lame jokes could save the world

So, it has been a month.  A lot has happened in that time.  I’ve been pooped on by another bird. No surprise there.  I have been visited by one of my best friends, left a semi-scandalous note for a waiter, went in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in years, submitted some professional writing, and nearly broke my ass when I sat down on the toilet without checking to see if the lid was down. Thanks, Dad.  I’ve wanted to write sooner, but well, look at the exciting life I’ve led.  My life could be a movie.

The truth is, words are hard.

Which might explain why my flirting strategy, breaking-the-ice strategy, and humoring-small-children strategy are all the same thing.  Lame jokes.  Everybody loves a lame joke.  And if they don’t, they must be broken.

What do you call an alligator in a vest?  |  An in-vest-igator.

What do you call a dinosaur in a car accident?  | Tyrannosaurus-wrecks.

Why did the police officer smell?  | Because he was on…dooty.

I mean, classics, right? I may or may not rely more heavily on them than I should, but I can’t help it, they’re awesome. It may also explain a lot about my dating ability…no, I’m sure its fine.

The thing is, its more than the words that trip me up. I’ve been known to have a very questionable sense of timing.  It started young. When I used to be adorable.  I hesitate to use the word cherubic, but seriously, it was borderline. Little blond waves, dimples, chubby little baby arms, a slot-coin gap in my teeth, and a closet full of light-up jelly shoes.  A-dorable.  But, no matter how cute I was on the outside, I was still me…just smaller, and much blonder.  Same timing, same mouth, less training.

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I cursed for the first time when I was two.  My family doesn’t remember who threw the first shovelful of sand, my brother or me, but when the skirmish was over, I was covered in sand, and pissed.  I shook my tiny fist in the air and swore to my brother in an even tinier voice that I would, “slap the shit out of him!”  Granny cackled and picked me up as my brother ran to my father while I licked my arm to get the sand off my tongue.

The timing issue surfaced when I was four.   My parents probably should have seen it coming. I walked up the church aisle for children’s time, the heels of my shoe lighting up with each step, and took the microphone from the pastor because I wanted to sing everybody a song.

A whiskey song.

Granny cackled (again) from her pew in the back, while my mother pretended she didn’t know either us. But hey, at least I didn’t curse.  And, the pastor learned to keep a firmer grip on the microphone.

Not a lot has changed for me really.  My shoes don’t light up when I walk anymore, and it’s been awhile since I was in church – but I still curse and sing whiskey songs with terrible timing.  And, while I don’t have much of a filter between brain and mouth, I’m learning to try.

Because no matter how much fun I have making mistakes with words, or accidently inventing new ones – words are hard for a reason.  They are powerful.  The more words we learn, the more we realize how much.

We all know the words we aren’t meant to say.  Words that belittle and discriminate, that carry a history of hate, that misrepresent beautifully original men and women into being something less than.  We know these words, even if we wish we didn’t.

When I was twenty, I started losing words.  The first to a small girl in India.  She was curled up in my lap, her head leaned into my neck as her tiny arms hugged my shoulders.  I rubbed her back, half to comfort her, and half to wipe off the ants crawling on her shirt. My fingers bumped over each of her ribs; I’d forgotten we had twelve until I felt hers. One of the other volunteers gave us the girls’ lunch to feed them, the grains of rice in the bowl were as easy to count as her ribs. She wiped my tears while she ate, and I wondered if she could count them.  My first lost words, “I’m starving.”

We live in a world where it is becoming increasingly important to take care with our words – because situations are becoming increasingly difficult.

What do we say when a man who has stood for so much hate dies?

What do we say to a little girl kicked out of school for acting like a little boy?

What do we say to the families of those who are lost? What do we say to those who find themselves feeling lost?

What do we say to a young man denied proper housing because he’s not enough like the other young men?

What do we say?  What do I say?

There have been a lot of words said the last several weeks as our world deals with these questions – and some of them have been beautiful, and moving, and impassioned, and heart-breaking.

And some have not.

Because, words are hard.  Finding the right words at the right time, harder.  We worry about saying the wrong thing.  We worry about being judged, or being offensive.  So we learn that sometimes, it is best to say nothing.  But, we also know what can happen when too many people say nothing.

It is why I try to be careful with my words.

It is why I try to be careless with my words.

It is why I talk about sex, and breasts, and squat bathrooms.  About sexuality, fear, failure, and doubt.  Why I try to be funny, and serious.  Why I try to be open, and honest, and unafraid to talk about the things that matter to me.  And why I try to listen when others have things to share, even when I don’t know how to hear them. Because the words we use to define ourselves, our choices, and each other matter.

Our words can make us feel courageous.

Like when I said, “I love you.” Maybe I told him because of the way it felt when his stubble scratched my cheek, or how his arm was warm around my stomach.  It could have been for no reason at all, but I’m glad I did.  Though I don’t love him anymore, I love the version of me brave enough to tell him – and the version of him whose arm wrapped around me. And when I lay my own arm over my stomach at night, I love that I still feel giddy as my stomach warms.

Our words can make us feel cowardly.

Like the words I haven’t told her yet, and maybe never will. The words I didn’t even realize I wanted to say.  There is so much risk in saying the wrong thing. If I say something, everything could fall apart.  If I say something, everything could fall together.  If I say something.  And I may, one day.

And it can be worth waiting.  Worth taking the time to find the right words – or the courage to be willing say the wrong ones.  We never know the difference we can make with our words.

Who knows, maybe it is the lame jokes that will save the world one day.

Why do milking stools only have three legs?  |  Because the cow has the udder.

Why shouldn’t you write with a broken pencil?  |  Because there is no point.

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breasts, babies, and breeding…oh my

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Breasts.  They’re complicated.

Breasts are like people – they come in all shapes and sizes: small ones, large ones, lopsided ones, droopy ones, and even little pert ones that curve up at the tip so that a woman’s chest looks like it is always asking a question (looking at you Gwyneth Paltrow, I remember Shakespeare in Love).

Mine are of the large variety.  This isn’t really a revelation, see me on the street and in less than a second you can gauge that I have…ample assets.  I will spare you the specifics, but let’s just say if cup sizes were academic grades, mine would never graduate high school. I’d like to say being chesty is awesome – and lets be honest, there are times it is.  I’m aware that there are drinks that have been purchased, discounts given, and speeding tickets I’ve avoided that were not due to my winning personality.  But there are also simple things that become a little, well, trickier.

Running.  There are usually multiple bras involved, and no small amount of what I call the T-Rex pose.  Which is basically tucking my elbows in and using my wrists to pin down rebellious flesh; leaving my fists jutting out awkwardly, like my boobs are geared up for a punch they can’t quite throw.  Despite these precautions, it is still an uncomfortable experience.   For the men reading (and props to you for sticking it out through all the boob talk) imagine running with 10-pound testicles and no supportive equipment.  Not pleasant.

Eating.  There is the benefit of food catching on what is essentially a built-in shelf, particularly helpful in movie theatres when eating popcorn.  Still hungry when the bag is empty? No problem! Just bend your head and mouth vacuum along your blouse!  But, there is also a Grand Canyon of cleavage that shamelessly swallows everything: earrings, lint, bobby pins, and food (which is shaming when romantic time is derailed by a sudden look of horror as your date finds corn nuts where corn nuts should not be).

Reaching.  Everything gets on them.  Writing at a chalkboard? Check your front.  Wiping down a table? Check your front.  Trying to grab the rolls at Christmas dinner before your brother can get them?  Check your front, because there are probably mashed potato Santa beards on your tits. Merry Christmas.

Yeah, having breasts changes things.

The development of breasts changed the sports I played.  When my co-ed soccer coaches noticed the boys spending more time watching me run at the ball than the ball itself, I was forced to find something with a little less ‘impact’, like swim team.  Buoyancy – I had it in spades, so I did well there, with the boys at least.  When you are 12 with the chest of a 18 year-old, it is hard to fit in.  If I tried to dress the way the other girls did, the teachers would call my outfit inappropriate, or obscene.  If I dressed to cover my new additions, with baggy t-shirts and plaid button ups, then I wasn’t cool (if only the hipster trend had caught on 15 years sooner).  So, instead I sat on the poolside, ate nachos and chugged cokes with the boys; hunching forward to hide my breasts when the girls walked by in patterned towels, shiny flip-flops, and v-neck swim suits.

As I get older, I realize my breasts come with even more expectations (to be fair, my whole gender does). And I’m not a super big fan of societal expectations. Breasts are ‘allowed’ recreational uses, of course, but there is a more practical use we are supposed to aim for. Life.  While we may, uhm, come from the valley, it is the mountain spring that sustains us. And yes, my body is genetically designed to give and support life, but that doesn’t make it a requirement.

Because, here’s the thing – I’m not sure I want to have babies.

Honestly, they frighten me.  Its not the way they look, because for the most part – they are adorable.  Its the way the look at me.  The hunger.  The want.  The milk lust.  Like tiny little tit vampires.  I’m not judging them.  I get it.  Sit me down in front of a giant chocolate cake (let alone two chocolate cakes) and I know how it will end.  An upset stomach and frosting on my face.  I just don’t really care to be the cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the relationships between parents and children are beautiful. I am of the age where most of my friends are transitioning from wonderful people into astounding parents.  And seriously, that is fantastic for them – they have some wicked cute babies!  For some of my friends, they even get to this point where their breasts become something different, they become function, connection, food. My friends become mothers.

But its not because of their breasts. Like I said, breasts are complicated.  Breasts are like people – some are big, some are small. Some are fun, and some are a pain in the ass. Breasts are a lot of things, but they aren’t identities.  I’m not a woman because I have breasts, just like I wouldn’t stop being a woman if I lost them.

And I won’t be less of a woman if I only ever use them for decoration.

I may be hunted down by vampire babies, but that is my problem.

a traveler’s guide to escaping greek bathrooms

The trick is not to panic.

Not that the trick always works, but it helps to have a mantra.

I ripped the last square of toilet paper off the roll, dried my hands, and tried the lock one more time. Nothing happened.  Fucking Athens. The day had been so lovely.  Delicious food, delicious men, and ruins.  Add one perfectly placed couple embracing on a couch, and the day was pretty much the cover of a romance novel. But then I had to pee.  Bit of a mood killer. I had only been stuck in the bathroom for 5 minutes, but it was long enough to sweat through my pajamas, and to decide I was going to die.  Not the way I hoped I’d go. Death by hostel toilet in polka dot pants, and hand-made paper towel bathroom shoes. There are classier options.

I considered crawling up the wall, out the window that barely qualified as such and onto the roof, but a couple of very important things kept me on the damp paper towels: 1) a suspicious brown stain on the wall by the toilet, and 2) I’m not exactly James Bond – my efforts would end in blood and tears, not incredible sex and gunfire.

So I did the next best thing.  I panicked.  And after 10 minutes of pounding, screaming, and failed attempts to MacGyver the lock, nobody had come to rescue me.  Then, something amazing happened.  In a state of borderline hysteria, I sat on the sink, leaned back, and kicked as hard as I could.   I learned a valuable lesson.  I can kick a door down.  Also, I might be part hulk.

I learn a lot of lessons in bathrooms.  Most people just read.

There was the bathroom I peed my pants in.  I dig Japan, I really do.  You can find little Godzilla statues on the street, and there are costumed dance battles in the street. Awesome.  But bathrooms shaped like human mouths…I can’t quite get behind that.  Yes, for about two seconds I immaturely giggled about sitting on some guy’s face – but then I stood up and the automatic flush made the lid open and close in some sort of chewing motion, and a disturbingly deep male voice said, “mmm-mm-mm.”  I didn’t take that too well.  There may or may not have been screaming.   And a bit of unscheduled peeing.

Expect the unexpected. Lesson learned.

I’ve also face my fears in bathrooms.  Like my public pooping phobia (it’s a thing, Google it) in an open-air squat toilet outside Mamallapuram, India.  The old woman next to me looked delicate with her sari folded gently over her shoulder.  Her toenails were painted pink, and even crouched over dirt she was poised.  I, however, shoved my purse under my shirt, pulled my pants down, gripped my ankles, and tried not to mess on myself.  I must have looked as rough as I felt because a few seconds later a small warm hand start rubbing calming circles on my back.  It was strangely sweet, and relaxing. Until I looked up to thank her, and the natural thing that happens in those situations, happened.  There are moments in life not meant to be shared; essentially destroying a squat hole in India is one of them.

So basically, the most important things I learned while traveling, I learned with my pants down.  Sounds about right.

But that is the beauty of it.  And in a way, part of the adventure.  Learning things in all the best, and awkward ways.

Waking up to a naked drunk magician in Dublin who mistook my bunk for his.  Yes, I lost a few hours of sleep, but now I know where some magicians hide their cards.  Or getting escorted semi-politely from the Vatican.  Note: the phrase ‘fucking pope’ never really appropriate. Particularly not in front of the Papal Swiss Guard. Don’t let the Shakespearian pageboy-esque uniforms fool you, those men are basically ninja’s in tights with poofy sleeves and trousers.  Even accidentally sharing a meal with what could have been a section of China’s famous Mafia, the Triad.  I mean, those men may have had perfectly legitimate reasons they were carrying out their business in the back of small restaurant in downtown Beijing. With bodyguards. And guns.  They were very polite though.  All these moments taught me something – admittedly, some lessons more valuable than others.

That is what makes traveling worthwhile.  The moments where you learn things about yourself that alter who you are.  We may go out so we can see the world – but if we are doing it right, we are really just looking for ourselves.  And enjoying the steps, or mis-steps along they way.  Because you don’t know what you are capable of until you are tested.  So don’t be afraid to go out there and see the world.  Knock down a few doors, get kicked out of a few museums, make a few friends in hostels, and eat questionable food in questionable company.

Just remember: don’t panic, always wear shoes, make new friends, travel with old ones (even if they don’t hear your pleas for help behind bathroom doors), and when all else fails – take comfort in the fact you will have some great stories to take back home.  Oh, and test the locks on bathroom doors. Just in case.

Also, as promised – the photos.  Minimal back story – while in Greece, you will notice most tourist tend to aim for what I will democratically call the ‘glamour shot’.  Lots of booties in air, pouty lips, and some innappropro love of statues.  I think there is something in the water.  Anyway, my travel mate and I decided to join the cause.  I think I might have a career in modeling, right?

Greece 1 

so, here is the thing…

You know how third time is supposed to be the charm? Well – apparently it is not.  I am not entirely sure how it is Wednesday again already, but apparently it is.  Nor am I sure how my glass of ‘inspirational whiskey’ turned into three glasses.  But hey, still wearing pants – and counting that as a win.  So I am going to do what any semi-intelligent, semi-buzzed writer would do; call it a night, head to bed, and beg forgiveness in the morning.  I mean, deadlines are more like suggestions, right?

Tomorrow though, the post will be up! (Portland, OR time tomorrow)

And don’t worry, the post will be worth the wait.  It may or may not involve moments with the pope, a talking toilet in Japan, and the Chinese Mafia (Triad).

As an apology, I will find the most ridiculous picture I can – and attach it to the end of tomorrow’s post. I promise you, that alone is worth seeing, I am very skilled at tragically funny photos.

the sluttiest virgin

“I’d climb that boy like a tree.”

“I would let that man have my babies.”

“That man looks delicious. Om-nom-nom!”

“I wouldn’t say no.”

My mouth has a bad habit of saying things it shouldn’t.  I like to pretend I’m making up for years of misogynistic societal sexualization of women when talking like this, but to be honest, I am just a bit of a perv.   I objectify men I see on the street, and shamelessly stare.  Horrifying?  Probably, but at least I don’t whistle. That’s crude.

The thing is, I find sex HILARIOUS.  There is nothing as funny as a well placed ‘reminds me of my first time’ or ‘that’s what she said.’   Double entendres? Love ‘em.  Sexual innuendo? All over it.  Overt sexualization of completely non-sexual things?  Its like you know me!   A rather rambunctious Norwegian and myself even managed to make blenders sexual – I’m still not sure how, but with time to waste waiting for Wicked to begin, blenders went from making smoothies to making sweet, sweet love – all before Glinda the good could float down on her magic bubble.

Oh, and the word ‘balls’.  Gets me every time.

If you think about it, all sex is, boiled down to the very physical core, is two people showing each other their business bits, inspecting each others business bits, and putting said bits together.  It is sweaty, sloppy, and not particularly pretty.  Especially the bits.  You know how some dogs are so ugly they almost cross over to cute again? A penis wishes it could be that lucky.  At least vaginas come with curtains.

But still, sex is funny.  It is a lot of other things too: beautiful, awkward, pleasurable, painful, awkward, affirming, disarming, wonderful, uncomfortable, did I mention awkward?  Whether you are having it or not, the potential for sex can lead to some embarrassing situations.  Like calling a friend to tell them about this new craft project you learned that turns old romance books into hedgehogs, only to learn that while you are folding pages over ‘quivering members’ and ‘swelling lips’, they are busy with tactics explained on pages 147, 163, and a little bit of 189.  Or pretty much any night you spend in a youth hostel.  There is something in those musty rooms and squeaky metal twin beds that turn patrons into exhibitionists.  I thought it was youthful hormones, but an elderly German couple in London taught me that any age can feel the magical lure of sneaky sex in an 18 bed mixed-dorm.  Though, to give credit where credit is due, those men were smooth.  If I hadn’t needed a late night pee, I would never have known.   Travel tip: ALWAYS bring shower shoes.

For all my sexy talk, I’ve been single longer than Obama has been president.  I try and keep dating though.  The last date I was on ended in an uncomfortable moment where I went in for the hug, knowing the evening would end with me in my pajamas (alone), and he went in for a kiss, imaging a rather different ending.  I was caught in this weird limbo, one arm smashed between us, the other hanging off his shoulder holding the flowers he had given me.  I tried to pull away but his hand was placed at the back of my head, endearing in a kiss hold, but just then, it felt like a claw machine clamped down on the head of a 50-cent stuffed animal.  I ended up patting small circles on his back, destroying his thoughtful flowers.  He drove home alone with pollen on his shoulders; I drove home with tulip stems.  Needless to say, there wasn’t another date.  To be fair, the existence of Tom Hiddleston has almost eradicated my personal need – pop in either Thor film and by Loki’s first sexy smirk, I am ready to light up the metaphorical post-coital cigarette because, ladies and gentlemen, that’s me done.

The only problem with sex is the way we talk about it.  Or, the way we don’t talk about it.  Think of the words we use for genitals: lady garden, snatch, va-jay-jay, cunt, cock, rod, one-eyed monster.  With varying degrees of creativity we hide from the real words.  Even the deed itself is often masked: ‘the beast with two backs’, ‘the horizontal tango’, ‘plowing the field’, etc.  Sex isn’t mentioned in polite conversation, but in whispered tones behind closed doors.  Which is sad, because when we make something taboo, or shameful, we don’t make that thing go away – we just teach it to be quiet.  And we let other people choose our words for us.

      Slut.

I was 13 the first time I understood what that word meant.  I was riding the bus home from school, my legs folded up against the seat back, knees pressing through the cheap green vinyl and into back of the girl in front of me. My friend Tara and I were playing M.A.S.H, a game that tells your future by numbers.  I couldn’t lose; I was destined for a spacious mansion in New York, driving a Jaguar, all on the salary of an award-winning journalist.  All fate had left was to choose which boy out of the four listed I was to marry, but instead of counting, I raised the paper in the air, and said I would take them all!  Tara called me a cheat and laughed. The boy in the seat behind us called me a slut.  I pulled my legs off the seat, traced the impressions the wrinkled vinyl had made on my knees, and wondered what I had done wrong.

      Virgin.

The crickets were stereotypically loud outside my boyfriend’s truck.  I picked lint balls off the bench seat with my fingernails while rap played out of the thousand dollar sound system.  Those were the days when I still wore skorts (skirt/shorts for those not fashion challenged) and paint stained batman t-shirts.  I went through a phase where I shopped in the boys’ department of Target.  We all have phases; don’t judge.  I could smell my deodorant, so I knew it was trying, but failing, to keep my pits dry.  I rubbed my hands on my shirt, hoping that if he reached for them, he wouldn’t notice they were clammy.  But despite all that, I wasn’t afraid. I had never felt more mature.  Until that word came up.  The v-word.  And you don’t get to be that word at that age. Not anymore.  He drove me home, kissed me on the forehead, and called me sweet.

We need better words, and better options.  I’m tired of society pulling a Goldilocks on my vagina – telling me when is too much, when is too little, and when is just right.  We need to claim our sexual identity and enjoy it in all its semi-awkward, yet beautifully moving glory.  Talk about what makes it powerful.  Talk about what makes it healing, what makes healthy.  Find the right words and remove the shaming ones.  Because you should never be ashamed of consensual sex, no matter how you take it, when, or with whom.

So these are my words:  Women who celebrate themselves in sexually healthy and explorative ways, awesome! Rock on and fuck away! I’m with you!  Women who choose not to, fantastic!  Rock on and watch more Tom Hiddleston! I’ll bring the whiskey and chocolate.

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cherry poppin momma vs swan

The first blog post.  Terrifying.  I wasn’t this nervous for any of the other firsts, and there have been some humdingers (trying to bring the word back, nailed it).

The first time I admitted I hate Jane Austen.  As an English major, this is a dirty secret.  My palms were sweating, and no matter how much I tried to move my tongue it stayed stuck to the roof of my mouth.  And it tasted like old gum, which is weird because I thought old gum didn’t taste like anything. Had to be done, I’m not a fan.  However, Austen did give us Darcy.  I could care less for Elizabeth, but a post-pond Firth/Darcy? He could do just about anything he liked to me.  Except read me Pride and Prejudice.

Ah, how about the first time I kissed a boy.  Brandon M.  He was a tall pile of legs and boyscout badges who lived three bicycle pumps and a fence hop away from my bedroom window.  We were crouched behind the futon in the den; I held the blanket over our heads while he licked my upper lip.  He tasted like popcorn and strawberries.  I guess this was less of a first kiss, and more of a first…licking.

Got it.  The first time I peed on the overnight train between Hong Kong and Beijing.  Take away the hole only just small enough to keep a butt from falling through, and you still have a HOLE through which railroad ties pass by so fast you feel like you’re staring into a strobe light.  Then there was the breeze where there should never be a breeze.  I was so grateful for the grab-bar on the door I didn’t mind the soap (sweet baby Jesus I hope it was soap) residue left on my hands.  Upside to the breeze: only time it didn’t matter I wasn’t carrying toilet paper.  Celebrate the little things.

I guess all firsts are scary.

But nothing is as scary as a swan.  If you don’t know what I mean then you’ve never heard a swan scream.  Not a scream of fear (they don’t have such emotions), but one of unadulterated rage.  I used to be naive, I thought they were regal.  The long swooping neck, the heart shaped wings, the little splash of color on the beak. They are the ‘queen’s own’ birds. Literally.  Fun-fact for the day, the Queen of England owns all the swans in the UK.  Trust me, after seeing an adorable elderly couple chased off a park bench by a screaming, bloody (from the remains of lunch) swan – the allure is well and truly killed.  They are giant, evil, murderous birds.

I have a complicated relationship with birds.

Hence the blog title.  I wasn’t going for hipster, or artsy, or deep, or even alluding to Portlandia’s ‘put a bird on it’ bit.  Just being honest.  Birds. Hate. Me. For some reason. One of life’s mysteries.  It may have something to do with the dove I accidentally murdered.   Not-so-fun-fact for the day, birds can’t pass gas.  Alka-seltzer – all about passing gas.  Never should the twain meet…again.

Or it could be because of the seagull.  To be fair, the seagull flew into my car. So…his fault.

I’ve tried to make up for past mistakes. I go to duck ponds with fresh bread all the time.  They generally run away.  I almost crashed my car to avoid hitting a hawk that chose to eat her roadkill in the middle of the road.  She thanked me by flying away in perfect time to drag her lunch, and its entrails, along my driver side window. You’re welcome hawk.  I even tried to save a wild turkey that was standing, again, in the middle of the road. It chased me to my car and attacked my hood. Trapped me in there for 10 minutes.  I have been hit by wild birds while running (seagull), while walking (robin) and even while standing (herron).  I don’t remember anymore how many times I’ve been pooped on, but more than my fair share.

Despite everything, I have hope one day we can move beyond this.  That the next bird I approach won’t run away, or chase me and rip my grocery bag, or fly into me and crack my eggs, or hiss at me.  But maybe, just maybe, it will let me touch it.  And apologize.

You know, maybe that’s why I’m so afraid of flying. Being in their territory.  Outnumbered.  Well, that and the claustrophic-aluminum-death-encased-squishy-floor-wings-snapping-mid-air-fiery-crash-next-to-the-guy-trying-to-hide-that-he-just-ate-his-own-booger-phobia…thing.

Oh well, I guess I will just keep trying.  I mean, what is the worst that could happen?
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Anyone else think these look like ‘Before’ photos?