I’m trying to write an article about the genetically modified salmon developed by AquaBounty. What I want to know is this: do salmon who are being forced to grow abnormally fast suffer? Fish are animals and they feel pain, although these factors are frequently ignored.

It’s the weekend before Christmas so it’s not the best time to find an ichthyologist to interview, a point brought home to me by the fact that the only “experts” who have contacted me have turned out to be “animal communicators” or “pet psychics.”

There is some overlap in these two areas, apparently, but while all pet psychics are animal communicators, not all animal communicators wish to be pigeon-holed as pet psychics.

Okay, fine.

On twitter, a number of people thought that the pet psychics were just finding me at random, much like people who stop me to admire my aura. (No, really). Then it was pointed out that, although unrelated, a lengthy post I wrote explaining freak magnetism actually contains the term, “biblical ichthyology.” Also that this particular post should be in the reader favorites roundup.

So, the salmon article is on hold. The reader favorites list is updated. I have instant-content for today. Everybody wins! Except possibly those salmon…

We’re on a postal route that doesn’t have an assigned mail carrier. Some of the carriers are great. Some are insane. Consequently, sometimes our mail arrives at exactly 9 a.m.. Other times it arrives whenever the neighbor who happened to receive it drops it off or puts it back into the mail as mis-delivered mail.

Last week, I received the August issue of the Oxford American. I read it on the Metro today.

Technically, I only read part of it on the Metro. I started laughing so hard I was crying and, since I was by myself, I decided to put the magazine away. I suspected I was giving the guy sitting in front of me something to tweet about, so that’s nice I guess. Still, I worry that behaving weirdly on the Metro by laughing to oneself, even when obviously reading and not potentially communing with the Overlords from the Planet Twilar or whatever it is that some of my Special Metro Friends do, might serve to up the amplitude on my Freak Magnetism. I can’t take that chance. I have no vacancies on the Special Metro Friends roster, not since I started seeing Bag of Snakes Dude on the train on a regular basis.

Anyway, I was disappointed to find that the piece that made me laugh out loud to myself isn’t available on the Oxford American website.

Fortunately, I decided to google the article title and found I could still link to it via the Utne Reader.

Unfortunately, the Utne Reader reprint of “Larry King Is the Future-And other signs of the coming apocalypse” by Jack Pendarvis turned out to be an excerpt.

The part I found the funniest isn’t online. The excerpt is still worth a read, but the absence of the part I wanted to draw your attention to makes my (blogging) life a little harder. Perhaps the Utne Reader doesn’t condone the YouTube, because this seems to be the only paragraph that’s missing from their reprint. Hmmm. Well, regardless, here it is:

I am not the particular kind of crank who thinks everything is worse now than it ever was. I think everything was always horrible. Next time some old, muttering fart tries to get nostalgic on you, escort him to YouTube and force him to watch some 70s variety shows until he shoots himself, four minutes later. I suggest the comedy skit that leads up to the Tony Orlando and Dawn cover of “Kung Fu Fighting.” Whatever your generation, your computer’s main purpose is to reinforce political superstitions you already have and run an endless loop of the cherished pudding commercials of your youth. In the future, you will never have to leave the past!”

Here’s that clip, in case you need it:


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I am a Freak Magnet. This means I attract Freaks.

Non-Freak Magnets don’t understand this, and you can’t ever fully explain the depths of wackiness a Freak plumbs when they encounter a Magnet.

Freaks aren’t normal people who engage in small-talk while stuck in an interminable line, or ask you to help them find a contact lens, or ask you for the time while you’re on the Metro. A homeless dude who follows you down the the sidewalk and serenades you with “You Are So Beautiful” after you ignore him is annoying, but he’s not a Freak.

Freaks aren’t merely people who dress differently than the people around them or are clearly from another culture or profession or economic class than you. Those people can also be Freaks, but those states of being or actions alone do not necessarily a Freak make. The label “Freak” isn’t a judgement, per se, it’s more of a category. (A category that might best be defined as “people who have no sense of reality, believe they have a weekend home on Mars, and believe that the two of you inhabited the same physical form in a previous life.”)

For example, one day, long ago, I was on the bus on my way to work. I’m going to guess this was sometime in 2002 or 2003, because I was running into Jesus a lot back then.

Anyway, I was headed to the Pentagon Metro station – approximately a 20 minute ride. I don’t remember much about the day, but I do remember that the bus was really crowded and the weather was awful.

I was sitting on one of the bench seats along the side, wedged between two women.

One woman was sporting the stereotypical matronly 50something professional uniform: no-style haircut, St. John knit jacket, plain pumps with 1.5 inch heels. She was on the bus when I boarded. The other woman got on a few stops after me. She was neatly dressed in a pantsuit, probably navy blue, with a bulging briefcase wedged between her feet and something – probably an unopened book – in her hands.

Neither of these women spoke to me at any time. Neither of them threw glitter on me, wept openly at the beauty of my yellow aura, or attempted to fart the Star-Spangled Banner while insisting we all stand and place our hands over our hearts. (Coworker Who Was Not My Boyfriend and I used to call that guy “Captain Flatulence” – he was a Repeat Freak who one or both of us spotted on multiple occasions).

Both women were tidy. Neither of them smelled bad. Neither of them had marinated in perfume. Neither of them was purposely encroaching on my personal space.

Two boring women, riding the bus.

That sounds okay, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t.

I may have failed to mention that Pantsuit, after she got settled in her seat, then spent the entire ride staring at me. Directly. She was sitting next to me on the bench. Her body squarely faced the people on the bench across the aisle. Her head was turned so that she was staring directly into my ear. She never said a word. She just stared at me. For the whole ride, she stared at me. That could not have been comfortable for her. It certainly wasn’t comfortable for me.

About half-way to our destination, St. John started singing under in her breath in what could only charitably be called a monotone. I’m pretty sure she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. That didn’t stop her.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.

She kept repeating that line. Apparently that was all she knew. She sang that part over and over for 10 minutes.

When we got off the bus one of the Military Dudes who’d been sitting across the aisle watching this in wonderment asked me how I kept my cool for the entire ride. (You don’t really think I’m all jiggy with the zen states from years of meditation, do you? Heavens no, I’ve honed my hyper-focal concentration skills on the battlefields otherwise known as “public transportation.” Also, possibly “staff meetings” and “starbucks.” Plus, there were the Deadheads).

The Other Military Dude chimed in and told him about the woman who used to take the bus with us who decided that Jesus and salmon would save one’s soul and proceeded to pull labels from cans of salmon and a bible out of her laptop case and present them to people she deemed worthy of redemption. I, of course, was one of those people – it was what brought me to his attention in the first place. He was impressed with my equanimity in the face of biblical ichthyology.

I don’t remember it going down that way, but whatever. What I most remember was that she was also carrying a Glock9 and going into the Pentagon and that was all I wanted to know.

Other Military Dude also knew about Captain Flatulence. I suspected Other Military Dude was also a Freak Magnet but I wasn’t in the mood to engage for long, just in case he was less Magnet, more Freak. He knew about Captain Flatulence, who he called Patriotic Farting Man, because he was often on blue line train with him in the evenings. Apparently, Captain Flatulence/Patriotic Farting Man, although far from his dream of mastering the Star-Spangled Banner, had recently performed stirring renditions of America the Beautiful and God Bless America.

It was good to know that Captain Flatulence had moved or changed jobs, which explained his disappearance from the yellow and red lines. It was good to know that other people were running into Jesus around town. It was good to know that my Freak Magnetism served as a form of both edification and entertainment for others. It was also good to know that the Military Dudes had my back on the bus.

This evening I was killing a bit of time at a coffeeshop before class. A woman walked up to me, introduced herself as a meditation leader at one of the local sanghas, and proceeded to ask me if she could bask in my, and I quote, “soothing yellow aura” for a few minutes to ground herself.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her my aura probably wasn’t going to ground her tonight, but it might grind her into little shards seeing as I was cranky. Really cranky. To say I was feeling less than charitable towards my fellow humans this evening would be a gross understatement. At the risk of putting too fine a point on it, I’d venture to describe my mood as a wee bit homicidal.

I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that, she seemed so happy to have found me.

The freaky part wasn’t that this happened. It was that this has happened to me before.

Many times.

Not the feeling homicidal part – the part where people want to dwell in my alleged buddha-nature.

Tonight’s encounter reminded me of one that happened in March 2003 in the coffeehouse that was next to my old office, except this woman seemed to be sober and intensely serious.

I hope she found what she was looking for.

You must understand by now that putting me on Metro without a companion is like rubbing a rolly-polly baby in bacon grease and tossing him or her into a pit of ravenously hungry beasts.

Okay, it’s nothing like that; but it can be a trying experience. I am a FreakMagnet.

Tuesday I was on the Metro, minding my own business and reading a book. A fairly nondescript man in his fifties or perhaps early sixties sat down in the seat catty-corner to my own and spent several minutes trying unsuccessfully to catch my eye. I ignored him. Alas, he was a tenacious Freak and lack of eye-contact wasn’t going to stop him from speaking to me.

He cleared his throat rather imperiously and then launched into a lecture about the laziness of South Asians and how India would never rise from the gutter so long as Indians are in charge. He was very British.

As I said, he was rather nondescript. The tone of his lecture was such that in my memory he wears a three-piece white Colonel Sanders suit and a pith helmet. I can’t be certain if he was carrying a cane or if my imagination has supplied that, although I’m entirely certain my imagination conjured up the monacle. Also the rhino gun.

It so caught me off guard to hear someone holding forth about, and I quote, “the Wog problem,” that it felt like it was several minutes before I caught on that he was commenting on my book, In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India by former Financial Times South Asia bureau chief Edward Luce. It’s quite good, but perhaps you shouldn’t read it on the Metro. (Ben Macintyre’s review for the New York Times is here, if you’re interested)

Many weird things happen to me, for I am a powerful Freak Magnet. But my magnetism is by and large limited to people. Faith’s magnetism is far mightier. It is one of the known Laws of the Universe that no matter how strange my life gets, Faith’s will always be stranger.

Apparently, her magnetism also includes weird accidents in any and all modes of transportation. Most recently, she was on a train that hit a cow. Trains do indeed hit cows, but the odds of someone who rarely leaves Manhattan being on a train that hits a cow would seem to be pretty slim. Unless that person is Faith.

Despite recent posting evidence to the contrary, I’m the last person to suggest that life is anything like the movies. Nevertheless, I must describe the events of today because even I thought them a little too cleverly and conveniently plotted.

I ventured out of doors today (which is, in itself, newsworthy since I have been sick) and met a friend at the local coffeeshop.

We hadn’t chatted in a while and I was going to tell her of the NaNoWriMo novel I’m trying to work on when I feel well enough to write. Then I was going to write a little.

Before I could even tell her title or premise, this random guy joined our conversation. Even when we very aggressively ignored him, even moving to a more distant table, he continued to leer and just generally be creepy. It was appropriate, though, in it’s own way, as I was trying to tell my friend about Freak Magnet, my novel in progress, and about the phenomenon of, well, attracting freaks. I was clearly exhibiting my natural freak magnetism, so she got the gist quite quickly.

Inn passing, I also mentioned how I am The Finder of Lost Dogs. The novel isn’t autobiographical, but freak magnetism and lost dogs are important to the plot.

So after we chatted, I spent a little time writing. Specifically, I finished the chapter started yesterday: about a fire at a place rather like Gatorland. Later, she and I walked home.

A dog came bounding down the sidewalk and greeted me like a lost littermate. Fortunately, his owner wasn’t far away, so we didn’t have to go through the prolonged ritual that includes the catching of the dog and the reading of the tag and the calling the owner. (I keep a leash in my purse, very handy in these situations).

Then I returned home to catch up on the news. Needless to say, the headline concerning today’s massive fire at Gatorland caught my eye.

I never go to movie theatres because most movie theater seats don’t play well with my arthritis, plus the whole adventure usually just wears me out for days afterwars, but I may have to try and see Stranger than Fiction, because, well, things just have been.

On the other hand, I’d probably just end up sitting behind someone who would converse, loudly, with their invisible friends throughout the entire movie.

Or, possibly, the woman who sat next to me during The Matrix, but that’s a story for another day…

A couple of days ago I had plans to attend an early evening meeting and then stop by the Hirshhorn for cocktails and a gander at the Gyroscope show. I took the Metro, so you already know that I’m about to tell you that wackiness ensued.

I ended up playing tourguide to a Norwegian soccer team. I think they were a soccer team. Their English was only slightly better than my Norwegian (read: nonexistent) so it’s entirely possible they were just telling me they like to kick small dogs. They kept saying the word soccer a lot, so I’m going to go with my original assumption – my friends in highschool were Norwegian and used the term soccer instead of football so I think it’s a safe guess. But I digress…

To make a long story short, I took them to Natural History to see the Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold exhibit (splendid), the hall of mammals (we took a group picture with the taxidermied deer), and, of course, the yellow-bellied sapsucker (to prove there really was such a thing).

As an aside, may I just say that the new(ish) Hall of Mammals resembles the interior of an REI store. It’s really rather, well, wrong.

There’s an exhibit of photos of Norway in the hallway leading to Baird Auditorium. It looks very cold in Norway. My new friends were very keen on the idea of migrating to La Florida until they saw the bizarre little display case just representing the Everglades. The case is just before the entrance to the insect zoo and it shows a small gator and 4 snakes in a space that is maybe 15 square feet. I tried explaining that snakes are not herd animals like reindeer, but that seemed only to frighten them further as for a while they thought I was explaining that we eat the snakes just like they eat reindeer.

I left my new friends at the Museum and went to my Artomatic meeting, expecting to never see them again since I was fairly certain my explanation of the Hirshhorn’s evening programs was lost in the (lack of) translation.

Amazingly, we were reunited at the Hirshhorn to consume lovely rum drinks and view the Gyroscope exhibit, which was also quite good. You have to watch out for the combination of intoxicants and works by Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Kooning as that way lies really strange dreams. If you have even the slightest interest in Contemporary and Modern art and you haven’t seen this show you should scurry down there and check it out. And if you don’t have any interest, you should go anyway. It’ll be good for you.

I’ve been doing crazy amounts of stuff that have been keeping me running around like, well, the crazy-woman I am. I don’t have the stomach for community organizing, I’ve learned (read: enduring threats and learning what overt racism exists in dc-metro area). I prefer being knee-deep in artomatic organizing, which is hard work but lots of fun. And much less scary.

Tomorrow, I will of course pause to light a candle for imprisoned freedom fighter Martha Stewart.

In the meantime, in lieu of more interesting content, here’s a roundup of some of the more entertaining random encounters with strangers from the last few weeks:

ladies room, lemur lounge, 3 weeks ago
drunk woman: “That vampire look really works for you.”

Metro train, last week
young woman: “You look like a goth Marilyn Monroe!”
(stranger still, others agreed)

Sephora, Pentagon city mall, sometime in the last few weeks
woman with lipgloss tester in her hand: “Does this smell like pee?”

coffee shop, today
woman with sandwich in her hand: “Do you think this will give me gas later?”
(which reminded me of the time Husband and I were checking out books at the library and the librarian randomly announced to Husband, “I love brocoli, but it gives me gas.”)

Today’s lesson: You can work from home, but you can never escape.

About 10 minutes into my journey, I (and everyone else on the bus) discovered that the bus had the wrong route number on it. We discovered this when the driver made an unexpected turn and started heading the wrong way. This was okay with me, since I most sincerely wanted off that particular bus. The woman behind me was crying and telling me that she needed a lock of my hair because I radiated such love and peace.

She kept trying to take a lock of my hair. This is freaky, even to me.

She said she wanted it for some sort of love and protection spell. Now, the anthropologist in me says, “I’m sure there was no harm in humoring her.” Nevertheless, as much as I claim not to believe in whatever it was she was doing – I have to admit I didn’t let her have my hair because the paranoid part of my brain kept saying, “Don’t let her have the hair. She could put a spell on you. And it might not be good.”*

I got off the bus and she stayed and all was right with the world. Until the woman on the next bus decided my diet was deficient in salmon.

By the time I fled that bus, I had a bag full of salmon recipes – from old can labels she had stashed in her powerbook carrying case.

I still don’t get the attraction. I know me, and I wouldn’t walk up to me and start talking to me if I wasn’t me. I just don’t get it.