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Dear Don Manning

I am a writer. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to write about and you have to look around for inspiration. And other times you are given a lovely case of mistaken identity by an idiot called Don Manning.

Name: Don
Email: donmanning@erik made me delete the rest of this
Subject: You’re an idiot dog owner

Message: I came upon a pet travel article Q & A by you in a 2008
VIA/AAA magazine. When asked if it’s more difficult traveling with a baby or a dog, you slammed  babies for being noisier on planes.  So typical of dog freaks. You slam children at every turn, while dogs come out smelling like a rose.

Well let me tell you something, dog FREAK. Children belong on planes, trains, and automobiles. Dogs do NOT. Dogs are mere pets. Useless moochers. Dead ends. Children meanwhile are the future of this nation. Citizens. Future voters, tax payers, employees/ers and investors.  

Babies on a plane are MORE IMPORTANT than dogs. Got it?

And here is the article that spurred on this lovely tirade.

So, in response:

Dear Mr Manning/idiot

Thank you for your email stating your very clear, if barmy, position on the dogs vs babies on planes debate. And indeed for making this a debate.

I’m a little unclear from the subject heading as to whether you feel I own an idiot dog or I am a dog-owning idiot, though I suspect from the use of the term ‘dog FREAK’ that you intend the latter. I do indeed fall into this category, as I would imagine does anyone in your mind who owns a dog and by implication hates babies.

I would agree that Maggie Gallant is something of an idiot, though perhaps for reasons different to you. You see your Maggie Gallant is not my Maggie Gallant. Yes we all like to think of ourselves as unique and unlike you I do have quite a distinctive name. However, just as I’m sure that many other Don Manning’s would like to do, I must distance myself from the Maggie Gallant you have aimed your bizarre tirade at.

dixie_traveltrends_MJ08.preview
Lavender-wafting Maggie Gallant of NYC

You see the dog-carrying, lavender-wafting object of your perplexing nonsense lives and works in New York, is a publicist with Rogers & Cowan and used to write and record regular ‘Pet Trends’ segments for Animal Planet. I do none of these things but I know this information because I bothered to look it up. Yes I had trouble finding an email address for her too and I would agree that this seems a bit odd for a publicist, but you should consider taking some responsibility for your laziness in just contacting someone else with the same name. Especially after all the effort you put into writing your email. Especially because you might end up sending that email to a writer with a blog.

Having said all that, I would like to respond to some points in your email.

Your spur of the moment rant seems a little odd for an article that was published in 2008. Was it perhaps lying on a table in your psychotherapist’s offices? Gosh I hope you weren’t actually on a plane and reading it with someone else’s dead-end dog at your feet. That would be too ironic for words wouldn’t it.

For the benefit of other readers, let’s go back and review the offending article. Well actually it was just a question that the interviewer posed to Maggie Gallant.

Q What’s more difficult, traveling with a dog or a baby?
A Well, Dixie is a lot quieter than most babies on a plane. So I’m giving the dog the Better Traveler Award.

I don’t know why the baby comparison was made as Maggie Gallant makes no mention of babies. Just AAA magazine trying to stir things up as only an association’s member magazine can. Of course, your bluster aside, her answer is entirely correct and it would have been the same answer regardless of pet. Except snakes. Babies are a nightmare on a plane. Most parents with babies do not like babies on planes. I do not need to take a dog and a decibel monitor on a plane to know this. I’d sooner have a tortoise sitting next to me than a baby and I think we can all agree that there’s no greater moocher or dead end than the tortoise. God should have taken Sunday off completely instead of dabbling. But have you ever heard a tortoise screaming so loud that you couldn’t hear Wolf of Wall Street through your headphones with the volume turned up to max? Maybe it does on the inside.

Clearly Maggie Gallant does have some experience of traveling with her dog, given her response to an earlier question (see below). But I’ll be honest and say that her response does raise some security concerns with me because if this information got into the wrong hands it could be disastrous. I want my ne’er do wells to look shifty and sweaty when trying to get through security, not all calm and relaxed. Trixie and Peanut sounds like a terrorist cell doesn’t it. I think the government should ban aromatherapy, don’t you?

Q What are some recent trends?
A Aromatherapy. If Dixie gets nervous at security, I give her a spray of lavender, a natural essence that relaxes both people and pets. You can find great organic sprays at trixieandpeanut.com.

Of course this does explain why you believe her/my dog would come out smelling like a rose. My dog has never smelled like a rose. You could rub her down with a valentine’s day bouquet and spray her in eau de rose made from scrunched up petals dropped by small flower girls and she would still smell like a dog. With Frito-scented paws.

I would also like to address your assertion that dogs should not only be banned from planes, but also from trains and automobiles. I appreciated the reference to the 1987 movie with Steve Martin and John Candy and suspect that you rather identify with the Steve Martin character, right up until the last 20 minutes or so when he starts to show some human kindness. I cannot comment on Amtrak’s pet policy as I have never ridden on the trains here and honestly cannot be bothered to look it up. I can see now why your lazy version of research is so enticing. But I can tell you that my dog is allowed to ride in my automobile, or as I like to call it, car and always will be. Babies however are an entirely different matter. But I’m sure you don’t have to worry about any friends inviting you to ride in their dog-filled automobile.

I do appreciate your eloquent closing line ‘Babies on a plane are MORE IMPORTANT than dogs. Got it?’. Are you in legal practice? I can see how this might work on a jury. ‘He is INNOCENT. Got it?’. To be honest Don I’m having a bit of trouble with this. You see I’m not entirely convinced that babies on planes are terribly capable. I certainly wouldn’t trust them in a plane emergency, they can’t even read the safety card let alone operate the emergency slide. Equally, I doubt that Dixie would have a lot to contribute but I’m not the one writing ‘MORE IMPORTANT’ am I. My message is that they are equally useless and I think we both wish that Maggie Gallant had used that argument.

And that jump from babies being allowed on a plane to children being our future (you’re just a mid-1980s cultural lexicon aren’t you) is a little clunky. Perhaps I am too blinded by my dog from seeing this. Not literally blinded, that would be a jerk move by her just to become a seeing eye dog and get the jacket. Oh speaking of which, are the seeing eye dogs the useless moochers and dead ends that you were referring to? Or is that the dogs that can sniff out cancer, help calm autistic children, alert seizure sufferers, sniff out cadavers, do search and rescue work, and are sent to war? How about the dogs that are at the airports sniffing luggage to detect drugs or bombs that might otherwise be taken on the planes that babies (sorry, I mean future tax payers) are traveling on. Useless mooching twat heads.

You’re right, children are the future employees of this nation. So let’s add dog handlers to the list of worthy roles they can undertake as productive members of society. Let’s also remember that any dog that you would classify as a mooch is only likely to be a mooch for 15 years or less. Sadly the human moochers and dead ends will be around a lot longer. Did you have any children by the way?

In conclusion I am sorry that your invective did not reach its intended recipient. But it also makes me glad that I am this Maggie Gallant and not that one, if yours is typical of the kind of inadequacy that she receives.

And just in case she doesn’t receive it anytime soon, allow me to tell you this:

I hate babies. They are weak, unproductive and selfish. Also, my dog is a genius.

 

About the show

“The (acclaimed) director said he isn’t going to turn the music down, he said he paid for the theater space and tonight’s our tech.”

It’s 6:30pm on Thursday evening, an hour before my audience is due to start arriving and 90 minutes before the start of A Superior Type of Girl in the studio space of the Salvage Vanguard theater. The Stage Manager for the Foot & Mouth* company’s production going on in the main stage looks a bit apologetic and embarrassed but reassures me that there’s absolutely nothing else she can do. Continue reading “About the show”

Three bloody things

Today I’ve been mostly thinking about being French. Primarily because I’m finding it very difficult to draw myself wearing a beret. For some reason (though most likely my rubbish drawing skills) it keeps coming out as either a baguette or a low slung halo.

I’m having a hard time letting go of being French.

For those not following the narrative: I used to have a French birth father who wanted to marry my mother when she told him she was pregnant but my birth mother turned him down and this is what I’ve always believed until I found out through my half-sister who is my birth mother’s daughter by a different man that my father was in fact Armenian and my birth mother then died of cancer after which I found out that in addition to not being half French my father fucked off as soon as he knew my mother was pregnant. Confused? You won’t be after this post.

If you’ve never watched Soap then you’re too young to read this blog.

It doesn’t really help that my aforementioned half-sister Ingrid decided, after a run-in with a particularly obnoxious French man earlier this year, to confess to me her extreme dislike of the French. This was couched in ‘aren’t you glad you aren’t..,’ terms and I instantly felt sucker punched and pissed off. The 11 year old me lives strong and just isn’t ready yet to hang up her beret.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Stick Figure
This weekend I did at least begin my transition into brilliant graphic novelist. I base my brilliance on having filled 3 sketch pad pages with stick figures in action and some loosely interpreted drawings of my parents, my brother and myself. You may at this point be visualizing 4 stick figures of descending height holding hands in front of a ‘house’ (a square with a triangle on top and a chimney emitting curly smoke). Yup, one drawing down, a few thousand to go.

Went to a great panel on Saturday at Staple! the small press expo for comic geek people. It was all about autobio comics, which stands for autobiographical comics rather than a form of sexual asphyxia which is what first came to mind for me. As it often does.

The panelists talked a lot about the line between being honest and truthful and risking the privacy and possible wrath of those you’re depicting. Fortunately for me, of the 3 main protagonists in my story, one is dead and the other two have no clue who I am (extra reader points if you got the alzheimers reference).

International WOMEN’S Day
Yes it was yesterday but it doesn’t bloody matter because the point is that it’s called International Women’s Day, not International Ladies Day. Why not? Because we’re women for fuck’s sake. Some people already know that I loathe the term ‘ladies’, it just makes me cringe. I find it especially vile when women address each other as ladies, I get this all the time in emails at work and I just wonder what bloody century we’re living in. It’s condescending and old-fashioned though perhaps you need it when you’re sending out your ridiculous invitation to the Pampering Pink Pussies night in aid of the local cat shelter. ‘Because we all want to feel fresh as a kitten down there, am I right ladies?’.

Cue lots of hand-wringing over feminism vs femininity and oh this PC stuff is going too far again. What’s so fucking wrong with just addressing us as women? When did women become a dirty word? And if you don’t like women (the word, not in a serial killer way) then addressing a group of us as ‘everyone’ or ‘all of you’ is just fine. I’ll happily call you a twat regardless of your gender.

 

Yes And…Fuck No

IMG_1019
Excellent sticker from last year’s SXSW Interactive.

I hate improv.

By which I mean I am very bad at it. I am as likely to be described as free-thinking and in-the-moment as I am of possessing a bubbly personality.

Improv is very popular in Austin so criticizing it is akin to disliking the talky-singing thing that Willie Nelson does. I have taken a few classes in the mistaken belief that I could get better at it. Panic sets in around the second or third game which usually involves throwing a squishy ball at someone else in the group while making a sound. It’s terribly stressful to come up with a unique sound, though of course the instructors will tell you that whole point is not to think about the sound until it’s your turn. At which point you just open your mouth and let it come out. Like Tourettes Syndrome.

I also dislike watching improv when the audience is asked for a suggestion because it’s usually framed in such a way that the improvisers have a pretty good idea of the responses they’ll get. If they ask, as one group recently did at Fronterafest, for a suggestion of something you enjoyed as a child there’s a fairly high chance that they’ll get riding a bike or rollerskating or swimming. Less likely that the suggestion will be having a leisurely wank. And even if it is, the performers will somehow go deaf to it. Even if you shout it.

Worse is when the suggestion is taken and the improvisers go about their performance without ever making reference to it. And if the actual improv is just an interminably long conversation between two people about nothing at all without any actual heightening or point then I’d sooner go and watch a Chekhov piece about paint drying.

My point, because there is one, is that proper improv is based on the philosophy of saying YES, AND… In other words, agreeing with whatever has just been said and then building on it as you raise the stakes to create something watchable and powerful. If you say NO right at the top of the scene there’s nowhere for you or your partner to go and you’re a jerk.

In much the way that Hull has been voted as the UK city of culture, I decided to take the unexpected and questionable decision to make 2015 my year of Yes. Note the absence of multiple or even a singular exclamation point. This is a quiet yes, and involves agreeing to new opportunities and suggestions without thinking about them long enough to change my mind. At the beginning of the year I hoped this would create some new experiences and ways to fail and might lead me back onto a stage by the end of it.

It is March 1, officially two months since I began. I have been to a 5 minute performance group which was not as short as it sounds and was far more fun than expected. I took part in an all-women group creativity, goal-setting, empowery weekend thing where I did not cry. I also started a 21 day online drawing challenge with my husband. Yes, my animator, illustrator, cartoonist husband. We started the challenge on January 15 and I am currently on Day 11.

At some point, when I may have been on Vicodin, I also agreed to take a graphic novel workshop with Erik at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont in August. This is a week long class where we can develop our work, get feedback and generally talk about graphic novels. I am slightly stuck on the ‘develop your work’ part, given that I don’t actually have any work.

Since I failed to complete my stage play, I have a fanciful notion that I can use the graphic novel medium to tell the story of last year’s craziness with the birth mother popping her clogs and the not-French Armenian father and Charles Aznavour and the half-blood sister. The only minor flaw with this plan is that I can’t fucking draw. But at least my sticky out right ear and sharp nose will help distinguish the stick figures. And as my friend Lauren said, if worst comes to worst, just draw yourself as a circle with a beret.

As per yesterday’s post, I am doing something that terrifies me. My great worry is that everyone else in the class will wonder why the hell I’m there if I clearly cannot draw. As a parallel, Lauren asked me how I’d feel if a painter came to a writer’s workshop that I was in. I take the point, but my sense is that I’d laugh and whisper about them with my other clever writer pals.

If only I’d chosen to climb Kilimanjaro this year instead of next.