The Creative Process of Making a UFO: A Halloween Post

My son is in the big leagues of elemetary school this year, which means I’m in the big leagues of PTA events. And nothing is bigger than the PTA Trunk or Treat. It’s the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer.

I want to clarify a misconception about Trunk or Treats. Some people think that it’s a replacement for Halloween — a safer, lamer version without the formaldahyde-laced candy, tripping on sidewalks, kidnappings, and casual arson. Real Halloween still exists. Trunk or Treat is more like a dress rehearsal that happens in your local school or church parking lot, and it comes with a bonus assload of candy.

I volunteered to decorate my trunk. I’m not a Trunkin’ vet, and I don’t think anyone calls it Trunkin’. This is my third year, My first two were at our daycare, where my audience was a bunch of nonplussed two and three year olds. But I’m not in the minor leagues anymore. This time, prizes and reputation are at stake — for Spookiest, Most Creative, and Most Unique trunks. I’ll have to fight and claw my way for a shot at the coveted PTA shirt and coffee mug prize pack.

I decided on an alien theme. Making a big ass UFO sounded fun. That night, I fell asleep, allowing the subsconscious creative process to start marinating. This is the dream-state phase of the process. How to build a UFO… what materials…allowing what visions may come to me. Around three in the morning, while rustling in the covers, groggy but mostly asleep, I had a vision. I would papier-mache a Sit ‘n Spin.

I woke up and realized that was the worst idea ever. I have no idea what is wrong with my brain. Trying to affix a mountain of gluey newspaper to a gigantic piece of plastic would never work. Still, something about papier-mache seduces me, sings to me. Maybe one day.

I ran to Google, typing in How To Make a UFO. I found better ideas. I was quickly drawn to ones with fancy craft domes and mylar wings. I looked up thermal space blankets, researched what aisle to find clear domes in at the craft store, and schemed ways to cut up all of our reuseable insulated grocery bags. I could get battery-operated LED lights and glow sticks. Fishing wire to suspend the craft. Inflatable aliens! Techno music!

This is the generating phase. I lived with the ideas all day, sorting through which seemed doable and which seemed emotionally exhausting. Entering a Michael’s store, finding craft domes, and researching what type of epoxy glue bonds with plastic best was already making me feel like dying. Cutting up reuseable grocery bags just sounded like an argument with my wife.

Finally I was left with the bare bones, which is all you’re ever gonna need in life: cardboard, duct tape, and tin foil. It’s the air, shelter, water of crafts. Of course. I would construct a UFO with cardboard and duct tape, as God intended.

The next phase is just do it. I don’t draw up plans or think too hard. I just start taping and constructing the abstract vision of a UFO in my head. I cut some wings from cardboard. I covered them in foil. I used a metal mixing bowl as the dome. I duct-taped the living shit out of everything. Pinterest, eat your heart out.

I bought some inflatable aliens and battery LEDs on Amazon. Might fuck around and make a cardboard boarding ramp. Gonna hit up Five Below and get some glow in the dark stars and a backdrop black sheet. Stay tuned for Part Two next week, The Fucking Catalina Wine Mixer, where I will reveal the full get up and review just what goes down at the PTA Trunk or Treat. The big leagues. My sorta-okay, kinda off-center, held-up overnight-and-ain’t-collapsed UFO is ready.

A Story About My Wife Getting Accosted in the Dog Food Aisle

Last week, while grocery shopping, my wife was accosted by a Blue Buffalo representative in the dog food aisle. Maybe it was the long day, the first week of back to school, or that thin, surreal peace of after the kids finally go to sleep — but the story cracked me up.

I begged her for details so that I could write them down. She insists it’s not a story worth telling anyone except me, and she may be right, but I think it’s a wonderful little amuse-bouche of dog food drama.

“Fine,” she says with resignation. “You know, you call me standoffish, but I’ve just experienced a number of strange encounters with other humans lately that make me not want to engage with anyone!”

She pauses for dramatic effect.

“It was like she came out of the rafters.”

“I was alone in the aisle, pausing the cart with our daughter in the front basket, just us. No one else. I reached for the can of Blue Buffalo, and the woman MATERIALIZED.”

“She was wearing a Blue Buffalo shirt and a Blue Buffalo nametag, and she said, “Oh you’re buying Blue Buffalo, somebody’s a lucky dog!”

“Except she said it like this, in this creepy, witch-like, excited voice, like, “SoMeBodY’s a LUCKY dOg!”

“She was scraggly, really frail, gray hair. Her teeth different shapes and sizes.”

“We were just buying dog food.”

She pauses here, shaking her head. Then she runs over the scene again.

“Was she hiding in the shelves? Was she camoflaged? Suddenly she was right there, at my height, right next to me.”

“Then she started rambling on about some special type of Blue Buffalo food. If she wasn’t wearing that badge, I wouldn’t even think she was a representative, that’s how insane it was. I would think she was just some kind of a Blue Buffalo fanatic.”

“Then she asked, with my permission, “WHO WATCHES YOUR DOG WHEN YOU GO ON VACATION?”

“I just said we take the dog with us and walked away. “

“How did you say it?” I ask.

“Just like that. Firmly. We take the dog with us. Like, was she a brand ambassador or some kind of dog babysitter?”

“When you buy Alpo, your dog just gets a rotgut stomach that can digest Brillo pads. When you buy the three-dollars-a-can bougie bullshit, your dog gets a stalker.”

Please Look at $100 Worth of Sexual Cooler Gear

I need to take a break from writing real writing, and I just want to update my blog and spend no more than .0001 seconds crafting each word or sentence.

JUST LOOK. AT MY. COOLER. It’s so beautiful, it’s almost sexual.

My wife gave me this cooler to celebrate Father’s Day. It was between this or a DNA test for the dog. Yes, I would have been equally as thrilled with learning my dog’s genetic ancestry. I’ve always secretly suspected she’s part llasa apso, and one day, one glorious day, I will know for absolute certain.

This cooler was a 90s staple, and they recently brought sexy back with this retro reissue. Yes, even coolers get retro re-releases. It was seventy fucking dollars. Keep your comments about end stage capitalism to yourself and let me enjoy one stupid thing in my stupid life.

We took it to the beach, where I daydreamed I’d pack all the awesomeness inside of it, like watery beers and sammiches and loads and loads of ice, so that I could demonstrate my feats of brawn and muscle, golden-toned, carrying my beautiful teal encasement across the sands.

But instead, we packed water bottles and squeeze packet apple sauces for the kids, and then spent our entire time making sure they didn’t kill themselves in the ocean. The rest of the summer, it has sat in my garage, where I take time out of each day to make uncomfortable eye contact with it and whisper “soon.”

Soon, soon.

Then, at the thrift store a few weeks ago, I found its sorta-matching thermos cousin. I paid only five bucks, but it’s worth at least twenty-five. Now they sit together in my garage, and they represent a perpetual magical beach summer sexual fantasy of pink and yellow and teal.

Alright, back to real sentences.

Took the Kids to a Horse Park

Took the kids to a horse park. It’s my happy place of a horse park, and I didn’t know a horse park could be among my happy places. Having kids makes you have strange happy places. Former happy places become inaccessible, impossible to reach. They become sealed off tombs to be one day discovered by archaeologists, with photographs showing a young adult at a beach looking tanned, relaxed, smiling.

Now I’m dragging a wiry two-year-old in a pink Elsa shirt out of the pony arena because she was screaming WANT PONY. This doesn’t draw any stares because it’s almost adorable, as long as its promptly dealt with in a way that satisfies the mobs of judgement.

Outside there are miniature ponies she can pet and touch. She reverberates and whines for the pony dressed as a unicorn in the arena, currently being paraded around to a languid cover of Pure Imagination, by a woman in a pink bedazzled horse vest. It’s a freaky affair.

My happy place is that my son is happily watching the show with my wife, entertained enough to sit in this moment, though his body still hums and buzzes. He kicks his feet on the bleachers, and by the end of the show, he has to run the length of the bleacher a few times. The mobs of judgement let it be.

It’s over, and they pop out of the arena triumphantly. He has a squinting sunlight grin on his face. This is a good place, this horse park in Pennsylvania. Far Gettysburg is the actual name of the town they’re using on the credit card receipt. It’s equidistant to Orrtana, PA from here, but they don’t say Far Orrtana. That’s my happy place, where Far Orrtana and Far Gettyburg meet, at Land of Little Horses. LOLH for short. LOLH on the hip t-shirts for sale in the gift shop. Horse People Coolness has finally arrived.

There’s also a playground, gem mining, an alpaca, a barn cat, and two free roaming goats — one that’s friendly as a Golden Retriever, and another younger goat that’s more goaty in nature. He follows the friendly one around because he knows it gets him hooked up with handfuls of the horse feed, which is five bucks for a cup, and the children hand it out like manna.

I tell the kids over and over to put their hands out flat for the animals to eat from, else the horses are gonna take their hands off. But nobody chomps clean through the bone. Instead the animals politely gobble and beg, which the children believe to be love.

“He loves me,” says my son, putting his big arms around the friendly goat, embracing him in a bear hug. The Friendly One wags its tail and nuzzles closer for another handful of horse feed. My son side eyes the younger goaty one who had gently butted him in the stomach when he went in for the hug. He still feeds them equal amounts of horse feed. Children have a strong sense for fairness. The goaty one knows this.

My daughter is bored with the feeding. She does not want their love. She wants. Simply wants. And then she does not want. We are not sure what she wants or not wants. She points and jumps and gallops off, a toddler. Look, baby, a turkey!

If the Land of Little Horses is my happy place, the gift shop is my idea of heaven, full of horse oddities. I want them all. But since we have recently moved, my relationship to stuff is temporarily re-examined. Eventually I know I’ll settle back into dim-eyed gluttony, filling the corners of my house and my soul with horse tchotchkes from Far Orrtana and other such nonsense.

Do I really need this, I ask, with each item I handle. A copied and re-copied Xerox of a horse coloring book from the American Shetland Pony Club captures my heart. Your indie bandcamp and indie press and indie threads are cool and all, but have you considered the indie scene for coloring books?

I put it back. I will champion the indie coloring book scene another day, another gift shop. There’s a horse-shaped cookie cutter. The package reads, “bake the horse of your dreams.” The cookie cutter itself is plain, pedestrian. My eyes pour back over that glorious sentence, “bake the horse of your dreams.” If only I could somehow buy that sentence, buy that sentiment. Yes, I want to bake the horse of my dreams. So. So. Badly.

Should I splurge on the LOLH shirt? Could I finally be my true authentic self, out and proud wearing a shirt that says LOLH BITCHES across the chest? It doesn’t really say BITCHES, because the BITCHES is only implied whenever you’re compelled to wear a LOLH shirt in public. Took my kids to a horse park, bitches. Didn’t even embarrass ourselves at the pony show. Fed some goats. Pet some ponies. Bought the shirt.

But I don’t, because I’m not ready yet. I need to ruminate longer. Study more. I need to be ready, and whole, to fully Be The Person who wears a LOLH shirt.

I decide on coasters. Coasters are functional. They look great in my reading corner. It’s not “bake the horse of your dreams,” but “home is where the horse is” is another sentence I want to envelop and believe. And God I believe it. I do believe it.

List: What Comes With the Wendy’s $5 Biggie Bag?

  • Burger, fries, nuggets, feral cat
  • Diet soda because you’re watching your figure, and there’s like eight thousand calories in a cat. You figure a pound of bone, six pounds of hanging weight, at around 1329 kcal per lb
  • Just kidding, keeping the cat as a pet, his name is Mr. Snugglemuffins
  • The echoing voices of your ancestors who arrived at Ellis Island via ocean passage to achieve their dreams by the beautiful city
  • Wait no, that was just the guttural yowling of Mr. Snugglemuffins
  • Napkins, if you’re lucky
  • The not-yet-ripe apple you picked off a tree as a child, curiously, impulsively. Green and hard, it was imperfect, not like the ruby-red roided-out ones you find in the grocery store. You daydreamed over that apple, considering its speckled, strange nature, like a golf ball bitten by gnats, feeling it — really feeling it — in your tiny fist. It was the first time you considered the fecundity of life. Suddenly an elder cousin of your mom’s snapped you out it, scolding you for picking the unripe apple. She was really hardcore about those apples.
  • How the fuck does this apple still exist and how did Wendy’s get a hold of it?
  • Organic farm-to-table tumor
  • All-4-One Cassingle I Swear — freaking YES, score, such a jam!
  • Colon blow prevention pamphlet
  • Long-Term Living with Colon Blow pamphlet, just in case you don’t heed the tips in the first pamphlet
  • Bowling trophy from when you had actual dreams — not good ones — but hell at least you had them
  • A copy Sweatin’ to The Oldies, the Complete Collection 30th Anniversary Edition, missing disc 4
  • A woman in a long denim skirt. who timidly approaches your table as you shove soppy fries in your mouth. She asks if you know you are loved.  As you consider her question, you study her glasses, obviously purchased from the dimly-lit budget section at America’s Best.
  • An elderly woman who breathlessly, raggedly follows you into the bathroom and points out this is the restroom of the gender you’re apparently not presenting as today
  • Christ, now there’s yet a third woman approaching with prayer warrior passion, ready to seal the deal between you and Jesus, like she’s the clean up hitter of Christianity. Here we go! Scoring for Jesus… Announcer: Bev! Fans: Wagner! Announcer: Bev! Fans: Wagner!
  • Each of these women come to visit you like the three ghosts of Christmas. This never happens when you eat at a Burger King or McDonald’s.
  • Of course McDonald’s has Grimace… what is he? A big purple triangular wad? He freaks you out. Burger King has that ominous long chicken sandwich.  Something ain’t right about it. It’s like it had aspirations to be a sub, but ended up as the rubbery chicken sandwich served in a hospital cafeteria. Then there’s Taco Bell. Things just get freaky there, period.
  • Wendy’s comes with eternal salvation. And Mr. Snugglemuffins. He bit you and now you’re afraid you have rabies. Fucking great.