Taking the Cure

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17—# of different configurations of family photographs taken.

8—# of different types of salads Trish prepared to go with the Tri-tip.

8—# of times a family member asked Brie about her aborted engagement attempt. One for every salad.

47—# of consecutive minutes Brie listened to Ana and Collette shit-talk Bernice while puzzling over their father's ability to find a woman who so closely resembles their mother.

5—# of times Brie felt a looming presence behind her and turned around to find Vinnie standing there.

3—# of times Grammy Birdie told Brie to go freshen everybody's drinks.

7—# of times people asked Brie if she read Brent's wife Jillian's article in the July issue of Harper's.

0—# of people who asked Brie about her own career.

21,072—# of new Twitter followers Alaska acquired while at Burning Man, which, for the record, Trish and Chip would have NEVER allowed Brie to attend at seventeen.

The sky has darkened, along with Brie's heart, and Grammy Birdie, properly feted, has gone upstairs to bed. Those with families and decorum have departed, leaving a core group of residents and gadabouts in varying stages of intoxication, presently sitting around the crackling fire-pit in the backyard. Trish is ripped, having grandly satisfied her hostessing duties, and Chip is in the midst of a one-sided debate with his brother, Vincent Sr., about that socialist Obama and how he's to blame for everything from the post-9/11 economy to the rise of ISIS, and let's not even go there on Obamacare. What a goddamned fiasco!

Alaska sighs. "9/11 was an inside job and mass Satanic mega-ritual orchestrated by the global elite in homage to Aleister Crowley," she says, removing a spliff from her leather ankle pouch and sparking it up. "Who, incidentally, was Barbara Bush's father."

Everyone looks at her as though she is speaking Icelandic.

"Is that marijuana?" Chip asks her, subtly outraged.

Alaska takes a strong hit. "Yes, Chip, it is, but before you embark on some lecture about legality or gateway drugs or the age of my body, I have an announcement." She exhales a stream of smoke and takes another hit. "From this point forward, I will be embodying my most authentic self at all times and no external pressures or public scrutiny will alter my behavior. From here on out, I am who I am. In my week away at Burning Man, I was able to step into myself in ways most of you won't be able to comprehend. There is a world of truth and pure expression out there beyond the stricture of society, and I intend to dedicate my life to bridging the two." Alaska leans back on her palms and gazes up into the light-polluted heavens. "On my second night on the Playa, I was treated to a ceremonial dose of high-quality psychedelic mushrooms, where for the first three hours I descended deep into my spirit to crystallize the definition of my purpose. From there I emerged, like an acorn sprouting anew after a forest fire, and set out in a pair of phoenix wings someone had fitted me with to spread the word of my spiritual arrival. By midnight, I stood atop the highest flaming tower preaching a new vision for society before ten thousand people, maybe more. I can't recall the particulars, but I invite you to watch my moment on YouTube. If you just go to the homepage, I'm heavily trending. My socio-futurist articulation was apparently so profound that I've been invited to give a talk next weekend at Esalen. Mom, I'm going to need to borrow your car. Some Swedish Social Philosophy Professor was especially interested in my seven-year relationship contract, wherein matrimony is abolished to make way for more sustainable commitment blocks, the theory being that most relationships see diminishing returns after seven years, thereby damaging both parties and all relationship constituents. At the end of the contract, the parties are given the opportunity to either renew or walk away without the stigma of social failure." Alaska takes another drag and passes the joint to her Uncle Vincent, who takes it but doesn't seem to know what to do next. "You see, my observations of traditional marriages suggest absolute stagnation after the age of forty, unless both parties are able to consistently reinvent themselves professionally and thereby dramatically increase their personal happiness and sexual appeal."

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