who the heck knows anything, anyway

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

may 22 - having spider feelings when I could be putting groceries away

I had to squish two spiders today. They were the very scary kind, and they were hanging out in very inconvenient, non-cup-coverable places, but I hate killing spiders. 

I wasn't afraid of them when I was a kid. One of my great aunts was a teacher and had many animals at her house--these most memorably including a small horse and a tarantula. You can bet your butt that I held that strangely delicate eight-legged chonk.* No fear. I remember thinking it was pretty cool, and strange that anyone would find it scary.

Around this age (nine, I think?) I regularly read the stories and histories of a ton of different mythologies, including (as was popular in the 90's, I think) plenty of Greek myths.** The story of Arachne stuck in my tender, impressionable, little kid heart--I was sad for Arachne, and disappointed by my previously favorite Greek goddess, Athena.*** So for my whole childhood, I was dedicated to the scoop-and-release method of dealing with spiders, because I knew it was cruel (and bad luck) to kill a spider.

Then I hit my mid-teen years. I developed an OCD/BP-II paranoia that they--the spiders native to and well acquainted with my basement bedroom--would crawl into any and every orifice my body if whatever pre-sleeping conditions weren't met.**** Not pleasant. Very bad for quality of sleep.

But still: the guilt. Through all those/these years, the guilt remains. The spiders I squished today were truly terrifying (one was still small but had that huge abdomen that makes your brain scream "POISON. BAD." and the other one was big and long and very dark black and looked like a smaller version of the ones I used to see in my bedroom), but both my kid and suspicious brain spaces get upset with me for being cruel and tempting fate to cash in on the bad luck. 

I hope the fact that I apologize to them every time makes it a little more ok. It probably doesn't. Why couldn't the Greek origin story be swapped with Actaeon, where he gets turned into a spider instead of a stag and is happily stepped on by Artemis, leading to early artistic renditions of Big Lady, Please Steppy? There are plenty of other insects that use thread. Make the weaving story about silk worms or something. Everybody loves silk worms! They make nice, soft things. Sigh.

All that aside: for better or worse, I can't blame this dumb week on bad spider luck; pretty confident I didn't do any arachnicide on Monday. It's been a real long week, and it's only 3pm on Wednesday. Although it was already a long week by Monday afternoon, sooooo    ¯\_( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)_/¯

*I also saw Newsies for the first time at her house! Very formative trip.

**see: Disney's 1997 animated film Hercules

***And I think we all read at least one book about Anansi/Ananse, right? Everyone's so into Loki. Loki is overrated. Let's get an Anansi show.

****The bedbug breakdown of 2007--no actual bedbugs were involved, but I thought they were--happened when I was in college. Same bedroom, coincidentally. This one was arguably worse. Hotel rooms and I still have quite the complicated relationship.

Monday, April 22, 2024

apr 22 - some good ol' Monday intensity for you

My (arguably) most sympathetic pedantic annoyance is the use of a country's name instead of country's government. China can't spy on you. The Chinese government* can, or can pay private businesses to do it for them, but neither the geography nor the entire population is responsible for the government's choices. Remember how sad we liberals got when people said "Americans" during the Bush years?** It's the Government! we cried. It's less than half of the country, we promise! We're not villains!*** Sometimes even: Oh! No, I'm Canadian.

A country is neither a hero nor a villain. A country is full of individuals, as we USAers know very well. A government gets to make these consequential choices. If we're lucky, we get to vote for the people who make up the government that makes these choices (even then, things can be dicey, see *** again). Not every group of people in a specific geographic area is so fortunate. Some people can't vote because of access, and some can't vote because there are no elections. Some people can vote, but their ballot box is a trash can. Some people in some countries are killed just for existing, or protest their hearts out for what is right at their own peril. These people are not spying on us, or selling arms to other governments for use TBD. The Uyghur farmer in NW China is not going to be hacking TikTok; they are busy surviving.

We can still vote, and we have free speech. Despite many people's inclination to apparently not use these rights respectfully, this is an easy one, guys. 

I slip up sometimes, too. It's really difficult not to repeat the phrases we hear from politicians, journalists, podcasters, family members, etc. again and again. But we've changed our linguistic habits for the better many times before, and I think we can do it now. Mentally separating individuals from some faceless, threatening force can offer a lot of room for empathy, and rare is the person with too much empathy.

Oh, and Happy Earth Day!  Enjoy whatever (un)seasonable weather you've got going on over there! Not gettin' into any of those feelings right now! Too much for one day! Wooooo! 

*in case applying this political statement to this particular government is personally damaging in the future, we'll note that our government is allowed--by "temporary"/still standing order--to do the same. 
**oh, hey, speaking of that spying-on-citizens situation...
***Please! The electoral college and Supreme Court are outdated and have a bloated amount of power! It's not us! It's /sigh/ not us. (Don't get it twisted: I was--and continue to be--one of these people. Hopefully this, too, is not personally damaging in the future. November 2024 approacheth all too quickly.)

Friday, April 5, 2024

april 5 - no damn fine beverages allowed, though

Picture yourself entering a small indoor pool. The light from a few high windows mixes with the fluorescent overheads and color of the water to give the whole space a green glow. Your fellow swimmers are three octogenarians chatting and treading water in one lane and a middle-aged man swimming breast stroke with a snorkel in the other. A lifeguard in her early 20s sits opposite from all, looking small in her safety gear. Empty bleachers, save for a single woman in a red swimsuit and blue cap, hoping someone will leave early so she can take her turn.

Now imagine this scene, but subtract the classic public-pool-aquarobics pop music coming through the speakers. Replace it with the Twin Peaks theme.

This is a true story. The lifeguard played the whole Twin Peaks soundtrack while we were swimming. It was the best pool day of my adult life.

mar 28 - easter meats

The common practice of eating lamb for Easter dinner (which we did only once during my childhood, fortunately) has always made me a little squeamish. Setting aside the eating of a baby animal, which I very much do not enjoy, it's like getting both mouthfuls of the Eucharist at once. You barely need to transubstantiate a lamb. Blegh.

Actually, continuing the supper thoughts, eating Easter ham is pretty weird, too. Given the practiced religion of our good boy Jesus, it is probably the least Christ-approved of the mammalian dinner meats.

I propose a change to loaves and fishes, because it is referential without being horrifying, can be enjoyed by a majority of diets, and is great for your cholesterol.

Monday, March 18, 2024

mar 18 - a comic, and an unnecessarily long introduction only tangentially related

 I drew this a few months ago (obviously based on a dream I had last October) and submitted it to one online journal, but they didn’t take it, and I don’t have the patience nor the desire to go shopping it around places. Why do that when I have a blog? Publishing in lit mags has always been such a thing that it’s easy to forget: it’s unnecessary. A lit mag is just a group of people with a ~*fancy*~ blog (sometimes a blog printed on paper!) who find things they like to read and share them with those of a like mind. It’s cool! It’s fun to read a curated list of stories and comics! It feels pretty great to get published by tastemakers! But if I were trying to write/do art for the money, I would be doing an embarrassingly poor job of it. Self-publishing is as old as wheat receipts on clay tablets, and I have the ability to blast pamphlets like Thomas Paine. That’s maybe a bit of a forced metaphor, but I enjoy the sound of the sentence, and—as this is my blog—I do not have to edit for time nor clarity. 

All of this is to say: here’s a comic I wrote. I might post more stuff like this. We make our own tastes here. *maintains direct eye contact, puts on sunglasses* 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

nov 22 - subtitle: terrible sitcom script with great promise

Most recently, I've had the pleasure of developing pityriasis rosea. It's a rash of unknown origin that lasts at least six weeks. It looks like the type of rash you'd draw on yourself as a kid to get out of school: big, red, round/oval spots all over. You can't get rid of it. You just have to ride the wave. Despite splotching up my neck real good, it has, thank sweet baby jesus, avoided my face. At least it happened in the winter; I'd pass out if I tried rocking these turtlenecks in August. 

Sometimes a health issue is so wild that it's comical. I could pitch a whole show about the medical magic and mysteries that befall all of my family members. I mean, how many people under the age of 100 do you know who've had scarlet fever? Because my brother, Matthew, has. That's right--we've got that Oregon Trail shit. And we've got Daniel, too, who married me for some reason and has nothing wrong with him! It's the perfect set-up. 

The world has seen so many medical shows that focus on doctors. Sure, House had a physical disability and struggled with addiction, but what if--imagine this--it was always lupus. Because a character has lupus. Imagine! Lupus, Lyme, EDS, ALS, blindness, deafness, permanent injuries, ADHD... I know many people who experience these things already use humor to share their stories (or feel better when they feel like shit), so imagine the delightfully dark jokes that will let people laugh with us instead of just feeling bad for us. I feel like the way to move forward with chronic illness inclusivity and normalization is to let a family like mine publicly make fun of our bodies. It's time to let the patients shine! Comedy will bring us together, babyyyy!

Here. I've spent twenty minutes writing a(n admittedly terrible) scene for a late-90's sitcom. I'm willing to move to LA, but I'll need great health insurance, pay that's high enough for rent and weekly doc appointments, and my current medications have me taking naps every day, so you're looking at a writers room that works 10am-1pm. Let me work from home 95% of the time and I can throw in 5-7pm.



Sitcom, Name TBD:        "The Rash" (first draft)       11/09/23



A group of Czuba family members is milling about--DANIEL (husband) is on his laptop at the table, MATTHEW and CONRAD (brothers) are looking at their phones on the couch, KERRY (mother) is clearing off the coffee table.

KILLIAN enters through front door.


Hey guys, can I show you something?

EVERYONE glances up and over to her, looking either vaguely interested, generally disinterested, or slightly annoyed at being interrupted.

KILLIAN lifts her shirt up enough to show her whole stomach. There are five comically large, circular red spots.


Is this fine?

EVERYONE stares blankly, unsure of what to think or say.



(Still looking down at her stomach)

There aren't *that* many... 

NO ONE says anything.


It's probably just weird hives? It doesn't hurt or anything. 


Did you take some Benadryl?


Definitely did not.


You know me so well.


(Gets up from the table)

How many do you want?


One, please! I'd like to take a three hour nap instead of passing out for two days.

KILLIAN turns to look at her stomach in the hall mirror, gently poking at one of the spots, nonplussed. Since her shirt is still lifted up, the audience can now see her back. It is almost completely covered in the large spots. It looks terrible.


Oh my God.

CONRAD starts laughing. MATTHEW is cringing and silently mouthing the word "yikes."


DANIEL has not gotten all the way to the bathroom and stops in his tracks, trying to appear calm and not sound concerned.


I don't think you need any Benadryl.


Change of plans. Who wants some ice cream and a brief trip to Urgent Care?



Can I come?


Sure, but bring your wallet. I'll cover the ice cream, but you're on your own for urgent care; your copay rates are higher than my student loan payments.



I'm obviously just coming for the ice cream.

DANIEL grabs his coat and speaks kindly to Matthew.


I love you, but if you don't have a fistful of Lactaid in your pocket as we speak, you will not just be coming for the ice cream.

AUDIENCE LAUGHS as Daniel hustles them out of the house. KILLIAN looks comically surprised. 

Fade to commercial.


Thursday, September 28, 2023

sept 28

My local pool, Columbia, was officially closed--condemned--in 2022. I still haven't gotten over it. As a person who suffers from a chronically bad case of nostalgia, I don't know if I'll ever get over it. 

I spent my very early childhood going to swim lessons there, spent afternoons at open swim with my mom and siblings when we were being homeschooled (middle-school), spent a few high-school mornings trying to swim a mile before having to sit my butt down in a chair for seven hours*, and spent my summers on the city's youth swim team from age eleven (if not earlier) to seventeen, repping Columbia every year but the last**. I got really, really good at swimming there.

I was basically raised in that pool. The main place of my childhood joy, and the only place I ever did sports. The only place where my body has ever exceeded expectations.

I'm much, much older now (nearly twenty years, jeezus). College was busy (and there was no swim team), I moved away for a while, and it wasn't easy to get back to the pool when I returned. I should have tried harder. I should have found time for it. I should have given them more money. I suppose my cumulative ~$300 wouldn't have made much difference when the cost to survive was $5,000,000, but I would have appreciated her more if I knew our time was limited. Almost like a grandparent, I suppose. Now that I've finally gotten back into swimming, she's gone. I've been going to a pool I never liked that's three times farther from me. It's now the only pool in two city quadrants, and the lanes are apparently packed all day. (Believe me--I've tried many different times.) 

And here's the thing, the real thing: I don't really swim for exercise. I mean, I do--it's the best kind for my body--but I'd say that's only 30% of the reason. If exercise was the main point, I could just up the use of my exercise bike and the weights that are basically light enough for babies. I wouldn't drag myself to a shitty pool a couple times a week. So, why? It turns out that there are few--if any--things I find spiritually satisfying these days. I got back into the pool, and every inch of me remembered: The water is it. Swimming is it. But sharing a lane with 2+ people takes the holiness out and just makes it exercise.

Unless you're on a team, swimming is a solitary activity; one to which the entire body contributes.*** And my body remembers that perfect feeling, when the stroke is just right and there's barely a splash. I can't think of anything so grounded in the present as that feeling of cutting through the water with speed and softness. There's no thinking of anything but the angles of your joints, the counting of your breaths, the estimation of your distance to the edge where you can flip and push off the wall like a bullet for nearly half a length. No worrying about meetings, groceries, dinner, work, schedules, the overwhelming week's-worth of plans. Maybe this is what meditation is supposed to feel like.

Sometimes I like to yell into the water when I push off from the wall. Just a little bit. I know the sound carries, but no one has ever paused to see what was happening (they're busy in their own present, I think), and it feels really good. You should try it: keep your mouth closed, and let the sound come straight out of your chest. No letting your breath out through your nose, either; let the air out when you get close to the surface. Stronger than humming, not so high-pitched that it's a scream. Not a scared sound, but a release of frustration. Trust me. It feels really good. 

I'm realizing now, at this exact moment, that this true story could be read as a metaphor for my relationship with writing fiction and making comics. I suppose I feel like that part of my life--the free and joyful part--is gone, too. Sometimes I find myself with a brief burst of clarity and excitement--but the feeling passes quickly, and I give up. I'm incapable of doing things if they only feel like exercise. It hasn't felt the way it used to for a very long time.

When I'm at this other pool, I yell. Every time. I yell for Columbia, I yell for solitude, I yell for the feeling of yelling. All these weeks, I didn't know I could be keening for something else, too. What a wild revelation.

*Admittedly, this was not often. Waking up at 6am has never been particularly fun/easy for me.
**Our scrappy little North Portland team even won the city-wide meet a few times! That last year was at Peninsula's outdoor pool, though; we followed our long-time coaches over there. Not a great pool for swimming laps, sadly.
***It's also the best form of exercise for people with joint issues. This means I sometimes have to swim more slowly, but sometimes I like to go fast, just to know that I can. Not great for sharing the "slow" or "fast" lanes.