Beef Everywhere

I didn’t go to Ash Wednesday.

I felt like I thought a lot about how death happens, and how to deal with that fact, and I didn’t need anyone impressing it upon me any further.

I went to Maundy Thursday.

Where you sit in church is highly symbolic. Some people have to sit in the front. They’re carrying a load. I was the daughter of the church president, the worship leader. I have sat in the front. At the Kansas City cathedral, I usually sat in the middle-left, somewhere between the middle front and back, depending on how late I got there. This time I sat on the very edge, closest to the doors.

Church is a country club for people to congratulate themselves on being good and trying hard, I thought. I replayed in my mind church-related wounds: the day I went to my priest to tell her about a very painful work situation, and she replied, “Your therapist will be glad to hear about this,” and I walked out, gutted. The sermons I had sat through, sermon after sermon about how we are not giving enough to the poor, until the day I sat there worrying about whether to ask my mom for money for groceries or not, and though I was not poor, not really, I thought, wow, this place isn’t for me. This is a place for fortunate people to regret their fortune and pass a bit of it along.

I thought about the funeral I attended, while covid was still raging. The person who died hadn’t died of covid. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was the church where they held the funeral was one big mystery breath convention, where the pastors, and everyone else, flew free and pretended there was nothing wrong with that. Those pastors were so glad I had come, and they did not believe or give a fuck about my health, or the health of my parents.

I pulled one of my sisters into the bathroom, sat on the floor, and freaked out for a while about how I hated these people and they were hateful people. Then as you do, I got up, washed my hands, and went to eat a ham and cheese sandwich with the ham removed.

I have a lot of reasons to go to church, and none of them are that God needs me, or demands shit of me, or that it’s the “right” thing to do. It’s scientifically good for you to engage in spiritual ritual with a community. I feel power in ritual. My ancestors, who knows how far back, have celebrated these rituals and read these stories, and that connects me to them.

I love the idea of Jesus, the coolest guy you ever met, who made everyone feel safe, and didn’t give a fuck about money or competitive jockeying of any kind, and told people holiness was actually inside them all along, and that there was nothing they could do to be outside the reach of love and forgiveness and mercy. Also I think he was very funny and didn’t take himself too seriously, e.g., “oh, damn, you fell asleep while I was freaking out, thanks, guys.”

So I guess I love Jesus, for what it’s worth.

What was helpful on Maundy Thursday was that I suddenly thought, wow, I am full of hate. Maybe that’s a strong word. I’m full of anger, so full it blocks my vision.

Tuesday some friends and I went out to celebrate DT being arraigned. We planned to have 34 drinks for the 34 counts, which is something we could have accomplished years back, given enough time. I think we had 12. And then I was happy I got home in time to set up my coffee and go to sleep early. 46, baby!

That was Easter.

It stressed me out, watching all the coverage, it cranked me up, so it was hard to stop watching or reading about it, but also it was bursting a blister. It was interesting (I like medical stuff), it didn’t hurt as much as you might think, and afterward, though you were sore, things were clearly a lot better.

Also I was reunited with my favorite cocktail on earth, which I hadn’t kissed since the bar where it was invented shut down. Fucking covid.

The dean at the cathedral has a voice that could narrate coronations. I saw that the guy passing out communion was an old friend from church. He shuffled when he walked. He’s older.

These people, who show up to put on a ritual, which has both outward and inward components, yeah, like, why was I so angry with them? They were doing a nice thing. The people who gave money and designed the cathedral and set up the soup kitchen in the basement and planted the crabapple in the garden and cared for the cathedral cat, Gracie, for years, and ordered the names carved on memorial stones when people died, this was a lot of nice stuff.

And is church a country club for the fortunate, and a planned push for people to give to their neighbors when they should be giving anyway? Is there any room there to hear, you are already doing ENOUGH, maybe do LESS, and someone else will step in?

Whatever. Earlier in my life it was easier for me to accept that churches, and people, are a mess. Before I lived through DT and the pandemic, when I could still believe that my fellow citizens would never vote for a dictatorial, lying, amoral, deranged, cruel mess of a human being, and that if we had a global crisis pretty much everyone would say, “What can I do?” and join together. The reality of human reponses to DT and covid haunt me, and who knows how long that will last. Or should last. I don’t want to pretend that didn’t happen. It did.

After realizing how hateful my thoughts were, I recalled how mad it made me that church is a museum for saints and not a hospital for sinners, and THEN I realized that I was the one who needed a hospital for sinners, and then I was like, shit.

None of this is to say I know how I feel about church, or churches, or American Christianity, or Americans.

But it was freeing to return to a thought I commonly have now: “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me.” (Swift.)

For the first time in my life, that feels freeing. Not like, I suck, but like, oh, if the ultimate problem is me, I can look at that, play with it, consider it, laugh about it.

Friday and Saturday I watched “Beef,” a series on Netflix. It’s just a coincidence, I guess, but after being disemboweled by the existential sadness and beauty of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” another piece of art rooted in the Asian-American community throttled me.

While “EEAAO” focused on marital and parental relationships, “Beef” is more about peer relationships. It’s amazing acting, writing, cinematography– I can’t give it enough praise.

Like “EEAAO” it offers catharsis, a softer one, I think, and a slower, goopier one, but still: if you pound down your ego enough, you’re left with the kind of talks you have with your fellow humans, “This is hard. This is so hard. How do we do this?” (Spoiler alert.). “Everything fades.” (Spoiler alert for show and for life.)

Sometimes hearing someone say it is the help we need.

Missouri & Tennessee

Some things work.

Ibuprofen. Sad songs.

Our last night in Memphis, as my body wearily attempted to digest fried eggs, grits, biscuits, a milkshake, and french fries, the one-side-of-head headache I got undulated with my pulse.

In twenty minutes, it was gone, sudden as a bird flies off.

My sister played the saddest song as it rained, and people with umbrellas came to the doors of the Civil Rights Museum. The balcony was right there. My sister cried, and my insides echoed.

Ducks also work. We cozied up to the edge of the red carpet. The ducks were coming. After a classically southern extended yarn about how and why the ducks were led to and from the hotel fountain every day, we were amped.

And the ducks came! They were silent. One male and three females, taking the carpet, gently encouraged by the presence of the duckmaster general. Yes, that is his job, and he has a cane with a gold duck head atop it.

Whiskey works. Wearing spaceman silver leggings, I sat in the bar the ducks had just vacated. Stained glass floated above us, and trees and trees’ worth of paneling enveloped us. In Tennessee, a whiskey drink made sense. It came with a duck swizzle stick and a tiny rubber duck floating in the top. I tasted the pecan pie. You can’t win ’em all.

My sister and I, dance pals from the jump (pun intended), we are now middle aged ladies grooving to a full wall-sized screen playing “Soul Train.”

My cousin’s daughter ran from daffodil to daffodil. I think she is smelling them. “Wait, are you kissing them?” “Yes,” she said.

We pull into a tiny diner in downtown St. Louis. They have ten tables, and open kitchen, every surface is either chrome or a tired white. The sign says White Knight, which sounded a bit Ku Klux Klan, but as the restaurant had some black clientele, I decided they must be okay. We ordered. We listened to others congratulate the waitress on her new job. It was her last day there. We asked a guy at another table to take our photo. “I guess you trust me, huh?” he said. I did trust him. My shitty old phone is worth nothing compared to a good place to get lunch.

A theme: the white ladies are offered cautions. We stop in Arkansas for gas. I go in to the bathroom. When I return, my sister is chatting with two guys who are gassing up their work van. “You gotta be real careful in Memphis,” one said. “People get their cars stolen all the time. You gotta be real careful.” I marveled at how, in contrast with all the cultural bullshit about Black men, Black men have in fact offered me assistance and protection and warnings many times. We told him we would be careful. I was more worried about him, a Black man in Arkansas.

My uncle pours and waits and flips the family legacy pancakes. My uncle’s uncle made these. It is a sacred recipe. The table has hydrangeas and tulips, a white cloth. Behind me is my great-grandfather’s watch under a glass bell. My aunt brings in butter on a dish, and bottle after bottle of real maple syrup. I feel puffed up like a good pillow.

“Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?” someone asks the tour guide.

“Mick Jagger,” he says. We are at Sun Studios. I gaze at the black electrical tape “x” on the floor. This is where Elvis stood to record “That’s All Right,” his first single. Sam Philips, owner of Sun Studios, had to be nagged by Elvis for a solid year before he was allowed to record a real track.

The polar bear, slightly lemon flavored white fur, flowing along, swimming pat un on the other side of thick glass.

The lone panda arches her back, pulls her shoulders back, and looks intently up. She’s either performing a wiccan ceremony or asking for more bamboo. The keeper brings more bamboo. Yaya sits and munches on bamboo for as long as we want to watch her. Then she stands up, stares at her keeper’s camera, and silently asks for more.

An Egyptian man sells us pizza. In Memphis, this is particularly noteworthy. They have an odd relationship with their Egyptian name. “You are both so beautiful,” he tells us, as we pay $5 for pizza that is worth $2. We ask what brought him to Memphis. “A mistake,” he says.

In Springfield, Missouri, we pop into an antique shop. On the counter are cards laid out for solitaire. The old man standing over them says, “I keep trying to cheat, but then I feel bad.” The old man is watching “Dragnet” on a small TV. I look over the dishes, dresses, salt and pepper shakers, lamps.

Another man enters. He tells his friend a story about a local resident who rents his car out for $20 a pop. Sometimes he doesn’t even know the people. “Could be off the California,” he says. “And the police won’t help him get it back anymore because he shouldn’t be giving people his car like that. People he doesn’t even know.” It’s been raining all day. “It’s almost impossible to get out of your car if it’s in water.”

Every slight dip in the sidewalk cement is a small sea. We skip around them to find dry places, on our way back to the car, for the last leg of the journey.


I got up to pee, and I thought, I’m off the couch. I can make myself go out now.

And I did!

It was incredible.

The desire to remain at home lingers, post-covid. Post all the recent traumas.

But I was up!


And down the stairs, and out.

One house down, the cement bird bath with the cement little girl and the cement little boy peeking over at how there is no water.

Two houses down, I heard Mexican music. The big stone house with the amazing carriage house was getting work done on its side. A guy up a ladder in a face mask (debris? chill?).

Across the street, I opened our library box and a book jumped out. “Rude,” I said, replacing it. I saw there was a Nora Ephron book in there, one I hadn’t read, so I grabbed it.

Armour Boulevard began life as a luxurious procession of apartment buildings. The first time I lived on it, though, it was mostly a fumbling procession of Section 8 and ambulances. I liked it fine that way. Now it’s a procession of overpriced, poorly renovated apartments owned by a company in Chicago, a company that seeks tax breaks. Now it has bike lanes.

It pleases me to walk it, though, because I can remember I live in a city, in the city, just the kind of cityness I prefer, rather Brooklyn-y in that I can walk to get coffee or drinks or dinner or to a park, but also there are many trees and gardens and weird things to observe, like the Costco shopping carts, who congregate and dissipate mysteriously at Armour and Gillham.

I close my eyes, and I see them wheeling smoothly down Gillham, like swallows to San Juan Capistrano.

And then someone in the dark of night kidnaps them. Probably someone who works at Costco, someone who wants the overtime. They build one long train of carts, and inch by inch, back up the slight hill to the Costco parking lot. This part isn’t like birds, it’s like Sisyphus.

At the coffee place, I study the pastries. Chocolate croissant is preferable here, but I could settle for a chocolate chip muffin, if that’s what that is (God forbid it is some bran/healthy brown situation).

A man hurries up to the counter. “She was here first,” barista says.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m not in a hurry.”

The guy was short, and Black, and wore a big coat and a face mask. “Mfjddkjkf,” he said.

“Sorry, what?” the barista.

“Mfjkdsfjk,” he said.

“Sorry, the bathroom is only for customers.”

“Okay, then, okay, fine,” the man said, and pulled some dollar bills out. He pointed at a cookie. “I’ll take one of those.”

“Okay, that’s $3.65,” barista said.

The man grumbled about the price of a cookie, very understandable. He had gestured at a sign that said, “Protein balls, $1.50,” but I didn’t see any balls, and what’s more, were people seriously selling something called “protein balls”? That was just as crazy as a $3.50 cookie.

“I’ll get my cookie later,” the man said. The barista went to get him a bathroom key, and the man hustled to the bathroom.

I ordered, and then I asked for a bathroom key. “If there’s more than one,” I said, and barista gave me a key.


I wondered if he was screaming into a FaceTime, or a phone call, or an Instagram, or what.

When I left the bathroom, he was still screaming.

I thought about times I was out and about and about to lose it completely. I’m generally very quiet about though. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

I sat back with my Nora Ephron book, hoping to see if the man would return the bathroom key or not.

But I got too into the book, and then I left and forgot to peek at the counter.

On the way home, a golden retriever licked my hand. “Are you going that way?” the owner asked me.


“Could you go ahead, because otherwise she’ll keep turning around to look at you?”

“Sure,” I said, feeling like a celebrity, at least to one dog.


Wednesday, I walked down to the Super Bowl parade.

Now: I am deeply troubled by the complete bullshit that is naming the team “Chiefs,” and the accompanying creepy racist shit that grows on its edges like a bad fungus.

My friend lives across the street. I loaded up a backpack, and defended my decision to attend by comparing myself to Traveling Matt, a Fraggle explorer of the non-Fraggle world. Anthropological research.

And I’ve set up this life, where I can walk a lot with my friends, we can walk places, drink and eat, and walk some more. Midwestern life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that lifestyle, but I’ve got it set up, and I love it.

So I put on my backpack, and we watched the streets fill with parked cars the minute we crossed 33rd Street, going north.

We got to another friend’s house, the party house. I am deeply appreciative, having lived far away where on celebratory occasions I was begging, borrowing, or stealing invitations to socialize. I’m back. Now I can show up somewhere, open doors without knocking, get my own drinks, and use the upstairs bathroom.

The Super Bowl falls during Mardi Gras season, which meant this event felt like a sort of extra bonus Mardi Gras. Some of my usual Mardi Gras colleagues were there in some of their usual Mardi Gras wear. I, too, had chosen to wear a bright red beret that has my krewe name on it. All our red gear was being utilized.

There was coffee, Irish cream, whiskey, leftover legendary Mardi Gras punch. There were a couple of kids who got interested in the fake fireplace. I enjoyed freaking out when they touched it, as if they would burst into flames. And theatrically touching the plastic logs myself, yelping in pain.

We marched, which again is so usual for this group, the thing that was strange was that a ton of other people were also marching. We had cow bells. I tethered mine to my backpack, which got me in touch with my inner cow. Union Station, the belly of the celebration beast, is down the hill from us, down the hill into where one of the main train track lines goes through Kansas City. So we were walking, tumbling towards everything. One of our cohort was recently injured, so her wheelchair doubled as a wonderfully portable beer cooler.

I had a coffee cup I was reusing for wine, and the bottle in my backpack.

We stopped in at another classic Kansas City Mardi Gras location, snagged a table. I shared my gummi bears with the kids, who were already starting to fade. A lot of walking, a lot of cowbell, a lot of jovial grownups.

I hightailed it over to where the parade was. The enormous crowds were hard to absorb or process, as they would be in any downtown with buildings of considerable size. We could look up Grand, the parade’s route, and see all the red, red, red up to the train station, and up the hill beyond, beyond, beyond.

Mostly the celebration was chatting with friends on a day I wouldn’t get to chat with them.

Open containers were tolerated, police and sheriffs seemed to be cool. They would ask people who climbed tall things to come back down, but otherwise, they were cool with the booze and pot and celebrating, and there was no reason for them to worry, as far as I could tell.

The parade itself had stretched itself s o o o o l o o o o n g that my experience was ringing my cowbell madly for people on half-empty double decker busses, then waiting another 15 minutes. I was warm. I had dressed well. Planes pulling banners circled overhead, advertising booze and Jungle Law. A few helicopters hovered. It was post-apocalyptic, everything was out of joint, but not in the way we’ve recently experienced it. It was a happy, and thank God, safe time-out from the grind of being a human being. At least for some of us.

There was one dude wearing a feather headdress. I didn’t have to listen to any fake native chanting or chopping or whatever. For which I am grateful.

The players had apparently gotten off the busses early in the parade, so by the time they got to us, I saw That One Dude throw someone a football from the top of the bus. (He is hosting “SNL” soon.) The football hit some overhead wires. He doesn’t normally throw footballs in the city, of course.

I guess there were speeches and things to hear and cheer for and see at Union Station, but I was feeling like I’d had enough fun, and I hadn’t had a proper meal yet. So my friend and I hiked back up the hill.

The way cars were parked was very amusing. Midwestern people are generally such rule-followers (I fit in better in oh yeah make me NYC), and to see them park with wild abandon made me happy for their humble souls. This part of the midwest isn’t as ragingly alcoholic as some northern cities. It isn’t as aggressive as the east coast. It isn’t as relaxed as the west coast. It was good to see people drinking, jubilant, and relaxed.

While I have always been and continue to be infuriated by the team name and its associations, I also see that civic celebrations can heal. The racism of the team name is upsetting, and at the same time, the coming together to celebrate is a very positive force for race relations in Kansas City now. Having the team hero be the nicest guy in the world doesn’t hurt, either. I don’t know shit about football, but I know he seems like a good guy to celebrate.

When I got home, I had walked six miles, had an Irish coffee and a glass of wine and a doughnut, and I was more than happy to nap the afternoon away.