Sunday, October 21, 2018

Lice Check

Have I bragged about how good our last Strangerville live show was? I have? Well, one of the reasons it was so great was because of Whitney Call, who closed out the night with one of the most beautifully-written stories I have read in years. 

Check out the recording of her story on today's Strangerville; I would also strongly recommend that you read it below. This is a story worth experiencing both ways.


This time in Strangerville, Meg’s dog needs a therapist. And Whitney Call reminds us how hard it is to be 9 years old.

Story
Lice Check, by Whitney Call

Production by Eli McCann & Preg Walter

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Me When I Was Bad

This is my niece, Kate.


Adorable, right? Doesn't she just look like someone you would trust with your life? So sweet and sincere.

Be ye not fooled.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Skylar Has Opinions

Be sure to check out this beautiful story from Shireen if you haven't already!



*****

Skylar has opinions about things and sometimes this is the worst.

I don't mean that his opinions are the worst. Sometimes they are. But that's not what I meant by the first sentence.

What I meant by the first sentence is that it is sometimes the worst that he has opinions in the first place.

Last week we got our by-mail ballots for the midterm elections. We sat around the kitchen table filling these out, quite thoughtfully, I would like to add. Probably more than any election, we studied the issues thoroughly, like we were preparing to take a test.

But then we got to one proposed constitutional amendment on our ballots and Skylar was not familiar with it so he asked me if I knew what it was all about.

"Just vote yes," I told him, without further explanation.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Born To Run


A few months ago I was invited to a meet and greet for this woman named Shireen Ghorbani who is running for Congress in my district right now (Utah Second District). I went because I'm totes hashtag woke.

Truthfully, I mainly went because I had been feeling guilty for a while for not being informed enough about local politics, and I thought it wouldn't kill me to spend an hour to go and hear what someone who could end up being my representative thinks about cats and Snuggies.

I'm probably like most people in being very fatigued with politics and all of the anger. That's not to say that I ignore politics or that I sometimes don't feel anger about it. I do. Check out my Twitter. Hashtag woke.

But I am tired of it. And although I have received anger emails to the Stranger account accusing me of being "a conservative mindless sheep" and "a communist libtard," and on one occasion on the same day, it might surprise you to learn that I don't consider myself conservative or liberal.

I've registered at various times for both major parties, usually so I can vote in a primary election that I feel somewhat strongly about. But I've never felt loyal to either, and I refuse to buy into the notion that any political party has the market cornered on good or bad people and ideas.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

National Coming Out Day

I was 21, sitting in a parked car with a friend who was several years older than me. I looked up to her greatly. She was an important friend--one that I trusted.

It was 2005. The friend was asking me about dating at BYU, where I had just started school. I told her about some of my experiences, including that I didn't really like dating all that much and found it sort of stressful. I told her there was a young woman who was a close friend of mine and whom my friends couldn't believe I didn't want to date. She was impressive in all of the ways that 21-year-olds at BYU find young women impressive.

But I didn't want to date her. I told the friend this, sitting in the parked car.

She said it sort of in jest. The statement wasn't a joke, but her delivery was in the spirit of teasing to some degree.

"Well I just hope you're not gay. I don't have the energy to try to talk you out of that right now."

My heart sunk so low that the nearly permanent sunken state it was already in seemed healthy in comparison.

I responded in the same tone in which she had spoken, denying "of course" the suggestion. I brushed it off as casually as I could, fiddling with a cupholder, suddenly very aware that I was doing it and wondering if it was normal to fiddle with a cupholder. It was raining now, and getting sort of late.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I'm A Bad Person

My older sister and brother-in-law ditched town and their responsibilities for a little vacation and my siblings and parents were put on a babysitting rotation for their four kids.

Mine and Skylar's turn came last weekend. Friday evening to Sunday evening, to be exact.

Look. I don't have natural parenting abilities. I'm incapable of talking to children. I don't know what to say. I address 5-year-olds like they are middle-aged insurance defense attorneys. Every exchange is a legal transaction. When my 11-year-old nephew tried to haggle on bedtime last Friday,

Nephew: What if I just stay up for 30 more minutes?

Eli: You'll go to bed now.

Nephew: But what if I promise to clean my room tomorrow?

Eli: You'll go to bed now and you'll clean your bedroom tomorrow.

Nephew: This isn't fair!

Eli: I don't speak whine.

Nephew: But it's not fair!

Eli: Unless you have something of value to offer me, this negotiation is a waste of my time.

HE'S 11. I'M A MONSTER.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Roommates

Hey look! I told a story at Strangerville Live! Check out the recording and the written version below:

This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli talk about a heavy-handed movie. Also, Eli takes the Strangerville Live stage to share a story about his worst roommate, ever.
Story
Roommates, by Eli McCann
Production by Eli McCann & Preg Walter

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rock, Paper, Scissors, SHOOT

I'm aware that Rock, Paper, Scissors is hardly more than a game of chance. I know this. I'm not under the impression that a person benefits from experience in this or that it's possible to be particularly skilled at the game.

Rock, Paper, Scissors is basically as complex and random as a coin toss.

Maybe a super genius has figured out a way to read an opponent's mind. But I doubt it.

It's a game of chance.

I know this.

The only way to effectively use strategy to win the game is to cheat, by adding new rules. Like Jared Dimick did to me in the second grade when he introduced "bomb," which looked like the rock, but with the thumb extended, and which "beats everything."

And I accepted this. And lost Rock, Paper, Scissors against Jared Dimick every time we played. For a year.

Yeah, I could have used bomb against him, but I was a RPS purist, enough so that I was willing to lose for my beliefs.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hot Girls

Today, please enjoy truly one of the funniest stories ever produced on Strangerville; a story by the hilarious Rebbie Brassfield. Check out the recording, included in this week's Strangerville, plus the written version for the hearing impaired below. (Also, check out Rebbie's new venture on the Instas, @mormonsinmedia).


This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli discuss, with some rage, Mormon genre films. Then, a woman takes the Strangerville Live stage to explain how her theory about “hot girls” was put to the test in a high-pressure situation.
Story
Hot Girls, by Rebbie Brassfield
Production by Eli McCann & Preg Walter


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

I don't have a beef with you.

Look.

I don't have a beef with anyone.

I mean, except for the essential oils people.

But all the other people? No beef. No beef with the other people.

If you want to ride an elevator when stairs are faster, that's your business. I don't have a beef with you. It seems like a really poor choice. But it's your poor choice.

And they aren't even stairs. It's an escalator. So if laziness is your issue, the escalator is right over there [points to somewhere not even far away]. The escalator will be faster.

But if you don't want to take the escalator, that's fine. I don't have a beef with anyone.

Well, besides people who put pineapple on pizzas. And essential oils people.

But if you're not those people, I don't have a beef with you.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Romy and Skylar's High School Reunion

Skylar had his 10-year high school reunion last night so we spent the evening with people who have no memory of the original Jurassic Park movie being in theaters.

I was mostly excited to go because of the Facebook drama that preceded the event. Skylar kept me updated for the three months that it all lasted. I'm probably not allowed to talk about it here but Skylar only spot checks this site so there's at least a 40% chance he won't see this anyway.

It all started when the organizer announced that tickets to this event were going to be $40. That would apparently cover the cost of the venue and food. I wasn't surprised when I heard this. Some friends of mine have attended high school reunions for more. Mine cost $20 because I live in Cheap Lake City.

But the ticket price started a conversation on the high school reunion Facebook page. And that conversation got ugly.

There was an irate post by someone who was very upset that this was going to cost anything at all.

There were responses to this post that devolved into general name-calling.

At one point a horse girl tried to helpfully explain to the original poster that if she just saved one dollar a day for 40 days, she would have $40, like this was a Sarah McLachlan animal abuse situation.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Halee From High School

We borrowed a stage for Strangerville Live after Meg didn't "want to be murdered" by my attempt to build one.

Under no circumstances was she willing to stand on something I created. I don't know whether this is because she deems me incompetent or malicious, and honestly I don't know which is more offensive. Or true.

Once it was determined that building the stage was not a viable option, we went back to the drawing board, hoping to figure out where the hell we could get one. A stage. Not a drawing board. Although now that I think about it, I'm in the market for one of those, too. That, and a Heart of the Ocean.

I couldn't think of where else to find a stage, and that's when I took to what the kids' moms are calling "The Facebooks."

It seemed like a shot in the dark, but I posted there, asking if anyone had a stage that could fit in the back of a Subaru Outback and had very little history of killing Meg's unborn children.

My friend Emily responded by sending me somewhere around 600 text messages with DIY ideas, unaware that Meg had already vetoed even the continued suggestion that I would be allowed around more tools.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tara

Late last year I messaged my friend Tara on Facebook because she asked people for crock pot recipes and discussing food is the last vestige of that platform in my life.

Tara and I met in college. We were both history majors and she was the smartest person I knew so I latched myself onto her in multiple classes and made her study with me. In our last year we worked on a journal together. She was the editor-in-chief and I was something very not editor-in-chief. These were good memories. And then we graduated.

After college we stayed sort-of-in-touch through social media, chatting very occasionally. She went on, as expected, to travel the world and earn advanced degrees at places like freaking Cambridge. I saw her post pictures of the cool things she was up to from time to time and every time she did I nodded at my computer screen in polite pride that someone I knew and liked was doing snobby things without seeming to become snobby.

We hadn't chatted on social media for a few years when I sent her the crock pot recipe, and I couldn't remember seeing much posting from her in recent months and so I didn't know what she was up to these days.

She responded and thanked me for sending it. We Facebook chatted for a little while, catching up. She told me she was still living in England. I told her I was a big fat homo now and how Skylar keeps breaking my stuff but I have to accept it because I already peaked and he's settling for me so this is my best shot at a happy life.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mormon Mothers

Skylar told me last night that he thinks "scolding" is a super power of Mormon mothers.

I had never heard this opinion from him, or anyone, but I implicitly agreed with him before taking a moment to blurt out, "wait; why?"

Skylar isn't from Utah. His exposure to mass Mormonism is a relatively recent aspect of his 28-year life. In fact, his first real visit (read: not an airport layover) was in late 2015. He was living in Wisconsin at the time. He started visiting Salt Lake City with some regularity that year because I'm very attractive and he couldn't help himself.

Uncovering Utah's uniqueness for him since then has been a surprisingly delightful experience for me. Most of this is because he has approached everything in our great state with nothing more than a polite and respectful curiosity.

Believe me when I say this is rare around these parts. Most people I know in Utah have very strong opinions, in one direction or another, about Mormonism and, specifically, Mormons. This is true of people who move here as well. They decide how they feel about the place before they get here and then they find whatever evidence they can to support their belief.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Locked Car

A homeless woman got my attention as I was walking to my car. She was blonde and looked a little rough around the edges, but simultaneously kind. She pointed at the car parked in the middle of the street--something very fancy-shmancy, silver, and sleek--and she asked me if it was mine.

I told her it wasn't, but I was curious why she was asking because I was raised by Cathie Whittle McCann who taught me that you should always become involved in everything ever, especially if it is happening inside a grocery store.

This wasn't happening inside of a grocery store. It was happening just outside of Church & State, where our show will take place this Friday. (P.S. get tickets here.)

I had stopped by to meet with Blair, the director of the venue, so we could dig through an entire room full of audio equipment that is so intimidating that you all just became more inadequate for my mentioning it.

We did a few sound tests because, five shows later, I guess I have finally learned that it's not a bad idea to get these things worked out not five minutes before the show is supposed to start.

May my sweat-soaked suits rest in peace.

The sound-checking had gone well enough, and I was gleefully walking back to my car, parked on the side of the road, when the homeless woman got my attention.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Susan

First of all, Strangerville Live is THIS FRIDAY. Come, please. We even ordered in some extra chairs so more people can attend and so we'll look really popular. But seating is still limited, so if you can make it, get your tickets HERE or HERE or HERE or HERE (those all go to the same place. OR DO THEY?).

Two cranky ladies will be checking names at the door (hi Anna and Emily thanks for working for me for free all the time and not filing sexual harassment complaints against Jolyn).

Second of all, to get you excited for Strangerville Live, here's an episode of Strangerville!



Finally, last night Skylar and I walked two houses down to Lynne's place for a backyard party. Lynne's backyard is like something out of a hipster magazine. She has two gorgeous patios, one with a perfectly-manicured tree canopy completely covering it, the other with a wisteria tree growing over the top of a pergola surrounding it. Both patios are lit by flame and bistro lights. And you've probably never even heard of it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

When Canning Gets Real

Everything in my family is a passive-aggressive competition, so that's why I bought 10 pounds of tomatoes this weekend after my mother posted pictures on Instagram of her canning process this year.

Cathie's entire basement is perpetually filled to capacity with home-processed bottles of vegetables and fruits organically grown in her yard through processes about which NASA has subpoenaed her for information nearly a dozen times. Her efforts at food preservation have won her several Nobel Peace Prizes and there's a rumor that her bottled pickle recipe may have been the actual cause for the deescalation of the Cold War on multiple occasions.

Cathie pretends she has no ego in this, but I know better. She'll never admit it, but I'm certain that she is exceptionally satisfied with the fact that she is better at this than all of her children combined.

Her pride only reaches this level in one other task, quilting, which she spent so much time during my childhood doing that it is technically considered my third parent. Until age 8 whenever anyone asked me where I lived I gave them the address for the fabric store down the street. I still accept some mail there--mostly from credit unions I keep forgetting to inform that I've moved. Whether or not Cathie and I ever had squatters rights at this fabric store is something that is still being argued in state courts.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dog Hike



Check out today's Strangerville (show notes at bottom), wherein Skylar shares the best coming out story I have ever heard.

*****

Skylar really wanted to go for a hike on Labor Day weekend. We found a good one that was dog friendly and decided that we would get up at negative 5:00 in the morning and drive to it so we could get started before sunrise.

We bullied Matt into just coming and staying at our house the night before. This way we didn't have to tell him what time we were waking up for the hike. We could just carry his body to the car. Had we told him in advance that we were leaving at 5:00 he would have never spoken to us again.

Adam, Teddy, and Renley showed up around 5:00, just as Matt and Ollie were stomping up the stairs from my basement guest room, yelling something about why was it still dark outside.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Everyone Else is an Idiot

Skylar and I have a term to describe someone who is behaving incompetently in the moment. We call them "mall people." But with a strong emphasis on the word "malllll."

When someone in front of us sits through a green turn signal,

"Mallll people."

When a person leaves their grocery cart in the middle of an aisle in such a way that no one can get through,

"Malllll people."

When we go hiking and an entire family has gone off trail despite the signs asking people to stay on the trail because going off trail in that particular spot is bad for the vegetation and animals who are trying to thrive in that area and that family is eating a family-sized bag of Cheetos and dropping half of them onto the ground and they're screaming to each other about how hot it is and one of the kids is throwing rocks at a landmark that took millions of years to form,

"Malllllllllllllllllllllllllllll people."

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Locked Out

Skylar called me just as I was leaving the office the other day to very suspiciously ask me when I was going to be home.

It was suspicious to me, anyway, because when I told him I was on my way but needed to run an errand he seemed disappointed but then refused to explain why.

Eventually I got it out of him. He had locked himself out of the house. I don't know how he did it, exactly. But I had several sudden flashbacks to living with Rebecca when he admitted it and it only seemed fair to give him the same mean-spirited and demoralizing lecture I used to give her on a weekly basis.

I am going to be such a good parent if any of you die and give me your kids.

By the time I made it home, a rainstorm had moved in and Skylar was hiding under the covered patio in the backyard.

He followed me to the door, looking ashamed, AS HE SHOULD, and that's when I discovered that I also did not have a key to get into the house.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

10 Tips For How To Respond to Someone Who Is Coming Out

Coming out of the closet never ends for a gay person. You have to do it all the time. Constantly. For the rest of your life.

Every time you make new friends. Get a new job. Talk to people at a party.

I start every morning looking into the mirror and screaming "YOU ARE A FABULOUS HOMO."

And it's never not a little stressful.

But it does get easier, which is good. It's good that it gets easier because coming out to people at the beginning is phenomenally intimidating. I don't know if I could find the right words to really explain what that kind of fear feels like. They should make a new word to describe that feeling. Judy Garland should include that word in her lecture when she visits people as a ghost to tell them they're gay (that's how we find out).

Since I have now come out to roughly, let's see, multiply by 60, carry the one, take the square root, ELEVENTY million people, I know everything and I'm ready to mansplain it all to you so please read the below in as condescending a voice as you can muster.

(Note, I am aware that not everyone is the same and that some of the ideas below may work better for some people than others, and I welcome any of you with insight to chime in in the comments. I offer these only as general thoughts that have occurred to me over the years.)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Camping: The Ground Got Harder

(In case you missed it, we announced our next really fun Strangerville Live show. Check out this link for info and tickets; as always, tickets are first come/first serve and there is some limited seating.)

Two years ago I decided that I needed to occasionally force myself to do what the kids are calling "commune with nature." To do so, I told myself that I was going to make it a priority to go camping one time a year.

The reason for this, and I swear to you I'm not joking, is to get myself to be more grateful for shelter.

It's not because I think camping will be fun. It's not to prove anything to myself. It's because I love the inside so much and I wanted to find a way to love it even more so I decided that if I slept outside once a year, the pure contrast would make my couch and temperature-controlled home so much sweeter.

Look. I've basically said this before. Camping is an insult to our ancestors who invented electricity and the internet and Netflix so that we would never have to go outside under any circumstances whatsoever. Going camping is basically nothing more than squandering an inheritance. Except it's miserable instead of fun to do.

But despite my respect for all the McCanns and Whittlebottoms who have come before me, including the ones who were polygamists, I have committed myself to this once-a-year camping vow.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Attempted Homicide

The exciting news is that we have a date for our next Strangerville Live show. We'll be back at Church & State on Friday, September 14. And obviously we want every single one of you and your grandmas to come and support the storytellers. But the more important reason to come is to see if I accidentally kill Meg and her unborn child.

It all started when Church & State told us that something happened to their small stage and they don't have it anymore. The cause of the disappearance is still a mystery to me. But they said that if we wanted a stage, we better bring our own.

I asked Jolyn and Meg how many stages they had lying around the house and they had like 50 but all of them were being used that night so they didn't have any to spare. So I asked them if they even thought we needed a stage in the first place and both of them, in unison, screamed "WE WANT PEOPLE TO SEE OUR BEAUTY."

Then Jolyn was like "can't Matt just build us one?" And I was like "I OBJECT" because I'm a lawyer and that's how we talk all the time. And I told Jolyn that I don't need no man in my life to build things for me and I'm perfectly capable of building things on my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

White Coat Ceremony

Last week I attended something called "white coat ceremony." This is where 150 grown people are dressed by other grown people on a stage in front of a crowd of grown people.

The whole thing felt a little like a premature celebration of achievement. But it's apparently a big deal for medical students. Just before they start classes, they have this introductory event where they are bequeathed white coats that are perfectly tailored and stylish on the women but kind of look like boxy Walmart Halloween costumes on most of the men.

Skylar invited his parents, who flew to Salt Lake City, to attend the event. My parents went as well.

It was TWO HOURS long. It was kind of like a graduation. There was this whole procession thing where all of the new students walked in as the most dramatic music I have ever heard in my entire life played. Several school administrators and faculty stood on the stage and one-by-one took the podium to give speeches about how special and amazing all of these new students were.

If you've ever wondered why so many doctors have huge egos, you should go attend one white coat ceremony.

Then each person was called up, one at a time, so someone could help them put on a white coat. This took a full eternity.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Sweet Treat



Please check out today's Strangerville, which includes one of my favorite stories we have ever produced. More info at the bottom of this post.

*****

Matt had a party yesterday because his town had its summer festival and they were shooting off fireworks at the park just behind his house. He throws this party every summer because his backyard is a perfect vantage point for fireworks viewing. 

Matt decided to prepare a taco bar for the 20 or so guests that would be coming to the party.

Now, I wasn't born in a barn. Bob and Cathie taught me Jesus's's way, which is that one should never go to any party empty-handed. So I called Matt yesterday morning and asked him what he thought I should bring.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

Toward the end of my Europe trip a few weeks ago I got a text out of the blue from Matt that said, "sorry about your house."

This is a terrible thing to have someone say to you without any context whatsoever while you are thousands of miles away from home.

A few days and eleventy flights later, I walked into the place at 1:00 in the morning, wondering if the reason for Matt's apology would be readily apparent. It was. During the two weeks I was gone, Matt completely rearranged my entire house. He moved paintings and furniture. He hauled stuff from one room to another. He made a pile of lamps and other decorations that were to be discarded. He even bought some stuff and left me a bill.

How much do you have to hate someone's taste to show up and do something like that while they're on vacation?

Anyway, your Pictures & Distractions:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Golf and Buses

Skylar started medical school yesterday while I went golfing.

I would have traded him places in a heartbeat.

And no, I'm not interested in going to medical school. I'm just even less interested in going golfing.

But I have to go once a year. Yes, "have to." Don't give me that whole song and dance about how we choose our own adventures. Once a year I am invited to a work function that requires me to go golfing and I'm not totally sure what would happen if I didn't go but I suspect at least prison is a possibility and look at this face it was not made for prison.

I could, you know, practice. Then maybe I wouldn't be terrible at it and then maybe I wouldn't hate it with a hot and fiery passion. But that would require me to golf more. And I don't know if you've picked up on this yet, but I hate golfing. Kind of a lot.

So instead of practicing, I show up to a golf course in God knows where at God knows what time when it's Satan knows what temperature to play exactly one game of golf each year.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Woven Tarp Bags

A little while ago this thing, that's probably a drug front and is definitely run by the Utah Mafia called "The Beehive", was launched. Meg writes snarky content for it, and we are also running a weekly podcast through it called Hive Mind. In it, we complain about TV and movies. So if you've ever listened to Strangerville and thought, "I would like to hear even more of their thoughts on The Power Rangers," you are in luck.

Hive Mind is being produced under The Beehive's channel, so you can find it on any podcast app by searching for The Beehive and looking for Hive Mind episodes. You can also find Hive Mind here.

And in other news, after a few weeks of break, we are back with new episodes of Strangerville. Please enjoy the below, which includes a story from me about leaving Ukraine recently. For those who hate the sound of my voice, I've included the text of the story.




This time in Strangerville, Meg and Eli absolutely do not judge anyone for breastfeeding their adult children, and a grandmother nervously navigates the security area of an Eastern European airport.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cringe

A few years ago I was talking to my childhood best friend Sam's dad because he had stopped by Bob and Cathie's house for some reason. This was right before I moved to Palau and he was asking me what my job was going to be like in that country.

We talked for a while. And the conversation naturally moved to what I would do after Palau. I was telling him about how I would likely look for a job in the Salt Lake area but I wasn't sure, exactly, and that I hoped to find a good job before my contract in Palau ended.

We talked about those plans to look for a job in Salt Lake City for a while. I had expressed worry about not being able to find work. And then he said, "well, do you have any good contacts that could help you?"

And I said the following:

"Um . . . actually I don't wear contacts. I mean, I have these glasses, but my prescription is super weak. I don't really need them. But I like wearing them because I think they make me look smart hahahaha. I don't think I could ever wear contacts. It would be hard for me to stick something into my eyes."

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Seatmates

The universe has required me to take on a substantially larger share of sitting next to not-the-best seatmates on flights.

I'm happy to do it. Sometimes. But not every time.

It's like a curse. I see the 100-pound sensible-looking elderly woman with a tidy purse board just before the 7 foot 2 man with 16 carry-ons and a half-eaten jumbo bag of corn nuts and I immediately know the latter is destined for the seat next to, which in coach basically translates to "on top of", me.

It's fine. Someone has to sit next to the excessive cougher or the complainer or the person who insists on a window seat despite needing to use the bathroom every 20 minutes.

But it would be nice to have a break from this every once in a while.

Last night I did not get the break.

I knew where they were headed the moment I saw them get onto the plane. It wasn't rocket science to figure it out. They were very late and there were few seats left. I was in an aisle seat on a row of three, and the middle and window seats were unoccupied.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

How I Nearly Started World War III

We booked the hotel because it advertised access to a "private beach." The beach ended up being more like a stone patio that dropped off into the Adriatic Sea. It was nice enough. A bit small. But Croatian coastal towns seem to be crowded this time of year, so any access to the waves is appreciated.

Skylar and I had wandered to the water in the early afternoon. The stone patio was big enough to contain about 50 lounge chairs, all huddled closely together.

We wandered past each, looking for one that had not yet been claimed. About half of the chairs had people sitting in them. The other half had been draped with towels, most of them hotel towels, like little flags claiming territory on the moon.

Not a single lounge chair was empty, so we eventually perched ourselves on top of an uncomfortable rock.

We baked there for 20 or so minutes. I continuously scanned the patio, hoping that someone would give up a seat. But the 25 people already sitting looked like they were about to start requesting that their mail be sent there. They weren't about to go anywhere.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Smizing in Slovenia

In Ljubljana Slovenia last night:

Skylar: Here, give me your phone so I can take a picture of you.

Eli: No. You're really bad at taking pictures of people.

Skylar: I'm VERY good at taking pictures of people.

Eli: You're not. You're good at a lot of things, but this is one of the things you're really bad at.

Skylar: How am I bad?

Eli: You do weird angles and you take the pictures when the person isn't ready and you don't notice that the picture is bad so you stop trying and you tell the person you "got some good ones" and I've been burned by you enough.

Skylar: These are all lies! Give me your phone now! I'm going to prove to you that I can do this.

Eli: Fine. Here.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Olena

I have several friends in L'viv Ukraine, all of whom I met when I lived there as a Mormon missionary in 2003 and 2004. Usually I try to see as many of these people as possible when I'm in the area, but for some reason it just happened to be really difficult this time around.

Some of them were out traveling near the Black Sea for summer vacation. A couple of them have disappeared from social media. Some have moved.

Olena was the first person I met in L'viv. I had been in the country for six weeks when I was sent out to that city from the outskirts of Kyiv. I felt like I had been moved to a fairy-tale land. L'viv's architecture was so far from anything familiar that it sort of felt like it was operating in its very own reality.

Olena was in her upper 40s and she had two youngish children. I went to her apartment and she welcomed us in. She was tall and very thin, with long black hair and an almost cheesily cliche Eastern European face.

She didn't speak a word of English and I spoke very little Ukrainian at the time. After I sat down in her kitchen she handed me a glass of something I described that night in my journal as tasting like "someone milked a tree."

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

To Become a Star

We had to vacate our Airbnb in Kyiv by 11:00, which was unfortunate because our train didn't leave for L'viv until about 12 hours later. Despite our best attempts to pack lightly, at least two out of the three of us decided to bring with them enough clothes to start a new life over here. I'll let you guess which two out of the three are guilty by smelling us.

I thought the best option might be to wander to the hostel down the street and ask them if we could just pay a little to store our bags for the day. I should have been deterred by the hundreds of google reviews that warned me of the five-flight stair climb and very average Eastern European customer service. But I wasn't. And when I entered the place and asked my simple question I was met with several eye rolls and half a dozen phone calls to Stalin-knows-where, during which the hostel employees attempted to negotiate an international peace treaty for the foreign travelers in front of them.

When homegirl got off the phone she informed me that we would have to rent a room for the day, which was $10, but then she warned me that she wouldn't dare leave anything whatsoever at that hostel because "it's more dangerous than prison in this place."

I asked her to repeat herself several times, sure that there had been a miscommunication. But each time she did, the warning became starker, finally ending with "I don't even bring my wallet to work."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Kyiv's Raccoon Man

We landed in Kyiv on Saturday afternoon and found a taxi to take us to our apartment. "She's Got It" by Venus was playing on the radio.

Taxi Driver: Vat zis mean, she got it?

Eli: It means she has something special.

Taxi Driver: Vy zey not just say "she have somezing special?"

Eli: It's just a saying in English.

Taxi Driver: Vat so special about zis voman?

Eli: I don't know.

Taxi Driver: Vy he sing about her if he don't say vat so special.

Eli: Look. I haven't slept in like 40 hours. I'm incapable of engaging in philosophy at the moment.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Grammar Book

I'm going to Ukraine on Friday.

And don't even try to break into my house, robbers. I've got house-sitters and they're all angry former cops with complicated pasts and uncertain futures. Go break into my sister's house. She's going with me and she has a much better collection of alabaster pots and sewing supplies.

The house-sitter situation is necessary because keeping things alive at my home in July is an unrelenting job. For the last four weeks I've just been engaged in a constant loop of pot watering where I start again from the beginning the moment I finish giving a drink to the last pot. I haven't had a single break in days. I'm typing this with my toes right now. (Yes, Tami is literate).

Finding a responsible house-sitter is a challenge because it requires you to make a list of all of the people you know who have nothing going on in their lives and can easily pick up and move into your place for as long as needed, and then identify one person on that list who is reliable.

Thank God for all of those former cops.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor

My two older sisters hated it when Trolley started making its way back to Mr. Rogers's house from Make Believe Land.


Every episode had the same simple format. Mr. Rogers would come through the front door of his tiny and simple home, singing about it being "a beautiful day in the neighborhood," asking viewers to be his neighbor, and changing into a sweater and more comfortable shoes. He would introduce the simple concept of the day. Music, or creativity, or sadness, or inclusivity, or whatever. Various cast regulars and special guests would come by to help demonstrate the lesson of the day. Then Trolley would go off to Make Believe Land.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

International Spy

Skylar treats state-issued IDs like you might treat chapstick.

Don't remember where you put the last one? That's ok. Just grab another the next time you're in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Keep one in your car. One at your desk. Send a couple through the washing machine in a dirty pair of pants.

The problems with this habit, though, are obvious.

State-issued IDs are not chapstick.

They are supremely more inconvenient to collect. And the more you have, the more likely your identity will be stolen.

Since I met Skylar in 2015, I have seen him lose at least 4 driver's licenses. That's one a year, y'all. And you know I don't even say that.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

You guys. Jurassic World. There's another one.

Last week Meg told me there was a new Jurassic World movie out, and then she threatened me to see it with her.

This is an activity that makes sense for us because our relationship is basically based off of the first Jurassic World movie. When that one came out I wrote a recap about it that was, how do I put this, somewhat critical. If you go to that post and look for Meg's contribution in the comments section, you'll find the birth of our friendship. Just three years ago we were commiserating over hating Jurassic World and now I'm 8th in line to get her children.

Mark my words: I will do what it takes to ascend that list.

Which is maybe why Saturday afternoon I showed up at Century 16 movie theater at 3:00 in the afternoon to meet Meg. What happened over the next two hours will be hard to explain. But I'll try.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Elk in the Woods

As you know, earlier this week I DECIDED TO BE GAY. Now every morning when I wake up the soundtrack to Rent is blasting through my house from speakers I haven't yet been able to locate and Judy Garland keeps calling me.

No one warned me this would happen.

Skylar keeps telling me that even though he doesn't support my lifestyle, he still loves me. Which is true. He absolutely does not support my lifestyle. This fall he's starting medical school so I have a very sad feeling that I'm going to be supporting his for the next eleventy years to come.

Matt has been texting me variations of "WHY DID I HAVE TO FIND OUT YOU WERE GAY ON YOUR BLOG I THOUGHT I WAS YOUR BEST FRIEND," even though I met Matt over four years ago when mutual friends of ours set us up on a date.

By the way, for our first date we watched Jesus Camp together. I knew Matt was different when he sided with the camp leaders by the end of the documentary, screaming at me in his strong southern drawl, "WELL WHAT'S WRONG WITH JESUS?"

Except the way he said "Jesus" it was a much longer name than I had learned growing up. It was more like JeeeeeauauauasssssuauauauIreckonuauauauas.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Thing I Decided I Want You To Know

I'm pretty gay.

I know. You're all shocked. NO ONE guessed this. I'll give you a moment to recover.

This is something I just never thought I would really address on Stranger because I never felt like I needed to.

But several things have changed for me. The most important one is the mounting internal pressure to be more open about this because being open about being gay can literally save lives. It opens dialogue, and it helps people who feel alone feel less alone. Honestly, in recent years a part of me has felt a little selfish for not being open.

Coming out as gay to anyone is kind of a scary thing. Even in 2018. It took me many many many many years to come out to the people I'm closest to. Like, 29 or so years. A lot of this was because I didn't exactly grow up in a community that has a great track record when it comes to treatment of The Gays.

Flashback to a very gay boy in the 90s sitting in many lessons at church in which the teacher explained that no one is born gay but the wicked choose to be gay and for that reason their souls are lost.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Good Toilet

Last year when the essential oils people descended upon me and nearly destroyed my home, I decided that I would take a possibly-permanent break from Airbnb.

I changed my listing to no longer allow people to automatically book the place. Instead they could send inquiries and I could decide from their picture whether or not they looked like they practice witchcraft.

This was going fine. I got very few inquiries for several months, and I mostly declined the inquiries for one reason or another.

And then last week I got a message from Bill and Brenda. (Names have been changed).

"Hello. We are driving to Salt Lake City from Idaho for a small procedure. Please let is know if your space is available."

I was intrigued about the procedure and Bill and Brenda looked to be about my parents' age so I thought what the hey, and I accepted their booking.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Pray For Arnie

You guys.

I've been really stressed about something on the Internet.

Well, I've been really stressed about a lot of things on the Internet because I'm not a sociopath and I have Internet access. But there's one specific thing that I'm going to tell you about today.

For some time I've been obsessively checking all of the animal rescue websites in Utah to see who is looking for a home. I don't know why I do this to myself. For about a thousand reasons I can't take in another dog right now.

So all I do is look at all of these doggies with their sad doggy eyes and their sad doggy mouths and their ratty shelter doggy hair and I can hear them crying and saying "why can't you love us? You could save me but you are choosing not to. Why?" and I start getting choked up and part of me is like "TAKE THEM ALL, ELI" but then another part of me is like "YOU USED TO HATE ANIMALS WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU" and then the first part of me is like

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Queen Latifah

Matt accused me of exaggerating "just like" I "always do."

This was offensive. Not because I consider "exaggerator" to be an insult, but because he said it in the same tone he uses to discuss youthsss on Instagram.

This all came about because I was telling him about this time in 2012 when I was living with Daniel and we were supposed to go somewhere but then suddenly the American classic Just Wright starring Queen Latifah came on TV.

Daniel told me that it was important that we stay home and watch this cinematic masterpiece in its entirety rather than do anything else in that moment.

This was back when we were too poor for DVR so we really had no other option.

I hadn't seen the movie before, but Daniel apparently had. Which is why he had no excuse for his decision to suggest that we watch it.

Look. It's been so long that I might be mixing up the plot I'm about to explain to you with about 9 other movies. So don't use this blog post as your exclusive source of knowledge on Just Wright, especially if you have a test on it coming up.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Skylar Thinks He Can Cook

Skylar thinks he's a cook.

Yes, you should read into my word-choice there.

Also, I want to mention that Skylar is the most amazing human being. He is selfless, beautiful, and charming. I don't talk about him enough, because I am jealous of him. I wish I could be just like hime when I grow up.

[The above paragraph, including the curious spelling of the word "hime," was written by Skylar when I left my computer unattended.]

He decided he was a cook some time ago despite never having really cooked. I suppose this is because he watched his sisters obtain this skill over the years, somehow believing that their mere relation to him made culinary arts a collective familial knowledge.

But it didn't.

I know that it didn't, because I have seen him ambitiously host a number of dinner parties over the three years that I've known him. And I've literally discussed the results of the dinner parties in therapy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Girl F Word

A conversation between Brianne and her very young nephew, as was told to me this morning. I can't stop laughing.

Nephew: My little sister has a potty mouth.

Brianne: Really? Does she say swear words?

Nephew: Yeah. She's been saying a really bad one lately.

Brianne: Which one?

Nephew: [Whispers] The F word.

Brianne: What?! No. She doesn't say the F word.

Nephew: Yes she does. I hear her saying it all the time lately. Sometimes she walks around the house yelling it.

Brianne: Buddy, I don't think she knows the F word.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Motherhood, amiright?!

Recently Meg texted me in the middle of a school day and was all like "GO TO A MOVIE WITH ME OR DON'T BOTHER COMING HOME," which was weird because we don't live together.

I normally oppose going to all movies at all costs when those movies are played during the day hours because I find coming out of a movie theater when it's light outside to be supremely depressing.

But I've had a relatively stressful work week/month/year/life and I love myself so I decided I would just take some time and do it.

I met Meg at the theater at 4:00 in the afternoon. She wanted to see a movie called Tully. No spoilers here, but basically it's about a woman with two kids who has a third baby and is super overwhelmed with caring for the newborn.

And y'all. Like 20 minutes into this movie I was so stressed about motherhood that scheduling a dozen spa days is basically a medical necessity for me right now. I went shopping right after the movie and charged everything to my insurance card.

I'm one thousand percent convinced that Meg wanted me to go to this movie with her because of every time I've screamed at her for not staying caught up on TV shows because she was too busy dealing with sick children and I'm like "CHANGE YOUR PRIORITIES OR DON'T BOTHER COMING HOME."

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Counseling: What is your earliest memory?

I don't know why it came up but recently I was talking with Skylar about my earliest life memories and he basically called me a liar. I'm angry about this because I know I'm right.

I have four different memories that all seem to have happened around the same time, although I'm not sure of their order.

One is of my cousin Ryan talking to his mom, my aunt Sally. We were in the basement of their house and she came to the top of the stairs and the two had some conversation. Ryan is a couple of years older than me, and I remember watching them talk and being impressed that Ryan could have a conversation with an adult because I was just barely too young to understand what they were saying.

I remember pulling a little horsey on wheels down the hallway at our house, barely able to take a few steps without stumbling, and my mom stepped into the hallway holding my baby sister, who was an infant (only 18 months younger than me). There was a big mirror at the end of the hallway behind her, and I remember that when she stepped in front of it, it blocked my view. I had been watching myself get closer to the mirror as I pulled the horsey toward it.

I remember going to my great grandpa McCann's funeral. I was wearing my favorite clip-on bow tie. My dad picked me up so I could look into the open casket. When I did, I reached down and tried to touch grandpa's eyebrow, just as my dad pulled me away from it. I remember that vividly.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

WHAT IF PAUL SIMON, Oakland

Paul Freaking Simon and I made eye contact on Friday night.

I'm not kidding you about this.

Skylar went to the concert with me even though he was all like "this sounds boring when does Beyonce come out do they have any avocado toast where's my participation trophy" and I was like "YOU DON'T DESERVE THIS" but he was already in the Oakland area for work and I didn't want to go to this thing alone so his attendance made the most sense for me.

I bought the tickets months ago and since Paul said this was going to be his "farewell" tour, because I think he is being translated like Yoda was in Star Wars episode XXQI, I decided that I would empty all bank accounts and take out a second mortgage on my yachts so I could buy the best tickets possible. Now Duncan can't go to college. None of you can go to college because of how much I spent on Paul Simon tickets.

And I started regretting this a bit as we got into an Uber and started making our way from San Francisco to Oakland.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

You guys. Paul Simon. I'm going to be like this close to him this weekend. I got negative eleventy row tickets to see him for his supposedly-farewell-tour-but-obviously-he-could-never-retire-from-me. He probably already knows I'm coming and that I love him and that I would give my life for him even if it wasn't really necessary, but I also feel like if any of you are friends with Paul Simon, maybe you could do this Stranger a solid and get me some VIP backstage passes? Also, if you have this connection I might murder you and wear your skin. AND I MEAN THAT ONLY IN A NORMAL WAY.

And now, your Pictures & Distractions:
In Natchez

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

So this is the south.

Matt has been in Mississippi for several weeks. He drove from Salt Lake City all the way to Jackson, which if you look at google maps is a distance of exactly 7 light years.

I don't know how he did it.

I mean, I do kind of know how he did it. I know because he texted me every four minutes for three days, telling me every detail of every part of his journey, including where Ollie was pooping, how much he was pooping, how long it was taking Ollie to go poop--pretty much 95% pooping updates.

I knew he had been driving nearly 7 light years when I texted him and asked if he had made it to Mississippi yet. He responded with this picture and no further explanation.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Therapists are better than TV. Except no M.A.S.H.



Before we get to today's Strangerville, I have something of a follow-up sponsored post. After I wrote to you about Peggy the Therapist a few weeks ago, I got messages and emails from many of you, talking about how therapy has helped you, and how our Stranger community has functioned as a sort of therapy for you as well. Which is unfortunate, because I don't take your insurance so you all owe me like $600,000 and I'm sending you to collections.

I really loved hearing from you on this topic because it's a topic that I've grown to really care about in the last couple of years. My heart breaks for the countless people who have needed help and didn't know where to find it or were afraid to ask for it. And since I wrote that last post, I've been thinking a lot about why that barrier exists at all.

I had been seeing Peggy the Therapist for a while when I finally decided that I didn't really need to anymore. BECAUSE I WAS CURED AND PERFECT.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Mr. Pham's Patio Project

I told you a little while ago about how I hired Mr. Pham to do whatever the hell he wants with my yard. I had given Mr. Pham a vision of what I was looking for, and he didn't seem to hate that vision, although he did yell "NO" at me a few times as I was explaining some details of the vision. Then he took money from me, marched to his truck, and drove away.

Over the next couple of weeks I would come home from work to find Mr. Pham ripping giant bushes out of my yard and hauling away concrete that I didn't even realize I had back there. On two separate occasions The Perfects yelled over to me to ask what Mr. Pham was doing back there. I told them the truth: "whatever the hell he wants."

I had my own problems dealing with the dying grass situation in my front yard, one which Skylar is convinced is evidence of a hate crime. When I asked him what someone might hate about me he just said "EXACTLY" so I'm probably offended.

Finally, I left town for the Half Ironman, wondering when Mr. Pham might be done.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mansplaining

A few years ago I was at Bob and Cathie's house and I saw Bob's 1968 beautiful green road bike in a pile of junk. I asked my parents what they were doing with this bike and they were like "we're throwing it away because we don't value things anymore" which isn't exactly what they said but that's what I heard.

So I screamed at them a thing I've screamed at them before, which thing is why my garage is currently filled to capacity with a 1970s roll-top desk, various shelving units, and other odds and ends from the 80s, "IF YOU CAN'T TAKE CARE OF YOUR THINGS, I WILL."

As I was putting the bike on my bike rack on the back of my car, Bob was like "are you even going to use that?" and I was like "ONLY EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE."

As of yesterday, that bike had been sitting in my garage untouched for three years.

Skylar is starting medical school at the University of Utah in the fall because he's a genius and he's going to give all of us free and invasive physicals once a year for the rest of our lives. He told me recently that he wanted to buy a bike to ride to school sometimes. So I told him he could have Bob's old bike if we could get it in working condition.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Yahoo! Answers XIII

(Names of the answerers have been slightly changed)

Question 1: What are the best vocational schools for cats? My cat Trixy is interested in learning a trade in case I die or she moves out but she has a hard time in school like she can't talk and stuff. Are there any vocational schools that don't require you to read and write papers or support football?

1. Whatever you do don't send her to ITT Tech. They eat cats alive there. Trust me. I'm a cook in the campus cafeteria. ~Patrickster

2. Don't waste time and resources on vocational school for your cat. Homeschool her! She'll be rebuilding engines in no time! ~Cindygrape

3. Ever since Cats closed on Broadway feline unemployment has been through the roof. ~Jandice

Monday, May 7, 2018

St. George Half Ironman, 2018

I hadn't done a triathlon since 2016 when I did the half Ironman in St. George and it was negative eleventy degrees and I was being punished by God, probably for being a really bad child in the 90s, and I committed myself to never exercise again.

Then at the end of 2016 I had a nervous breakdown, ate my feelings, and wrote a lot of bad poetry (in my heart).

In 2017 I didn't do any triathlon races and I basically forgot how to swim and by Christmas, I had gained like 30 pounds so I finally decided I needed to get back on the wagon.

I trained for the last five months for this year's St. George half Ironman, which was not easy because it was basically winter in Salt Lake City until yesterday at 2:00 PM.

On Friday at negative 6:00 in the morning, Skylar and I took off for St. George. That afternoon we packed my transition bags and took them to the various locations to drop them off.

The first transition is right next to the lake, where I decided I should probably do a quick practice swim to remind myself how miserably cold the water is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Forest Accordion

The doors to the Sokol metro station were about 50 feet behind me. The trains had stopped running some time ago. It was dark--somewhere around 2:00 in the morning.

I was 24 years old, and at least that foolish. I shouldn't have stayed out so late, especially since I had only been in Moscow for a couple of days and I wasn't familiar with the city. But the sun sets late in Moscow in May and this had fooled me into thinking it was much earlier than it really was.

My Russian wasn't very good. Definitely not good enough to explain to a taxi driver where I kinda-sorta thought I lived, which I would have had to do since I was too careless to ever bother writing down my address.

I was staying with an American family I had met 48 hours prior to this. They lived in a small gated community on the edge of the giant city. The neighborhood was surrounded by a forest, and it wasn't well known.

I had a basic cell phone. Not a smartphone. This was 2009. The phone had died hours before.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jr. Jazz

Today, please enjoy the recording of my most recent Strangerville Live story, told on stage last month, about what should be the most embarrassing experience from my childhood. And for the hearing impaired and those who hate the sound of my voice, I've included a written version and some pictures below.



I was enrolled in T-ball at age five. My parents were going to make a sportsman out of me.
I didn’t understand the sport, and to be honest, I was only there for the donuts. At the end of our last game of the season we were each handed a participation trophy, the only way I was ever going to be rewarded for the sports. My parents still have in their possession a picture of me holding two donuts. My participation trophy is on the ground.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Strangerhood of the Traveling Snuggie Report

As you know, because you've been unable to think of anything else since, several months ago I started Strangerhood of the Traveling Snuggie. Eleventy hundred of you emailed me your personal information and asked to be added to the list, so after stealing all of your identities and running up a lot of debt in your names to continue to build my Pogs empire, I sent a blue Snuggie off on a great journey.

It kind of feels like sending out Voyager 1. Every once in a while I hear that it has made it to some new place. Last I heard, that Snuggie was off in Ohio somewhere, probably confusing a lot of post office people. It has only made it to a small fraction of the Strangerhood so far, but I started feeling really selfish for keeping all of the award-winning photography I have been receiving, documenting the Snuggie's quest, to myself. So, here you are, in no particular order.

I highly recommend that you open another window and let the original Nintendo theme song for Zelda play while you look at these.
Athena, in West Jordan Utah.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Very Mississippi

Matt is leaving this week for very Mississippi to spend a month in his hometown. You might think I made a mistake by including the word "very" in that sentence, but I assure you that I did not. If you ever heard any of his family members communicate using the English language, you would know what I'm talking about.

Matt is like most of my friends in that he apparently has the ability to leave his job for entire months at a time and work remotely. Rebecca used to do this before she got knocked up. (If she reads this, she will definitely call me and object to that characterization and demand that I change it to something like "experienced God's miracle" and we'll ultimately settle on "lost her innocence"). 

When Rebecca was living in sin with me in 2014, out of the blue one day she told me she was moving to Paris and I didn't see her again for four months during which time zero keys to my apartment were lost BECAUSE IT'S NOT THAT HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF KEYS REBECCA.

I have yelled, nay screamed, at Rebecca eleventy hundred times about losing my keys. Recently she was in Salt Lake City and told me she wanted to come hang out at my house during the day while I was at work for reasons that are still not clear to me. I hid a key for her and later found out that she lost that key literally within 30 minutes of retrieving it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Small Talk


In this week's Strangerville episode I may have overreacted about a thing that has been driving me crazy for a while. That thing is poorly-executed elevator small talk between coworkers.

I work in a tall building that houses several companies. My firm used to be in a different building, and we shared the place with a hip ad agency so every time I got into the elevator with anyone who worked there I felt like I was in an HBO series about millenials trying to make it in New York and have it all.

The ad agency employees would recount their wild weekends for one another every Monday morning, explaining how they're lucky to be alive after getting chased down by an entire gang of warlords while hunting anaconda on the moon. And I would pretend not to listen while actually very listening, because I loved hearing these stories.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Faceoff Tech Support

Two Sundays ago Gmac called to tell me that her "Faceoff is broken," which translates to "I can't log in to Facebook."

I was wondering why I hadn't seen any all caps comments on my posts, detailing personal and somewhat inaccurate information about myself, in a while.

Gmac is in her late 80s now, and having never been one to embrace the latest technologies with ease, we have all been pretty impressed with her shaky attempts to engage in social media over the years.

I mentioned to you recently that Gmac has a very bad habit of using Bob McCann as her personal tech support, a situation which I have referred to as "the blind leading the dead." I was told that she went to Bob as her first line of defense against the broken Faceoff, and after several hours of "help," the two were in no better a position.

So Gmac reached out to me. And really, she wasn't looking for my help. She was fully aware that I would then loop in Skylar and he, and he alone, would be responsible for this mess.

I invited Gmac over for dinner and then braced Skylar for a very frustrating evening.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Peggy the Therapist

For a while I've been wanting to write a post about my former therapist, Peggy, but I haven't gotten around to it because TV and Eating and Lazy. But then these people from BetterHelp reached out to me. So, here's a sponsored post about therapy.

It all started when a few years ago Brianne barged into my office and said "I made an appointment for you to see a therapist named Peggy." Then she left before I could ask any of the obvious questions.

This was offensive. Not because I think therapy is a shameful thing. But because it's always going to be a little jarring when someone out of the blue facilitates the provision of mental health services for you.

But I'm 85% afraid of Brianne, so the next Wednesday at 4:30 PM I got into my car and drove across town to see this Peggy person.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Salt Lake Ghost Tour



Please enjoy The Suzzzz's Strangerville Live story above, and today's ghost story below.

Skylar's mom visited Salt Lake City this weekend. Skylar was trying to find things to do to entertain her and at some point he made the interesting choice to ask and rely on me and Jolyn for advice, to which Jolyn responded before he even finished the question "TAKE HER ON A GHOST TOUR OR DON'T BOTHER COMING HOME."

There's a company that does these ghost tours of the city and for years Jolyn and I have wanted to go, but we've just never gotten around to it. As we understood it, you buy a ticket and then someone takes you around town on a bus and tells you ghost stories about all of the old creepy buildings and at the end you belong to Satan.

Skylar immediately found a groupon for 4 people and signed us all up.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Pictures from my Phone & Weekly Distractions

Last week Brianne was lecturing me about love languages because she said that I need to be better at understanding how to work with people and she suggested that if I knew people's "love languages" I would have some success in this. This seemed like a strange lecture because I thought I was working just fine with people. Then I realized that the whole reason for the lecture was so she could say, "for example, your love language is telling people what to do and just getting your way all the time."

No matter how many times I try to remind Brianne that the nature of our professional relationship is one where I am supposed to ask her to do things and she is supposed to do those things, she refuses to not criticize me for "being bossy."

Please enjoy some Pictures & Distractions:
Mr. Pants lookin for cats.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

This is Strange

I wandered the city of 3 or 4 million people for a couple of hours, stopping in at an internet cafe for a moment to let my friends and family at home know that I had made it.

It was Kyiv Ukraine in 2010, before I had a smartphone and before wifi was ubiquitous. My plane had landed an hour or two before this. From the airport I had boarded an old marshrutka van that had a sign on the front, telling me that it was destined for the train station, which was in the city center.

The marshrutka ride lasted twice as long as it should have because Kyiv traffic is typical for a city of its size. The van was full. Several people had to stand in the aisle, holding onto the straps connected to the sides of the van. It was a hot day and there was no working air conditioner, and the two or three elderly ladies on board wouldn't allow the rest of us to open any of the windows.

There's an old Ukrainian belief that an open window on a moving vehicle will cause passengers to get sick. Having tried many times during the two years that I lived in Ukraine from 2003 to 2005 to talk elderly women out of this belief, I have learned that this isn't an argument worth having.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Mr. Pham

Please enjoy this week's Strangerville Live, and today's story:
 

My neighbor Lynne's landscaping could be in a magazine. Every flower and bush is perfectly manicured. I want to be buried in her backyard one day. Especially if I'm dead.

I was amazed that she had achieved everything she has by herself, especially considering that she's a flight attendant and is often gone for many days at a time. Then one day she told me about Mr. Pham.

I don't know Mr. Pham's first name and I'm not sure Lynne does either. He may not have one. She found him a few years ago and hired him to do some landscaping work on her property.

Mr. Pham is probably a genius. He is an exceptionally talented landscape artist. Lynne liked him instantly because of how proud he was of his work. He takes pictures of yards he's worked on and prints them out to put into a binder, and he likes to pull it out, a huge grin on his face, and show people that he meets. Lynne told me that only people who are really good at what they do care that much about it, so she trusted him and had him start helping her with her yard.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Grass Seed and Drug Cartels

My street is on a hill, which is a problem for three reasons:

1. Sliding past my driveway on icy days and having to circle the block multiple times to give it another try;

2. Losing balls that Duncan suddenly decides to set down on the ground mid-walk for reasons he refuses to explain to me;

3. The thing that happened on Saturday.

About three years ago I decided to base 100% of my self-esteem on my yard maintenance. This was a dangerous decision because a weed can send me to therapy now.

On the plus side, I can accidentally steal someone's car and get chased down by multiple employees of a car dealership and still think I'm a perfect human as long as my lawn is looking healthy that day.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Stranger Things

We got to the venue for Strangerville Live on Friday a couple of hours before the show started. Jolyn and a woman who works for Church & State started lifting and moving heavy furniture to get things set up while I pretended to be busy playing with the audio equipment.

As is always the case, time flew and suddenly people were coming through the doors, including Bob and Cathie who were already habitually telling me that my story was their favorite even though the show hadn't started yet.

Bob and Cathie's unwavering support for their offspring is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is comforting to have a constant cheerleader section that will reassure you, until their voices are hoarse, that whatever thing you did was the best anyone has ever done that thing. On the other hand, three decades of this have not made facing this cruel world an easy transition.

Suddenly, the show began. Jolyn took the stage and welcomed everyone. The venue looked beautiful. People were smiling. Everything was going just great. Jolyn announced that Rachel Miller would be our first storyteller of the night. Rachel began her story and the audience seemed to love it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The people of My Life

You guys. We are in the last days. I don't mean that religiously. Unless you consider Strangerville Live a religious experience, which some do. (I'm referring, probably, to the ones who have shown up at our shows wearing June Snapple shirts or Snuggies).

After every show Bob and Cathie tell me that I was the very best one no matter what else happens. They would tell me this even if I vomited onstage and electrocuted the audience. So if you want to come and see if they are right, do us a solid and get your tickets today at this link.

We are so excited to see y'all there this Friday at Church & State in Salt Lake City. Not that I say y'all, obvie.

And now:

Ring Ring

Eli: Hello?

Skylar: I'M DYING AND NO ONE CARES!

Eli: Is this more or less serious than when you were dying because you forgot to put on sunscreen and went outside for 20 minutes two weeks ago.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Neck Flits

You should know that THIS FREAKING WEEK we have our next Strangerville Live show. This is the most excited I've been for one of our events, mostly because we are in an amazing new venue, Meg has promised to tell us a story, AND THE FREAKING SUZZZZZZZZ IS COMING. I know that you are used to me speaking in hyperbole, but know ye this, the Suzzzzzzzz's story is one of my favorite stories I've ever heard. And I'm telling a story as well--one that I've never told anyone before, and one that I've been waiting for the right moment to share.

We have some limited seating for this show and so we strongly encourage you to get your tickets at this link if you haven't already. We are so excited to spend a fun Salt Lake evening with you this Friday, if you can make it.

And while you're at it, and before you jump into today's written story, please enjoy one of the most interesting Strangerville stories we've had in a long time:



*****

Last weekend my dad called me and said that Gmac was having major technological problems that he couldn't resolve.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Seaweed

The water moved in and out. Slowly. Methodically. Miles of coral reef prevented it from forming enough critical mass to make waves. The sun was dropping down, settling into an oceanic horizon. A tiny island with one palm tree appeared only as silhouette courtesy of the sun's back-lighting.

Suddenly something grabbed my wrist, pulling hard. I didn't look down at it because I thought I wasn't supposed to stop looking at the island's silhouette.

It was a dream. But I didn't know it.

I was back in Palau on a familiar beach.

One that was always somehow simultaneously calming and lonely.

The water moved in and out.

I resisted the pull from whatever had caught hold of my wrist, continuing to stare at the island's silhouette, watching the one palm tree lean and move a little. There was something else on the island and that's why I was watching it. If I looked away, even for a moment, that something would get washed away by the water.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chocolate Cake: Another Attempt



Please check out today's episode of Strangerville, above (and at the bottom of this post, because we're persistent like that), featuring a story about what happens when pen pals don't end up murdering each other.

Also, don't forget that our Strangerville Live show is NEXT WEEK (March 30). Please get tickets at this link if you haven't already.

***** 

You may recall that a little while ago TV lied to me and made me think that it was sufficient education for baking. I spent basically two full days trying to make a mirror-glaze cake from a British recipe that may as well have been written in another language.

Whatever I ended up with was definitely not mirror-glaze and it probably wasn't even technically a cake, and after that experience I decided that I would never bake anything ever again.

Then last week happened.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Skylar Has The Best Words

Skylar is struggling with words lately, as was evidenced in a conversation I had with him a few days ago in which he actually said this:

"Do you have any . . . oh . . . what's that word? What's the word I'm trying to say? Help me here. I'm thinking of that thing that's wool but it's like a noodle and you have it but like noodles but it's like one LONG noodle."

Yarn.

He couldn't think of the word for yarn.

You know. That wool noodle.

I once walked into a room and he was talking to a customer service representative on the phone and I heard him say:

"My name is Skylar. That's S as in Cyberbully, K as in Cat, Y as in . . . the letter Y."

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Bike Computer

 Please enjoy this week's Strangerville episode above, and today's written story below.

***** 

Training for the upcoming Half Ironman has been difficult the last few months, as it always is for this May race, because I am unwilling to go outside unless it is exactly 71 degrees and people are cheering for me.

I feel some guilt when I'm driving to or from work and I see cyclists out on the road with their fancy bikes and winter gear, sliding across the snowy roads, undeterred by the misery that is biking outside in the wintertime.

But the guilt isn't enough to get me to join them.

I, Eli Washingtonittle McCann, simply refuse to bike outside during the winter. Whatever the promised payoff, it is not worth it to me.