anna metcalf
Artist Adventurer!

99 Problems But A Fucking Brain Squirrel Ain’t One (Anymore!)

I can’t be the only one. Ever get a Brain Squirrel?

Let’s be clear – I’m not talking about squirrel brains, you guys, that’s totally gross. And apparently, squirrel brains are an overlooked delicacy, but I don’t buy it. It can give you Mad Cow Disease. Mad Fucking Cow Disease, ok? Besides, they’re totally gross. I’m an open-minded individual, but I have to draw the line at squirrel brains. Just writing about it makes me queasy. Brb – gotta hurl.

Instead, I’m talking about Brain Squirrels – when that negative inner voice has hijacked my brain, it leaves me feeling, well, like I have Mad Cow Disease. Except this kind is preventable.

It all started after my last job ended. It happens every time. I fight these crazy feelings of what-the-fuck-am-I-doing and my brain just starts this spinning, whirling, constant squirrel in my brain that’s tryin’ so fucking hard to get a nut – *any nut* that everybody (except it) can see the forest of nuts just out of the squirrel’s tunnel vision.

But you know what?  I realized that that’s what my ole brain is up to. And now I’m watching you, brain, got that?

Sometimes my brain whispers horrible things to me – like:
What’reyougonnadotomakemoney, huh?
You’re wasting your time.
You’re old.
What if no one reads this book you’re writing?
You’ll have to figure out a way to make money. Now.

(****OK – these ‘voices’ are not like crazy voices, ok? If you have crazy voices, get some help – or come sleep in the streets in Venice, that’s what a lot of other people with crazy voices do.)

But I realized that these brain squirrels had taken over my normally pleasant and kind thought patterns. I remembered some good advice from my friend Elissa. Her voice glowed when she said, “Anna, do you ever use positive affirmations?” I absolutely love my friend Elissa, love her precisely for her genuine, honey-dripping exuberance for everything. But my sarcastic self has a hard time getting behind the phrase ‘Positive Affirmations.’

My opinion? The name ‘positive affirmations’ really needs a good re-branding. When I think the words ‘positive affirmations’ like sparkling glitter getting pissed in the wind, it’s just really hard for me to take the name seriously. Sure, I’ll let ‘positive affirmations’ float right in on fairy toadstool and let it land in that pile of cow shit over there, thank you very much. ‘Positive affirmations’ makes it sound like I might be required to go do some yoga.

How about for my cynical intents and purposes we will refer to ‘Positive Affirmations’ as NICE SHIT TO SAY TO OURSELVES. 

Brain: I got my eye on you. I found a list somewhere on the net of 100 bits of  NICE SHIT TO SAY TO MYSELF to answer those awful brain questions. (The brain squirrel wants to talk in parenthesis. What a bitch.)

– I may be one of 7 billion, but I’m one in 7 billion. (That is the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!)
– I refuse to give up because I haven’t tried all possible ways. (That’s very long.)
– I do not settle for meaningless, boring or frustrating work. (But you have for 14 years!)
– I choose to fully participate in my day. (I can actually kinda get on board with that.)

Aha! And so we have a start.

– I let go of worries that drain my energy for no good reason. (Preach!)
– I am in complete charge of planning for my future. (OK. But still scary.)
– Everything always works out for my highest good. (Yes! So true!) (I’m lucky!)
– The answer is right before me (squirrels are in the way!) even if I’m not seeing it yet.
– I believe in my ability to unlock the way. (I do.)
– I am more than good enough and getting better every day. (Cue Stuart Smiley: And gosh darn it, people like me!)
– I press on because I believe in my path. (Fuck! It’s so true!)
My path has never lead me astray.
I added that last part.
And one last one.

#99 (like 99 problems but a FUCKING BRAIN SQUIRREL AIN’T ONE)

– All that I need come to me at the right time and place in life.
Yep, it always does.

I used all that NICE SHIT TO SAY TO MYSELF for about a week. None of it stuck, but one thing did. Every single time the brain squirrel would try to take over, I’d just would imagine me petting it and simply saying, “You’re ok, everything’s ok.”

And you know what? THAT worked.

What works for you guys? Artist Adventurers have to be vigilant to keep the creativity sucking vampiric Brain Squirrels at bay, so let’s help one another out here.


The Day I Almost Ran Over A Banker In My Hooptie-Mobile

These days, everyone hates bankers, but I decided one day to take it a step further.

But in my defense, he kinda had it coming. I don’t even know his name, but I knew him all right; I knew him on sight. I knew him from the day I went in to analyze the perks of getting a new kind of account at Chase (because I’m a money dork).  This guy, pasty and creepy and with a huge fakey jack-o-lantern grin, was not a genuine person interested in answering my questions. He was interested in speaking to me like a child and trying to sell me a high interest credit card. I’m the exact wrong person to try to hornswoggle into debt. I kept asking about the high interest savings account and he just sat there sweating profusely, smiling and telling me why I needed a line of credit. I can’t stand people who waste my time, especially when it’s almost sunset I want to go roller skate.

So a couple months later, I’m driving past my bank, which I do on a daily basis because it sits on a little residential street where I can avoid a busy intersection with a red light. (Here in California, this kind of thing matters.) I’m rolling down the street in Bomb Diggity, my beloved $350 Gorilla-mobile   . . . and who do I see kinda sorta trying to jaywalk in front of me? That’s right . . . him. The sweaty, arrogant banker-man who represents to me in that moment every dirty trick that the entire banking industry is trying to pull on the public.

This ain’t Boston, where you can just dart out in front of oncoming traffic. This is LA, god-dammit, and unless you got a crosswalk, you don’t have shit, buddy, so I just kept on going. Besides he looked like he wanted to cross, but that he had decided to wait until I passed. My window was down and as I passed by, he scowled and yelled, “Asshole!” and flipped a couple fingers my way. Wrong fucking move. I’d had it with this guy. How dumb is he to yell at a person driving by? He still had his bank name tag on, for chrissakes. So I did the only thing I could do.

I slammed on the brakes, threw the stick shift in reverse and stomped the gas. I got a good look at his eyes in my rear view – lot of white and fear. He ran up to the side of his car, which was parked on the street and looked like he was about to climb on top of the hood. (I didn’t give him much room – I’m a precision driver like that.)

I opened my car door, took a deep breath, looked him dead in the eye and calmly said, “Good afternoon, WHAT exactly is your problem?”

That felt really good.


My neighbor, Lou Diamond Phillips

Or as I refer to him – to his face – LDP. (He’s my buddy, I can get by with that.)

It all started some time last year. I was at a storytelling show in my neighborhood and got invited to sit at a table with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I said hello to my new friends and the natural course of conversation shifted to where I live.

“I’m just around the corner,” I said.

Andrea, the girl across from me said, “Uh huh, go on, go on . . . where?”


“Really? Me too!” Andrea said. “Which end?”

“At the corner of 6th.”

Andrea’s eyes got huge. “Oh my god!!” she squealed. “Do you know who your neighbor is?”

“Yeah . . .” I said, confused as to why she’d be so excited. “Which one? I know all of my neighbors . . .”

“LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS!” she screams.  “He lives in that new modern house just up on 6th. Drives a white Volvo, I’ve seen him.”

That’s when I realized I was about to break my new neighbor-friend’s blissful star gazing bubble. For alas, I do know this Volvo driving dude and as good looking as he is, he’s not LDP. At least I’m pretty sure.

“I hate to break it to you,” I said. “He may look like Lou Diamond Phillips, but that’s just my neighbor Tommy. You’ve probably seen him walking his three gay dogs, too.”

Andrea, obviously a bit disappointed, “Yeah, I thought it might be weird for Lou Diamond Phillips to have three little dogs. But hey, what does your neighbor do for a living anyway??”

“I don’t know.”

I could almost see Andrea’s bubble re-inflate.  “You don’t know??! How could you not know?”

“I don’t make it a habit to ask my friends and neighbors what they do for a living,” I said.

“Well . . . then. Ma-a-aybe it IS Lou Diamond Phillips! Maybe he just says his name is Tommy, you know, for like, a cover.”

She refuses to believe that my neighbor is anyone other than Lou Diamond Phillips. I think it’s a  fine rumor to perpetuate in the neighborhood. I told Tommy about his doppelganger.

And ever since then, Tommy has taken to wearing shades and ditching papparazzi. So, who knows? Maybe my neighbor is LDP. Except for those dogs . . . what kind of dogs do you think LDP would have around? Who’s your celebrity doppelganger?




Fly Sex – Happy Hump Day!

Happy Hump Day!



Disco Call Helps You Find Your People – Every Time

A few years ago, my sister fell in love with a brash Boston-ite. So, snow be damned, she decided to pack up her brood of three young boys and high-tailed it to Massachusetts to start a new life.

I had helped them move and stayed for a week in hopes to help everyone adjust to the new place. My nephews weren’t so excited about the move and had become prone to bouts of silence, temper tantrums and general moodiness. I took them to Salem one grey, half-rainy afternoon.

We explored the outskirts of town, walking the side of a lonely highway and tried to ignore the mist that collected on our jackets. My oldest nephew Josh ran ahead of all of us and began to kick rocks as hard and fast as he could. The littlest one, Jason, lagged behind with sad shoulders. And the middle one, Jake, just looked up at me with big eyes and said, “I don’t have any friends here, Aunt Banana.”

It was then that I knew what I must do. I yelled for Josh and Jason and gathered everyone around in a huddle. “OK, guys,” I said. “No matter where you are in the whole entire world, even if you don’t know a single soul, there is ONE sure-fire way to find your people.”

Their eyes were huge. “How?” said Josh suspiciously.

“Easy,” I said. “The disco call.” I did it for them. “O-wah! O-wah!” They looked at me like I was crazy. “Just practice it,” I said. “You’ll see.”

We kept walking. There was nothing around except an old run down gas station with an attached mechanic’s garage. A coin operated bait machine out front read “Live Worms and Crickets.”

Josh resumed his post ahead of the pack and as he kicked another rock down the shoulder of the muddy road, it seemed like he didn’t kick so hard, or with as much anger. Instead he practiced his disco call. “Owah! Owah!” he said softly at first a few times. Then as he got the hang of the vocalizations, he became more brave until finally, he belted the Disco Call out perfectly and LOUD! It echoed off the gas station and the surrounding trees.

Josh stopped and turned to look at me, his toe digging the ground. “See – nothing happened,” he said. His younger brothers looked up at me out of the hoods of their rain jackets as if to say, “See?”

I stood there looking back at them as mist caught me right in the eye, not knowing what to say. I just wanted my nephews to not be sad anymore . . . when the magic happened. I looked up just in time to see a mechanic clad in greasy overalls, giant wrench in hand, come running out of the garage, looking frantically all around . . . for someone . . . he looked right at us and wailed . . .

“O-wah! O-wah!”

I smiled and waved back. The mechanic shook his wrench twice at us and disappeared back into the garage, as if part of a mirage, while my nephews caught rain water in their open, disbelieving mouths.

I came back to visit a couple of years later. I took them to a museum. Jason, the youngest, got separated from us. I asked Jake to help me find him. “Easy,” he said. “O-wah! O-wah!”

And from faraway, I hear my youngest nephew’s muffled disco call in reply.

Top Ten Tales

A lot of you have never stopped by before – so THANKS for checking out what I’ve got to say. Here are a few of my favorite stories from the past few years, all in one convenient post.

1. How I Finally Snagged Matt

2. Near Bus Crash

3. Bomb Diggity, The Beloved Jalopy

4. Macho Man

5. Black Friday Pimp N Ho Action

6. Roadside Pissing

7. More Venice Action

8. What is an Artist Adventurer anyway?

9. Camel-Sexy!!!

10. Some Insight as to My Family Drama

Random Barfly With Scissors

Last night, when I left the house, my hair was long. I had no solid plans to change that. And then we went to The Cozy Inn Bar …

A guy wearing a beer distributor’s t-shirt walks into the bar. He’d been tryin’ to chat my friend Liz up for nearly a half hour. Finally he gets her attention, kind of joins our little group. Turns out he’s a nice guy. Turns out – aside from being a beer distributor with crazy punked out blue and pink hair – that he also likes to cut hair.

 “Let me cut your hair,” he says to me.

 “OK,” I said. And we all went back to his place down the street.

Bomb Diggity!

“That is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Matt. “I can’t believe you brought that home.”

“Yeah, me either.” I said.

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Ten years ago I made a solemn vow to never be in debt again, especially for a car. I wasn’t playing around, I meant that shit.

Then, a couple of years ago, having just returned from South America flat busted broke and in need of a job, my car threw a rod. In LA, to work, you gotta have a car, right? I mean, how else could I shlep the hour and a half drive each way to get ‘over the hill,’ every single day to Burbank?

I could hardly wait to march down to a car dealership and sign the next four years or more of my life away so I could be a slave to a car payment. And never be able to save money to travel. And be stuck in an endless cycle of working and driving long distances to get there, all to pay for a car. Fuck that, I drew a line in my west side Venice beach sand.

I was lucky enough to find a freelance job in Santa Monica and I rode my bike to work for the next three months, and saved all my money. I like having money in the bank. It’s much nicer than not having money in the bank. I didn’t want to blow my whole load of meager savings on a car, a thing that always depreciates in value. So, I started going every Tuesday morning to an LAPD car auction in Marina Del Rey.

One Tuesday morn, I walked into the tow yard with $1500 in cash. I’d learned a lot after a month of car auction investigation, mostly that there is a whole industry of greasy, sleezy car dudes who scour these auctions looking for great deals on cars to flip. I watched them quietly, took notes, asked a few regulars some well thought out questions, avoided the people who muttered to themselves, and now I was ready.

No car stood out above the rest that day. During the pre-inspection, I noted several cars with potential. I laughed at the plaid seats  of a high-mileage, early 80’s rusted out Toyota hatchback full of car maintenance supplies. The auction started and when they got to the plaid-seated car, the auctioneer smiled and said, “She’s a runner!” and sure enough, they produced a key and cranked that old car right up.

You have to act fast at these auctions. I didn’t really have time to think about it. The only people bidding on this little car were the junk yard guys and I couldn’t let them take it away. I raised my hand to bid and five seconds later, for $350, I was the owner of a dirty, old-man car filled with lotto tickets and cigarette butts. We named her Bomb Diggity. Diggity for short.

I never expected it to last more than two months. Here it is, a year and a half later still going. I’ve cleaned her up – no, I didn’t check all the lotto tickets to see if there was a winner. (So many people ask me about that, I don’t get it.) But last week, I let artist Isabelle Alford-Lago paint blonde gorillas on it. Why?

Why not?


Macho Man Finds Darkest Spot In Road

Armed with nothing except the pithy beam of a dying headlamp, ill-fitting cheap plastic flip-flops and the will to NOT pay for a taxi cab, Matt and I tromp unwittingly into danger in the complete darkness on the road leading out of Santa Teresa in hopes of finding Shangri-La. We heard that the hot springs on the edge of town were amazing . . . and open late . . . and sparsely populated after the 8 o´clock hour.

Rudely awakened from my pre-hot springs nap by the cry of, ¨Ultimo combi para los aguas calientes!¨ or Last combi to the hot springs, I  wipe the drool off my face, grab a sarong and get out the door, but the combi is long gone. A cab offers to drive us there, wait for a couple of hours and drive us back, but the charge is steep and I don´t want to be locked into a finite amount of time at the hot springs.

So, we decide to walk it. As soon as we leave the sparse light of the boomtown of Santa Teresa, the sharp rocks in the dark road begin to poke through our flip-flops. ¨Have I mentioned how much I fucking HATE flip-flops??!¨ Matt says over and over, laughing. Turns out that we were like babes in the woods. We had no clue how dangerous that boulder filled road was. Sure, I had an inkling . . .  after all, we were walking down a steep grade.

I ponder for a moment how we are going to get back up the mountain after a few hours of relaxing in the hot springs, but then dismiss it. I find that these types of details usually just take care of themselves. I also have no bathing suit with me, but I don´t care about that either . . . We have no cares in the world . . . well, except the rocks that are tattering our lilly white  toes . . . but we are laughing about that too.

We stumble down the dark road for nearly forty minutes. We know we are getting close because we see the lights to the hot springs looming in the distance. I see a car above us, twisting and turning slowly on the road, and can hear the crunch of rock beneath the tires. ¨Hey,¨ I say to Matt. ¨Watch out, there´s a car coming . . . it´s far away, though.¨ And on we walk.

Suddenly, the car comes around a tight curve and is very close. ¨Here it comes!¨ I said as I point my weak head lamp light toward the edge of the road so we can find a spot to wait as the car passes. Unfortunately, we are walking on the right-hand edge of the road, the side facing the wide open canyon. Obviously, we weren´t thinking . . . otherwise we would have been walking on the left-hand side of the road, the safe side of the road, the side built up against the mountain.

It all happened so fast. The car swings around the curve. We are in the head lights and a split second later as the headlights speed past . . . Matt disappears. I hear him grunt and in the last second of the car´s light, I see his head disappear right off the edge of the road. I have no idea how far he fell . . .

I scream as the car passes us in a flurry of dust and red tail lights. ¨Matt!¨ I yell. I am shaking. I am scared. The car grinds to a halt. The doors fly open and silhouettes of people run toward me. By the time the people get to me, Matt is up, on the road and has only one flip-flop on his foot.

¨Todo bien?¨ the people ask over and over again. Someone retrieves the lost flip-flop. Matt wasn´t even aware that he was standing in the road with only one shoe. Someone points to a cut on his toe, but he´s not aware of that either. Other than a bit groggy, thankfully, he seems OK.

But then he says, ¨Shine the light here,¨ and lifts up his shirt to reveal an already dark purple mass on his ribcage about 6¨ wide.

He escaped with no broken ribs, only a deep tissue bruise. Good thing we were on our way to the hot springs . . . he thinks that´s what saved him from what should have been really painful. It all turned out OK. The family who stopped to help us gave us a lift to the hot springs and took us home later too. I am conviced they are the nicest people in Santa Teresa – and the mom runs a kickin´ juice stand during the day.

¨What were you thinking?¨I ask Matt later. ¨Why did you run ahead, out of the beam of the flashlight?¨

¨Well,¨ he replied. ¨I was just trying to get out of the way, so I stepped into the darkest spot on the side of the road.¨

We went back to the springs the next day while it was still daylight. Let´s just say it´s a good thing that he didn´t fall when we were high up on the mountain road, because there was nothing but sheer cliff edge for most of the way to the springs. He fell off the lowest part of the road, the part nearly level with the valley floor. The hole he fell in was the only hole in the entire stretch of  road – a 6´ square man-made hole of layered rock probably used for water drainage.

The next day as we slurped freshly blended juice, the kind juice lady asked, ¨What are you all doing today . . . he´s probably hurting bad.¨

¨Going on a hike, ¨I said. ¨I can´t believe it either, but he wants to go climb a mountain.¨

¨Ooooh,¨ the juice lady smiled, ¨A macho man.¨

Peru Will NOT Protect You From Yourself

Peru will NOT protect you from yourself . . . it´s kind of refreshing actually.

For instance – walking down the street can be hazardous. That is, if you don´t pay attention. On just about every city block there are great big gaping holes in the sidewalk from where someone has stolen a manhole cover or a utility panel. Sometimes these holes are a few inches deep and full of trash. Sometimes they are a few feet deep. Never are they cordoned off.

And hiking is still fun and adventurous in this country. Several times we´ve scooted across flimsy little bridges made of rotting bamboo poles that groan and creek when we step on them. Hand holds are a luxury. A couple of times we´ve encountered wooden ladders nailed into the sides of mountains that stretch up more than the equivalent of six stories. You can´t see the end of them, you just keep climbing and never look down . . . the wood is green with mold and kind of slick to the touch and every once in awhile a rung has rotted away.

Sometimes there are exposed electric wires coming out of the shower head . . . Matt got a shock the other day. Eh, it happens. Building permits are unheard of, so anything goes. A friend of ours has a staircase made out of wood slats about the thickness of veneer . . . good thing he´s not too fat.

Nope, no one in Peru is going to hold you by the hand and alert you to the dangers in the streets, houses or on the mountaintops. You have to take care of yourself, use your brains, keep your eyes open and alert . . . and not do dumb shit.