Indeference: (n.)


The rote and meaningless portrayal of solemnity.


One of the strangest things about getting older is realizing the moments that are clearest for you aren’t necessarily shared by the young. I’m always a little shocked to remember that for teenagers and even some 20-somethings, 9/11 has very little personal resonance. Or at least, an ever diminishing return on significance.

Never was this concept more clear than when I was a teacher.

Every year I’d assign my students an essay or article about 9/11 – most often Tom Junod’s heart-shattering Falling Man – then spend the entire class discussing it, their memories of the day, and what those meanings and artifacts have come to mean now. It was a hit at first… students pounced at the chance to approach an emotionally taboo moment in their lives and dig into it – get out their knives and flense a day they experienced as frightened children, armed now with the nascent sophistication of their burgeoning adulthood. But as years and semesters went on, my students’ memories and anecdotes grew fuzzier, less immediate, less distinct. The point of view in their recollections subtly shifted from a sharp, rambling first to something bereft of both detail and feeling, not so much recalling their memories as reciting them as if they were read from an optometrist’s chart.

I was in bed when the first plane hit. It was right at the start of my sophomore year of college. I was living in my first apartment. Very adult. Very exciting. My roommate woke me up; there’d been some accident in New York; I should come see. It was all over the news. We spent the next thirty minutes watching the tower smolder in the background as we hunted through our fancy new place, dropping books into our bags – we had class in an hour. When the second plane hit, we stopped. At some point we sat down. Didn’t move. I watched the towers collapse in my apartment that morning, bundled on the couch in my pjs beside an untouched bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. We watched it all with barely a word. And then we got dressed and went to class.

It’s bonkers in retrospect, but then everything is bonkers in retrospect. Absolutely nothing had prepared us for something so upending and uncanny. Indeed, when I arrived on campus I found I was not alone. Students drifted dutifully from class to class; teachers half-taught their lessons, half-counseled their kids; classmates sat in shattered silence, entranced by the dream of it all, until their cellphones rang, and they exploded from the room desperate for news from their family. My university would cancel classes later in the day, of course. But for a few hours that morning, we all drifted together.

Eight years later, I took a job teaching at that same university… and every semester the sights and smells of campus autumn did their Proust thing. I’d walk into class on 9/11… and have to teach something. The day was normal. And that baffled me. I wanted to understand 9/11 as the evolving social metaphor it was becoming, so I started nudging my students to dig into the symbolism of it all – the remembrances, the rhetoric, the countless towers silhouetted as windshield decals, and the repeated insistence that we Never Forget.

I started assigning a short essay on the form and language of that phrase – Never Forget – “Why do we say never forget, opposed to always remember to commemorate 9/11Do the two statements convey the same sentiment? Which do you prefer? Why?” The answers I got were varied. Conversation lasted all class long. At least in the early years. Like I said… as time wore on, the farther my students got from the significance of 9/11.

I’ve always found Never Forget a troubling phrase. For one, I’m oppositionally defiant, and don’t like being told what to do. For another, I’m often skeptical and impatient of maudlin shows of dutiful remembrance. They ring hollow to me – and expect a unified response to something we all experienced, yes, together… but ultimately, terribly alone. We remember and we mourn as individuals – our experiences are ours… as are our forms of remembrance. There’s something tiresome, and to me horribly disrespectful, about how commodified our remembrances have become – bumper stickers, t-shirts, and decals, syrupy gifs and memes and schlocky slogans all insisting upon a certain tenor and tone of how we remember. Or, rather, reminding us not to forget. We’ve branded a national tragedy. And brands are ultimately empty promises, written in the language of sincerity. Invented by men like me to sell something. 

Never Forget has always been too easy to say, and too little to deliver. It requires nothing more of us than obeisance. It calls upon no action. Demands no reflection. Summons no alteration in our behavior. It urges no understanding of what caused it, nor wisdom for how best to combat another moment like it. For those who remember 9/11, “Never Forget” demands nothing but our static, silent, horrified appraisal. It’s a symbol. Sacred in the public imagination. Deified by the dogma of our tweets, and shares, and likes. It’s content. And as such, it is meaningless.

For those too young to remember 9/11, it will doubtlessly shrink into the horizon… dwindling further into meaninglessness with every year. You can’t forget something you couldn’t remember in the first place.

9/11 makes me sad – for its own tragedies to be sure. But what saddens me most about it all is how little it means on any other day. We hurl ourselves into portrayals of mourning on 9/11. But what about 9/12? Business as usual. Two weeks from now? Three months? It’s gone. We’re back to the same blithe motions of 9/10.

We never forget. And as such, we’re never called upon to learn. We’re never expected to look at our own behavior. Demand more of our leaders.

I feel this way all the time now. When I look at Donald Trump. When I hear of another school shooting. When I watch a cop kill a black person. When I watch the west coast burn. When I put on my mask. When I walk past the maskless. When I hear people equivocate over Black Lives Matter.

For almost twenty years, we’ve demanded that Americans Never Forget. I can’t help but feel that we’ve forgotten to remember why.

Throatum (n.)


A sagging, scrotoform pouch of loose skin that dangles from the chin.


I’ve had this word in my pocket for a few years now. But I’ve avoided posting it. I don’t like making negative comments about someone’s appearance. It’s not nice. It’s harmful. And it’s cheap. I’m fine assassinating someone’s character or their ideas. I believe with every ounce of blood in my heart that mean, shitty people should be derided for their mean’n’shittiness. But looks? Eh. It’s classless.

But then I see a hateful, thin-skinned bully like Donald Trump. I watch as he lies and preens and pukes his hatreds and blistering stupidities, and I just can’t help myself. I am not so morally evolved as to withstand the lure of such a big, soft, wobbly target.

As much as it hurts to watch such a vile person be so cruel, so often, to so many… and always with a big ol’ smile, it delights me in the most vulgar of ways to see that pouch of flesh dangle from his stupid fucking face like a set of neon truck nuts.

Call me cruel. Call me childish. I accept that.

But Donald Trump has a nutsack on his face. And that will never not be funny.

Provocatourism (n.)


Engaging in political incitement and violence on behalf of another’s cause without purpose, understanding or repercussion.


If you are white, and you are inciting violence at a protest, you are putting black lives at risk.

If you are white, and you are rioting, you are putting black lives at risk.

If you are white, and you are looting, you are putting black lives at rick.

If you are white, and you are not listening, you are putting black lives at risk.

If you are white, and you hurl a brick, deface a building, shatter a window, push a cop… you aren’t doing it for anyone other than yourself. Any violence you bring will not be revisited on you – but on the black lives you claim to value and support.

You want to throw something? Throw your fucking money.

Donate to the Black Visions Collective.

Donate to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.

Donate to The Bail Project.

Donate to Black Lives Matter.

Our job is not to throw punches. It’s to listen, support, and protect. Shut the fuck up, get in line, and if necessary take the hit for your neighbors.

Schrödinger’s Carte: (n.)


The physical principle wherein a diner’s choice of entree will remain uncertain until the moment the waiter asks them what they’d like to eat.


It starts so simply.

“I’m going to have the chicken.”

And then.

“Or maybe the fish?”

And with that, I hurl into into the labyrinth. With that, I go quite mad.

Am I the Andrew who orders chicken? Or the Andrew who orders fish?

Maybe I am both. Perhaps neither.

I dither in silence – chicken or fish, chicken or fish – while my dining companions continue on in time. They raise their wine glasses. Toast to life and spacetime.

A whiff of oblivion curls through the air.

No! No, I have ordered before. I have eaten. I shall eat once more.

O! But to decide? Do I want chicken? Do I want fish? Couldn’t I have both?! I can be the kind of man who orders two entrees at dinner. I wouldn’t even need two plates. Just spoon the one onto the other in a pile before I go mad. Oh no. Oh god. I will remain at this table forever – trapped and starving at the crossroads of chicken and fish – I am the parched and brutal horizon twixt sky and sea that stretches on, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Nothing to be done.

The universe has cracked. Time rolls over my eyes like a stone.

Where is the waiter? Where is the waiter? Only the waiter can pull me from this oblivion. WAITIER. WAITER. WHERE IS THE WAITER.

And then, like a gasp, I realize the horrible truth.

I have waited. I am waiting. I shall wait.

The waiter.

The waiter is me. 

Esoterror: (n.)


The fear that the obscure name or reference you just dropped was either incorrect or mispronounced.


When I was a sophomore in college, I spent an entire class period pronouncing, “Goethe” phonetically.

I found out later when I said “Go-thhhh” to my father who, in his characteristic charm informed me, “It’s pronounced ‘Gher-teh,’ you dickhead.”

I still crumple from the shame.

Repravity: (n.)


A horrific event that happens over and over and over and over again.


Of all the words I’ve made, this is the one I’ve reposted the most. As such, this essay is the one I’ve rewritten, edited, scooched, amended and adapted the most as well. Says something, doesn’t it?

You reach a point when you realize that life, history, and even the world itself are a long, arduous, gorgeously told tale of utterly stupid and entirely avoidable tragedies.

And the hardest part of that lesson is to know that we never seem to learn from it.

Santayana said we would repeat history if we don’t learn from it. But watching George Floyd die teaches me that history teaches us nothing more than how to watch the same cheap and wicked things more quickly, with greater efficacy, and from a greater distance. We learn how to recycle the same abuses, faster.

This week, we all watched a white police officer kneel on George Floyd’s throat until he died. Think about that. You watched a police officer murder your neighbor. George Floyd was murdered. And we watched.

George Floyd is just one of thousands of black men murdered with no cause – none – by members of an institution that in one breath assures it’s here for our protection, while it threatens and even takes life. Demeans and humiliates while demanding respect. Acts flagrantly, without cause or control while demanding obedience.

I believe in law, and justice, and the need for control.

Which is why I do not believe in the police.

George Floyd’s life mattered. But even more than that, George Floyd’s life was his. It was not someone else’s to take away.

His life didn’t (shouldn’t. doesn’t.) require my nor anyone else’s insistence to demonstrate its worth. His value as a person was (should have been. is.) self-evident.

George Floyd mattered. Black lives matter.

That white people – hi, I’m a white person – cannot bring themselves to understand and say and value that statement matters too. It makes us accessories. It means we share the guilt.

Onometapoeia: (n.)


A word that’s spelled like how feels to say.


As every dorky seventh-grader knows, onomatopoeia is what we call it when a word’s spelling emulates its own sound.

Bump! Blam! Zlorp! (yes, zlorp…)

We think of them as play words, childlike and fun, connoted as they are so often with children’s literature, comics, and cartoons. Batman’s Biffs! and Thwacks! The cold snikt of Logan’s claws. The thwip of Spidey’s webs… Nightcrawler brimstone BAMFs

But onomatopoeia aren’t just fantasy sounds. They’re like us. They’re dull. They hide all around, studding our drudge as we slap our blaring alarms in the morning and honk or our horns in traffic. We click our mice and tap our keyboards. We Scratch our scalps. Rattle the ice in our empty cold brew as we flip through magazines and crunch on our salads (as opposed to that dripping, sizzling burger your buddy got).

Everywhere smartphones ring and emails woosh and elevators chime as we shuffle and gabble and prattle and chatter and whisper and hollar and whine through the beeping and splashing and crashing and roaring and plinking and belching and zipping and zooming and tearing and hissing and hooting and blaring, tintinnabulatory world.

Gary Oldman GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But there’s something else I’ve noticed: A species of word so seemingly similar to onomatopoeia, it’s often overlooked. These are words that aren’t merely spelled to emulate their sound – rather, the work it takes to sound them emulates what mean.

Not onomatopoeia… but onometapoeia.

Ever notice how smooth the word smooth is? Say it out loud to yourself. Smooooooooth. No bumps. No wrinkles. Not one ruckled phoneme. Smooth is pure smoothness from tip to tail. It slips effortlessly from the mouth like a hand over a bedsheet.

And slip!

Think of the journey a slip takes. How it slides on the slick s, then lifts off the palate on the l, hovers aloft for the breath of the i, before collapsing finally on the cold, terminal p. Every slip slips from the lips.

Say it to yourself. Do it now. I dare ya. Slip.

bahijjaroudi animation loop cartoon life GIF
Behold a guttingly existential animation – a testament to that brute of fruits: the banana.

Spot one, and you’ll start to see onometapoeiae everywhere

How lazy lazys feel luxuriating across a sentence, stretching out like housecats. How looms loom long and dark, and boats bob on the buoyancy of their vowels, hulled by consonants. Every fling is flung from your teeth and tongue. Even tongue. It fills the mouth to say its name.

These words are little stories of themselves. Sleeks dive like falcons. Swamps feel like boots stuck in mud. Yonder echoes. Lather foams. Wrench and pry take oomph and muscle. Your ear might hear a bell ring. But you can feel in your mind the wring of a washcloth.

Slink. Velvet. Snuggle. Swivel. Frond. Crouch. Shine… They’re endless.

Even nipple is a story of itself. A sprightly bump, it juts and puckers, calling unanticipated attention to itself. Have you ever heard someone say nipple in casual conversation? It’s so… nippleish… innocent and dirty at once.

All this to say… look around at the words around you, and lean closer to the ones you can hear. And if you can’t find an onometapoeia… just look down. There are two (hopefully) waiting for you just under your shirt.

Swallop: (n.)


The feeling of being clobbered in the chest by a hasty gulp from a carbonated drink.


One day, a few years ago, I’d taken my car in to the garage to have some expensive part re-expensived. After a mere five minutes I’d managed to annoy the mechanic, so when he offered to get me a ride back to my apartment (as it would take the day to re-expensive my car), I panicked and insisted that I could walk.

This was in August. In New Jersey. And the heat and humidity had already reached critical, mouth-like levels. This was also during the long chapter of my life when I refused to wear shorts (an almost Calvinist period of affected self-denial, courtesy of my 20s). So, leaving him my contact information, I trudged out the door and waded my way through a hundreds-degree swamp of blinding sunlight, and choking humidity.

In jeans.

For about four or five miles.

By the time I made it home, I was quite near death. I shambled into my apartment groaning like a madman. I unbuckled my jeans which, being completely soaked-through with sweat, dropped to the floor and pooled around my feet. I needed hydration desperately, so I flung open my refrigerator and grabbed a frigid bottle of seltzer water, which I downed in one sloppy, guzzling swig.

All was slaked and satisfied. All was crisp and cool. And in an instant… regret pierced relief like a knife in the heart.

The carbonation, all jazzed up by its whitewater splashing down my gullet, went full supernova in my esophagus. It felt like I’d swallowed a hot rock, or a fistfull of bees. My eyes watered, my ears rang. I listed about the kitchen like a drunkard, too dazed to be still, too beset to adequately flail. I pounded my hand on the countertop once, twice, the pressure building and building in my chest… as if at any moment a fount of seltzer would burst, Xenomorphically, through my ribcage and redecorate my kitchen in Panebianco Red.

Ready to pop, I reeled back, opened my mouth wide, groaned the guttural groan of the over-seltzered… and I burped. Burped a burp that was more than a burp – it was a kind of birth. A tearing, keening, muscle-knotting display of physiological theater.

A kind of meat opera.

I coughed. I drooled. I dabbed tears from my eyes. And finally I laughed – alone, in my underwear, standing in my kitchen beside an open refrigerator, my pants piled about my ankles, an upended bottle of seltzer glugging its remaining contents onto the floor. And, as ever, my brainless cat standing sentinel, gawping at me in abject befuddlement.

In another few seconds, that moment would be gone. I would wipe my face and pull my pants up… pat my cat on his furry head, and move on with my day. I’d cancel my car-contingent plans. I’d clean my cat’s litter box. I’d make a sandwich, and watch an episode of Frasier (no doubt). I’d return to the ordinary stuff of days that right now I couldn’t possibly recall with any accuracy.

But that episode with the seltzer bottle – that I can’t possibly forget. Moreover, it acts in my memory like a lens – bringing into sharp focus the moments that proceeded and followed it. Amid all the things I’ve forgotten – important and inconsequential alike – this day I remember in vivid detail. Had it not been for that idiot spasm of seltzer-fueled grotesquerie, followed by the absurdity of me in my undies, drooling like a doofus and wiping my face on my forearm… I wouldn’t remember that day at all.

That’s what a moment of foolishness does – it sticks in your memory like a pushpin through a photograph. It holds fast that which time and nature seem so dead-set to take away. And the only cost is a little bit of pride, and the reminder that your body is way more gross than you’d like to admit.

How lucky is that?

Lathergy: (n.)


When you’re too lazy to bother shaving.


Greetings, fellow sufferers. How fare you in these cursed and plagued times?

I don’t know about you… but I haven’t shaved in weeks. I don’t quite see the point. If the world is going to end, I’d might as well dress the part.

Trouble is… I don’t grow facial hair the way most men grow facial hair. My unshorn face looks more like a cat pillow. Wispy, errant, and sparse.

And yet, the longer I wait the prouder I become.

I used to roll my eyes at those baroquely moustachioed man-chaps… and with good reason, sure. It takes a certain kind of twerp to wear a vandyke while ordering yoga pants on an iPhone. All those tiresome hipsterettes with their twee little moustache tattoos on their fingerside. Enough, I say. Enough.

But the longer I wait… the more I see.

My moustache… it’s growing fuller. My cheeks and chin are knitting together. Broader. So many Movembers and Moustache Marches I’ve sat by, soft-faced and sidelined. But now I see my beardlette growing darker, potent, and powerful.

What if I didn’t shave at all? What if I stopped all forms of self-care from the neck up? Would I summon enough to one day have a knotted Dwarven warrior-braid?

Or the conical stalactite of a Pharoh?

Martin Van Buren’s sideburn corona?

A Rabbi’s tetragrammatonic pour?

A Marxian whisker riot?

O! So many me’s I could be.