Pigeon by Sophie Johnson

There’s this part in “Harold and Maude” where they’re sitting out on a pier after what might be described as the best date of all time, and a flock of seagulls crosses the sky. Maude says, “Dreyfus once wrote from Devil’s Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls. For me they will always be glorious birds.” Maude is such a baller. Who even knows who Dreyfus is? None of us do. (OK, actually, a quick Google search reveals that she was probably referencing Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army who was wrongly convicted of treason in 1894. But that’s not the point. Most of us go on thinking Maude is a lovely, genius eccentric.) I have always associated that quote — one of my favorites in a movie simply TEEMING with great quotes — with pigeons.

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Make Something: NOCAZ Edition by Sophie Johnson

Right before Halloween, my roommate Hannah had her friend Adele over to make costumes in the living room. Hannah was going to go as an eggplant plant (not redundant because of the inclusion of flowers). Adele was going as Weetzie Bat. WEETZIE BAT! DO YOU REMEMBER WEETZIE BAT?! FROM THE FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK SERIES, “DANGEROUS ANGELS”? DO YOU REMEMBER THIS!? Clearly, I remember it. Weetzie Bat was a pretty big part of my childhood. That’s an understatement on par with, “Recipes are a pretty big part of a cookbook;” or, “Religious stuff is a pretty big part of the Bible."

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Death Is A Living Thing by Sophie Johnson

There are plenty of classroom archetypes that you come to recognize more readily the longer you teach. There’s that kid who’s never really doing anything wrong but laughs at EVERYTHING and it drives everyone else crazy; there are girls who insult each other quietly and in code so their fights arrive with all the warning of an earthquake in the middle of the night; there’s the kid who’s secretly crazy-smart but doesn’t want anyone to know it; there’s that kid who’s loudly smart and NEEDS everyone to know it. But my least favorite of the bunch, I have to say, are the sensitive kids. Sensitive kids cry ALL THE TIME. About everything. They cry every day. They cry openly. When they are not crying, they are brooding. They sit on benches during recess and watch the other kids play and they frown. You ask a sensitive kid what’s wrong one time and she will say, distantly, “Nothing.” Ask a sensitive kid what’s wrong again, and you’ll get a dissertation.

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Sit On Your Doorstep by Sophie Johnson

I spent three days last week peeing at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans. I mean, that's not all I was doing: I was at a workshop about how to lead a workshop (pretty meta, I know). But the peeing is significant because the Ashe Cultural Arts Center only has one bathroom, and it has a sign on the door I grew to really like as I sat there peeing (and feeling bad for boys, who don't get to sit to pee and read good door signs). It was a long poster titled, "How To Build Community." It offered a bunch of practical ways that your Common Joe could contribute to a real life community. I ate it up.

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I Spilled Coffee All Over My Computer by Sophie Johnson

There are people out there that don't drink coffee. When I was ten years old I was like that too: walking around like life was fine without it. But when I was ten, I also thought that women should never pay for a date, and that "Lord of the Rings" was a shitty trilogy. Ten-year-old me, in other words, was pretty dumb. Let me clarify: it's not so much that I think people who don't drink coffee are DUMB, per se; it's just that I think they're ill-informed about what is important in life. Coffee is important in life. If everyone just drank coffee, there probably wouldn't be war.

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Actually Talking by Sophie Johnson

Hannah is one of the best friends I have ever had, which is amazing considering how we met. It was the first day of Teach for America institute (I’m not proud, but those are the facts). I was in the airport getting ready to go to Tempe, Arizona. Hannah was in the airport getting ready to go to Tempe, Arizona. I am not sure who approached whom, but I remember Hannah was wearing something kind of orange, and she looked way out of my friend-league. She looked like the sort-of-hippie-ish-but-clean girls who’d rejected me in college. In the airport, Hannah was warm and kind. She asked where I was from; she asked what I was going to be teaching; she asked how I felt about Tempe, Arizona. It was a nice conversation. I knew, of course, that this was too good to last. Hannah would notice that I was wearing a tank top from Forever 21 and reject me immediately because Forever 21 is all slave labor and synthetic fabrics. Best not to get your hopes up around a girl like Hannah. The Hannahs of the world only bring heartache and loneliness.

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Bicycle by Sophie Johnson

The purple Raleigh is the fifth bicycle I've owned in New Orleans. It almost feels unfair to say that I own it, actually: my sister bought it when she moved here two years ago (it was the second bicycle she owned in New Orleans -- the first got stolen off her front porch in the middle of the day because she didn't lock it up). The purple Raleigh once belonged to a "wild hippie chick" named Mary, according to the owner of City Cycle Works, where my sister bought the bike. The owner's name is Neil. Neil is not a far cry from a "wild hippie chick" himself. He's got the "wild" and the "hippie" parts down, at least. 

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Lies I Still Tell by Sophie Johnson

My first BFF (not to be mistaken with my first best friend -- a BFF is a very particular kind of friend; it requires the vocal or written acknowledgement of the Forever-ness of a friendship, usually in the form of the exchange of plastic broken heart friendship rings from Claire's Accessories) was a pretty upstanding person. She never ate too many slices of pizza, because her mom told her that too much pizza could make her sick, and without ANY SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE she just BELIEVED that. She always took turns while playing "Photograph The Dinosaurs at The Science Museum" (that wasn't the actual name of the game, but that was what you were supposed to do in the game), and never put up a fuss when she had to let someone else on the computer. Also, she didn't lie. I know this, because she told me over and over again that she didn't lie. She reiterated to me again and again that lying was wrong, and she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she told a lie.

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One Thing That Scares You by Sophie Johnson

Powell's Books in Portland has something for everyone. There are two totally separate multi-bookshelf-wide spaces that are just for Star Wars paraphernalia. (One is for kids who are into Star Wars -- baby stuff, like that Star Wars origami book that came out recently, and all the needless collaborative projects between Star Wars and Lego; the other is for grown-ups who intrinsically value the fanfic world of Star Wars. The latter section is for people who have tattoos of R2D2, and no one else.) There's a room of maps for every occasion: road trip, mountain trip, bike adventure, long walk, flying in a low plane, you name it. It can be fascinating to stand around in one of the niche spaces in Powell's and build a stereotype about the type of person who lingers there. Travelers, for example, love waterproof pants. Star Wars readers, alternately, invariably have stuff ON their pants (like mustard, or model monster paint).

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TOUR Day 20 - New York and People Who Love Other People by Sophie Johnson

In high school, I liked to take the MAX Train to the airport when I had an open afternoon. My favorite thing to do was to sit in the arrivals area, watching people see other people they haven’t seen in a very long time. I love watching people hug. Social norms are largely ignored in the airport arrivals section. People just make out with each other like they’re in an R-rated movie. I liked the awkwardness of that; I appreciated the inherent absurdity of all these strangers making out near other strangers making out. But I guess more than that I liked that people were willing to be affectionate in public. Let’s ignore that watching people make out for my own private enjoyment in a public airport is super-creepy. If I had been wearing a trench coat, I could have been logically arrested.

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TOUR Day 19 - Washington, DC and Race Stuff by Sophie Johnson

This is really the first time that we have woken up in the same city that we are performing in. I sat in a van for a total of 20 minutes today, on the way from our hotel to the venue. We’re at a Residence Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, which is probably my favorite kind of hotel to stay in, because they decorate it like it’s a real house, with a full-size fridge and EVERYTHING. They put the garbage can under the “kitchen” “sink.” It feels like staying at a very clean, malnourished friend’s apartment.

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TOUR Day 18 - Pittsburgh and Nothing by Sophie Johnson

I’m in the back of the van again, a little sick to my stomach, feeling totally shocked that there are only four shows left on the tour. It’s been a bit of a blur. There hasn’t been a great deal of stopping to wander around foreign cities this time around. Lots of late nights in the car, wondering what murky-black body of water is just in the distance.

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TOUR Day 17 - Ohio and Close by Sophie Johnson

Driving through Ohio was achingly beautiful: sky-scraping barns and fields upon fields of sun-yellow corn. We passed by a few Amish vehicles (respectable, low-frills, horse-drawn buggies). I couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed saying “ominous Amishness” out loud. No one said anything about “Amishness” not being a real word. Roadside shacks sold hard cheddar cheese and seasonal jams. The clouds were bombastic.
 

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TOUR Day 16 - Detroit and Empty Buildings by Sophie Johnson

Detroit won my heart. At the hotel, a woman stopped me by the elevator, took me by the shoulders, and said, "You are beautiful, and you haven't been told that enough today, I can tell." She was wearing a lime green nylon dress and smelled like lavender, and honestly, I needed that so much right then I could've kissed her. The show was upbeat and spirited. And then this morning we drove through the city. It took my breath away.

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TOUR Day 15 - Chicago and Nowness by Sophie Johnson

I am back on the road after a work week in New Orleans. I had no idea the rapid transitions would be so difficult. This all started thusly: I purchased tickets last month to fly from Kansas City to New Orleans on August 16, and to return to the road on August 20, so I could go to the beginning-of-the-year training required by the arts organization I work for. The night before my flight, I curled up to go to sleep in a swank hotel in Oklahoma City, and decided I would check in a little early (better safe than sorry). It took me until then to realize that I was five hours away from the airport I was supposed to fly out of.

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TOUR Day 14 - Omaha and Records by Sophie Johnson

In 2004, I spent a whole afternoon daydreaming about the perfect vacation, and I decided it would be driving to Omaha. At the time, my favorite thing in the world was music (because I was a teenager), and my favorite record label in the world was Saddle Creek (because I was openly depressed). Rilo Kiley had just signed to Saddle Creek, which had them joining the ranks of Cursive, Bright Eyes, and the Good Life. (If you are wondering what those bands sounded like, you can do a YouTube search for Conor Oberst and it all kind of just sounds like that. Maybe best described as sad boys whining about how lonely they feel when they whine.) I would be in a “Travels With Charley”-style van, alongside a “Travels With Charley”-style poodle, and I’d listen to sad music the whole way while watching what I imagined would be fields choked with elegant wild horses. At night, I’d hole up in tiny motels, penning the great American novel. Once in Omaha, I would go to the Saddle Creek headquarters, where I would meet sad boys who would totally “get me,” and we’d hang out at vegan restaurants and discuss Bukowski. I am glad I did not go on that vacation. There’s no way I would have survived it.

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