microphone, seeking blessing for all assembled, I had my doubts. I didn’t think my voice would project that far, and my low-frequency rumbles often rustle sleeping nocturnal creatures in my neighborhood. Her, well, century-old voice box was surely not up to the task, I thought. But she honestly crushed it. She expressed everyone’s thankfulness for the day, satisfactorily blessed the food and the hands that prepared it (self-blessing), and thanked God for the fortunate weather patterns (the rain relented for the ceremony). If you want to see the full performance, some lady beside me video’d the entire prayer on her iPhone, this after snapping like sixteen panoramic shots during the wedding. Was she sitting in front of me and beside her husband, Umbrella Guy? Of course she was!

Even within my religious background, there is some leeway for ceremonial prayer-leading. How many times do you get your food blessed by someone who lived during the Depression? She knows food is a blessing! Mable wins again.     

The Blessed Food

I was among the first in line, due mostly to Mable, and my being in the right place (standing earnestly beside the food) at the right time (right after “Amen,” when Mable started shooing us, like clucking chickens, to the food line). I cleaned my first plate, offered aid to a tablemate who was unable to finish hers, and returned for seconds. Later, when the traditional wedding mini-pies (!) were served, I ate two strawberry ones with my bare hands. 

Mable cooked all the food. In a former life, she was a wedding caterer. Now I guess she just does it to have something to do? Either way, the spread was pretty nice. There were, if my vino-blurred memory serves: dinner rolls; pasta and vegetables splashed in a creamy, tangy, white sauce; spinach salad with fresh strawberries (From the farm? Say they’re from the farm!); corn; a kind of mashed potato-cheesy hashbrown hybrid; green beans (the obvious low point, as they tasted like Mable had been preserving them in brown sugar and vinegar since 1956); and barbecue. My major complaint (the green beans notwithstanding) came when I reached for a dinner roll. The rolls were pre-packaged (what else have you pre-packaged, Mable?), the kind you have to tear apart before serving. When I arrived at the roll station, there was Mable, totally negating her blessing, all her hands in that pan, just tearing and pulling and rolling the rolls, anxious, it seemed, to touch each single dinner roll with fingers. I wouldn’t call myself a germophobe, but there’s no telling where those hands have been in the last hundred years. 

Mable cooked it, I ate it. Sounds like I’m the winner here. 

The Dance Floor (alternatively titled, “Where Was Mable At?”)

If there was a rug to cut, I cut it. If there were panties to drop, I caused them to drop. If there was a way for my shirt to be any sweatier, I’d have wrung it out and left it for the fawns to lick like a salt cube. I was an essential cog in the wedding wheel, dancing and singing, harmonizing to 90’s R&B hits, rapping to obligatory Jay-Z tunes, even unmooring my Nazarite locks during the climactic song (Mariah’s “Always Be My Baby”). My girlfriend stood on my feet and we danced a slow number. I drank all of Jesus’ wine, displayed impressive vocal range and recollection of nineties pop songs, and offered a tasteful taste of my hip-swerving dance stylings. I had a blast on the dance floor, and I think others had similar blasts with me. 

Where was Mable at? I’ll tell you where: over by the barbecue, dishing out pork in little plastic goody bags. Consumed with her catering duties, Mable couldn’t be bothered to bust a move. Even the Harlem shake--her favorite song!--couldn’t wrest her from her food spread. There was one point when I thought she was making her move, ambling quickly and not unrhythmically towards the dance floor, shaking her hands in what could have easily been interpreted as dancing. What she really was doing was shooing me out of the way, clearing some room for her to carry a tray of green beans to her car. 

Be they male or female, young or one century old, the gathered masses agree: I am a better dancer than Mable. 

The Winner

As witnesses of those beautiful nuptials at that drizzly strawberry farm, we were all winners. We even got little jars of jam to prove it! 

But between me and Mable, who’s had one hundred years to carve out her niche on the dance floor? Check the scorebook, Mable--looks like I’m the winner (3-2).