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Synthesis - Columns

From 2008 to 2015 I wrote a weekly column for Synthesis Weekly under the name Zooey Mae. What started as an outlet to review graphic novels and comic books evolved over the years to cover everything from pop culture to whatever menial event was happening in my life. Looking back, I think I spent much too much time regaling Chico with tales of my allergies. 

Stranger Danger

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: July 2014

With the weather hitting triple digits last week, I guess it’s safe to say that summer is officially here. Arguably the cornerstone(s) of summer, the Thursday Night Market (AKA come downtown and rub shoulder sweat with every other asshole in town), and One Mile, have been at full capacity just about every day. I don’t swim in One Mile, because the thought of being in the same giant outdoor bathtub with so many strangers and the various fluids excreting from them, makes me a little sick. This isn’t an “I’m better than than them” situation, I actually kind of envy the ability to ignore the microbial nightmare that is One Mile. This is simply yet another example of my broken brain sucking the potential fun and normalcy out of my life.

I’ve been called a germaphobe on a number of occasions, but I do not agree with that assessment. I think the hard-hitting notion of “stranger-danger” just took on a different and more concentrated focus in my life than the one it’s supposed to. It’s hard to say what triggered it exactly. It could have been that time when I was a little kid and a hobo sitting on a curb in San Francisco sneezed into my open eyes and mouth, then laughed. Maybe. I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist.

Anyway, back to summer. I was sitting on the grass at One Mile the other day, watching the churning froth of that people-dog-bacteria soup, when I saw something that filled my broken brain with joy; the snack bar was open! As a person who had their childhood largely in the ‘90s, are there really any other two words in the English language that so completely embody summer as “snack bar”? No. No there aren’t. (“Otter Pop” may be a distant second.)

I can recall being dragged to dozens of my parents’ softball games in the summer throughout my childhood. While my parents warmed up and shot the proverbial shit with their weirdo softball buddies, my older brother and I devised ways to slip into my dad’s truck to sneak quarters out of the center console to buy peach rings, Fun Dip, and beef jerky from the snack bar. We’d run back and forth through clouds of kicked-up dust, the air thick with the heady scent of heat mixed with bubblegum, hot dogs and sweat, high on sugar and the freedom of summer. After our initial high stakes heist (75 cent maximum for each of us), we’d post up by the dugout and divvy up our purchases, while trying to hide them from our parents. I haven’t actually purchased anything from a snack bar in over a decade, but the very idea of them still being a thing that exists makes me really happy. It’s the little things. Happy summer, you guys.

Arielle Mullen