Open Letter

Adventures in Butternut Squash

My Little Love,

Six months ago I called your father at 3 a.m. and gave him the news. It was time. We had suspected it was approaching, given I had lost what I affectionately refer to as my “jelly center” the day prior, but my mom had assured me that it can take up to a week for labor to start after that, so we weren’t holding our breath. FB_IMG_1544232522897

When your father answered the phone, the cadence of his voice instantly changed. At once we both knew our lives were about to make a hard left into uncharted territory and we, like all new parents, were vastly unprepared.

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I was deep into labor and contractions by the time they got me to the O.R. for surgery. I had to be put under, thanks to what you will someday realize is a very gammy spine. I would miss your first few minutes on earth, but that had never been a concern to me. There would be hundreds of thousands of minutes after that I would get to share with you. The first few ought to be dedicated to making sure you are safe and healthy; that you had the appropriate number of digits on the recommended number of limbs.

You came out with nearly a full head of hair; the darkest brown, almost black, like your father’s. It has lightened since then, looks more like mine, with the same wave and curls that have a mind of their own most of the time. I’ve already had to cut it three or four times, first around your ears, then your forehead, and just the other day, the baby-fine rat tail which I told people you were growing out for the playoffs. I don’t even know when playoffs start. Or if they’ve already happened. We aren’t a sporty household.

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You went from looking like your dad to looking like me (even those solidly in your grandparents camp agree.) It is the cheeks, I think, and the eyes, though they move from blue to grey, there is a slight ring of brown to them. You may have your father’s eyes yet.

You are good-natured, almost to the point of disbelief. You only cry when you are hungry or the odd moment when you get a bump. you sing the song of your people, a guttural ‘guhh’ sound, while you try to force your favorite rattle, a soft, rubbery dragon, into your mouth. Monkey, a gift from your Irish relatives, is your best friend in the whole world, and you love to hold him by the tail. Your smile is pure, and your laughter is music to my ears.

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You’re learning to give kisses. You put your hands on my cheeks and pull me forward, mouth agape like a hung-over fish, and plant your mouth on my cheek. It is a work in progress, but the show of affection warms my heart.

Every day we go for a long walk around the pond. We listen to the birds, and have a greeting for each of them. Good morning, Sergeant Magpie; Hello, Brother Sparrow; Keep Bobbin’, Mr. Robin. But you like the chickadees the most. They conglomerate in the choke cherry bushes and flit about, and if you are sleeping you will smile at the sound. If you are awake, though, you crane your body as hard as you can to try and see them.

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You have an abundance of dinosaur clothes, and I hope you like them when you are a little older. I loved them as a child. The birthday cake I brought in to my grade one class was a dinosaur cake taken from a DK baking book. I will try to find it and recreate it for you.

The cats are unsure of you, although surprisingly it is Vivi who has taken to you, who seems to have the most patience. Beemo doesn’t seem to care for your flailing and laughing, but he’ll warm up to you in time. We are learning to be gentle, gentle when touching animals, and when holding mommy’s hair.

When you are sad, we sing to you. The Baby Wiggle Dance, or Banana Kiss, both original compositions that seem to make you smile.

20190606_113458Today you tried butternut squash. It was highly overrated, but the squishing noise and the ability to make it splatter brought you plenty of joy.

You laugh and giggle and smile and your face lights up when you see daddy come home. You chitter and talk and tell me stories that I don’t yet understand, though I am trying my best. Every day is a new learning experience.20190330_165251

It is difficult at times, my little love, to remind myself to trust my instincts. To remember that at least for now I know you better than anyone, and all well-meaning advice should come with a heavy heaping of salt. It is a challenge, because every who has raised a baby thinks they know best. You will be too cold without socks. You will be too warm with that hat. You are munching your hand because you are hungry. You are kicking your legs because you are ready to crawl. In reality, you hate socks and shoes because they are too warm; you enjoy wearing hats as long as they don’t cover your eyes. You are munching your hand because you are teeth (it is coming in at the top, on your right hand side). You are kicking because you need to be changed. I know you better than anyone else right now. I know you love little dances when you feel sad. I know pressing monkey up against your face is a surefire way to make you content. I know all these things and more about you and I hold each piece of information, each daily change, close to my heart and treasure it dearly. 20190505_171959

The days are long, exhausting. You father works especially hard, and sacrifices a lot of potential time with you to ensure that we want for nothing. The trade off is a sense of loneliness that I cannot wrap my mind around at times. You are there, always. Twenty-four/seven. Attached to my hip. I feed you and change you and put you to bed. I wake up with you and walk with you, I bathe you and dry you. What need is there for loneliness when the only moments of privacy I experience now are the ten minutes in the shower in the morning? (If I should be so lucky.) At times I wonder if I crave conversation or emotional support for like-minded mothers. I suppose I do. That need is in me, somewhere, but for the time being I am content in the relative silence, filled by your burbling and babbling. If the need ever arises in a sudden and heavy way, I can seek out solace with other young mum’s at the local playground. We can talk about how much we adore coffee and need a wine break. About how our husbands bonded with their offspring. About how we need some time to ourselves, just a moment to catch our breath and cry a little.

 

20190228_112845There is no room for weakness in motherhood, but there should be. There should be time and space to let it all come tumbling down; to let ourselves be vulnerable and show the world that we are struggling. That we cook and clean and maintain our own sanity while keeping the foundation of the home secure. And we should acknowledge how funny it is that the world seems to want to talk about how strong mothers are, and how much they do, without actually doing a thing to relieve that pressure. Imagine what we might be capable of if someone bothered to act on those ridiculous “Strong Mother” memes. But no, people are content to continue sharing them without acting upon them. People are content to sit around agreeing with each other. Oh yes, they do so much. They are the heart of the house. Without taking that single step further to act upon and relieve that insurmountable strain.

Being a mother to you, my Little Love, is the most rewarding thing I have done. But it also paints a stark image of what must be endured in silence. Because there are no words, not really. You can never adequately express how isolating it is, or how frustrating it can be. You can find synonyms galore and they still don’t quite create a vivid enough picture.

You are six months old today, Little Love, and there is still a long way to go. I will be there beside you, silently memorizing the shifts in your personality and the new developments as they take over. I will watch with trepidation as you grow and move from me, into the greater world.

You are so precious to me, now and for always.

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An Open Letter to Doritos- “But is it yogurt flavored?”

Dear Doritos,

I imagine right about now you are asking yourselves what happened. Why has your glorious decision of soft-ish chips, directed towards the females of the planet, been targeted by trollish harassment and mockery since its announcement. Somewhere, I imagine there is an R&D specialist who is gazing woefully at the trending hashtags of #LadyDoritos. They lurch every time the phone rings, expecting the call to be from their immediate supervisor, alerting them of their immediate termination over what can only be described as a social and cultural misstep that fails to recognize the needs of specific user groups and imposes values and desires on a specific group without proper consideration.

Somewhere, that R&D specialist is weeping into their bag of chips, making them soggy, gazing malignly at a bowl of orange mush vaguely resembling Donald Trump’s face in both skin and, I imagine, texture, wondering how did we get it so wrong?

                Was it the concept of soft Doritos? No. I know plenty of people who detest the sound of crunching chips. They equate it to a leaf mulcher eating human bones. To them, it is worse than finger nails down a chalkboard. There are others still, who hate the feeling of your equilateral products scraping the delicate corners of their mouths, cutting in like a foodie’s Glasgow smile. Some of us hate the feeling of chip bits falling down our shirts, getting caught in our bras or man girdles. We all have our neurotic likes and dislikes when it comes to our snack foods, but I’ll let you in on a secret for the general population…

Never once, when discussing my snack food choices with my coworkers, loved ones, or strangers on the train, have we ever considered semi-raw potatoes rolled in fake cheese and sodium as an appropriate alternative to our chip problems.

You know why, Doritos?

Because no one fucking cares.

Look around you. Look at the state of the world. Have you seen who the President of the United States is? Did you notice that there is still war and famine across the globe? Did you notice the opioid epidemic on your streets or take into account the rate of homelessness around you? You probably did, but like most corporations, you saw it as a by-product of the time and instead opted to focus your research and energy into a literal half-baked scheme that no one asked for.

                Least of all women.

And there’s your second issue right there. I’m not sure. Maybe your R&D group is a bunch of old white men raised on some cotton farm in southern Alabama where women still wear petticoats and do declare things with appropriately subdued enthusiasm, but the ladies I know are not marching for softer chips for our delicate lady palates.  Unless your Doritos are going to be extra absorbent when it comes to dealing with my period blood, or, I don’t know, fucking yogurt flavored (because apparently we are really into yogurt too), I could quite literally not give a single shit about the crunchy level of your product. I’m too goddamned busy worrying about, and coming to terms with, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the fact that my male coworkers are paid more than me, and the assholes that think me smiling at them is an invitation for them to call me things like “sweet cheeks” and “sexy” that, hey, if I don’t return in kind, suddenly turn into alarming forms of aggression and derogatory comments like the goddamned c-bomb or even fucking grabbing at me

                Who, just tell me who thought women wanted softer Doritos? Who thought, in an age marked by struggles for equality among gender and sexual orientation and race, it would be a great idea to market fucking slightly softer Doritos to an entire group of people. Are you shitting me? No, you’re not, though an over-indulgence in your product would certainly lead to plenty of distressing shits that I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy.

Here’s a better question for you.

Who asked you for this? And, follow up question, did they also ask you if you really think you should be vaccinating your kids? Because I’m guessing someone who shows the passion for one probably has enough time to waste on the other.

I understand as a snack product you need to stay on top of things. You have to keep up with trends and constantly be producing the next best thing. In a market saturated with delicious treats and snacks, it is vital that you are always in. Here’s an idea. Try a new flavor. Goddamned novelty flavors are all the rage. People love trying new, stupid flavors that they know will only be around for a short period of time. Hell, Japan has made a name for itself offering up weird-ass chip flavors that we can’t even dream of here in North America. You can be damn sure that if Doritos put out a Seafood Jazz Dorito or Cheesy Enchilada Dorito flavor people would eat that shit up. Again, literally. Lays has made a name for itself having contests about chip flavors! Doesn’t that seem like a good idea? That seems like a good idea to me.  Much better than trying to market an insulting snackfood to half the world who, just to remind you, never asked for it.

Times are changing, Doritos. You have to use a measure of social intelligence and recognize the values of the culture in which you are trying to market your product.

Spoiler alert: our current top ten values do not, and I would guess will never include slightly softer chips.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky Esq.

An Open Letter to Ken King “You can’t emotionally blackmail that which is already dead inside.”

Recently, Ken King decided to double down on the crazy pills vis a vis CalgaryNext. Presumably that means KathleenNOW is off the table.

Dear Ken King,

I can only imagine the frustrations you must be grappling with in the face of our refusal to indulge your petty desire for more hookers and cocaine. It is difficult, I know, not getting what you want. Much like my one-year-old nephew, you have opted to throw a tantrum and beat your fists desperately against the floor in the hopes that Mayor Nenshi will take you back to Walmart so you can finally purchase that Paw Patrol action figure you want.

I know, man. Paw Patrol is really cool.

But Ken, Kenny baby, life doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to stomp your feet and threaten to hold your breath until you turn blue until you get what you want. Incidentally, our colour is red so that is really what you should be aiming for.  You don’t get to threaten to take away our Flames just because we won’t pay for you turbo mansion with the T-rex leather sofa ball pit and the gold toilet that your (presumably) trophy wife throws up into every night after she comes to terms that she must do the sex with you.

You don’t get to be a total wad just because you don’t get what you want.

Look around you, Kenny.  The unemployment rate is fluctuating badly. In December we were at 10.6% unemployment. At this moment it’s 9.4%. How many glorious new jobs would this new Cocaine-and-Gold-Boobs Stadium bring? Is it worth the tax expense that would be levelled against all of us, just to fulfill your desire to shit on the Saddledome as the walls explodes around you?

And here’s another thing. When you say, “There would be no threat to move, we would just move, and it would be over.” Well, Ken-Kill-Kenney, that actually comes off like a threat, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but in general folks don’t take well to threats. In fact, threats generally cause us to dig in our heels, drill nails through our feet, and prepare for the worst outcome. And trust me, Ken, if the worst you can do is take away the Flames, and it is, then you are about to get an unpleasant surprise. I, for one, have already painted my toenails to show off my brand new, lovely, hobnail accessory.

See, despite what you think, Ken King, the Calgary Flames are not the be all and end all of our city. We are made of many patterns and colours. We have many loves and interests. As a community, we have the remarkable ability to come together and find enjoyment in a variety of activities. Some, like the Comic Expo and the Stampede are an annual event. During the brief days that these events take place we come together to indulge in our silly side and explore our history in quasi-drunken escapades that will never be repeated here nor anywhere else.

But Calgary has so much more to offer as well. The Glenbow, the Telus Spark Science Centre, the Calgary Zoo. Walk down Stephen Ave during the Christmas Holidays and a person would be hard-pressed to not feel themselves spurred on by a sense of community. Except you. I imagine whenever snow touches your lily-white skin you are forced to vigorously towel dry yourself with the nearest louse-free homeless person. Float down the Bow, get a treat at Village Ice Cream, visit one of our many farmer’s markets. Climb the Tower (or ride a sherpa as much like my previously mentioned nephew, your stubby legs would never make the climb, and I’m sure the speed of an elevator ascent would cause you to get a nosebleed.) Have you seen our craft beer community? Big Rock, Village, Last Best, Toolshed, Dandy, Wild Rose. Every single thing I’ve listed, including the sherpa, laughs in the face of your ‘threat-but-totally-not-a-threat’ to take away our Flames.

We’ve got some sweet-ass malls, some bitchin’ walking trails, and some cool-as-shit libraries to visit. Those are places where you can get books for free, by the way. You might want to try picking one up some time. I recommend something by Charles Dickens, as you will surely recognize yourself in the robust, eccentric fancy-man villains that occupy those particular plotlines.

We’ve got an eclectic variety of religions and ethnicities, all offering their own individual services, celebrations, and cuisine to try. We have street festivals, and hipster paradises like Kensington and Inglewood waiting to be explored.

We have one of the foremost children’s hospitals in North American. By the way, I’d love a donation to my Extra Life Campaign.

We have old and new architecture that, if you have the time to remove your head from betwixt your asscheeks, you might just notice and, perhaps, admire.

Have you heard our symphony or seen the concerts that are hosted at the Jube and the Epcor Centre? Bob Dylan is coming this July. Bob-Fucking-Dylan. You know who else is coming? Distant Worlds, which is a Final Fantasy based orchestra performance. We get video game music and Bob-Fucking-Dylan all in the course of six months. The breadth of our cultural landscape stretches the length of the Rockies, which, by the way, are only a short drive away.

Calgary is a hundred thousand colours and sights and smells. It is a hundred thousand loves and passions and hates, dreams and desires. It is over one million voices all chiming together to tell you that you, Ken King, are a gargantuan asshole.

Go ahead, King. Take our Flames. Take our team. The one thing you can’t package up and ship off to another city is our spirit. That passion, that joy, that team loyalty, it isn’t for sale, and we won’t suffer your emotional blackmail.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky, esq

Integrity Commissioner

 

PS: I have heard you, and others, mention the good charity work that comes from the Calgary Flames. I am unaware of any charity that threatens those it helps the most, although I see a nurse shaking down a child with leukemia at ACH, so I guess you never know.

An Open Letter to Swanson Steamfresh products “The Age of Sauce Is Upon Us”

Thought: Why do we call them ‘Corn Mazes’? What fool overlooked the hilarious opportunity for it to be a “Maize Maze”?

Dear Swanson Steamfresh,

As I write this I am witnessing my husband’s face contort in a wildly amusing way. I might say I could have told you so to him, but that would only create marital strife, and quite frankly we are only two or three misplaced words away from dueling to the death on the eaves trough of our new house.

His face is contorting partially because, in an effort to rid himself of what is a remarkable and intense, I hesitate to use the word ‘flavour’, he has opted to pour himself a generous portion of scotch whiskey, which I purchased for him after starting my new job as a sort of thank you for being such a loving and supportive husband and refusing my offers to duel on the eaves trough of the house.

He has poured himself this generous portion of whiskey because he just ate a small bite of your “Flavor Full” Barbeque Sweet Corn product and it has not agreed with him.

I understand that we live in the Age of Sauce, Swansons. Much like a Ritolin Riddled Millennial, we ask that all pre-packaged foods come doused in succulent, varied flavours to ensure that we are not bored by the process of eating. Heaven forbid boredom should set in – we might fall asleep, our heads swallowed by our Hungry Man meals, mashed potatoes inhaled into our sinuses and suffocating us before we’d have a chance to reach for the paprika to remedy the sheer, unadulterated boredom that is eating.

But really, does everything need a sauce? Am I so incapable of squeezing a lemon or reaching for that bottle of Artisnal BBQ sauce that I purchased from the local farmer’s market that you must take it upon yourself to slather my frozen vegetables with this shlock? What’s worse is that it isn’t even interesting BBQ sauce. You add it to your product to encourage the eating of vegetables and, I presume, corn. But here’s the thing, Swanson. No one is prepared to admit that corn is the single most god-awful vegetable in the face of the planet. Corn was not made to be consumed in its natural form. Why else have we turned it into syrup and bread? because it’s a fucking disaster of a vegetable! In order to eat it properly the average human requires years of extensive orthodontic and dental intervention, and even then the minute you have one kernel stuck between your teeth it becomes a crisis, with mom piling all the kids into the car at 7:30 at night to make an emergency trip to the dentist just so you can have the damn thing surgically removed.

Corn is not the friend of mankind, and no amount of BBQ sauce will ever make it so. Even  my own special reserve of artisanal sauce made from the blood of wild horses that were slaughtered under the full moon can’t make corn palatable. It’s an impossibility, so please, do us all a favour and stop trying to make sauce-ridden corn happen. It isn’t going to happen. At least when I steam my own corn I can douse it with rye whiskey and set it on fire. that makes it marginally more edible. Try doing that with your saucesational BBQ and Sweet Corn. You can’t, can you? Because whatever is in that BBQ sauce is an affront to nature itself and consumes fire to gain strength. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that my garbage can has melted into the foundation of the house after my husband disposed of the bag.

I guess what I am getting at here, Swanson, is that you don’t have to douse everything in sauce. Potato wedges can just be potato wedges. Non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley can just be a non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley (I’ll save that for another open letter, although my guess is you know what I am going to say, and if you don’t I would suggest you google ‘Asia’ and then ‘regional cuisine’ and tell me how many of those countries actually utilize baby corn in their meals.)

You know what I do like, Swansons? Your Pure & Simple frozen veggies. I don’t feel like in my wild attempts to create a balanced meal I will somehow have to create a meat sensation that somehow compliments the strange, fanciful saucy veg that you have prepackaged for me. If I want to make my Russian Prince Salt Chicken, which is delicious by the way, I will have no concerns about it clashing with your Broccoli Florets because those florets are sauce free. Unlike the Buffalo Cauliflower which, speaking as someone who has never eaten a buffalo before, seems poorly named. I know you worry about us, and you worry that we aren’t eating enough greens, but trust me, we will if you only give us the chance. Like reluctant parents finally giving their 18-year-old the keys to the car, you have to give us some responsibility so we can prove ourselves. Yes, we are capable of seasoning our own vegetables. Yes, we can decide how much salt we want to put on the green beans. Yes, we can. Let us go, Swanson. Let us fly.

And here’s another thing. “Flavour Full”. Really? Really? That’s what you’re going with? Perhaps it is the savvy consumer in me, but I want to know what you’re trying to hide by calling these bags of sauces “Flavour Full” instead of “Flavorful”. Is it because the sauce to vegetable ratio is so lopsided? Is it because what you have included in these products can’t be called ‘flavour’ so much as ‘artificially enhanced spice dollops’?  No one thinks that is witty, Swanson. If anything, the lack of concern for the English language is disturbing. You’re already on thin ice with your Salisbury Steak Hungry Man Meal – don’t push your luck by desicrating a word as simple as ‘flavourful’. You know what would have been a good name for them? Swanson’s Steamfresh Flavour Punched Vegetables. Because then I imagine someone punching an ear of corn and that fills me in a way that frozen vegetables never can.

An Open Letter from Shawna Yanke to Freedom “Sort of Like If You Take Things They Are Technically Free” Mobile

This week’s open letter is from Shawna Yanke to Freedom Mobile. Shawna is upset. Shawna did not write the title. I did. I think ‘Freedom Mobile’ is a silly name. So is Wind. You might as well have named it “Basically Bell Mobile”. At least the consonant repetition would have tickled my tongue.

An Open Letter to Freedom Mobile

I switched to your mobile service in early July 2016, despite being hesitant at all the reddit comments and online reviews saying your 3G-only service was slow and without great coverage of Calgary, but I was very optimistic about my bank account being less damaged by your prices. Coming off almost 10 years of having expensive plans with Telus, I thought I could put up with whatever you had in store for me if it meant not getting gouged every month.

I heartily went to the store to change my plan over, begrudgingly paid the $50 Telus demanded to unlock my device (because I would be given an additional $5 off my plan if I brought my own device). You let me keep my number, which was great, and I waited the 45 odd minutes for that to port through. The guy in the store set me up with an account that required I pay my monthly amount first to top up my ‘balance’ and then explained that Wind (as it was known by then) would deduct my bill amount after the pre-authorized payments were in my account.

Months went by without issue, and I even got an email from you guys excitedly saying you would be offering LTE speeds (albeit, at a higher price point) in my area in the summer or fall of 2017. I was very excited at this, naturally, and was a bit dismayed to find out I would not be eligible for that LTE speed unless I bought one of your two phones you offer. This seemed odd, as my current device worked just fine on Telus’ LTE network, but I looked online and decided the nicer of the two phones would be a nice update, as my current phone is over 3 years old and not the greatest anymore.

Now, bear in mind, at this point I am already making excuses/accommodations for you, because your prices are that good, but these are all things I didn’t have to deal with when I was through Telus.

But then the problems started that made me question how far I would stick by you guys.

I went to the store, current phone all backed up on my laptop and ready to wipe, as by trading in my current device, I would receive a credit towards my new one. The less money spent, the better, right? I wanted to get a device on a ‘MyTab’ boost option (discounted phone, you pay a certain amount towards the phone each month – basically a fancy financing plan for your device) because again, cheaper.

The guy there tells me I must be on a Pay After plan for the MyTab boost, an option I wasn’t even aware of or offered when I started up with this provider. Either way, I’m fine with being billed for my usage after the fact, so I tell him I’ll gladly switch to this plan. He says he must check my credit – fine, call your headquarters, I’ve been approved for a mortgage, car loan and my own phone plan every time, so fire away.

His face sinks, and tells me that unfortunately I didn’t meet the credit requirements for a Pay After plan.

Sorry, what?

He says I still have the option to buy out the device flat out – um, no thanks. I came in expecting to spend maybe $500/$600, not over $1000. I go home, and start composing emails.

None of your ‘customer service experts’ were able to help me, just say that this is how it is, you must be on a Pay After plan (which I already know, as stated in my email) and that if the guy says I’m not eligible for this, I’m not eligible.

I wrote back that I might as well buy that device outright elsewhere, as it may be cheaper, and then I could at least qualify for the $5 off per month for bringing my own device again. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

“Regrettably, we are no longer offering credits for bring a phone from another provider or company to Freedom Mobile.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Basically, I’m boned either way. I will not be able to take advantage of Freedom’s LTE speeds because I cannot afford this phone. I tell you this, Customer Service agent, and your response has simply been “I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause”. Insert bottled response here.

In conclusion, I am forced to say that I don’t believe the MyTab boost option is actually available to anyone with anything less than stellar credit, and this means that your LTE service is not only more expensive than your other plans, but also not available to anyone who cannot buy your phone flat out (cheapest option is $600 outright, the only other phone is $1000).

If switching to another provider were financially viable, I would be leaving you in a heartbeat, but for the time being, you have me and my cell phone held captive in your service, not entirely unlike financial blackmail.

So thanks for that.

Sincerely,

A begrudgingly loyal customer,

Shawna Yanke

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Just Wanted to Share a Quote

You might remember Andrew. Andrew emailed me again, this time to share a quote:

You’ve got to let it go and say it was the best I could do at that time and place in my life. You hope that the thing you’re doing next is a little bit better.”

-Todd McFarlane

Here is Katarina Savatski’s response.

Dear Andrew,

I thank you for your words of encouragement. When last we spoke I was returning to Russia and, I believed, my likely demise at the hands of Putin’s entourage of gnome-like FSB agents. I was certain my cover was blown, especially how Mr. Turd Ferguson, who you remember to be my handler, I’m sure, refused to see me off.

I spent several unfortunate weeks upon the boat, the SS Hipsmasher. One might believe that to be a comical name, a play on the absurdity, but it was indeed a most harrowing ride and I am grateful that I have survived to tell you the tale. I was brought onto the ship under the cover of darkness the night prior to its departure, carried in my faithful potato sack which once acted as a sleeping bag for me during my youth when my father and I traveled with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Now, my faithful burlap, would accompany back to the old country and, god willing, convince those meeting me on the other side that I was still loyal to Putin, Mother Russia, and perhaps even the ballet.

I was directed to not leave my sack until I was certain the boat had departed. Oh, how those hours wore on! I was tucked among ballasts and boilers, next to a noisy pipe that was either used for transporting water or rats. I made myself as small as possible, which was no small feat given that part of my obligatory ballet training included spending several hours each day on a rack, meant to stretch my limbs so I might achieve maximum ‘willowiness’. After what felt like days and days, curled in the cold corner of the boat, I felt the world shift around me. Praise me to Saint Jude, we were off!

I emerged from my burlap sack and was quickly escorted to the bow where I met the captain, a Mr. Burt Lancaster-Steele. In the old country his arm hair would indicate he was a man of high rank. As it was, he explained he had some sort of allele condition and that I should not use the women’s razors in the ships bathroom, as they were meant specially for him. Captain Lancaster-Steele explained that he had been paid to bring me back to Russia, and that I should not feel even remotely uncomfortable despite the fact that I was the only woman on a ship full of men who would be isolated from the rest of the world for the next month. In hindsight, I suspect Captain Lancaster-Steele was trying to subtly warn me that the crew were not to be trusted.

I spent my days wandering the deck of the ship, making polite conversation with a young shiphand named Daniel who seemed relegated to what I believe you Americans call ‘Charlie Work’, as more often than not he was covered in some form of human excrement or handling rats. Nonetheless, I found Daniel to be a clever conversationalist. He was born in New Jersey, but I do not hold that against him.

Ah, Daniel. Were it not for Daniel, I would have surely perished upon that boat.

It happened the second week. We had been forced to sail into a storm, or else bypass it and add another three weeks onto our journey. Have you ever been trapped on a ship with a group of sweaty, sea-salt licked men, Andrew? It is deeply unpleasant.

During the night, as the SS Hipsmasher was buffeted about by the wind and waves, there came a commotion from outside of my quarters. Since I had volunteered to tend to Captain Lancaster-Steele’s chest hair he had graciously upgraded my living space from a corner in the hull to a broom closet. I was quite content there given I now was able to lock out the rest of the world if I so desired, but with Daniel sleeping down the hall, and frequently suffering nightterrors brought on by his fear of open water, I was never concerned that anyone would be able to sneak up on me.

I called out, thinking it must be Daniel, come to curse Poseidon in his terrified state. Upon opening the door, I was terrified to realize that the second mate, a wormy-like man I had only known as Dwight, was standing at my door. I learned, not long after reaching shore, that Dwight was actually Dimitri, and was, as I suspected, a plant from Putin, sent to kill me. Dwight lunged, his hands wrapping around my neck. Now, I must caution you to not dear for me, Andrew. Do you recall I mentioned my willowy stature? Dwight’s efforts to wrap his fingers around my neck were halted as I was able to deliver several swift blows to his kidneys with my lanky arms. I drove my toned ballerina foot directly into his sternum and managed to haltingly leap over him. Alas, Dwight recovered from my attack and lunged towards, me, tackling me just as the ship lurched to one side. We crashed into the wall of the hallway, and began to kick out fiercely at Dwight, landing blow after blow on his delicate man bits.

Temporarily free, I made my way down the hall, thinking I might make it to the deck and take one of the life rafts to safety. Alas, as I reached the stairs, the SS Hipsmasher at last gave way to the power of the storm, and a torrent of water surged down the stairs, knocking me back down the hallway and into Daniel, who was just emerging from his quarters.

Now, Andrew, I must tell you what happened next is a blur. I recall the sea, cold, empty, and endless. It churned around me, frothing. I recall seeing Daniel and Dwight both grapple for a knife, and the sudden and complete submersion of the boat below the water. I cannot say where I found the pipe or what I thought I was doing, but as I delivered a first, second, and then third blow directly to Dwight’s hip, I knew the SS Hipsmasher had remained true to her name.

But oh, that water, Andrew! So cold! And I say this being Russian! Do you know how much it takes for a Russian to admit they are cold? I would not admit it even if Putin had had my father hung over a bear pit! We Russians are proud people.

I’m not sure how Daniel delivered us from that balmy abyss. When next I woke I was curled on a life raft with Daniel on one side of me and Captain Lancaster-Steele on the other.

And my hands. My glorious, Putin-Oiling hands, bandaged using my faithful burlap sack. The pipe I had grasped, the very same that kept me awake during those first few hours on the boat, had been a steam pipe. Even now, as I write to you, Andrew, my palms blister and pus. The pain is excruciating.

We were not on that raft for long. Land was already in sight when I awoke. But I already knew that I would never be able to return to Russia. Were Putin to see me now, he would surely have me killed. His favorite prima ballerina and chest-oiler, now disfigured, useless. No man wants scarred, lump hands massaging unscented baby oil into their ripped pecs.

I could not go home to Russia, for I would be killed., I could not go to my adopted country of the United States of America, for I betrayed their trust in rigging the election. I was anchorless, homeless, and country-less. And so, when we arrived on the Irish coast I knew at once, Katarina Savatski surely died on that boat.

Kathleen O’Whiskey, on the other hand – oh, hands. It still pains me – Yes, Kathleen O’Whiskey would make a new life for herself on this emerald isle.

Dawn is breaking, Andrew, and I must be off. If I stay in any city too long I run the risk of being spotted by one of Putin’s spies. There is so much I wish to tell you. That your President Trump is not who he seems; that Bannon is not the puppet master you should concern yourself with. There is much you need to know, Andrew. When I am next able to contact you, I will explain much more.

Yours truly,
Katarina Savatski

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Wants Me to Sign a Petition

Andrew sent me this forward. I don’t think I know Andrew. I know some Andrews but I don’t think I know this one.

Hi,

Today—just one week before the Electoral College meets to formally elect our next president—a bipartisan group of electors sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an intelligence briefing related to Russia’s impact on our elections in advance of their vote.

CIA analysts have apparently concluded that Russia sought to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, and that Russia got the result it wanted. But the level of that involvement and what it means for our democracy is unclear because the CIA has not made the evidence public, briefed key members of Congress, nor fully updated members of the Electoral College who are being asked to determine the next president this coming Monday.

The electors and the American public deserve to hear the facts. We cannot presume to know what impact Russia had, whether this should negate the election night results, or what it might mean for future elections until we review the evidence. And while it is unlikely to change the election outcome, Americans deserve the confidence in our electoral system that comes with clearly knowing the threats we faced and whether they had impact.

The president has a responsibility, among his final duties in office, to give Americans the truth, and help us establish confidence in our democracy again. He can and must order the CIA to brief the electors and members of Congress in full before December 19, and declassify and disseminate the evidence for the public to consider as quickly as possible.

That’s why I signed a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:

” The Electoral College has the right and the duty to see the evidence that the CIA has related to Russia’s impact on our elections. Declassify the evidence and brief the electors before they vote on December 19.”

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/direct-the-cia-to-declassify?source=s.fwd&r_by=15375497

Thanks!

I replied to Andrew as such:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your forward. I regret to inform you, however, that I am in fact a Russian spy and have been for several years. My actions up to this point include cleverly inputting small quantities of nuclear material into every day objects (I would recommend you get rid of that favorite mug of yours), hacking Trump’s personal email (and let me tell you, his tanning technique is far more invasive than anyone could have expected given the end result), and being Putin’s personal chest oiler.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Kathleen, how does one get the position of Chest Oiler Supreme?” or, as we call it back in mother Russia, “Cold Hands, Warm Heart, French-Fried Nipples” (Loosely translated, you must understand). My story begins long ago to when I was a youth who travelled the Trans Siberian railway with my father, who was conductor of the orchestra (you might have hear of them) for a short period of time in the early 90’s. His career wasn’t to last after he lost the use of both his elbows in a freak snow shoeing accident. After that we ended up in Moscow and I kept us alive by stealing rubles from the fur lined pockets of wealthy stereotypes until one day, after marking a certain local official, I was caught with my hand in the figurative cookie jar by none other than Putin himself.
My father, having only a slim understanding of Disney films and parental duty, readily sold me for a ticket to Fiji and some matching luggage which, in hindsight, was probably the best deal he could have gotten given how malnourished I was. I know it seems like this story is going to a weird place but just hold on, okay? So after thirteen years in the Russian Ballet (All young Russian girls are required to join the ballet. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet or prefer video games. Historically, every woman of Russian origin has been a Ballerina for at least 30% of her life) I was spotted once again by Putin during my solo exhibition performance of Annie. The part of Daddy Warbucks was played by a cardboard standee as my partner had only recently defected and was, I presume, currently being interrogated by Chinese Nationals somewhere outside of Putin’s reach.
So you’d think being a Russian ballerina I would have lovely feet, but in reality it was my hands that Putin was interested in. I have always had lovely hands. My father used to say I had the hands of a youthful Baba Yaga. I never knew what he meant but the man was usually three sheets to the wind on potato vodka so I am left assuming it was a compliment. During the pinnacle moment of the performance where Annie stabs Miss Hannigan in the throat with a knife and proclaims herself to be a daughter of Mother Russia, Putin stood on his chair and forced the performance to stop, declaring me to be the new Chest Oiler. Now, Kim Jun Un, who was visiting at the time, looked a little shocked, so you can imagine how those of us who were not completely psychotic thought of it. It made no difference. After I finished awashing myself in the blood of Miss Hannigan the performance ended and as I was leaving the theatre I was thrown unceremoniously into the trunk of a passing black car. I had, of course, expected this, making the tumble rather gracefully. You can take a ballerina off the stage, but can’t tag the stage from the ballerina.
Some time later after the customary sixty-three days of interrogation, wherein I was challenged to admit my complacency in American Communism (I never did break, praise be to Putin) I was taken to the Kremlin, given a new set of clothes and a tub of car wax and presented with Putin’s fresh shaven chest. This became my life for the next six years until, after having buffed and spit polished Putin’s chest, I was taken by a handler I had come to know as Madame Perdet. Putin had new orders for me. I was to travel to the United States, infiltrate their electoral process and, ultimately, ensure the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This was particularly interesting to me given we had only just begun to see reruns of The Apprentice in Russia and I was interested in the physics of his hairs as well as how he managed to appease his many wives (sexually) with such tiny Vienna sausage fingers. Putin told me I was his oily star, and when the President comes a’callin’ you must answer or else you disappear and everyone you love is told of your treachery.
Fast-forward some years later and I had yet to be activated. While finished my Undergrad in Visual Arts I joined local political protests, and while I am unsure of what I was protesting, I was told it was very important and it involved throwing many buckets of paint. In Russia this is just an average birthday party so it was like being back home. I met a lovely boy named Bobby who decided he wished to couple with me, but my handler in America, Mr. Turd Ferguson (I believe this is an alias, however he demands I call him by his full name) quickly put an end to that, and to Bobby’s promising football career, by breaking both his knees in a bar brawl outside of a Hooters.
After that Bobby succumbed to the drink, as weak willed men are want to do, and I was told by Mr. Turd Ferguson that the time had come to point the ranks of the Republican Party. I was confused, as the values praised by this party seemed very reminiscent of those at home and not at all the sort of values that I had learned during my education in the Liberal Arts. I was assured that this was wholly American, and that I was about to see some, and I quote, real interesting shit go down.
I must admit I was so pleased to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Nominee. Back home is a woman ever tried anything like this she would… well, nothing bad would happen to her. It would really depend entirely on her ballet background first and foremost. Ultimately she would probably be passed over for a man, whether or not he was more competent than her. In fact, our general election back home involves six weeks of drinking until the population is in a blackout haze and incapable of even the most basic commands beyond ‘sign here’. On more than one occasion a hungover family man has come from his stupor to discover he has sentenced his entire family to the gulag. Putin finds the whole thing very hilarious.
Where was I? Oh yes. Ultimately I was activated by Turd Ferguson and sent in to corrupt the vote. Over the last two years I have thrown many chairs and hacked many emails, but none ever brought me pleasure. I was frightened, realizing that this country that had adopted me was more home than Russia ever could be, and I was actively contributing to its downfall. I did what I could; I hacked Mr. Trump’s emails, his taxes, all of it, but every time I went to meet with a contact in the news to release the information I would find that individual mysteriously strung up by their own entrails. Quite peculiar.
As I write this to you, Andrew, I am at a loss. Trump is now the President-Elect. Hillary Clinton has not been seen for weeks, and I have been summoned back to Moscow by Madame Perdet. Turd Ferguson would not meet with me prior to my boat leaving New York. I am frightened at what awaits me back home. My hands are not dry and paper cut from weeks of writing letters and stuffy envelopes. What Putin expects to find when I arrive back in Moscow is a young, vivacious young woman with the glistening hands of a Russian child. What he will find is a cynical American woman who has seen the true underbelly of the world and been helpless to stop the impending doom. I pray for you Andrew, as I have prayed for my homeland so many times before.
Yours Sincerely,
Katarina Savatzki