The How-To Issue

We know how to do things.

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elaineheinzman asked: How did I never know about your How To Issue before!? Don't suppose you're still taking submissions, are you? Thanks.

Sure! The How-To was much busier when it started, in August 2012, but it will remain here - and keep taking submissions - indefinitely. More posts would be great!

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How to Use “Shock and Awe” Tactics to Decimate Your Facebook Friendship Population

by Alison Barker

Do you suffer from any of the following existential anxieties regarding Facebook?

Endless agonizing over the parameters of the concept of “friend”

Revisionist hesitation about whether or not you “like” something

Rhetorical protocols that shift like stretched out elastic on a fat man’s sweatpants

Despair no more! Endeavor to complete the Facebook Cleanse:

1.     Each week for four weeks, de-friend twenty percent of your friend list. Then, friend request each of them. Repeat. Whoever is still playing the game at the end of the month wins your continued Facebook friendship. They are idiots!

2.     Ask for homeopathic remedies for embarrassing maladies and tag several people, indicating that they have solid expertise. Which they probably do.

3.     Write really upbeat posts in the mornings, and super-grim posts in the evenings. Refuse to respond to any queries re: your mental health. Change your religion and relationship status every other day. On every third day, write only one status update: I feel so lonely. Is anyone out there? Or, post a photo of a baby animal and a quote from a Buddhist thinker. Ignore any and all responses. God.

4.     Make a sad face L on someone’s baby bump photo, and post a link to infant mortality rates. Freedom of information.

5.     Each week, pick ten Facebook friends you never talk to. These are your “spotlight” connections. Every day, comb their timelines for significant personal information. Click “like” on really old updates. Download Farmville and ask them to play every day. Cater your posts to their political, career and recreational interests and tag them in phone photos of inanimate objects that are somehow related to said interests—then send them private messages that ask if they could respect your privacy, and that you think they have boundary issues. Include the Amazon link to Codependency No More in your message. Boundaries are in the eye of the beholder.

If these seem extreme, they are. You see, you suffer from a cerebral overextension of intention discernment, or COID, and the Facebook Cleanse is designed to banish COID’s overthinking and keep you operating in a do-now world of action, which is how you will stay assimilated in our social media culture. You want to stay assimilated.

After a month of following these five tasks, you will clear out segments of your Facebook population, thus presenting you with more surmountable, tangible problems, which can be addressed by a do-now list, like “I don’t have any Facebook friends” “I will friend request someone” and “I am so mad at so and so for defriending me” “I will post something mean on her friend’s wall”—these problems are much preferable to the vague, unanswerable maladies of COID, like why would Sara Owens show me the picture of herself giving birth in a kiddie pool in her wood paneled basement if she snubbed me at the reunion happy hour? But if you defriend Sara Owens, and then friend request her, you are the man in the arena; the dust and sweat. You are engaging. Plus, you will get attention.

And that’s what we are moving towards in this digital age; engagement. I mean, attention. Attention engagement. Do-now. Assimilation.

Questions on the cleanse? Email me

Filed under how-to facebook internet humor

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The How-To Issue Needs You!

As was probably clear from the long gap between the last post and this one, The How-To Issue needs you! Which is to say, it needs submissions. The original call for posts is here, and all still applies. Send links, send pieces, send things to reblog - The How-To is open to pieces on everything you know how to do. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Filed under intermission

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How to Spot an Angel in Disguise

By Tania Zarak

For George.

The night of September 8 was hands down one of the worst nights of my life. I had gone to Mexico to visit my family yet, back in New York, my relationship with my live-in boyfriend was on its last legs. I had been hesitant to travel at all. But I did, hopeful that nothing major would happen in a week.

I got very anxious as soon as I left New York. I was crying nonstop, as if unknowingly “mourning” my relationship from afar. I chose to fly back a day early and called my boyfriend from the plane. He was home. I asked if everything was OK and he answered, “Yes, I’m just tired.” Still uneasy, I believed him. I landed at JFK five hours later and promptly everything started to go wrong: what seemed to be the largest 757 in the world arrived from Turkey minutes before us, hence the lines at Customs were biblical; my bags took ages to come out; outside, it was raining cats and dogs.

A car service driver was waiting for me at the gate with a big yellow sign that said my name. He was a tall, confident, slim black man. He greeted me with his head and led me to the car. I began to cry, again. We took off. The traffic was a nightmare. We were at a complete standstill on the highway when I got a text from my boyfriend that read:

“I hope that you arrived back safely… I will call you tomorrow to talk and clarify everything… I am staying at my new place.”

“At my new place?” I gagged. I called him but he would only reply to texts. To make things worse, the cars were still not moving. I was in the midst of having a full-out panic attack when, with a voice that cracked the storm, my driver asked: “Are you OK, miss?” I explained. He then began to speak with a firm, soothing tone. He tried to distract me and kept reminding me that everything was going to be all right, that I was a beautiful, young woman and that I would be OK; he was sure of this. He repeated things to me almost melodically and never took his eyes off me through the rear-view mirror.

As we arrived to my apartment he got out of the car, grabbed my luggage, opened my door and took me from the shoulders, like a little rag doll. I was weeping and it was still raining hard. “Listen to me,” he said as he shook all 5 feet of me, “you are going to be fine. Do you understand? Trust me.” He hugged me tight, waited until I was inside the building and drove away. I’m not sure I believe in angels but an angel got me home that night. He was a man waiting for me at a gate! I never saw him again… His name was George.

So, in order to spot angels in disguise, remember:

  • Angels come in all shapes and sizes and they can be male or female.
  • It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or if you don’t recognize the encounter right away. You might get it days, weeks, months, maybe years after it happens.
  • Angels are sly, mysterious beings who oftentimes work behind-the-scenes. They can do big things and little things so their importance must never be underestimated.
  • Angels will identify you, mostly when you are in distress or feel abandoned. The next person that randomly offers a helping hand amidst others who are either indifferent or against you, might very much so be angel on assignment to you.
  • Maybe the guy at work that is so annoyingly competitive is an angel. Maybe the lady that told you that thing you didn’t want to hear about yourself and was a catalyst for change was an angel. Maybe an angel slammed a door and opened another. Maybe that kid that smiled at you in the subway was an angel.
  • Here’s a trick to help you determine if you have been visited: add the result of the contact to the phrase “Had it not been for…” For example: “Had it not been for stopping to help a stranger with directions, I would have been standing precisely where the car jumped the curb!”
  • Realize that you are an angel. Believe in your creative abilities and overcome your fear to show yourself. Recognizing goodness and gratitude has a very positive impact on our lives. When you pay it forward, you will also now know the joy you have given someone else.
  • Be attentive of this. Check if you are really open to what the universe wants to give you, to all the love that is out there for you. As long as you don’t say ‘yes’ to what the universe wants to send your way, you have not truly said ‘yes’ to yourself. Say a loud and loving yes to yourself, to all of you. Accepting the flow of receiving in your life will then become natural for you.
  • While no one can confirm or say for sure how angels might appear in their natural environment, it is just as easy to believe that they have left their mark on humanity by inspiring some of us to show them as best we can.

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How to Keep a Journal


Like so many people, I spent much of my youth starting a journal, filling a few pages, and wandering off. I couldn’t make myself write in a journal every day, and so many happenings would pile up that I’d just give up on ever putting them down on paper. Then, one day, I realized that no one was going to be upset if I only wrote down what I wanted to write.

Since 2007 I’ve filled 21 notebooks, which means I’ve been completing a notebook every season of every year since. Notebooks have accompanied me to 10 countries, the depths of depression, and on a series of elating adventures. They are my personal treasure trove of creativity, containing break-ups, quotes, dozens of ideas for novels, fragments of things I’m writing or have written or am planning to write, sketches of places I’ll never be again, and a good deal of confusion. Whenever I am in need, I go back to my journals, and I firmly believe that a journal is an invaluable tool for just about anybody.

So here’s how to keep a journal.

1) Get a journal. If your family is anything like mine, you’ve probably been given dozens of the things. If writing in some leather-bound monstrosity intimidates you, don’t pick that kind of journal. Pick out one that excites your sensibilities. Write your name in it. Name it. Decorate it, inside or out. Let it exist as a powerful object and a hallowed space. It’s a vessel for your life, your thoughts, your words. That’s pretty important.

2) Give yourself permission to express yourself. Don’t set rules for what you’ll write, be it content or quality. This isn’t homework. You are allowed to take notes in your journal, make boring to-do lists, doodle, misspell the simplest words, quote poems and songs and acquaintances, write illegibly, write things no sane person would admit in public, be vague, be scarily specific, tell truths and lies and stories. This is for no one but you, and when you go back to your journal one day, you’ll find your past will be more interesting and useful if you’re acting genuine.

3) Throw in the day, time, and place every once in a while. Don’t feel forced to do this always, but the occasional context will give you pleasure later on.

4) Take your journal places. Jot down ideas when they come to you. Don’t save everything for later, or you’ll forget. Write in public. It makes you look interesting. Don’t be paranoid, most people won’t try to read over your shoulder. If you last recorded some particularly naughty dream and are feeling embarrassed about it, just flip to the next blank page.

5) Write when you need to write. Don’t feel the need to write every day. Don’t feel the need to write only once a day. Some days you might need a safe place to express yourself every other hour. Some weeks you might not feel like writing anything. Both of these experiences are fine. Just don’t feel guilty and stop recording altogether.

6) Please, please, please do not destroy your old journals. Sometimes I find remnants of burned journals in the woods and it breaks my heart. Yes, your old notebooks are probably full of embarrassing instances. That doesn’t make them bad, or useless. If you aren’t embarrassed by your past self then you aren’t growing.  Don’t get rid of the evidence of your growth.

My first draft of this article about journals in my journal. META.

Filed under how-to writing journaling keeping a journal write when you need to

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How to Get Lost in the Woods, and Like It (A Recipe and a Ramble)

by Nicole Spiridakis

  1. Wake up at 5:30 a.m. and drive from sea level to 8000+ feet in four hours (read: San Francisco to Yosemite National Park), thus ensuring that slight loopiness altitude can engender. Pick up a trail permit from the ranger station and joke with the ranger manning the desk; she will be the same one you encountered last year, and, while in a better mood, still will not give you any guidance on plotting a route. Fortunately you are prepared for this and already have a route in mind. Decide to enter at May Lake and hike about 6 miles that first day.
  2. Go through the inevitable discard-and-pack at the trailhead, throwing noodle soup packets (not filling enough), a jar of peanut butter (too goopy), a few pieces of fruit (too heavy) into the bear bin. Bid civilization (and your car) à bientôt for a days. Remind yourself how lucky you are.
  3. Hike. Hike hike hike. Feel slightly nauseous from altitude; filter water from a stream; realize you forgot your book and cry for about 10 minutes. Then. Cook dinner. Sleep with a full moon beaming through your tent and the trees pitching and swaying around you. Listen to the wind through the trees and brace for bears. Wake up to full sun.
  4. The next day, plot a course. Try to find the path but … can’t. You’re lost.  Instead, you pick your way over boulders and through stream beds and over rocks and stumble along til you know you’re lost but also know … it doesn’t matter. The earth abides. You will catch up with the trail eventually. (And you do, but in the meantime, you make your peace. Some of us can do this more easily than others. Ahem.)
  5. Then: You listen to the water burbling across the rocks you just clambered over. You let the quiet simmer and settle. You remind yourself that once upon a time you knew how to sit, and stay!, and watch the sun dip low over the mountains, that books are not relevant here. (Though, let’s be honest, you still wish you had one and would have hiked on to a high sierra camp store in hopes of buying one until you came to your senses and decided that last mile uphill with the promise no water meant it wasn’t worth it.)
  6. So you hike. And swim in a mountain lake. And sit. Oh, how you sit. In the morning, with black coffee. In the afternoon, with filtered water. In the evening, around a fire with green tea. The trees are electrified with light, with rain, with the wind. You don’t care about your city - your sweet city, San Francisco, which is the only city  you could ever settle in, you don’t even think of it  - or work, or life, or anything outside of it; there is just now. Here. You are lost in the best sense of the world; does anyone else know that camp in the meadow?
It’s difficult to do justice to Yosemite through words though you can try — the waterfalls, especially after an enormous snow fall and long spring, spill over in a mad torrent, crashing down into the valley and roaring in a blur of white and green past hikers toiling up alongside. The mountains stand as they have for centuries: still, tipped with gold at certain moments of the day, and almost too perfect to be real. In the back country little streams rush and hum, ferns droop low to touch the water, mosquitoes linger too long and will not depart even when swatted-at. Almost everywhere you turn there is a surprise: a bear sticking its nose into Lukens Lake, a shooting star falling through a Pleiades-flecked sky, the faint sweetness of smoke from a forest wildfire drifting through the air, the bluest afternoon sky at the base of Half Dome, the cleanest, whitest-gold sun.
Here is home: packing up, climbing in. I cannot write an eloquent memoir about my journeys into the woods; for all I could ever detail is: sweat, dirt, family, bears, rocks, switchbacks, Half Dome, scraped knees, dirty water, and that is enough. What I have learned about getting lost is, as John Muir wrote, really going in. And that is the deepest, darkest secret of all. Leave it. Go. For a day or two or longer if you can manage. Listen to the stars, the rocks, the whisper of the wind. The earth only endures. Get lost in it.

Filed under how-to getting lost hiking nature

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How to Practice Mindfulness

by Night Song

After waking up, smile and relax.

Either stay in bed or get up and sit.

It can be helpful to count breaths or recite a mindfulness poem.

Some days a wonderful peace and calm will settle, and other days there will be anxiety and even rage. It will feel necessary to abandon meditation and listen to “Democracy Now,” answer e-mail, or begin reading the Harvard Classics. Steady breathing and sitting, or slow walking can help. Walking can be either around the house or the block.

Chopping wood can be beneficial (especially for those with a woodstove or fireplace).

If the day starts to go south, stopping before a willow tree, bed of daisies, cloud, or puddle and breathing deeply can arrest the spiral.

Just one mindful breath can turn the day around.

When strong and painful emotions come up, it can be wonderful to be with others who practice mindfulness and allow their kindness, openness, and commitment help us return to ourselves, to a place of calm and insight. Bodies of water, cats, horses, tall grass or corn, mountains, rocks, cedars etc. can also act as these others.

If alone when strong emotions arise, it can be useful to breathe deeply and slowly, take a bath, lie down, go for a run, or embark on creating a comic or poem. The main and difficult practice is to accept and respect these emotions, not run from them, eventually coming to understand the root belief: I am alone in the world, I am unworthy, I am better than others, and so forth.

Saying to ourselves: “May I (or insert a name) be healthy, safe, peaceful, live with ease” can be healing and slowly shift difficult relationships. It’s also calming.

A sense of humor is helpful and some discipline, which can be called something else like fun!

Filed under how-to mindfulness

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How to Crawl Out of a Hole

by Heather Lefebvre

Once, I had a writing teacher that told me I should write every day regardless of what was going on in my life. ”I don’t care if your mother dies,” she said, “you write through it.”

“Oh. Oh. Okay.”

And then I graduated, got super depressed, and forgot all about her advice.

*     *     *

  1. The first step is to try not to feel bad about feeling bad. This is near-impossible at times –– most of the time. Goes without saying that it can be really fucking difficult, in a culture that perpetuates the idea that the disenfranchised are lazy, greedy assholes and hard workers are successes, to accept that sometimes bad things just happen and you fall into a depression deep enough it seems like you can’t dig yourself out. Allow yourself the leeway to feel bad without labeling yourself pathetic or a failure or weak or hypersensitive or etc. etc. etc. because of it. Feelings aren’t rational or moral. They aren’t indicative of something innately wrong with you. They just are.
  2. If you start to feel bad about feeling bad, and you’re driving a car, pull over and wait. Tell yourself that some days suck, period; you can feel better; you will feel better, at some point. Wait until you finish crying and hiccuping. Sit on the shoulder. Turn off the radio; brightly colorful music can make one just as heartbroken, sometimes, as sad songs, and eventually you will have to continue driving somewhere. Think of where you want to go. Think of how you will get there.
  3. Try not to punish yourself for being you. Say, if you’re sad and only feel in control by skipping meals, make yourself eat. Even if it repulses you as you’re doing it. Even if eating makes you feel sick. You’ll get sicker if you don’t. This will be hard; I’m sorry.
  4. Talk to your friends. Start here. Sometimes it’s easier than talking to family.
  5. If you have the kind of family environment where this seems doable, talk to your family about how you feel.
  6. Write like a motherfucker. (Or draw, compose, make YouTube supercut videos –– whatever artistic outlet you have. If you don’t have one, please try to find one. Create something.)
  7. Some of what you create will be amazing. Some of what you create will be shit. This is totally okay. In fact, it’s the case most of the time. We all have shitty patches.
  8. What are you afraid of? Make a list. Put it on the wall where you can see it. Stare it the fuck down.
  9. Watch “How to Be Alone.” When this went viral I watched it enough times for it to sink into my pores. The poem’s transcribed on my wall. It helped.
  10. What do you want? What do you want to do? Make another list. Put it next to the other one. How many of the things you want are you not pursuing due to fear?
  11. Roll around on your friends’ floors/couches/beds and cry.
  12. Find a therapist in your area, if you can’t dig yourself out. Or even if you’re making small scoops, little indents in the side of the hole wall with a soupspoon. No human is an island.
  13. When you’re at a point where you don’t feel terrible every day, maybe only once a week –– or once every two weeks, or a month, or two months –– when you’re a point to engage again with the world, almost, maybe, mostly –– reread the list from Step 10. Pick something you want and make yourself do it, even though it might still be scary. You can’t be the type of person who does such-and-such unless you just do such-and-such.
  14. Be a person who does such-and-such.

Filed under how-to recovery crawling then walking do such-and-such

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How to Strip Your Way Across the Country

from the story of story

i’ve gotten some requests asking me to outline exactly how i stripped my way cross country. today i received a very compelling email asking for some tips and tricks. though all my techniques are buried in the depths of the last several years of this blog i will outline them as simply as i can now. this post will not detail HOW TO BE A STRIPPER, there is plenty of material and opinions floating around the ether webs about how to shave your pussy, point your toes and move slowly as well as conversation techniques to sell lapdances. this post is about the finer details of travel stripping.

1. pick your town – probably it’ll be the one you end up in.

2. call all the local strip clubs and try to find out if they will accept a travel girl, when you can audition and any local rules. some states require that you register with local government agencies. i never worked at those clubs. understand if you need to have a specific type of underwear (some clubs don’t allow g strings, etc).

2a. literally i called and this is what i said, “hi i’m a traveling dancer and i’m coming through town for several days and hoping to audition for your club. do you accept traveling girls?” besides no-answer calls, i never got turned down though i’m sure had i tried in certain stripper-saturated cities i might have been turned down more. if possible call a week ahead of time. due to the way i travel this was rarely possible and i often called the night before and/or the day of and was still able to work.

2a. if you can’t get a hold of any managers through phonecalls, go to the club and ask during their open hours. i only did this once.  i was able to reach the club by phone every other time.

2b. you can track down the numbers for local strip clubs using yelp or i often will use a large mile radius variable to see where in the state i can find clubs.

note: i usually chose to dance in smaller towns because there was usually a more relaxed and free flow hiring process. be prepared to show your driver’s license and/or tits and/or on-stage dancing techniques. if a manager asks for you to show him your lapdancing skills, feel free to say no and/or leave.

3. be quiet, be respectful, be prepared. every stripper knows that walking into a dressing room situation cold, is not the most comfortable experience. introduce yourself. smile. come prepared with all sorts of stripper things so that when a girl asks if anyone has scissors to cut off her tag you can help out. don’t ask for their help. the first night can be a little rough as you feel out the personalities in the room – when in doubt mind your own business, don’t get involved in local drama, don’t get drunk, defer to local girls even if they’re being slightly outrageous. you’re on their turf.

3a. being prepared includes bringing an ipod and/or cd’s with the music you like, if at all possible. some of the smaller clubs i worked at didn’t provide music for afternoon shifts.

4. remind the manager/house mom/dj etc that you have never worked in this state and all states do things differently. ask for an explanation of rates, dance areas, local rules, club customs, tip-out expectations, etc. asking smart questions will gain you respect.

5. i always made enough to pay my stage fee but had i not, i would have told the manager that i didn’t have cash on me and bailed. fuck a club where you can’t make stage fee and try another.

Continue reading…

Filed under how-to road trips stripping