Disaster scenarios ranked by my chances of survival

You might want a jacket, honey.

Zombie Apocalypse
When the flesh-eating hoard inevitably swarms my home (hopefully, at first, making quick work of the neighbours who are always outside yelling and drinking and therefore easy prey), I stash myself in a virtually unfindable location, my small frame allowing me to squeeze into tight spaces and my years of playing hide-and-seek with the children informing me as to where those tight spaces are. Unfortunately, by this point my family has already been turned into zombies and they also know where those tight spaces are. And so I am discovered and eaten. Adding insult to mortal injury, also because of my small frame, I am dismissed as a mere appetizer by the zombie gourmands. Chance of survival: 64%

Active Shooter
Because of my keen communication and observation skills, I feel equipped to confront the shooter, who is not simply the embodiment of evil but a troubled human being. I make clear that I mean no harm and that I only want to talk. Reluctant at first, the shooter is nonetheless grateful to finally have someone who will listen to him. He begins to tell his tale of despair, becoming visibly less agitated through this act of verbal catharsis. Too bad my communication and observation skills are trumped by my unbridled narcissism as my mind begins to wonder whether the media will refer to me as “a hero” or “an unassuming hero.” Realizing that I am no longer paying attention, the shooter loses patience and dispatches me, leaving the world to mourn my tragic passing. Chance of survival: 53%

Climate Change – Rising Seas
On relatively high land and in a rural environment, I feel confident about avoiding the impact of the rising sea levels that have wiped out coastal cities, rendered 30% of North America suddenly uninhabitable and put a real damper on seaside rock festivals. As the grid collapses and refugees make their way inland, I generously open my property to those seeking shelter. Recognizing all that is good in humankind, I propose that a communal ethos guide our co-existence, and we agree to share labour and food. Eventually, though, factionalism and a more Darwinian approach to survival emerges. Specifically, large, angry men force me out of my home (with humiliating ease due to my small frame). Without resources, I am compelled to wander this new savage land where I fail to meet anyone as magnanimous (or foolish) as I have been. Eventually, I die of exposure during a common June blizzard. My last thoughts are: “So much for global warming.” Chance of survival: 44%

Climate Change – Global Warming
The earth is scorched, water scarce, wildlife decimated along with the agricultural food supply. The economy has ground to a halt because the infrastructure can no longer withstand the blistering heat of the relentless sun. Governments have fallen, society has descended into anarchy. Only the nighttime offers relief from heat but, alas, not the constant violence. As for me, I am bludgeoned to death by a loved one who has heard me declare one too many times, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Chance of survival 42%.

Céline Dion Pandemic
While I have been vaccinated against Céline Dion, a particularly resistant strain of Céline Dion sweeps the globe, and before I know it, Céline Dion has entered my house. I suffer through chills, “The Power of Love” and multiple wardrobe changes. Luckily, a strong immune system due to years of living with teenagers and their terrible music prevents me from fatally succumbing to Céline Dion. Unluckily, Céline Dion, thinking she is performing one of her Vegas dance numbers, crashes into me at the top of the stairs, sending my small frame hurtling downwards, where I suffer cranial trauma, fall into unconsciousness and die. My heart, it turns out, will not go on. Chance of survival: 27%

Carpenter Ants
I discover that carpenter ants have infiltrated the eaves of the house. What a disaster! During the inspection, I suffer a deep splinter in my index finger. Though I remove the splinter, it soon becomes infected. Due to my isolated, rural environment, health care is miles away, but I cannot get the car out of the driveway because high winds caused by climate change have knocked a tree down, blocking the exit, and I can’t ask the neighbours to help because they’re drunk and also annoyed by the constant noise of Céline Dion. Instead, I simply hope the infection will go away. It doesn’t; I die of carpenter ants and also embarrassment. Chance of survival: 24%

Electing the Right
Chance of survival: 0%

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Waiting for Godot with 4-year-olds

I have a piece over at McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies today. McSweeney’s has been running a lot of top-tier stuff of late (as in the past 21 years), so it’s always a thrill to make the cut. (FYI, this piece follows five rejected pieces, so it’s never a gimme.)

Also: Happy Birthday, April 13, Samuel Beckett. And my big sister.


Waiting for Godot with 4-year-olds

Estragon, sitting on a low mound near a single tree, is trying to take off his boot. Enter Vladimir. They both wear bowler hats and Olaf-from-Frozen T-shirts.

ESTRAGON: Stupid boot!

VLADIMIR: That’s a bad word.


VLADIMIR: You’re my friend. You’re my friend yesterday and you’re my friend today.

ESTRAGON: I was yucky yesterday.

VLADIMIR: But you’re my friend yesterday.


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Sort this book


“By author, by color, by genre, or by Want to Read versus Read. How are your bookshelves currently organized?” – @Goodreads on Twitter

I, of course, have spent considerable time organizing and thinking about how to organize my books, just like everyone – or at least everyone with books; people without books can’t, by definition, organize their books, though they can organize other things: brooms, springform pans, political uprisings. But me, it’s all about books.

And organizing books, as I’ve said. It defines me as a person. Sometimes I’ll buy a book just so I can organize it, knowing full well that I will never read it, but feeling the deep, penetrating satisfaction of finding a home for said book on a shelf between Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch and Goldilocks and the Three Birds, if, of course, my books are organized by titles with bird species in them and the book in question is Goldfish Are Nothing Like Eagles by Jonathan Franzepan. Continue reading

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My 90s Nostalgia Movie

“[Captain Marvel] spends much of the movie wearing a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt as she navigates computer cafes and CD-ROMs. The soundtrack digs about as deep as a ’90s-themed party playlist, with requisite musical cues from R.E.M., TLC, Nirvana, and No Doubt.”

– “Are We Living in a Golden Age of ’90s Period Films?” – www.esquire.com, March 29, 2019


Scene: Video store that rents VHS tapes. Chuck is behind the counter wearing a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt and a plaid button-down wrapped around his waist. Enter Steve, a fellow employee. He sports long hair, a backwards ball cap and a soul patch.

CHUCK: Yo, dog, what is up?

STEVE: Hey, bro, I’m just coming to work at this video store, where people drive from their homes to rent VHS cassettes and then bring them back the next day or we punish them.

CHUCK: These crazy tapes. So lame. With the tracking and the lines and the rewinding.

STEVE: Some people are not kind and do not rewind.

CHUCK: Tell me about it. But Pulp Fiction was dope. I was talking about it on my chat room last night using my dial-up modem until my mother complained that I was tying up the phone line.

STEVE: We sure are living in an age of terrible technology that we truly won’t miss or feel one little bit of nostalgia for when something better comes along. Continue reading

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The Haskell and The Beatles: In Search of a Meeting That Never Happened

In preparation for my play, All Together Now, based on the local legend that the former Beatles almost met at the Haskell Free Library, I’m sharing an article I researched and published in the Stanstead Historical Society Journal in 2017. All Together Now runs May 10-12 and May 17-19. Tickets available online through Catamount Arts.


It’s strange to get excited about something that didn’t happen, but for more than 40 years the Stanstead/Derby Line border communities have transformed an event that almost occurred into the stuff of myth: a planned meeting at the Haskell Free Library and Opera House between the former members of The Beatles that ultimately didn’t take place.

The event (or non-event) is often described as a “reunion,” as if the former Fab Four were expected to break out their instruments right there in the library’s International Reading Room. As it turns out, not only was there no music but there is no hard evidence that such a meeting or reunion was ever even discussed. Still, that hasn’t stopped the legend from spreading.

The story goes that one or more Beatles was unable to enter the United States or perhaps Canada. The reason given usually has to do with the British musicians’ history of drugs and drug-related arrests. The Haskell, therefore, with its front room partially in Derby Line, Vt., partially in Rock Island, Que., served as the ideal loophole for getting around immigration. Continue reading

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Three Minutes of Gardening and 30 Seconds of Heavy Drinking: Endless Winter Edition

Let’s play Spot the Garden

Hello, and welcome to “Three Minutes of Gardening and 30 Seconds of Heavy Drinking.” I’m your host, Garland Faunt-Lubberly.

As I gaze out the window of my humble cottage onto the fields filled with snow and the occasional corpse of UPS delivery persons, I feel as I did when Lady Bechamel subjected me to a spirited application of leeches to acclimatize me for my impending trip to Oshawa (as one does), namely the need to exclaim on the very threshold of agony: “When will it end!!!”

Indeed, it is hard for garden lovers to even imagine that the ground will ever be unencumbered by snow and unclaimed Amazon packages in time for spring planting. But at times like these, I try to recall the words of Triscuit, my third-best nanny. “Garland,” Triscuit would say, “You cannot do what you have not, so you must do what you have.” It took me incredibly long to determine precisely what she was on about, her inscrutability being chief among the reasons she was merely my third-best nanny, that and the raw fish she ritually rubbed on her neck each morning to ward off beaver attacks. (It worked!) Continue reading

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My March Madness take (since nobody asked)

March Madness basketball is upon us, and as in recent years, I will not be tuning in to the national college tournament because I have no cable, nor will I be following online because I try to restrict my screen time to hating myself for scrolling through Twitter.

But NCAA basketball finals are without a doubt fantastic sport,and the bracketed format is a great reminder that in this world you are either a full-on success or a complete loser. So even though I won’t be watching, here are four of my favourite teams from the total tournament field of 348.

Gazebo College Garbanzos
The Garbanzos have been led for 62 years by Coach Milford “Don’t Call Me Millie” Chanchanzki, and there’s great hope that this might be the year the 87-year old finally gets a championship along with a new hip. Coach Chanchanzki is known for his unorthodox techniques that involve frequent trips to the men’s room while broadcasting instructions over the PA, usually about dribbling. With a first-place finish in the Big Teeth conference, the Garbanzos seem to have translated their perennial confusion into a winning strategy that involves getting the ball into the opponent’s basket more times than they let it into their own. They are quarterbacked by 5’15” point guard Derrik Gjames, a fifth-year player who only this season realized he wasn’t playing football. Gjames led the conference in assists as well as a rousing singalong of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” that fansare still raving about. Continue reading

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