Ask Zisi: Zac Crain’s D Magazine Advice Column

The debut.

If you know me, you are no doubt aware of two things, because I have probably taken the liberty of making you aware of them: I’m a fantastic highway driver, and I’m great at giving advice. (I’m terrible on surface streets, and I have a lengthy, undistinguished record of not taking advice.) I can’t take all of you on road trips — maybe one or two of you — but I can give advice. Hence, Ask Zisi. I didn’t pick the name, but others in the office seemed enamored with it, so. I’ll be answering your questions every Wednesday. Send me an email with “Well, if I isn’t Coach Eric Taylor” in the subject line, and I’ll answer as many as I can. First up, we have “C” from downtown Dallas.

Dear Zisi,
It’s time for some spring cleaning. First up: closet. How do you go about trimming your wardrobe to a manageable size? What are the basics every woman should have?

I rarely have to tackle this problem for two reasons. One, other than a somewhat pricy affection for high-end sneakers and fondness for jackets and coats, I tend to dress in a uniform that is simple and easy to replace, and doesn’t tend to last long; the cycle is roughly two years. Two, I err on the side of throwing things out too early (almost always to my own regret), so my closet never gets too cluttered. But I get it.

Trimming to manageable size is easy, but if you want to do it right, you need a trusted advisor. It doesn’t have to be your chief of staff, but definitely someone in your cabinet. Definitely not your mom or dad, and also not anyone you’ve dated or fooled around with or anyone who has hopes to date or fool around with you. For various reasons, none of those people mentioned will give you the real talk you need.

So, with a friend, open your closet. You already know the trouble zones, so go straight to them. Go one by one. If it’s not seasonal and you haven’t worn it in six months, think of ditching it. It was probably an impulsive mistake in the first place. If it’s seasonal — sweaters and such — and you haven’t worn it in a full year, again, think of ditching it. You need to go in prepared to get rid of everything. Your friend is there to talk you into or out of it.

Basics: trick question, even if you didn’t mean it that way. Every woman is different. Generally speaking, a pair of jeans you always looks good in; a pair of jeans you always feel good in; a jacket that can be dressy or casual, depending on what you wear with it; a fancy dress; a less fancy dress; a completely non-fancy dress (provided you wear dresses at all); one pair fancy shoes; one pair non-fancy shoes; one pair completely non-fancy shoes; boots for when it’s cold and/or you don’t feel like shaving your legs; and one thing everyone hates but you love.

Last thing: if you’re keeping something for sentimental reasons, it should be in storage, not your closet.

Dear Zisi,
My neighbor has a Great Dane; let’s call the dog “Kourtney.” Anyway, this velociraptor of a dog spends much of the weekends on our shared front lawn, and often craps all over it. Like, massive, mountainous craps. Craps that I honestly couldn’t imagine coming from a bear, never mind a dog. The front lawn of the triplex is bisected by a sidewalk, so I don’t usually walk on her side of the yard. And she always picks them up eventually. But sometimes these beehive-size craps sit there for a day or two. What do I do?

When I was a janitor at an elementary school, the third- and fourth-grade teachers had to move their classrooms and their contents to a new wing of the school. Most of the teachers packed up their desks and so on into boxes, and some even moved most of the stuff themselves, leaving me and the guy who worked with me to move the desks, which were all gigantic steel steamship-size monstrosities. Which was fine, because that was our job. One teacher went the other way, and instead of taking everything out of her desk, she packed as much into it as possible, so we would do all the moving for her. A mistake? No. She openly laughed about it. So — and I’m not super-proud of this, but it happened — after moving her desk into her room, which was like dead-lifting a Fiat for 20 minutes, I took my revenge. I carefully opened one of the breakfast bars she kept in her desk, crammed in a roach I found near the front door, and carefully re-sealed the packaging. I don’t really know what happened. But she was nicer after that.

Am I advocating you follow the example of a callow 20-year-old in a moment of back-pain-induced poor judgment? No, especially not as it relates to your particular problem, as dog crap was at the heart of the disagreement that left two people dead last year. I don’t know your neighbor, but here is what I suspect: she’s lazy, not mean. You have two choices: You could be straightforward, but with a slight twist. The next time you run into her in a common area, ask about the health of the dog. If she’s like, “Oh, fine, why do you ask?” then you have an opening to say, “I don’t know, I was just wondering. The size of some of his poops in the front yard had me concerned.” That should shame her enough to make the pickups more regular. Or, you could be even more straightforward: buy a box of dog-poop bags and leave them at her front door. No note. Notes can be taken the wrong way.

Dear Zisi,
I admire your Instagram photos of unsuspecting people. I would love to replicate this but cannot for the life of me figure out the proper technique. How can I take a picture of a complete stranger without them knowing?
C (again)

This is actually really simple. 1) Instead of holding your hands on your phone the way you do when you take a totally permissible photo, hold your hands how you do when you’re checking Instagram or Twitter or sending a text. 2) Don’t hold the phone up any higher than mid-chest and don’t try to zoom. Let the camera do the work. 3) Pretend, before and after, that you are typing. Basically you’re twiddling your thumbs behind your phone. 4). Do not immediately try to post it to Instagram. You will probably be caught. Also, sometimes you see a great shot and the moment passes, then you try to chase it. Don’t. You’ll get caught that way, too.


  • Wick Allison

    I’ll read anything that begins with “When I was a janitor at elementary school…”

  • trixie

    As janitor, did you sprinkle the magic vomit dust when a kid puked?

    • Zac Crain

      Indeed I did, trixie. It’s basically just cat litter. Also, the power of industrial-strength cleaning products makes anything you can buy at a store look like a damp washrag.