Austin Butler (the plant) Will Survive

I haven’t been around in a while, it doesn’t matter why. Here’s all the fun things I’ve done since I last I wrote a pen pal letter to myself:

1) I went to Disney World with my parents for our first post-pandemic trip. My dad loves Disney and has been desperate to get back since the pandemic began—and it’s the one place where my brain chemistry normalizes so I was down to clown. Walking into Epcot, I said, “When I was in the MRI tube I was trying picture this!” and my mom said, “Oh dear god.”

My parents were not impressed by the new Star Wars land, which led to questions like “When does Star Wars take place?” (“a long long time ago” was not accepted) and exchanges like this:

Mom: “I want to get your picture in front of this airplane thing.”

Me: “The Millennium Falcon?”

Mom: “Whatever. Is the Galactic Falcon good or bad?”

I wasn’t terribly impressed by the overabundance of merchandise and total lack of shaded areas. My dad kept asking “Where are the Muppets? This is the antithesis of Muppets.” Once my mom declared “This is too post-apocalyptic for me. Or pre-apocalyptic!” we had to bounce.

2) My sister and I visited Mount Rainier in Washington State.

Before our trip, our mom sent us a New York Times article about the two sisters who found a body in the rapidly evaporating Lake Mead and said, “Is it too late for you guys to change your plans?”

Because if my mom ever had a pair of starry-eyed dreams for her girls, it would be to get in the New York Times and find a body.

“They could solve an old cold case thanks to you,” she said. “And you’d still get to go kayaking!”

Mount Rainier is beautiful, but we didn’t do a lot of hiking, since as my sister said, “What’s the point of hiking up higher? We’re already high up.” We ended up driving the entire park, navigating entirely by paper map because we had no cell service, just like the people on the Oregon Trail. Sis kept saying things like “The river is on our right, so we’re going south,” always followed by “Never eat shredded wheat.”

After she mumbled “Never eat shredded wheat” for the fourth or fifth time, I finally asked, “What does that mean?”

“That’s how you know the points on the compass,” she said. “That’s the only way I can keep them straight.”

” . . . You don’t just see a compass in your head?” I asked.

No,” said Sis. “Why, do you?”

“Yeah!” I said. I always have. I’m looking at a compass in my head right now.

My sister looked at me like I was a lunatic. “Well good for you!!”

On a different day, in search of a decent gift shop near the primordial rainforests of Olympic National Park, we accidentally drove all the way to the ocean. We were just bopping along, listening to a podcast, when my sister looks to the left and yells, “Is that the OCEAN?”

It was a great trip, navigational mishaps aside—I got to fulfill my lifelong dream of crawling inside a log, befriend the world’s largest spruce tree (1000 years young!) and my sister said the words “Never joke about me eating all of something if you don’t expect me to eat all of that something.”

It doesn’t matter why.

3) I spent Labor Day weekend in Chicago attending A’s brother’s wedding.

I’ve made it clear that I have no interest in the wedding industry or its heteronormative/patriarchal/consumerist trappings. And I don’t like crowds or noise or small talk, so weddings are not my brand of strawberry jam. If by some draconian government policy I was forced to have a big wedding (looks around nervously), I would establish the following rules:

  • Everyone wears whatever they want. Show up in pajamas for all I care!!
  • Pets are allowed—but the pets will be required to dress up.
  • No toasts!! And no talking—only make conversation if you want to, and only with willing participants who identify themselves with some kind of sticker. Everyone will be required to participate in periods of quiet reflection, however, and I will enforce that.
  • No loud music—only the chillest of chill music, with regular interruptions for aforementioned periods of quiet reflection.
  • There will be cake. Eat as much as you want. Dessert is the only course I will be serving.
  • Everyone leaves promptly at the end. If you leave early, you get to take a gift!

Suffice it to say, this wedding did not adhere to any of those rules. The food was delicious though, even though driving to the reception required driving through the Batman tunnels during rush hour, which was terrifying. There’s a reason Batman rolls around in the dead of night.

4) Julia, A and I went to see the Van Gogh exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts. It was very moving and beautifully curated and I thought did a wonderful job of demystifying Van Gogh’s struggles and pointing out that the myth-making of his “tortured artist” persona has obscured both the reality of how much he was suffering and how remarkable he must have been to produce his art in spite of his mental illness, not because of it. When you see dozens of his paintings together, you can actually trace the deterioration of his mental state in the boldness of his colors and the violence of his brushstrokes. At the end, he couldn’t paint fast enough. He made 70 paintings, start to finish, in the last 70 days of his life. How terrified he must have been, of what would happen if he ever set his brushes down.

Julia, who has a PhD in the field of mental health, proclaimed that the source of Van Gogh’s turmoil was that “he was the ultimate Pisces.”

5) Last Monday, I bought this sad watermelon peperomia that was over 50% off (score!) even though it looked so bedraggled and burnt out by life that it may as well have been retrieved from the garbage—and guy at the register hinted that it had.

I named it Austin Butler, because the Oscars were coming up and I had a feeling as I drove my new friend home, “This guy isn’t going to win an Oscar this week either.”


But my new pal is perking up already. Austin Butler is going to be okay.

(I’m sure the actor will be fine as well).

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