If you’re coming to my house for a social call, a casual tête-á-tête, a little visit just to say hi, make sure to take note of both your surroundings and your offerings. Bring wine if you like; wine is benign. A six-pack, perfectly balanced with a sunny smile and a warm greeting will make the afternoon bright. Even a bag of chips is good  because bags of chips have never been identified with ominous tidings or uncanny prophecy.

But avoid the Pyrex if you want to stay married. Or if there’s any potential for emotional disaster looming. Beware if you are mid-argument with someone; the stakes may get a whole lot higher once the Pyrex enters the equation.

On the other hand, if you are looking to hasten the conclusion of a thing–if you are, say, looking for the exit in an unhappy romance–feel free to bring the Pyrex-oven-and-microwave-safe-glassware, full of glistening and delicious morsels of food. Perhaps the Pyrex on its own would be enough to speed up the process, but this theory has not been qualitatively tested in the affirmative. There has often been food in the Pyrex in the past, and if you are truly committed to ending a thing, best to hedge your bets on a full dish.

The first example of Pyrex as prognosticator came ten years ago. Two friends dropped by unannounced while I was making lunch. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, deceptive in its cheerful aspect. We sat around our kitchen table laughing the laughter of the innocent, naïve souls who did not yet know how to read the signs.

One friend got a phone call; he took it on our porch.

I used a hot mitt to remove lunch from the oven, in Pyrex, which upon meeting the cool air, blew up in my hand, sending shards of hot glass over the entire kitchen.

My husband, noting the glazed expression on my face and the fact that I had no shoes on, threw me over his shoulder, a classic fireman rescue straight out of Hollywood disaster movies. Our friend on the porch, taking his phone call of doom, saw me in this rather embarrassing position, and wondered what sort of horror had befallen me, especially when he was receiving the message from his wife that they were getting a divorce. It was over between them. She was with someone else and was finalizing their marriage by putting in the papers.

Our vinyl kitchen flooring was a little melted in places, I was completely fine, the Pyrex and our lunch was a wash. Our friend was devastated. He had been married for years, and with the woman for far longer; we had been at their wedding. They had a child. It was a hopeless situation. And the Pyrex told all.

Years passed. We moved to a new house. Friends of ours came together with nary a breakup or disaster in sight. No Pyrex coincided with any social mishaps. I hadn’t used Pyrex much after the explosive necromancy of the past; since it blew up once I wasn’t encouraged to test its integrity every time I baked something. But nothing terrible had befallen any of our friends or loved-ones in a proximal relation to any oven-ready glassware in a long time, so perhaps we let our guard down.

Perhaps we had forgotten the lessons of the Pyrex, Harbinger of Doom.

Four years ago, two friends of ours were coming over to dinner. It was a reunion planned with great joy; one of our friends had come out of a career which had been one of the most surreal experiences of her life and now that she was relieved of duty, she was stunned at the life she walked back into. She was instantly famous, recognizable to any and all who walked down the street. She was weary and needed a respite from all the attention. I have pictures from that night. She looks sad, her life exciting and interesting, but overwhelming and stressful just the same.

She asked what she could bring, and I said anything that went with gumbo would be fine; a vegetable dish or cornbread, maybe. I did not think to specify the container; who does?

She is a terrific cook, one who takes great delight in feeding those she loves. She hadn’t cooked for anyone in months and had placed all her affection and all her joy of of good friendship in her big pot of greens. She and her beau walked up to the door with her lovingly prepared collards, the perfect accompaniment to a Dutch oven full of gumbo. The bag, heavy with liquid, slipped a little, and then more, and she watched, helpless, as the collards in their Pyrex sepulcher fell and shattered across our front walkway. She was devastated, started to cry because she had poured her love into them, and now they were cast across the pavement in a cruel dispatch, the tea leaves of Southern comfort food embossing our sidewalk with messages we couldn’t decipher.

We did not know that the disaster was not the loss of the greens; they were going to be delicious and we mourned them. But the Pyrex does not concern itself with mere sustenance, the food of the flesh; its concerns are metaphysical, otherworldly, ineffable. For our friend’s beau, unlikely as it seems, was the same beau who had been served notice on his impending divorce when the first Pyrex blew up in my hands. We even remarked on the uncanny similarities of events, laughed nervously at the unlikely coincidence, though since he was already divorced, his first wife couldn’t divorce him again.

Alas, there are more options in the fore-shadowing of Pyrex.

At about eight o’clock, the beau received a phone call from his now ex-wife: she was moving out of state with her new family. And she was taking their child with her.

Let me state for the record that we were good friends with this beau, but we hardly ever saw him. We most often mingled with him at large barbecues, where apparently the mishmosh of Pyrex mixed with other off-brand examples of oven-safe glassware watered down the chimes of the universe. Perhaps Pyrex has a direct line into the psyche of this one friend, which only aligns, like certain constellations, when in proximity to my husband and myself. Location is irrelevant: we live in a different house than the delivery of Interstellar Pyrex Message Number One, but the message seems to follow us to where-ever we are.

It would appear that Pyrex, in some unspoken relationship, has chosen my husband and I as the locus for emotional disasters to befall our friend and his kin.

Years pass, fortunes change. I turn forty. A celebration, a convivial atmosphere. Pyrex? None to be seen, but I wasn’t looking–I was turning forty, after all. Surrounded by my friends and loved ones, including the couple, Famous Person and Pyrex Lightning Rod.

They decided to part ways after almost a decade together. At my party, on our deck.

I had been too caught up in my own personal drama of forty-ness to look for the clues; where had the Pyrex been hiding? How had I missed the signs? But maybe this is not a part of Pyrex Prophecy. My husband and I just need to be near the Pyrex, we don’t even need to know it’s there for the powerful voodoo of Pyrex oven-safe dishware to work its ill-wind upon our friends. Maybe we are merely tools the Pyrex utilizes to channel the messages from the celestial spheres, creating a zone of safety for our friends to receive Pyrex Prestidigitation. We are the jewel and the medallion on the Staff of Ra, shedding light upon the stage where the drama will unfold, but not actors in the play. We must merely exist for the Pyrex to deliver its missive.

I want you to come over to our house, and we will share all the delights our house has to offer.  I set a good table, our house is warm with cheer. We will sit under the grape arbor in summer and around the table in fall. We will laugh, and take great joy in each others company.

But it is only fair to reveal the Truth of Pyrex. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.



I’m thinking about dislocation. About place. Wondering how to set myself in it, like Wallace Stevens’s jar in Tennessee, so I can change the place and the place can change me. An exchange. A connection. But then again, I just reread his poem and the jar gives nothing back to its surroundings. This wasn’t the story I remembered from school. I remembered a more generous jar.

I’m wondering how to make a scene that another person can enter into through words on the page and feel welcome in this story of displacement. I want you to feel out of it while you’re here, like I tend to feel, but in a nice way, so you might want to come back.

Y’all come back now, ya hear!

If you’re an elitist, classist, pseudo-intellectual like myself, you’ll find that maintaining any semblance of sanity while stooping yourself and short-selling your ideals to toil away on a construction site takes a certain brand of self-preservation instinct. Not only is it important that those you are working with don’t really know who you are, it’s also critical that they are somehow led to believe that you are like them. You don’t want to be the ‘faggot’ on site who no one talks to, or the ‘greener’ who gets delegated the shittiest jobs via back-lot work site conspiracies, or the victimized shmuck who finds his boots full of line chalk and his tool belt in the outhouse every couple of days. Because more important than even surviving your co-workers is surviving your boss, and the only way to do that is to toe the line and become part of the team. You have to be Construction Bro.

If you’ve played sports at any competitive level for any significant length of time without being beaten up by your teammates, this should be no problem; the rules are pretty much the same. If not, better bone up on your sociopathology and start smiling through the lie that is your life. Here’s one man’s method for making it through another day.

RULE # 1:

Use the word “Fuck” incessantly. This is the most important rule on the job site. If you aren’t prepared to use the word “Fuck” for approximately 1/5th of every sentence spoken you’re not going to fit in. You’re encouraged to use other swearwords as wantonly as possible, but make sure their usage is at least doubled by your use of the word “Fuck.”

RULE # 2 (a, b, c, d):

On site you’re allowed to talk about sports, chicks, getting shitfaced, and how good you are at your job compared to how bad everyone else is at their job. Never actually talk about work, unless it’s to discuss the work of one of the other trades and how shitty it is/they are. When discussing sports it’s important to engage in endless debate on predicted outcomes regardless of the unfathomable pointlessness of it all (and do prepare yourself to get skewered for days afterward when ‘your’ team doesn’t win/’your’ player shits the bed/etc). When discussing ‘pussy’ it’s important to frame the opposite sex through the most misogynistic, boorish lens you ever feared your mind was capable of. When discussing getting shitfaced just act like yourself, because you do love getting shitfaced. Remember to adhere to Rule # 1 in all situations.

RULE # 3 (a, b):

If you have a girlfriend, don’t talk about her. Don’t even mention her name. If your crew is especially tasteless, make that ditto for Mom. These two female figures are the best, most effective, and most consistently summoned subjects for worker-to-worker job site harassment. It’s best to pretend they don’t exist. Further, if you do anything after work besides play/watch (regional team sport of choice), lift weights, or get drunk, don’t talk about it either. You may be proud of the volunteer work you do down at the local Sally Ann or your collection of vintage Pyrex, but to the average construction bro that shit is weird. Mention something out of the ordinary and the conversation will drop, unease will start creeping into the back of your mind, and come next week your little hobby will have undergone enough mental processing to come back at you as something worthy of mockery.

RULE # 4:

Whenever necessary, go to work hungover. A ‘necessary’ time to go to work hungover is whenever somebody who you predict you’ll be working closely with the next day announces that they are going out that night to (verb) party. The only alternative to going out and manufacturing a hangover for yourself is to not get drunk, go to work the next day sober, and face a day of dealing with your work bro dragging his ass around, hiding from the boss, fucking up any task he does attempt, and BBM-ing the chick he banged the night before like every 5 minutes. If however you’re both getting dragged behind the shit wagon you can at least laugh along with the dude and watch each others’ backs for an eight hour game of ‘Let’s Make Work Noises In The Basement’ or ‘How Long Can We Make The Easy Job Last?’

RULE # 5:

Avoid spending non-work hours with ‘The Bros’ at all costs. All non-work related activity engaged in will entail nothing more than embarrassment at how disgusting work-bro interaction becomes off of the job site, the suffering of ridicule regarding how tight your pants are, and the spending of way more money than you could ever justify in a bar you fucking hate.

RULE # 6:

Do an ok job. Don’t blow anybody away, but don’t make yourself a liability. As long as you’re not terrible at the work you do and you show up closer to 7:30am than you do to noon every day chances are you’ll be able to get away with things like taking a ‘mental health’ day here or there, fucking things up once in a while, or asking for that raise you were promised. Yeah, sure, you were supposed to get it at three months, and it’s a $2/hour less than what you think you’re worth, but it’s still almost double what your friend is making rolling burritos.

RULE # 7:

Etc., etc., etc., etc.,

RULE # 8:

Never stop believing that one day it has to be over and that ‘real life’ will start for you sometime soon. Once you lose this…

Wait. Maybe losing this is the one torch under your ass you need to get The Fear so bad you actually go out and make something happen for yourself. Because pretending this gig was gonna be ‘mellow’ and ‘temporary’ is what landed you back here in the first place, chief.

(In Part III: The Days After Savage Nobel)

Part I: My Life As A Well-Read Meathead

IRENE ZION had six children, including a set of identical twin girls.  This story is about her twins.  This is not a funny story.

LENORE ZION is one of the twins.  This story is about her recent visit to the dermatologist.  This is a very funny story.

SLADE HAM is a stand-up comic.  Once, he shared a bill with Dustin Diamond, of Saved by the Bell fame, who is not very funny.  This is also a funny story.

ROB BLOOM and his family once auditioned for Nickelodeon’s “Family Double Dare.” Green slime was involved, because that was big at Nick at the time.  This, too, is a funny story, albeit tinged with tragic elements.

TED McCAGG is our resident cartoonist.  He’s really funny.

QUENBY MOONE is a prophetess of sorts, able to ascertain bad energies of certain couples.  All that’s required for her oracular power is a Pyrex plate and a microwave.  This story is both funny and metaphysically satisfying.