Welcome To The Nicest Place In The World

January 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

We have been in Oregon for three and a half months, and I am still amazed by how nice people are here.

I have wanted a dog house for Moose since we moved here, if only so I could decorate it and paint it pink. I’ve perused them online, hinted toward them as gifts and even threatened to make one. So last night when Carrie shoved her iPad in my face and showed me a craigslist post for a free dog house, I responded. I contacted the woman and told her I would come pick it up in the morning, and she responded with a phone number and told me to call when I wanted to come by. Her name was Kitty.

As soon as Kitty opened the door, two Great Dane’s walked past me and casually down the walkway, one grey and one jet black. They both made direct eye contact as they went by and one of them side stepped for just long enough to lick my entire arm with his giant foamy tongue.

“See why I don’t need the dog house?”

She had a long, low blond ponytail and wore a baggy t-shirt and flowy knit pants. She glanced toward her comically oversized dogs and then toward the comically undersized dog house then looked back to me and smiled. She ushered both of her mini ponies back inside and closed the door behind them.

She then walked me over to the dog house in question. She took one look at the car and told me, with certainty, that it wasn’t going to fit.

“It won’t fit” she said.

“Maybe if I put the seat down?”

“It’s not going to fit”

“What if we put the seat down and I put it in the trunk, hanging out part way?”

I went to the back seat to see if there was any way I could squeeze it in, imagining the roof of the car shredding into two pieces as I slid the A-frame roof inside, proving my point to Kitty that the dog house would, in fact, fit inside the car.

“Where do you live?” she asked me


Still confused.

“I’ll just follow you home”

I looked down at her feet and realized that she was only wearing socks, which were now covered in mud from the semi-constant rain. January in Oregon is not a warm time of year. It’s wet, cold and very muddy. She must have realized that she wasn’t wearing shoes the same moment I did, because she turned around and headed toward the house, probably wishing that someone with a truck had emailed about the dog house.

She came back outside less than two minutes later wearing a pair of old Nike’s. I did some quick math and realized that there was no way she had time to change her socks, which meant that she had just put on shoes on over her muddy feet. The thought of cold, wet mud squishing around inside my socks made me feel physically uncomfortable, but she didn’t seem the least bit phased. She loaded the dog house into her truck while I watched nervously and shifted my weight from foot to foot, trying to figure out how to respond to her random act of kindness.

She lived on the other side of Eugene, about a 15 minute drive from us. I assured her that she did not have to follow me home with a dog house, that I could find another one and that it wasn’t that big of a deal. She assured me that she had been trying to unload the crap that that last renter left behind for weeks and would have paid me to take it.

She talked to me about being a nurse and how all she really wanted was for her patients to be able to afford the care she was giving them as she hoisted my new dog house into the back of her truck and wrapped a rope around the spare tire at the open end. We also talked about dogs, and how everyone in Oregon loves their dogs more than their kids.

Twenty minutes later, she backed her truck into our driveway and Carrie helped her unload the dog house. When I thanked her and told her how in awe I was of how nice people have been since we moved here, her response was “You obviously don’t know any Canadians. They’ve got us all beat”.

I tried to hand her two folded up fives, and she looked at it and said “how much is that?”

“Ten” I said

“Ten is too much, five is a nice thank you”

I handed her one of the bills, she thanked me, climbed back into her truck and drove away. It was like a kindness hit and run.

That was it. We had a dog house. It was free. And it was delivered to our door by a friendly middle-aged Oregonian who just wanted it gone.

There are grumpy people everywhere, but they are definitely in the minority here. Oregon is a super weird place, but the weirdest part so far is how painfully nice everyone is. I’m not sure if I’m going to survive.

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That Time I Met Dorothy Allison

April 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

This weekend was CIMMfest, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to cover a few of the events. I chose the events that I wanted to attend at random, or at the suggestion of friends. I am overwhelmed by too many choices, and I wanted to see everything, so my method was kind of a spin-and-point one. Sophisticated, I know.

A friend told me to go see Sister Spit, and I agreed without thinking too much about it. I had a press pass. I like performance art. I like writers, I am one. I like independent artists. Sure, I’ll go see Sister Spit.

I didn’t know that Dorothy Allison was going to do a reading. I wrote a paper on Dorothy Allison and censorship in high school. Dorothy Allison comes from a huge family in the south. Dorothy Allison is outspoken and doesn’t give one single shit what you think of her. A lot of people hate Dorothy Allison. I love Dorothy Allison.

Her reading was powerful. She writes about things that most people never ever talk about, and the emotion that she writes about not being able to show come through in her writing and her voice. Her reading was long, but it kept my attention, which is rare and so refreshing. She talked about abuse, oppression, and self-hatred. Things that many people can relate to, but again, never speak of or know how to express. I cried several times throughout her reading, for reasons that I don’t even entirely understand. I’m still sorting through it.

I mustered up the courage to shake her hand after the show (thanks, Alex), and I thanked her for being so brave. I told her that her piece was wonderful and her response was “I saw you. You were in the front row. Those eyes are intense.”

My eyes, Dorothy Allison?

I thanked her, and told her that her piece moved me to tears. I don’t know why that’s what came out of my mouth, but it felt like an important thing to say. I’m not sure what I would feel if someone told me that, but she responded without skipping a beat.

“It’s all good for you, honey.”

I thanked her again and left the room. And that was it. That was the moment that I met Dorothy Allison. Dorothy Allison, who was the first person in her enormous southern family to graduate high school. Dorothy Allison who was the writer in residence at Columbia College the year that I dropped out of Columbia College. Dorothy Allison, who has endured so many awful things in her life I’m amazed she can speak at all, let alone write memoirs, poetry and essays about it with the eloquence of a poet laureate.

I left the building and headed directly to a bar for a very hard drink, a gin and soda with lime to be exact. I could barely speak for an hour, and it took an hour and a half before I could talk about Dorothy Allison.

I want to talk to Dorothy Allsion again, and this time for longer than 30 seconds. I have so many questions for her. I want her to tell me stories and teach me how to be a writer. That reading and that meeting knocked something loose in me, something that I hope doesn’t go away anytime soon. Something that, as soon as I figure out, I will write about.

God, Dorothy Allison is so cool and brave and smart.

“Understand me. What I am here for is to tell you  stories you may not want to hear. What I am here for is to rescue my dead. And to scare the hell out of you now and then. I was raised Baptist, I know how to do that.” – Dorothy Allison

Dear pretty girls,

March 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

I think I owe you an apology. I have misjudged you. Since the early 90’s, I have been under the assumption that you are all on this planet for the sole purpose of making my life hell. Actually, in the 90s, you did make my life hell. You made fun of my horrible curly mullet in 7th grade (and, in retrospect, I get it), you told everybody I had fleas in 8th grade and in high school you, well, you just existed, and that was enough.

I think I’ve had it all wrong, though. I should be grateful. It was the mean, pretty girls who caused me to step up my funny-game. That was always the one thing I had on pretty girls. I was smarter, funnier and could use way bigger words, in a sentence even*. Unfortunately, wit and sarcasm are not qualities that are as highly regarded in tweens as pure beauty. I was conditioned to believe that when I saw a pretty girl coming, I had to guard my ego and prepare my best snarky comeback. Seeing a pretty girl set off a battle cry inside of me, and it’s how I built my amazing gift for quick insults.

I have been trained to hate pretty girls since puberty. That’s over 20 years of hate! What I didn’t realize is that I had become a full-fledged pretty girl hater. I hate prejudice, and I lecture people regularly about how prejudice is for rednecks and the un-educated. What a hypocrite. I was just jealous.

Something I’m learning in my 30’s is that you’re not all mean girls.

I mean, some of you are still awful. But you peaked in the 90’s when you were telling everyone that I had fleas, so I barely even care about you anymore. Also, my curly mullet looks great now, so we’re even. But a lot of you can’t help it. You’re just pretty – you were born that way. Who am I to judge and pre-hate you for the way you were born?

I’m sorry, pretty girls. I’m sorry that I automatically assumed you were the devil for most of my life. It turns out that you’re just like everyone else, but prettier. In fact, some of my favorite people are pretty. My best friend is pretty. I don’t hate you, pretty girls. You just make me uncomfortable, I’m not used to seeing you roaming the streets with the rest of us. I wish I could tell you to just “keep it to yourself”, but that would be unfair. Wave your pretty flag, pretty girls. You should be free to be balls-to-the-wall pretty in public.

Go on with your pretty-selves, pretty girls. I’m convinced that we can all co-exist, at our varying levels of pretty. In fact, let’s be friends. You can teach me how to do that thing that you do with your eyeliner that makes it look like you’re not even wearing eyeliner. I can teach you the art of pun-writing.

I’m sorry I hated you for so long. You seem really nice, actually.

*I am in no way implying that pretty girls are dumb. The pretty girls who were awful to me in junior high were pretty dumb, though.

On vulnerability and other silly things

March 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Performing is scary for me. Not because I have stage fright or a fear of being in front of people – I don’t, really. Performing is scary because it means being 100% honest and vulnerable, and that is where I tend to choke.

I don’t like being vulnerable. I know what you’re thinking – nobody does – but slow your roll – I have a lot of really talented friends who love being vulnerable. They are great at it. They are amazing on stage. Honestly, I would never even go on stage with most of my talented performer friends because they would blow me out of the water (ahem evermainardcareycallahancandylawrence)The only thing I hate worse than the fear of being vulnerable on stage is having a fear that is holding me back. I hate feeling like I’m losing to some unseen force, and I sort of like feeling just a little bit uncomfortable, so I decided to push myself.

This is where my fear of mortality comes into play. If we could die at any moment, then it doesn’t matter if we’re vulnerable on stage or embarrassed or fail or even do really well. It doesn’t matter. That’s what I keep telling myself.

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

I submitted my typed, formatted journal entry to Mortified yesterday, which means it’s official. I have agreed to get on stage in front of a large crowd and read an awful journal entry that I wrote in 1997 at the tender, bitter, cynical age of 17. Here we go.

I can’t show you the entry because that would ruin the surprise. If you want to see me embarrass myself publicly, come to Schubas on May 5th at 7 pm and watch for yourself.

Vulnerability, here I come.

Dear Food,

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I miss you.

It’s day two of the juice fast and I…want a slice of pizza. Not because I’m hungry, but because I love pizza. I can go without food and not really be phased, but I do not enjoy not chewing. I really want the delicious, amazing texture of cheese pizza in my mouth. Or avocado. Or a donut. Or a sandwich. I just want to eat. To physically chew something in my mouth.

I’m learning a lot about myself, and my eating habits. I have a hard time sitting without eating. If I sit down to write, I want a snack. If I put on a movie, I want a snack. If I write a blog post about how badly I want to eat, I want a snack. I miss snacking.

Today was the first time that I actually felt hungry, and I started to resent this stupid juice. I don’t want any more stupid juice. I want food. I would even settle for a salad right now. But a really big salad, with lots of  hard boiled eggs and croutons.

Tomorrow is day three, the last day of this juice fast. My bones hurt. My skin is greasy and my eyes feel like they are going to swell shut. I hear that those are all good things, but they feel like death. If I make it through tomorrow, it will be a miracle.

If you see me in the next 24 hours, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I might slap your food out of your hand and into the dirt. I don’t care if you are upset with me – who brings food around someone who is halfway through a three day juice fast? That was pretty inconsiderate of you. Also, don’t talk to me about food. And for the love of god, please stop grilling within a six block radius of my apartment. I can smell that, and it makes me hate you. But hey, in a few days I’ll be as good as new and I’ll have the skin of a 22 year old.

It’s almost over, and I promise to not be angry and greasy for much longer. And if you’re looking for me on Saturday, I’ll be the one at the buffet.

I’m Mortified

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m in, you guys!  If you’re in Chicago and you would like to see me embarrass myself publicly, come to Schubas on May 5th and watch me in Mortified! It’s going to be…angsty.

Mortified Chicago Promo from Shay DeGrandis on Vimeo.

Bitch, please.

March 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

An open letter to my former employer,

I used to have a blog that I posted in a lot. I used to share my intimate feelings, experiences and thoughts with the world, and I really enjoyed it. Then one day, four years ago, you found something that I wrote about you. I didn’t use your name, I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true and I didn’t say anything that would harm you or your family. I’m still not sure how you found my blog, since it wasn’t under my name, nor was it published publicly – that part still creeps me out. You hunted me down like an animal.

What followed after you read that entry, which was buried at least 10 entries deep, was a string of emails and phone calls that were the impetus to me shutting down my blog, changing my phone number, blocking you on every website possible and worst of all, not writing for a very long time. You made me afraid to write.

I was talking about that experience tonight, how scared and hurt I was and how afraid I have been to write about my true feelings ever since, and I got really angry. I never said this to you then because it was my first day at a new job, in a new city, with new babies and I was shaken to the core, but that was some real bullshit.

You freaked out on me, you insulted me, you bullied me and you tried to intimidate me. I could have probably pressed charges with those emails, but I didn’t because I was scared. Worst of all, you almost ruined writing for me. Just typing that made me angry, and that’s not an anger I’m going to let go of anytime soon.

If you did that to me now, I would not hesitate to answer the phone one of the half-dozen times you called and tell you to go F yourself. I would tell you how out of line you were, and that if you continued to contact me against my wishes, I would not only press charges, but I would file a restraining order. I’m a different person now, and I wouldn’t ever allow that to happen.

If you’re reading this, and god, I hope you are, know that you don’t stand a chance anymore. One day I will write a memoir and you will be at least one chapter of it. I still won’t use your real name, don’t worry. Nobody will know that you were a nightmare to work for. But you’ll know who you are, and that’s all that matters. And listen, should you decide to attack me, know that I’m not afraid of you anymore. I’m going to write about you and I’m going to be 100% honest. I have a lawyer now. I’m older, I’m smarter, and I’m not afraid of you.

I guess I owe you a thank you. Ultimately what I learned is that if I tell the truth, people might get upset, but as long as it’s my truth it doesn’t matter. You scared the shit out of me, and I almost never wrote again.  You almost took something from me that I have treasured my entire life, and I’m still mad about it. If you’re reading this, all I have to say is this: please stop stalking me on the internet and pay attention to your children. If you want people to write nice things about you, be a nicer person.


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