From a time before my doughy-child-mind solidified enough to begin producing cohesive memories, my family would spend summers in Massachusetts, where my dad grew up.  We’d squeeze into our red mini-van, my brother and I would fight over who would get to hold our dog Sophie for the first leg of the trip, and off we’d go!  Seventeen hours of pure family bonding!  How quaint, how pure and simple were the times!  How none of that is even remotely true.

Every time someone said they had to pee and, “could we stop at the next rest area?”, there was an outcry and near-mutiny.  There were thinly veiled comments about that large soda at McDonald’s, that extra cup of coffee, the size of bladders in general.
We did find times to bond, though. There was always a cheer when we finally got across the godforsaken, enormous state of Pennsylvania, which my brother and I nicknamed “The Swamp of Sadness.”  If you were ever a child you undoubtedly saw The Neverending Story, and if your mind was not too doughy to form memories, you’ll remember that The Swamp of Sadness is where Atreyu’s horse commits suicide by laziness.


But regardless of the good times, seventeen hours in a van with a panting dog and a bouncing car-top carrier is tough. Every year around the thirteen-hour mark, my mom and I would both start to cry.  Once the trip started to become more commonly known as”The Trail of Tears” than “vacation,”  my parents took decisive action.

When I was seven and my brother was ten, they bought a 13-inch-screen television with a VHS VCR so that we would catch movies during the ride.  Sure, we had to strap the TV to a red cooler with four tight bungee cords, then secure the red cooler between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, but it was a TV in the car.

If this woman was sitting on a red cooler, and was a tiny television instead of a woman, that’s exactly what it would have looked like.

And so the Trail of Tears became The Trail of Introducing Keely to Violent Movies at a Young Age.  As the youngest, I didn’t get all that much say in what we watched.  My brother wasn’t exactly backhanding me with our copy of Homeward Bound in protest, but it became clear that he and my dad could only take Peter and Shadow reuniting a finite number of times.  Despite my mother’s mild protests, which were considered void by all after she ordered a large coffee at lunch, I was given my first dose of gory, glorious cinemagic.

And so it was that I first saw The Last of the Mohicans.

But then something happened that my brother/dad/The Ring did not intend:
I fell in love with it.

I became obsessed with The Last of the Mohicans.

It was so edgy; minorities got cut in half with crude weaponry, people got burned at the stake, Madeleine Stowe’s hair was so unruly and tangled, but I still liked it.  And, obviously, it was full of what my still-pseudo-doughy-mind couldn’t yet identify, but which was quite clearly Daniel Day-Lewis (as Hawkeye) never wearing a fully-buttoned shirt.

Every time we got in the car, it was The Last of the Mohicans or nothing at all.  You want to watch Homeward Bound?  I’m sorry, Dad, I didn’t know we were participating in a Pride Parade today.  Just the first half hour, I promise.  Just let me see Hawkeye hop around the forest like a mythical Dryad, let me see the British soldiers get taken out in that surprise attack that illustrates the benefit of guerrilla warfare during the French and Indian War.  I know that you’re sitting on the tape, Dad, I can see it.


My mom first grew to hate the movie’s ominous theme song, then the entire movie.  Later in life, in the fourth grade to be exact, I would tell my mom that I wanted to join the school concert band, and that I wanted to play the drums–or, “percussion,” as it was called.  My mom would tell me that the drums are not a real instrument, and so I would take up the flute instead.  One of the first things I teach myself on the flute is said ominous theme song from The Last of the Mohicans.

Listen from :40 to 1:00.

Whenever my mom, like a responsible parent, insists that I practice flute, I storm into the other room and begin playing the ominous theme.  I stop abruptly and hope to catch the tail-end of her saying “GODDAMN MOVIE” from the kitchen.

#2 Google Image result for “mean flute,”  everything about it is incorrect.

To this day, I don’t really identify Daniel Day-Lewis as the actor who played Hawkeye. Hawkeye is real to me, and he’s out there.  I feel that this is probably the reason most of my romantic relationships to date have failed; sure, the guy I’m dating is great, but he just isn’t a Kentucky-rifle-wielding, half-Native American man with few social graces and unparallelled survival skills. Can the guy I’m dating cook?  Sure.  But can he catch that animal he’s nonchalantly broiling?  Can he field dress it, use all of its bodily parts for some noble purpose, and then give thanks to its spirit for the sacrifice it’s made by dying so that we might continue living?  I doubt it.

Weirdly enough, the only other sexual cinematic figure who’s come close to Hawkeye is, in my opinion, Jareth the Goblin King of Labyrinth.

Hawkeye can press you up against a barrel of ammo and give you the makeout session of your life, he can jump through raging waterfalls for you and track you across an entire state just by putting his ear to the ground and gently bending twigs.  He will find you, no matter how long it takes, no matter how far.  He will find you.

But Jareth the Goblin King embodies that rare combination of ambiguous gender and tailor-made riding breeches that, for some reason, is magnetic.  You want to make out with him, and then run away really fast.  You want to know what’s under those breeches, but you really don’t.

In the same way that Hawkeye is perfect and will spend his life combing the wilds for you, Jareth the Goblin King is weird, unattainable, and almost certainly homosexual.  You kind of want to borrow Jareth’s clothes.
Hawkeye is the guy you marry, Jareth is the guy you do weird stuff with your freshman year of college, and then deny it later.  Around age 30, you start to wonder “what if” about your relationship with Jareth, but then you recall why you never dated him, and why that was a good thing.


1) Jareth the Goblin King will make out with you for fifteen minutes at a party, and then you’ll turn around to find him making out with a dude.  Sure, he loved you then, but that was minutes ago.
Now he’s queer, and he’s here!

2) He’s a pedophile–but in a weird, hot way.

3) When you dance with him, you worry that people think he’s prettier than you.

Maybe the key is shooting for a middle man, someone between the rugged outdoorsman and the Queen Bitch.  He’d be a man with his concealed carry license, but he’d keep that gun tucked inside a sequined jacket.  He’d know the perfect eyebrow shape for your face type, and still be able to craft you a pair of rawhide moccasins from scratch.  And maybe, just maybe, his ability to whip up a fire would be rivaled only by his ability to whip up the perfect vodka tonic.


I would love to make a career out of not choosing a career.  Since I graduated with a major in Theatre and minor in Creative Writing, I know that, if I’m honest with myself, the rest of my life will probably be spent making a career out of not having a career.  Unfortunately, what I’m very good at is just flat-out not choosing one.  And it isn’t the cutesy kind of indecision that you already know the answer to, such as, “Will Bridget Jones choose Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver?”  It’s the big sort of indecision, the core to the greatest existential questions ever posed, like, “Is Kevin Bacon immortal?”

When people ask me what I do, I usually say, “Oh, I’m a writer.”  And then they say, “Cool! What do you write?” And then I go, “A blog.”  Then they wait for me to say more, and I don’t.

Writing vs. Acting

Since graduation, I have taken up many hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with my degree, don’t make me any money, and I’m complete shit at all of them.

Pointless Things I Have Learned To Do in Order to Avoid Real Life:

1) Learn how to knit:

I got really into knitting for about four weeks.  I felt that I could be sincerely happy moving to a small town in Vermont, living on naught but maple syrup and selling my quirky doilies and pillowcases on Ebay.  I would become very self-righteous about energy conservation, chopping wood for heat and bathing only in natural bodies of water.  I would have lots of alone time, and grow to love solitude, perhaps take up bird watching.  My few close friends would come over for tumblers of moonshine and vegetables from my garden.  They would all wear scratchy, neutral-colored sweaters and never say anything negative (except, and only on very bad days, when we’d gripe about the weather).
After four weeks, I finished my first knitting project–a scarf inspired by the Gryffindor House colors–and decided that if I was going to pursue knitting as a career, I would have to take a very avant-garde approach to it, a sort of “the beauty’s in the flaws” type thing:

Please take special note of the scarf’s starting and ending size, as well as its overall shittyness.

Plus, the Banksy of knitting lives a couple blocks away from me, and every now and then he puts his latest achievement out for anonymous public admiration.

2) Get a Netflix account.
2a) Rediscover Felicity via Netflix account.
2b) Discover Amy Jo Johnson’s (the Pink Power Ranger) “artwork.”  Laugh forever.
2c) Go into a period of mourning because Noel Crane is fictional.

I am actually not complete shit at mourning Noel Crane’s non-existence.

5) Try to learn the guitar via free online tutorials.

My brother is a damn good guitar player, and was in a number of bands in college, one of which was very good.  I’ve always been into the idea of playing the guitar, but not really learning it.  Since my brother has been playing guitar for the last 10 years, he has accumulated a lot of pretty guitars for his personal use, and very kindly gave me an older acoustic guitar to take back to school with me this past December.  It’s been sitting in my living room since then.  Now, almost a year later, I’ve decided, that it’s time I sat down and learned how to use it.

So far, I can play the third chord of “Kissing You” from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet.  I’m thinking that I’ll build my career on playing only Natalie Imbruglia songs.  Well, only that one Natalie Imbruglia song that everyone knows:

6) Work on getting finger calluses to keep up learning how to play “Torn.”

I want people to look at my hands and think I’m 80 years old.  I want them to think I work on a farm as a hired hand, and push (pull?) a horse-drawn plough every day for less than minimum wage.  I want people to see my hands, and think of Old Rose DeWitt Bukater gripping the ship’s railing at the end of Titanic.

Oops, Ghost!

There it is.

7) Try to get good at painting own fingernails.

So that I might make new friends.

8 ) Get scared that all the fingernail polish remover is softening finger calluses.


9) Buy too many Groupons for erroneous things.
9a) Attend overpriced Chess lessons purchased on Groupon, after Nextflixing Searching for Bobby Fischer.

This is where things get a little more complicated.  After watching Bobby Fischer, I realized exactly what it is that I need in my life right now: a mentor.  I need someone who’s been here, at this place of ambivalence, and actually made some semblance of a responsible decision in order to move forward.  I need to see how to proceed, what to-do list to make.

But I don’t want just anyone.  It can’t be just any successful writer or actor or professional Vermont recluse.  It has to be Laurence Fishburne.  I need Laurence Fishburne to sit down opposite me, lay out the Chess Pieces of Life, and give me some tough love:

They didn’t teach you how to win, they taught you how not to lose. That’s nothing to be proud of. You’re playing not to lose, Josh/Keely. You’ve got to risk losing. You’ve got to risk everything. You’ve got to go to the edge of defeat. That’s where you want to be, boy/Keely– on the edge of defeat.


Until then, I’ll be waiting.
But I, unlike some people, don’t have forever.

I Can’t Make You Love Me.

Being sick is no longer any fun.  It means you either have to call off work and not make money, or slog through the day, discreetly wiping your faucet-like nose on the merchandise.  However, I lucked out and got sick over Labor Day weekend, which gave me an extra day to lie around and think too much.

The stakes are so much lower when you’re a kid.  That moment when you realized you might be getting legitimately sick was always a cause for celebration, because you knew, you knew, that a fever got you of school the next day.

Of course, it didn’t always take something as dramatic as a fever.  I remember faking coughing fits to get out of church early, waking up with a slightly scratchy throat and playing it up like it was the end of the world so that I could stay at home and watch Nick Jr. all morning (always ending, satisfyingly, with an episode of Little Bear), and even that one glorious day in middle school when my mom knowingly let me skip school to take me to an open audition for a rebooted version of Star Search in Columbus.  I got three notes into “Colors of the Wind” and was asked to leave.  Another girl did a stirring 16-bar rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Some girls are just natural-born beaches.

The last time I was at La Guardia Airport, a piccolo-only rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” was being playing over the intercom.  It was actually pretty moving.

Longing for the simplicity of days past, in a somewhat self-destructive mood after having watched all of Emma in one-sitting, and on nighttime cold medications during the daytime, I yanked out my old elementary/middle school yearbooks.  I went in search of that tiny something in my past that would spark the blazing inner wildfire that is a quantum change; something that would put my runny nose into perspective and lead me back down the path to Little Bear’s Birthday Soup.

Now, I was on nighttime medications during the daytime for a perfectly legitimate reason. Yes, I had a fever and was feeling very sick.  But, more importantly, because my fever dreams are the weirdest! So whenever I’m sick I like to be asleep as much as possible so that I can have as many freaky dreams as I can!  The three highlights of this set of fever dreams were:

1) A dream in which I inexplicably had “STRONG SALLY” tattooed in thick, black letters on my left forearm.


2) A dream in which I was visiting a rehabilitation center for injured magical creatures, and there was a unicorn there with a metal prosthetic hind-leg.  We talked briefly.

Dream Keely: Are there any unicorn jokes I can’t make?
Unicorn: No. Are there any whore jokes I can’t make?

“Mean unicorn,” #4.

3) A dream in which David Hovey made a cameo as a part-fish.

This is accurate, except David Hovey doesn’t care about the environment.

Also, because of my aforementioned state of mind, I put a live version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on loop.


Halfway through my 4th Grade yearbook, I found pictures of “Pioneer Day,” a very special day at my elementary school, when everyone wore (surprise!) pioneer outfits, and one of the local Ohio rugged-types came in and demonstrated how to kill a chicken.  The demonstration was always held in the gravel pit near the school, because once the chicken’s head was axed off, the running body emitted a fair amount of blood.

What picture could possibly do that justice?

What better place to begin my return to simpler times?  I remembered buying my bright blue, gigantic bonnet at Gettysburg, Virginia a full year in advance, finding an old collared silk shirt of my mom’s from the 70’s (or so she says, but I’m pretty sure I have a picture of her wearing it well into the 80’s), and a full-length skirt at a local thrift store that was, almost definitely, fashioned from cheap curtains.

In short, Pioneer Day was a big deal. 

I’ve written about my 7th Grade Love before, but what I haven’t written is that I’ve never been able to peg down the moment when I fell madly in love with him.  It might have been the first time I heard his absolutely perfect imitation of Salad Fingers, and my realized love coincided with my realization that all I’d ever want to be in life was his own personal Hubert Cumberdale.

Or maybe it was when I found out that he was in an extracurricular math club, and that filled me with adolescent confusion and wonder, because that meant he must be some kind of sadist.
Whatever the reason, I don’t remember it.  It’s been wiped out and replaced with all those times he ignored me in the hallways, and the times when I signed onto AIM only to see him sign off immediately.  But lo and behold:

Pioneer Day:

There we are.  There it is.  That’s where it all began.  Me in my bonnet that could blot out the sun, him in his flowing button-down, obviously having mistaken Pioneer Day for Pirate Day.  That’s where it all began. 

That, plus Bonnie Raitt’s 45th rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” threw me into a bit of an existential quandary.  Fourth grade felt like a different lifetime, when really, it was only a decade and some past.  Half of my entire life ago, really.  Would I look back on this part of my life, my early twenties, in ten years, and feel completely detached from it?

How many more of these “chapters” would I get before I died?  Would I have enough time to re-write my adult version of The Velveteen Rabbit, in which The Skin Horse is the nursery equivalent of Dr. Cox?

“Does it hurt, to become Real?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.
“Ohhh, like fuck-all,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.

I looked over all the signatures in my yearbook, the pledges of everlasting friendship scrawled in Easter-colored gel pens, all come to nothing.   And yet, we had promised to luv each other 4ever.  Years from now, when I looked back on my life, would my mark on the world be the equivalent of a pastel gel pen?

Luckily, just as I was about to lose it, I found this gem:
This is Daniel.  He is my oldest friend, his natural, delicious musk is that of a Chipotle restaurant, and apparently, he went through a Johnny Tsunami phase in middle school.