Dec 212014
 

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After looking at our fair share of medical anomalies at the Mütter (thanks, Chooch, for your gripping recap of our experience there), I reminded Terri that she promised we could eat at Blackbird, a vegan pizza joint where meat-averse people like me can enjoy a slice without worrying about pepperoni juice spill-over.

I don’t know what part of Philly it’s in because I don’t live and didn’t pay attention to how far we drove from the Mütter, except that we were lucky enough to find a parking spot that wasn’t too far away, but just far enough that Terri got to point out a street that’s on the cover of a Cinderella album. This is the shit that I want to know when I’m being a tourist! I mean, OK the Liberty Bell is cool, I guess, but I was more interested in seeing where Mannequin was filmed.

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Tantalizing! Chooch tried to act like he didn’t care but I saw him turn back around to get one last boob-ogle.

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Because Terri excels at pointing out places of interest (unlike me in my own city; I’m  the worst! “I don’t know what that building is…um…maybe a strip joint?”) I got to see what remains of Zipperhead, a much better Hot Topic-type store that was so cool it was referenced in a Dead Milkmen song. It sounds like it was a real institution in the Philly punk scene. We have a store similar to that in Pittsburgh—Slacker—that was the fucking shit when I used to shop there in high school, but now it’s super lame. I used to buy Lip Service clothes, crazy rings, and Fantasia cigarettes that emitted colored smoke when lit. I popped in briefly over the summer and was saddened by a rack of Yinzer-themed novelty t-shirts. God, Slacker was my jam back in the day, and I can only imagine how much I would have loved Zipperhead too.

The Internet ruins everything.

Onward to Blackbird!

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Can I just tell you how amazing it feels to not be the outsider at a restaurant for once? Usually it’s all, “Oh, I’m sure I can find a salad on the menu, don’t worry” when I’m out with carnivores—I even brought a sandwich to work on the day of our office holiday party). But at Blackbird, everything is vegan and I had the hardest time ordering because for once, everything was an option. I was hoping Henry was going to cry bacon-flavored tears onto the table when his faux-meat pizza was served, which launched him into a defensive monologue about how he likes seitan, it’s only tofu that he hates. OK tough guy. (He really did eat the crap out of an order of root beer wings, so there you have it: a real blue-collared meat eater, dispelling the myth that vegan food is shit.

Seitan is everything.

So is Satan, but that’s a post for my secret 666 blog.

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I ordered this chicken parm-type of sandwich and it made my heart so happy. Everything about it was on point, and I was so stuffed before I even got halfway through the second half, but I powered through it and then could barely walk back to the car later. Ugh, I wish this place was in Pittsburgh.

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Chooch hated his pizza because it wasn’t ice cream.

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A nightmarish window display.

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There was an antique shop that I wanted to check out on the way back, and before anyone could stop him., Chooch whipped the door open, arousing about 150 years worth of dormant dust particles, and forged ahead. Unfortunately, the available foot path inside this shop was approximately two feet across, both sides lined floor to ceiling with unimaginably-priced breakables. Chooch was wearing a parka and I was hissing at him to stop and wait for us, but he is so fucking stubborn that he just kept speed-walking through the store and my mind started racing, thumbing through all of our available options at taking out a loan on a Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia when we were presented with a $65, 900 bill for damages.

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An old man emerged from a cavern of gaudy lamps and followed Chooch, who was now standing at the foot of a staircase. “You don’t go up there without your mother,” the man growled and Chooch knew he was fucked. So then there was this awkward stand-off, where Henry and I were begging Chooch to turn around and come back, while the old man stood there glaring at us, and poor Terri was kind of just caught in the middle of it all and I kept hoping that maybe the man thought Terri was Chooch’s mom. I kept saying, “PLEASE GO OUTSIDE WITH DADDY” and Chooch, who was suddenly uber interested in chandeliers that would give Liberace’s interior designer a boner that no prescription of Viagra is capable of, just kept standing there in a swirl of vintage must. I was braced for A Scene (like, even more than we were already in the middle of), but Henry finally coaxed Chooch out of the store and I was able to breathe again, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing because OMG the dust.

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Even with Chooch out of the store, Terri and I were already marked. I felt that man’s angry eyes on us the entire time we expressed genuine appreciation at the haunted clocks and sconces, and I really wanted to go upstairs because I’m certain we would have unearthed The Neverending Story book. But I was pretty anxious to get away from the proprietor. When we reached the back of the store, Terri and I both nearly knocked shit over trying to turn back around. A fucking waif would have had to walk sideways in that shop.

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On the way out, I tried to tell the man that I thought everything was beautiful, but I don’t think he accepted my compliment. Something about his angry, milky eyeballs just screamed, “Go back to Target, peasant.” Meanwhile, some lady was behind the counter on a personal call, laughing so hard that Terri thought she was crying, and then she referred to someone as a fucking shit, and there was just something about her that made the whole experience even creepier. I hate/love that shop so much.

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It was pretty late in the afternoon by this point, so we took Terri and Christian back home, and then checked into our hotel, where I had about an hour or so to rest before the Circa Survive show, because that’s what happens when you’re 35, I guess — it’s now necessary to “rest” before a show.

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Dec 202014
 

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Hi. It’s Saturday night. Janna is here and we’re talking about Serial (I miss it already!), Chooch is puttering around in the wheelchair, we decorated our Christmas tree that we just bought today, and now Henry is making us grilled cheese. Plus I found another beer that I can tolerate but it’s a winter shandy (Jolly Traveler) and numerous people have said “Haha stupid girl that’s not real beer” but it’s as real as this bitch gets.

Also, I’m wearing my new Emarosa hoodie that I pre-ordered (#obsessed) and I painted cat heads for fun and then Chooch claimed it.

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Overall, not the worst Saturday night.
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Dec 192014
 

You guys, today entertainment blogger Spencer Blohm is going to share some of his favorite unconventional Christmas flicks, so hopefully you’re done with all your holiday preparations/money hemorrhaging so you can just curl up on the couch all weekend and binge on some seasonal moving pictures.

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Some Christmas Films for Those Sick of It’s A Wonderful Life

Rudolph, Elsa and St. Nicholas have a monopoly on Yuletide entertainment. The same Christmas movies show year after year, swamping the airwaves and hogging the hearth. Now that you’ve got the tree up and all of that, Since when did tradition degrade into conformity? Break away from Bing Cosby and walk through a different wonderland with these six eccentric Christmas movies.

5. Ernest Saves Christmas

He’s back, Vern! Ernest P. Worrell, played by Jim Varney, is on a mission to replace the elderly Santa Claus – a difficult thing to do in sunny Orlando, especially when Santa (alias: Mr. Santos) has lost his magical bag of toys. The Santa-to-be, played by Oliver Clark, is auditioning for a C-level horror film called “Christmas Slay.” This holiday classic comes fully equipped with inflatable lawn decorations, a sleigh spaceflight, and just enough ho-ho-ho’s for the whole family.

4. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

For those who enjoy some horror with their hot chocolate, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” will send viewers scurrying for pillows to plug their chimneys. Following in the grand Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories in the swampy shadows of a Christmas fire, “Rare Exports” follows three reindeer herders who uncover the original Santa Claus in the windswept glaciers of Lapland, only to ruefully discover that he has no interest in bringing toys to well-behaved children. A black satire, the film won a confetti of awards and 3.5/4 stars from critic Roger Ebert.

3. Scrooged

Bill Murray plays Frank Cross in “Scrooged.” This underhanded black comedy reimagines Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” without ghosts proper. A taxi cab driver, a life-size pixie and a spectral television visit the ruthless Cross and reprogram his cold, calculating heart. Upon its release in 1988, it became the 13th highest grossing film of the year, thanks in no small part to the rousing soundtrack composed by Danny Elfman, the musical wizard behind Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The film enjoys enduring popularity, thanks largely to frequent matinees and DirecTV marathons throughout the month of December.

2. The Family Stone

Rife with award-winning performances, “The Family Stone” is a 2005 comedy-drama film that follows the inevitable bamboozles and shenanigans of an uptight career business woman caught in the midst of her boyfriend’s rambunctious family at Christmas time. A melodramatic romantic comedy, the film revels in the rhythm of domestic life and the screwball love it thrives upon. And what better time than Christmas to celebrate the odd, lovable nature of family, in spite (or partially because) of all the friction? Did we mention it has SJP?

1. Trading Places
With apologies to the timeless “The Prince and the Pauper” tale by Mark Twain, this 1983 comedy stars Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy as the desperate pawns of a social experiment. Murphy rises from the slum to become an investment broker, and Aykroyd falls from his Wall Street perch to steal meat as a Santa doppelganger. Little do they know that their fates are cast by two wealthy Duke brothers playing a bet. Even though the hijinks occur over the Christmas season, what cements the film as a holiday icon is the timeless message of equality, white or black, rich or poor.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas, and check twice if Santa comes knocking.

Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment and lifestyle blogger who lives and works in Chicago. So far this holiday season he’s managed to watch Elf three times but has yet to finish his Christmas shopping. You can follow him on Twitter at @bspencerblohm

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Dec 172014
 

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After acting like moderately civilized humans during the 45-minute tour of Nemacolin Castle, Corey and I were cracking up at the motherfucking wind blowing. I knew that the evening was about to spiral down a giggle hole when we sat in Janna’s car and I read Yelp reviews for local Brownsville establishments that weren’t meant to be funny but were giving us gelastic seizures. We had our heart set on the Chuckwagon because it had wood-paneled walls and looked like the sort of place where the townies would congregate, but they were closed, along with what seemed like every damn restaurant in Brownsville. Then Janna remembered some place she had eaten before near California, PA, which was nearby. She said it was on a hill and overlooked the shitty river, so Corey and I decided that this was the place we were meant to be, and Janna blindly got us there with only one incident.

“How do you know about this place?” I asked suspiciously as the car crunched to a stop in the near-empty lot.

“I don’t know,” Janna shrugged. “I used to be friends with someone who lived out this way and we ate here once.”

I DO NOT EVER REMEMBER HEARING ABOUT THIS PART OF JANNA’S LIFE. So I decided that Janna had a secret life in which she sold drugs in California, PA and then Corey and I cracked up at the thought of Janna rolling around with a beeper. Janna just frowned and didn’t seem to find this funny, probably because it was so close to the truth.

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It’s amazing she didn’t push us over this cliff.

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We walked into the Highpoint and immediately felt like outlanders. There was one table occupied by two old women, slurping their soup and eying us curiously over top of their spoons. One or two men sat at the bar, and a miserable, middle-aged waitress came over and sat us at a table in the corner. I did not get positive vibes from her and hated Janna for bringing us here. Luckily, though, we had a different, younger, friendlier waitress.

When we all ordered coffee, she smiled and said, “It’s a coffee kind of night.”

Corey waited for her to walk away before spewing laughter. And then I caught the giggle bug, so we sat across from each cracking up at a statement that wasn’t meant to be funny, while Janna continued to scrutinize the menu. After she brought our coffee, I decided that a picture of them was in order, but I waited too long and the waitress was walking back to our table. I panicked and took the picture in haste, not realizing until the last second that the stupid flash was on, so our entire table was illuminated just in time for her to take our order. It was pretty embarrassing, because I totally looked like some douchebag food blogger who was making mental notes to deduct half a star for differing coffee levels in the cups.

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I used this picture when I checked in on Facebook, and Corey kept going back to look at it, getting angrier and more disgusted each time.

“I just hate this picture so much,” he said about 30 minutes later, totally changing the subject when Janna was telling us some serious story about her job. “You didn’t even move the straw wrappers!”

“I’M SORRY, BUT I WAS RUSHED!” I cried defensively. I mean, I’m sorry, but I think we all know I can style a fucking Instagram photo of coffee mugs. This wasn’t my best effort! I regret it! If I could have a do-over, I would turn the flash off and clear the fucking table, maybe add a Polaroid frame and some heart bokeh, OK?!

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Picture of the loo for Alyson.

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I did, thanks.

There was some mystery birthday party going on in a separate dining room and I made Janna go and peek through the door. She said it looked boring, and that people were just kind of walking around and talking to each other. How can I be sure she really did peek in though? THAT’S THE THING. One of the party-goers was an older broad wearing the skankiest boots this side of the Bunny Ranch and I blatantly tried to take her picture before she disappeared into the mysterious dining room.

“Oh god, you didn’t even TRY to hide what you were doing,” Corey gasped. I really didn’t, either. It was almost as though I was drunk, but the last time I checked, my coffee was free of Bailey’s. The picture was blurry anyway, so I guess that’s what I get for being an obvious dickhead.

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I ordered from the kids menu, because GRILLED PB&J. The waitress said she didn’t blame me one bit because it’s delicious as fuck. And then sometime after our food was served, I started to choke on this damn sandwich because Corey and I both succumbed to full body mirth-convulsions. I literally had to hold my breath at one point, because every time I laughed, a fat wad of masticated sandwich lodged itself deeper in my though. I honest to god thought it was about to be a really bad situation, but then I managed to work it back up into my mouth until the laughter subsided. I was turned away from the table and hunched over, my whole face buried in my hands, tears running down my face, while Corey’s bombastic laugh echoed around the near-empty bar and the old women at the next table were probably gawking at us, I’m sure, but luckily Janna was blocking my view of them so I’ll never have to know how disappointed they were in Corey’s and my restaurant etiquette.

Janna just kept eating her dinner like nothing was going on, by the way.

“Janna, you should guest post on my blog,” I suggested.

“No, that’s OK,” she mumbled.

“You can write about what it’s like to hang out with me and Corey!” I cried happily, and then Corey made the restaurant jump with his loud outburst of laughter. Janna sighed.

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After dinner, we made Janna drive us through a small cemetery. It was OK.

But the real climax of the night was when Janna needed a nickel at the toll booth and we just lost our fucking minds over it and started Instavid’ing her and taking pictures and she started laughing too after the toll was adequately paid, but she seemed to not really understand what was so funny. I bet she was doing that “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic.

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#JannaPaystheToll #INeedaNickel

“What made us almost choke on our dinner, anyway?” I mused out loud after we had settled down somewhat.

Corey and Janna said they couldn’t remember and then about an hour it came to me, so I texted Corey: “It was because Janna was talking and I called her an idiot!” and then I started cracking up all over again, except by this point, I was home and Henry was glaring at me.

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Dec 162014
 

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This is about the time I went to The Mutter Museum. First, We went to Philly to visit our friends Terri and Christian. To get to the Mutter it took us 20 minutes from Terri and Christians house. We played Heads Up by Ellen DeGenerous  in the car. I won!

Next, We got to the city I saw the hockey stadium where the Flyers play I wanted to meet them so bad. They were playing the Carolina Hurricanes. Boo the Hurricanes. Go Flyers! I was so excited! I wanted to meet them so bad! If they lost I would die!

Last, We got to the Mutter. Me and Christian were pretty much partners the whole time. I went inside this What It Feels Like To Get Shot In The Arm machine and it was weird. Me and Christian were partners. Well not partners but I didn’t want to be with Terri, Goth Erin and Napkin Dispenser Forgetter. Goth Erin told me there were people making out. But I didn’t see them so I didn’t know. She was so mad because we were in a museum with gross stuff in it. They were making it even Grosser. Me and Christian saw Einstein’s Brain so I tried to see if I could see Math Answers.  Goth Erin saw drawers of everything Dumb People swallowed because  I don’t even know why people would swallow these thing. Screws, Nails, Toys, Pins, Buttons, Dentures and Teeth, Bones and that’s all I can remember. Goth Erin got sick after she saw a bunch of Eye diseases. Pink eye, Eye Cancer, Tumors, Beaten Up Eyes,  Big Eyes, and that’s is what I remember. Me and Goth Erin kept seeing Baby Weiners. Before we left we went to the gift shop. I got a Brown Liver Cell stuffed Microbe. He is so Cute his name is Sir_osis. I had a blast at the Mutter Museum!

Clearly, This about the time I went to the Mutter Museum in Philly.

PS. If you don’t know where the Mutter Museum is ask Siri. This is the response.

Sorry what is the Mutter Museum? If you want I can show every Eat n Park near you.

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Dec 152014
 

On our way to Carlisle (our stopping point before continuing on to Philly the next morning), we ate at the Summit Diner in Somerset.

We has the same waitress that Chooch and I had back in October when we stopped there with Janna after screaming our faces off at Huston’s Haunted Hollow. On that night, she started out totally annoyed, not even trying to pretend like she wasnt pissed we came in 30 minutes before closing. She eventually warmed up to us though. This time, however, she was overly kind and kept trying to make suggestions when we were ordering. Something about her seemed artificial, and I decided that she reminded me of Alison from The Affair, that Showtime series that I love/hate to watch. I get really upset about it and then start thinking of buying a cage so that Henry can never leave the house and deal with all those pesky temptations to philander. I mentioned that the waitress reminded me of Alison and Henry just rolled his eyes.

Henry asked the waitress for napkins and she tried her best to say “They’re right there” without sounding like a snide bitch, pointing to the napkin dispenser on the table. Chooch & I have eaten here before so we knew that already and oh how we laughed. “You’re such a n00b!” I cried and Henry frowned angrily while ripping obvious napkins out of the obvious dispenser.

Chooch & I spent the entire weekend idiotically blurting out, “Remember when daddy asked for NAPKINS?!” Henry was barely speaking to us Saturday morning, especially after we arrived at Christian and Terri’s for breakfast (they are way too good to us) and Henry sat RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE NAPKIN HOLDER. Terri swears she didn’t purposely put it in front of him. .

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Before we left the Summit Diner, Chooch–who was scarfing down his breakfast scramble like this was the first time we let him out in public since his picture was finally removed from the milk carton–began choking. And I mean CHOKING. You know when people say, “Oh so-and-so turned beet red because they were so embarrassed”? Well guess what, no they probably didn’t turn beet red. Maybe a slight rouge or coral. Because what I learned that night at the Summit Diner is that “beet red” is reserved for choking victims. I have never seen Chooch’s face that hue before, and it was teetering dangerously into the plum color family.

“HELP HIM!” I begged Henry, who was sitting next to him, but then Chooch slowly coughed up the mangled wad of cheesy bacon that had lodged itself in his throat. Relief washed over me and then I almost started crying. Henry was MAD.

“I TOLD you to chew!” he spat angrily and I was like “Our son nearly choked to death and you’re going to yell at him?”

Then our waitress came over and started wiping down the table behind Chooch. “You OK buddy? Yeah…” she said in an affirmative tone when he nodded yes.

And then it all came back to The Affair because in the first episode, that’s how the two cheaters meet: the guy is at a diner with his family and the girl is a waitress, and then the guy’s daughter starts choking on a marble, OMG.

So basically what this means is that Chooch choked and now Henry is going to cheat on me.
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Ugh and now while I’m typing this, Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” is on; that’s that’ll going to be Henry’s song with his mistress. FML.

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Dec 142014
 

12:22pm: Probably a dumb idea, but hey let’s liveblog home from Philly! We just said our sad goodbyes to our awesome friends Christian and Terri. Goodbyes are stupid. Chooch was like “Don’t think of saying goodbye; think about the next time you’ll meet.” How profound, I thought, until he finished with, “I read that in my Minecraft book.”

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12:44pm: Chooch was looking for his phone charger earlier and said, “Mine is big and black….HAHA THAT SOUNDED WRONG.” This is a real great age, guys.

1:13pm: Really? Henry just checked my water bottle for floaters before drinking out of it? #insulted #IWouldDoItToHimToo

1:27pm: GUESS WHERE WE ARE.

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1:54pm: My Babylon.

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Ohio Amish can go home now, because PA Dutch shoofly pie is EVERYTHING! I was worried that maybe I had built it up in my head (like I would EVER do that!) even though it’s only been two years since I was last at Dutch Haven, but no. Somehow it’s even better than I remembered.
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We bought a slice to eat there and also a whole pie to take home so that I can gorge on it and then never want another shoofly pie ever again in my entire life. (Won’t happen.)
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I didn’t want to tell Henry this, but on Friday, Glenn came back from lunch and said, “You know the deli downstairs has shoofly pie, right?” I let that sink in for a second and then figured he was fucking with me. “No really, go downstairs and look for yourself.” Ten minutes later I swiveled in my chair and said, “Yeah, but is it REAL shoofly pie or some bastardized Pittsburgh version of it?” Glenn sighed, “Yeah that’s exactly what the sigh said: Bastardized shoofly pie.” I didn’t go check it out for two reasons: I figured I would be disappointed (once you go PA Dutch blackstrap, you don’t go back), and I was afraid that if I ate shoofly pie on Friday, Henry would find out (there could be moles in my office, I don’t know!) and say, “Oh good! Now we don’t have to detour to Lancaster on Sunday.”
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Which I didn’t think he would actually do, by the way. When I asked him last week, he sighed and mumbled, “We’ll see.” THAT CAN GO EITHER WAY.
2:40pm: WE ARE AT A GAS STATION. I REPEAT, WE ARE AT A GAS STATION. Also, I finally put on something other than Circa Survive to help retain some of Henry’s sanity. Sigh.

2:48pm: Chooch keeps creepily whispering “Illuminati” in my ear from the backseat and it’s kind of scary. Also, I have no idea where we are but we just saw a big billboard for a store called Maple Donuts.

3:09pm: “Ain’t it Fun” came on and I pointed out the part that reminds me (some day inexplicably) of George Benson. “Let’s listen to George Benson next!” I happily cried and Henry
mumbled, “Like I have a choice.”

3:39pm: Got my George Benson fix and now this:

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CHUCK MANGIONE FOR LIFE.

4:00pm: Suggested that Chooch just write down his thoughts and mail them to me because I’m tired of hearing his shrill voice. I really should just write a parenting book, for Christ’s sake.

4:41pm: Just for back on the road after taking a rest stop by storm. I got mediocre pizza and immediately regretted it. Then on the way out, I whined that it got colder. Henry pointed out that we’re in the mountains and I said, “YOU’RE in the mountains.”

“Yeah, I AM in the mountains, dummy.” You win some, you lose some.

5:34pm: Thank you, Henry and Chooch, for running your mouths through my favorite Pierce the Veil song. Assholes.

5:48pm: Chooch & I have been bickering basically the whole way home off and on; I got so flustered toward the end of our last spat that I ended it by blurting, “GIRL BYE. HASHTAG GIRL BYE.” Ugh.

6:21pm: Welp, Professional Driver Henry nearly killed us by peeling out onto an exit ramp at the last possible second. Thank god for seatbelts. This sure snapped me right out of my daydream about Vic Fuentes writing a song about me. Sigh.

6:54pm: Are we there yet.
6:55pm: I’ve inhaled so many of Chooch’s farts in the last 7 hours that I’m afraid I’ve been conditioned to like it.

7:03pm: we’re home k bye.

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Dec 132014
 

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Today is my “oldest” friend Christy’s birthday! (She loves being referred to as my oldest friend.) Honestly though, we’ve been friends since we were, what—4? 5? At some point, she transitioned from best friend to sister. She practically lived at my house and was honestly nearly as crushed when my pappap died as I was, and without her standing next to me through it all, I’m not sure I would have been able to make it through the funeral home viewings. Barb loves to quote the line “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” from Steel Magnolias, and there is one distinct moment in my life that I always immediately think of, and that is sitting with Christy at the kitchen counter in my pappap’s house after he died, picking through various fruit baskets, and being so slap-happy that my grandma finally was like, “OK, you two need to leave!”

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I moved in second grade and the worst thing about it was that I was convinced I would never see Christy again. (We didn’t go to the same school, even when we were neighbors.) But luckily, the parentals were pretty amazing at carting our asses back and forth. I remember this one summer afternoon, swimming at my pappap’s house and being so surprised when he showed up with Christy in tow that I nearly cried of happiness.

We were junior bridesmaids in two weddings together: my aunt Susie’s and then my godfather Chris’s right after, because his fiancee thought we were so adorable in Susie’s wedding that she wanted us for hers too. I mean, duh. It’s weird to me that we never got anymore gigs together after that second one. I have a vague recollection of being in my grandma’s car after one of our fitting session and Christy and I were riotously singing “Pop Goes the Weasel” (the rap, not the nursery rhyme thing) over and over again that my grandma basically lost her mind.

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l to r: Laurent, Christy, me, Corey, Ryan, and our dad’s godson Shawn a/k/a Bobo. This photo was taken at the “mountain trailer” my dad would occasionally drag us to. It was essentially one step up from camping and I hated it.

Poor Christy was the subject of love poems written by Laurent, our French foreign exchange student in 1992. We spent an entire summer (one of the ones that had an Olympics going on) heckling Bobo for having a crush on gymnast Shannon Miller when literally all he ever made was one offhand remark about her skill level. She’d go to the mall with me to stalk Scott Dambaugh in 8th grade and she tried really hard to save me from getting involved with Psycho Mike senior year. (Of course I didn’t listen.) She was my only friend who tried to talk me out of dropping out of high school and when I still did it anyway, she sent me information about various GED programs in the mail. I always felt like she was one of the few people who never judged me, because she is just an all-around awesome, supportive person and I feel #soblessed that we are still friends after all these years (ugh, decades!).

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Which is a good thing, considering she is technically married to both of my brothers! She honeymooned with Ryan on the hammock in our backyard. He brought her snacks from the house and called her his “babe.”

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And she’s Chooch’s godmother! He’s even shared chocolate “mouse” with her, and he HATES sharing desserts. (Or, “mousse” for those who like to properly pronounce desserts.)

I will forever associate her with TV Guides, Jaromir Jagr, and the MTV vjay Kennedy. From meeting each other on the greatest cul-de-sac in the world and publicly puking at a production of Annie, to cracking up in the middle of Saturday night mass and all of the Blue Flame burgers and secret Andre Agassi fanfic in between, if my life was a book, she’d be a main character in more than half of it. Happy birthday, my dear friend Christy “McGooGoo” a/k/a Crystal Lite. I hope we’re still wishing each other happy birthday when we’re old and gray, possibly through the power of holographic telegrams. Today, I will a call a boy and hang up in your honor! (It will probably just be Henry, but still.)

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Dec 122014
 

I had only been on the trolley for about 2 minutes when I felt someone standing next to me. Like, not just a “Hey, there’s nowhere to sit so I have to stand here by no choice” stand, but a purposeful “please look at me” stand. I could see in my periphery that this person was facing me, so I slowly looked over and saw this small Asian woman, perhaps in her 40s, looking at me expectantly. OK, not a guy with a machete. That’s good.

I thought at first she wanted my seat, even though the trolley was far from full. I thought this because this has happened to me three times, by the same old man. Three times he got on the trolley, stood all up in my PS (personal space for those who don’t know trolley lingo; just kidding, I just made this up right now because I didn’t feel like typing personal space so instead I typed it two times with about 100 extra words to go along with it, why do I do this to myself? Better yet—why do I do this to YOU?). So this old man who’s usurping my PS peers down at me with the creepiest intensity and taps his finger on the back of my seat. When I ask “Would you like to sit here?” he exclaims, “Oh thank you dear!” Like I came to this decision on my own and wasn’t pressured into it. But you know, I’m a sucker for old guys and even though there were empty seats, I stood and let his ass sink into the ghost of my PS.

Second time, same thing. Third time, I was already up and moving before he even made it to my seat. So fucking weird. Just pick a seat and sit!!

Anyway, I thought for sure this was happening again and I started to feel insecure, like, what is it about me that oozes the impression I’m warming this seat for you?

I was bracing myself to move, but then she started thrusting a $5 bill at me and was going on in broken English about the fare, and I was able to figure out that she needed dollar bills since the fare box thing only takes exact change. She opened her hand, showing me that she had the fifty cents, but she still needed $2.

(It’s here I will note that she passed up at least 6 people and the motion of the trolley practically jettisoned her straight toward me. For as many times as Christina called me standoffish, I sure must seem irresistibly approachable to strangers.)

As luck would have it, I actually moved my wallet from my regular purse to my work bag-thing, and as even more luck would have it, I actually had exactly two dollars in there.

I NEVER CARRY CASH!

I handed her the two dollars but kept thrusting the 5 at me until I realized she wasn’t going to take my money until I took her $5, like a lopsided trade.

“Oh no,” I said. “You don’t have to give me that. You can just have this, it’s totally fine.” I pushed the cash into her hand.

So she slowly took my money, took a step back with her hand on her chest and made a strangulated inhalation of shock.

And then, I’m not bullshitting you here, she started to CRY.

“Oh thank you! Thank you! It is my first time riding this!” she sobbed loudly.

I had an acute awareness of EVERYBODY ON THE TROLLEY watching this. A quick scan for a hidden camera confirmed that yes, pretty much everyone was watching. OMG plz stop, I silently willed her. Oh god, I hate being looked at!

She pulled herself together and went back up to the front of the trolley to pay and then took a seat across from me. She quietly analyzed a map of the trolley routes for the rest of the trip into town and I went back to playing Simpsons: Tapped Out, eventually forgetting my brush with humanity.

Twenty minutes later, right before the trolley pulled up to my stop, the lady got out of her seat, approached me and put her hands together in a prayer-pose. Then she started BOWING and said, “I appreciate you! I appreciate you!”

My god, lady! I smiled nervously and insisted that it was fine, but part of me wanted to get my phone video-ready and then say, “Oh no really, it’s fine. But hey, can you go ahead and say that one more time so my boyfriend will see that I actually helped someone? He is definitely going to call bullshit on this one.”

Of course, we got off at the same stop together so I walked slightly slower than usual so that we wouldn’t be awkwardly walking up two flights of steps with each other. She kept going straight as I crossed the street to The Law Firm and I MIGHT have smiled about the whole thing. Maybe just a quick flash of a smile.

*****
Later that afternoon, I Have Good Karma For No Reason Amber came back from lunch with all these sauce samples and chips from Qdoba.

“So they have these new smothered burritos and I just asked if I could taste one of the sauces, and the guy me these samples of all three sauces PLUS a free bag of chips!” she practically BRAGGED. “For like, no reason!”

“Wow,” I deadpanned. “It’s almost as if you had given some poor Asian lady trolley fare today.”

SRSLY!

Oh well. Who needs FREE SAUCE when I have these warm Good Samaritan feelings to dip my chips in. That didn’t make sense. That lady took more than $2 from me. I think she took some of the ice around my heart too and it’s got me all messed up. I want to go help another person now.

[ed.note I wrote this on my phone, half-asleep while Henry is driving us to Carlile, PA. So if it is even more typo-laden than usual, well, there’s my excuse. Philly tomorrow!!]

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Dec 122014
 

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Last year, Corey and I were going to tour this place about an hour south of Pittsburgh called Nemacolin Castle, but they were closed for Christmas decorating on the weekend we wanted to visit (so we went to Narcisi Winery instead! Whaddup Broad and Roberto!). A few weeks ago, I remembered that this place existed and Corey was like fuck yes, let’s do this. Janna expressed interest too so we reluctantly let her come with us. (Ha-ha, j/k Janna.)

We made Janna drive.

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The simple act of signing the guest book, which was displayed on the porch, had Corey and I giggling like idiots, just as the front door swung open by a young woman dressed in period attire (no, like a pioneer dress, not a maxi pad suit of armor) I thought to  myself, “I’m going to make a complete ass of myself in this place, motherfuck.”

“Are you here for a tour?” she asked beneath her bonnet, and we all nodded. Janna was completely normal, but Corey and I were basically giving each other psychic pep talks. IF WE DON’T MAKE EYE CONTACT, WE CAN GET THROUGH THIS.

But then the girl began the tour with a brief history of the Bowman Family, who moved to Brownsville from Maryland, and one of the sons name was NELSON, I almost lost it because the night before at work, stupid Jeannie decided to have an ironic Nelson concert in her office and it was so annoying and then we had to teach TBD Amber about Nelson because she’s too young to know, ugh. So yeah, in my head, I blurted out, “NELSON BAHAHAHA” and had to dig my fingernails into my palms to keep from laughing outright.

The gist of her information was that the mansion started as just the tiny room we were standing in. It was a trading post, and then the Bowman’s came in and made a shit ton of money and just kept building off it. Nelson was the one who added the opulence and the tower. Of course it was Nelson.

The Bowmans were wildly prominent in their day, and were big ballers in the banking industry. Right before the last surviving member of the family died in the 1950s, she asked that the house be turned into a museum, and so the doors have been opened to the public since the 60s. Thank god!

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When the intro was finished, we were handed off to an older woman, also in pioneer garb, who led us up a narrow, uneven staircase to the second floor. There were two other people in our group: a girl in her 20s and a 6-year-old boy who was way more well-behaved than my 8-year-old would have been up in that piece. I hope Santa brings that kid lots of presents this year.

The first room we saw was the maid’s quarters. It was really tiny and our guide, whose name I found out later was Bonnie (Corey knew this because he apparently had been obsessing over her the entire time) kept making really strong eye contact with me, like I was the only other person in the room and we had known each other forever, like perhaps she was mom, even. It wasn’t stern at all, like, “I know you’re just some asshole from the Big City coming here to mock my small town.” No, it was actually really friendly, and kind of comforting. But it was here that I accidentally looked at Corey and then I had to turn around swiftly and pretend to be overly-interested in the wavy glass window.

All of my mature, adult friends and Henry will be happy to know that this was the one and only time that Corey and I almost laughed. Because something magical happened after we left the maid’s room: We realized that this was actually a super interesting house!

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This bitch was modeling more period clothing.

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All of the rooms were decorated for Christmas and, this is saying a lot coming from me, it was really beautiful. Like, every single room took our breath away. I was so into being interested in trundle beds and chimney closets, that I found I didn’t even have time to mock Janna! Not once!

We learned that Brownsville, back in the day, was considered to be the gateway to the west. When Pittsburgh started to become settled, everyone laughed and said that Pittsburgh would NEVER amount to much in terms of big city standards, being so close to the thriving and popular Brownsville and all.

Sorry Brownsville. You lose.

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This room was used for wakes! Dead people have laid in this bed!

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#bedroomgoals

The story about this bed is that Nelson was in New Orleans visiting someone but I forget who because my attention span is………………………………….

Anyway, whoever it was had this beautiful bed and Nelson, being totally Nelson-ish, was determined to have one of his own. So he hired some bed-maker person and said, “Make me a bed to match this one in terms of stateliness and splendor” (I mean, I imagine he probably said something very similar to that, right?) And because Nelson was a rich sumbitch, he got his damn bed and then put it in a spare bedroom that was reserved only for the Bishop. Nelson, you’re a fucking idiot.

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Of course, Nemacolin Castle—named after the area’s Indian chief at the time—is haunted. They offer ghost tours in October. The little boy on our tour kept whispering, “This isn’t scary. When will it get scary?” and his mom or whoever she was kept saying things like, “They had to piss in pots, isn’t that scary enough?”

She didn’t really say that. But I wish she did.

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Elaborate light fixtures all up in that hizzy. Don’t worry, Henry: I’ve been storing all of these wonderful interior design ideas in my head.

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The piano did not start playing on its own, unfortunately.

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I think my favorite part of the tour, knowledge-wise, was when Bonnie told us that back in the day, if you didn’t have enough money to have a full-blown portrait painted of yourself, you could go to a place and literally flip through a rack of stock paintings, pick out one with a dress you like, and the artist would then paint your face and hands onto the generic canvas. This rustic ingenuity was strangely exciting to me. Corey hadn’t heard that part of the tour because he was too busy quilting a meticulous Snapchat story, and I was happy to reiterate because hearing myself say the facts out loud was hugely entertaining.

I am so tickled even right now as I type it on my Internet diary!

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See? I can appreciate other people’s beautifully-decorated Christmas trees!

Before we left each and every room, Bonnie would ask, “Are there any questions?” and we all just stare at her like drooling dunces. I couldn’t think of a single thing to ask when put on the spot like t hat! I did ask in the beginning if we were allowed to take photos though, because I didn’t feel like undertaking a covert photo shoot on that day. Clearly Bonnie said yes because none of my pictures have parts of my hand or purse in them.  I will say that it was hard to get  my dumb iPhone to focus in some of the rooms because of the dim lighting and Christmas lights.

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We walked into one of the rooms downstairs and I was like, “Oh my word, it smells heavenly in here!” if I spoke like a classy Southerner. Instead, I whispered something akin to, “DAAAANG, it stinks rull good in here!” Turns out, it was the WASSAIL that was waiting for us in the next room that was emanating a pleasing stench all through the air.

“Please, help yourself to wassail and cookies,” Bonnie graciously offered in her patented soft, sweet tone, and her eyes actually smiled along with her mouth. I thought smiling eyes were a myth! But Bonnie had them!

Anyhow, it turns out that I’ve been pronouncing wassail wrong my entire life and that also it’s just mulled cider. I mean, it’s delicious! But let’s just call it cider, you know? The cookies were of a Keebler descent, but even still, I regretted that I only took one and not one of each. I also regretted not finding a way to inconspicuously discard  my gum before attempted to eat a chocolate Keebler.

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A collection of shit they’ve found around the property.

The tour ended after approximately 45 minutes, when Bonnie deposited us at the entrance of the gift shop. We all stood there awkwardly for literally another 10 minutes because the girl and her kid were blocking the gift shop, which is where the exit was, and Bonnie stood there with her hands clasped in front of her, smiling at us with those crinkly Santa eyes that kept somehow locking with mine so then I feel the need to ask her questions, like, “Is this place haunted?” (I mean, obviously) and make dumb-sounding statements like, “It’s funny that even with all of the additions, the house really….flows” and Bonnie sounded like she agreed with me but then made some comment about how it starts out so primitive on one side and moves on to utter elegance on the other end, which basically was her way of saying, “You’re a fucking moron, there is a clear and harsh distinction from one end of the house to the other.”

I was trying my best, OK?

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I’m really glad we decided to give this joint a looksee because it definitely exceeded  my expectations. I don’t know what I thought it was going to be, something lame obviously. But it was actually really interesting and absolutely gorgeous—especially with all of those Christmas trees!

They also serve as a venue for weddings, and the girl on the tour with us was like, “ORLY BECAUSE I’M RECENTLY ENGAGED.” Shut your dumb engaged mouth. I was fine with her until that moment. Bitter McGreenEyes.

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We finally got to leave and I wanted to take a photo of Corey and Janna holding their wassail but then Janna threw her empty cup away and when I tried to get her to take it back out of the garbage can, she cried, “But it was empty!” Ugh fine Janna. So I made her hold mine instead and then she was like, “But I wasn’t ready!” Yeah, well, either was your empty cup of wassail!

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Nemacolin groupie!

 

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I was so pleased with myself for not making an ass of myself during the tour, but once we outside and away from Bonnie’s smiling eyes, Corey and I acted like idiots and tromped around the property, trying to take pictures of ourselves with the tower in the background, making fun of Brownsville, and willing Janna to slip and fall down the wet hillside, much like she did in Dormont Park on the 4th of July, 2008 when she wound up with mud all over her pants and hand, and Corey and I begged her to reenact it so we could video it.

(She would not oblige.)

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While the ghost of Nelson Bowman took this picture of Corey and me, Janna fell to her death in the background.

#jannatakesatumble #gonesoyoung

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Dec 112014
 
  • I was on late shift two days in a row last week, so it was later in the morning when I took the trolley to work. Henry has been driving me to work on my last several late shift days, and I’ll tell you: the one thing I miss about working late shift every day is the cast of unsavories I got to mingle with on the trolley. Really never thought I would say that, but my regular morning commute is full of boring business-people quietly reading their Kindles or listening to podcasts. Occasionally there is that one douchebag who thinks it’s appropriate to loudly speak on their cellphone the whole way into town, and also now that it’s winter, it’s your average Snot Symphony up in there. ANYWAY!! For last Thursday’s late shift, I got on the trolley at 10:30 and an older lady reading the Bible promptly sat down next to me while the trashy girl in front of me answered her country music ring-toned phone and promptly started SCREAMING, “YOU SAT THERE CALLING ME NAMES AT FRIGGIN’ PRIMANTI’S! OH, AND NOW I’M A WHORE?!” Awkward. She didn’t look like a whore.
    • The next day, I sat behind a farmer.

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  • Sometimes Marcy and Chooch really get along great, like when it’s Sunday Donut Time and Marcy skulks around looking for just a crumb, one tiny taste, oh brother can you spare a morsel. So then it’s all, “Aw look how sweet Marcy and Chooch are, everybody!” But then there are the times when Chooch is sitting at the dining room table, doing his homework, and Marcy sits on the table in front of him, stalking the motion of pencil with her eyes, until eventually she can stand it no longer and lunges at the pencil, but then at the last second, right before pencil/paw contact, she’s like, “Fuck it” and goes for his hand instead. This makes Chooch flip out, and he yells at her and tells her she’s a horrible bitch, so then she moves closer and sits down on his homework with her back toward him and this makes Chooch cry out of frustration and Henry has to try to lure Marcy away from him with treats but she’s like, “Hold on, let a bitch get one more tail-whip in here” and she maliciously and stubbornly slams her tail down right in front of Chooch before jumping off the table and eating the treats Henry left in a Hansel and Gretel trail away from Chooch.
  • Yesterday, I was texting Henry and autocorrect just changed a word to “BTK.”
  • If I just let entire Michael Buble video play on YouTube without turning it off. Am I old or nah.
  • Today I learned that Barb hates most collars, scarves, and other such fashionable garrotes so I think it’s settled that I’m buying her chokers for Christmas.

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  • Chooch and I had an ice cream date a weeks ago with Kristy and Sarah. We met at a parking lot near Oh Yeah! Chooch and I arrived first and were promptly berated by two parking lot security guards who were getting paid to remind assholes like me that this lot was for CUSTOMERS ONLY and not fat pigs who were trying to walk a block away to get ice cream on a cold November night. The problem was that I was unable to back my car out to leave because so many yuppie fuckknobs were pulling into the lot because it’s connected to A WHOLE FOODS down below. It was basically just a state store and Chipotle on the upper level where we parked, but these faux-cops weren’t having outlanders like us take up a fucking spot in their promised land. So we intercepted Kristy and Sarah right before the parking popo had a chance to berate them too, and totally not suspiciously walked away from our car through the parking lot away from the cops, so it looked like maybe we had changed our mind and were going to spend an hour purchasing beverages to help our children fall asleep faster that night, but really we escaped the parking lot at the other end and basically walked a mile out of the way to get ice cream just so we wouldn’t have to drive around looking for street parking. I was going to draw a map/diagram to show you just how harrowing of a detour it was, but I’m too tired for Exhibits. I’ll just tell you that we had to cross a pedestrian bridge and walk down a dark, deserted road and then climb some steps which put us onto the street that we could have easily arrived at had the parking popo not foiled our plans.
    • We played Scrabble over ice cream. Chooch laid down the first word, which was “ego.” Now, I’m not the type of broad who walks around claiming their kid is a prodigy, but in that moment, I was like, “MY KID IS FUCKING BRILLIANT. HE LITERALLY JUST PLAYED EGO.” But then he said, “That’s how you spell it, right? The waffle? ‘Leggo my Eggo’?” So…Meanwhile, Sarah, who is 5, accidentally spelled “tampon” almost. (She was a letter off.) Then we walked back the way we came because I didn’t want to have to walk past the parking lot guards. Kristy was like “Why don’t you just go into Wine and Spirits and but a little bottle of booze, then if they say anything to you, you can show them the receipt” but I said no BECAUSE I REFUSED TO BOW THOSE MOTHERFUCKERS. Instead, we said goodbye to Kristy and Sarah and then Chooch and I slinked back to our car, hunched over, slipping between the front ends of the parked cars and the barrier wall of the parking lot, just so we wouldn’t have to walk out in the open and be all exposed. Like, “HERE WE ARE FELLAS! COMING BACK TO OUR UNLAWFULLY PARKED CAR!” We came home and tried to explain the whole cloak and dagger of it all to Henry, who just smirked at us and said, wait for it, “You idiots.”

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  • Henry had to work on Black Friday so Chooch and I decided to venture out and try this new sandwich shop that opened up down the street in Dormont. It’s called Parker’s and it’s very close to one of my least favorite places in the world: the dreaded DOR-STOP. The Dor-Stop is one of those mediocre diners that got super over-hyped by dumb Guy Fieri and his lame-o Food Network show. I was really excited to flip that place the bird as we turned the corner to go to Parker’s, which is tiny but has some mighty sandwiches, you guys. And an entire veggie section on the menu! Chooch wanted to sit at the counter, and by doing so, we were pulled into numerous conversations with the proprietor and his people. (One was his mom and she was awesome.) Chooch and I both felt like we were part of a club, and WE LOVE TO BE INCLUDED IN THINGS so Parker’s is basically our new favorite place in the whole entire world. (It helps that the sandwiches were wonderful, as well.) But the best part is that Henry wasn’t there so we have been purposely bringing up Parker’s constantly, just to make him feel bad. (I don’t think it’s working though.) Like last week when Chooch burped at dinner and Henry yelled at him, Chooch was like, “Yeah, but the lady at Parker’s said that’s a compliment to the chef” and I was like, “Don’t bother, Chooch. He won’t understand. He wasn’t there.”
    • On the way home from Parker’s that day. Chooch ditched me while we were crossing the street because he decided he wanted to go a different way but I had already started crossing the street so I screamed and felt so paralyzed until finally I remembered how to walk again and turned around. It was touch-and-go there for a minute. I was so mad at him, but then he tripped on the sidewalk and I was like, “YES! HAHAHA THAT’S WHAT YOU GET!” Then I admitted that I had a crush on Parker. “He had those beautiful blue eyes,” I gushed. “Oh my god,” Chooch muttered. And then and then and then!

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  • During the evening of Black Friday, Chooch came downstairs creepily wearing one of my old Lip Service skirts from my goth days. (I use that term loosely. I was more like the Mulatto of the goth scene. Parts of me were goth, but other parts of me were blond, overly-social, with a closetful of Contempo. But I just really liked that goth music, you guys.) “Really Mommy?” Chooch asked in that snotty teenaged-sneer that kids seem to acquiring earlier and earlier these days. “You WORE this!?” Yes, and I also had a dress that said “Fuck” all over it.
    • A few days later, and god only knows why, Chooch and I had a legit argument over who was aware of the existence of goths first. He was all, “You wouldn’t even know about goths if I hadn’t told you!” and I was all, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING? I met my ex-boyfriend IN A GOTH CHATROOM!” and then Henry was all, “Please stop fighting with the 8-year-old.” I think he was talking to Chooch.
  • I’m so sad that next week is the last episode of Serial! I’m not one for podcasts, but like so many other people, I’m obsessed with this one. It’s so fucking intriguing and I know, I know: this isn’t about wrapping everything up nicely, giving the case a Hollywood ending, proving innocence or guilt. But I can’t help but feel strongly that Adnan is innocent. I will admit this to the Internet, I don’t care: I’m one of those people who is very easily swayed and controlled by emotions and feelings over facts and evidence. Like, I’ll find myself yelling at Henry, “BUT HE DOESN’T SOUND LIKE A KILLER! I LIKE HIS VOICE. HE DIDN’T DO IT.” I would make a fucking terrible juror. I mean, all these years later and I still maintain that OJ Simpson is innocent and I will say now what I said to every one of my classmates who booed me when I cheered at the Not Guilty verdict back in high school: someone who was in Back to the Beach could not have killed someone because Back to the Beach is one of my favorite movies.
    • Hey speaking of killers, I got a Xmas card from my death row pen pal the other day and it kind of caught me off guard because I haven’t heard from him in awhile. Maybe almost two years? I admittedly started to pull away from him quite some time ago, way before I even started working at The Law Firm, so it’s been over 5 years since I wrote to him, probably. He just would always ask me to do things for him, place Craigslist ads for private eyes, update his LiveJournal, it was just too much. And then I also had a series of really bad dreams about him too, coming to my house (it was my mom’s house in my dream though; everything always happens there or my Pappap’s house) and seeming all nice at first but then his smile would start to look just a little too sharp , baring just a little too much teeth, and then there’s this moment where we just stand there, frozen, and I turn to run and then there’s a chase, etc etc etc. So yeah, I got that card and was a little frightened, but then I felt guilty for blowing him off. So I went to work and confided in Glenn and Formerly-Mean-Amber. “What did he do?” Glenn asked. “Killed his wife, but he totally didn’t do it,” I casually answered. “And you know this because?” Glenn asked, totally provoking me. “Because he told me….and they never found a body!” I cried defensively. So Glenn and Mild-Tempered-For-Now Amber started to read Greg’s Murderpedia page and almost right away, they both said, “Oh yeah, he did it. He totally did it.”

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  • Shameless (not self) promotion: I bought Chooch this t-shirt from Abstruse Apparel that features Artifex Pereo lyrics and is also educational because, to quote from their site “it’s about a disorder called Body Integrity, which is a neurological and psychological disorder that makes sufferers feel they would be happier living as an amputee. It is typically accompanied by the desire to amputate one or more healthy limb to achieve that end.” So Chooch and I talked about that and he was like, “Great. I hope no one at school asks me what this means” and I was like, ‘You’re in 3rd grade. If it doesn’t have Minecraft on it, ain’t no one sayin’ shit to you about your shirt.”
  • Today, Credit Karma emailed me to tell me that my credit score has gone from GTFO to Poor. #progress

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  • I found this old picture of Nicotina (Speck, to some of you) on the computer, so Henry printed it out and hung it on the cat wall. Yesterday marked 3 years since she died unexpectedly and I’ll tell you, I miss that furry brat every day. Chooch actually still can’t look at her picture without straight sobbing. I’m not even exaggerating a little bit. That kid’s world was rocked when she died. Speck was the one that Chooch took to immediately once he went from being sluggish newborn to somewhat-alert human. I hope the pictures help him one day, though, like they help me.
  • I got an email from Dark Matter Coffee the other day while we were all in the car, going god knows where, and I said, “Just seeing their logo makes me want to cry.” And then as I looked at Henry to say that it reminds me of Riot Fest, I actually did start to cry and Henry of the Cold-Hearted Snake Clan made some disgusted groan and mumbled, “Oh my god.” I can’t help it! I miss Riot Fest and I honestly think about it every single day because I have problems with letting go.

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  • It’s hard to believe that Christmas card season is almost done for this year. Our shop did well this year! People seemed to really respond well to the new sparkly card stock we’ve been using. I know it’s niche and seems pretty stupid, but these cards are my babies and it makes me feel kind of secretly smug because one of the many career paths my grandma tried to bulldoze for me was a card designer at Hallmark. Can you even imagine? These cards are the one thing that I don’t seem to get burnt out on. Like, I’ll go for months grudgingly going through the motions with blogging (I mean, what? You could tell? Shocker!) and I’ll go through months without picking up my camera or YEARS without dipping a brush in paint, but man—designing cards really relaxes me.
    • So weird, but Janna and I are currently texting right now about getting burnt out by binge-watching TV shows and I admitted that I’m like the only person in the world who didn’t finish Orange Is the New Black because I literally just quit giving a shit halfway through the second season and I think it’s because I don’t like that Netflix does that, just releases an entire season like that, because I need something to look forward to, the way The Walking Dead has given people a reason to finally look forward to the dreaded Sunday night.
  • Big ups to Terri for tipping me off to A Pregnant Light, which is currently motivating me to finish this pointless blog post so I can go to dumb bed!
  • WE’RE LEAVING FOR PHILLY AFTER WORK TOMORROW! Of course, I work late shift tomorrow, so that means we’re not leaving until after 8:30. But still! I get to see Terri, Christian, Circa Survive, and the Mutter Museum! OK GOODNIGHT!!!
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Dec 102014
 

Just a little preface: after I posted about the most recent game night, I decided to make a “game night” category so that I could keep all of the game night posts together because every so often, I get some kind of blog OCD. Anyhow, I realized that the only account missing was still over on my old LiveJournal. And it just so happens it’s the one where the infamous (not really) CARLY SIMON incident happened! So, this is a reposting of the very first game night I hosted at my house in 2006. You have permission to not read it. Aren’t I nice.

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The last time I played Scattergories was in 2003 and I slugged Janna for challenging one of my answers (because according to her, frolicking is not a valid form of transportation, and not even my graceful demonstration of frolicking to and fro could convince her otherwise — bitch) and then Keri threatened to kick me out of her wedding party if I couldn’t get along with others.

I figured three years was long enough to cool down, so Scattergories was the first game we dove into during the Game Night that I hosted at my house Saturday evening. Brian, Janna, Ryan, Stacey, and Kara all spread out in a circle while I got all the pieces together. OK, Henry helped me with that a little. There were plastic things that hadn’t been assembled yet on the cardboard clipboard things because I usually only ever play Scattergories (and Boggle) with myself and I lost my patience within a cool ten seconds.

Henry decided he was going to sit this one out, because he’s afraid to play Scattergories with me.

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We played three rounds, which was all good and fun, except that I discovered that Stacey is some brand of undercover Scattergories-Nazi and challenged about 3/4 of my answers. One of those she challenged was “earwig police officer.” I’m sorry, but who are we, as human beings, to say that earwigs don’t have police officers (category: Someone in a Uniform, Letter “E”)? And are you going to tell me that, in some fairy tale right now, someone isn’t sitting on a toadstool? The category was a very ambiguous “Furniture,” not “Human Furniture” or “Earth Furniture.” At one point, she got really angry and said, “Come on Erin, you’re a smart girl! Play right!” I was playing right! It’s called strategy, Stacey. I don’t want one of those dickshitters having the same answer as me!

Almost every time it was my turn to unveil one of my answers (it took about twenty minutes for everyone to grasp the concept of clockwise and Brian was really getting heated), I would be laughing to the point of tears, but no one else would laugh with me (sometimes Kara would because maybe she feels sorry for me) because there was a Serious Game being played and I was holding it up.

Because of Stacey’s iron fist, I ended up losing by ONE point to this asshole:

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…whom I’m positive was cheating. I think he realized that he was down a few points whenever my answer of water buffaloes as farm animals was being challenged. I have to state for the record that Janna and Kara tried to sway the vote in my favor, but Brian, who had the distinction of being the swing vote, saw this as his opportunity to go in for the win so he gave me a big hearty thumbs down.

I was angry at Brian six hours before Game Night even started though, because he called me that afternoon to ask what time it started, which spun me into a frenzied tangent about invitations (or Evites, in this case, which always skyrocket my blood pressure because, unfailingly there’s always at least one asshole who doesn’t RSVP or downright doesn’t even view it and then I get all OCD because their name just hangs there, festering in limbo and no matter how many times I call them and email them with clear cut instructions, they refuse to make it right). I left him a lengthy voice mail, schooling him in the very narrow field of invitations, and how they are necessary because they contain pertinent info regarding the party, such as, oh I don’t know, the fucking time it starts, asshole.

He called me back later and left a message to see if it would be cool if he was fashionably late. But apparently, in Brian’s skewered land of party etiquette, fashionably late means retardedly early, because he arrived two and a half hours before game night even started. I hadn’t even dusted the games off yet.

I’ll probably just place a fake personal ad in his name and then I’ll be over it.

During the third round, Lisa arrived with her arsenal of games, which included the crowd-pleaser that is Catchphrase. I was thankful for this, because a girl can only take so much rejection during the same game, so I stuffed everything back into the Scattergories box and slid it under the chair, secretly proud of myself for not throwing any blows during the game but inwardly ready to blow a fucking gasket because goddamn, it’s hard to control your temper when you have explosive anger disorder!

Lisa explained the rules of Catchphrase repeatedly until Brian couldn’t take it anymore and screamed at Lisa to just start the motherfucker, already. I mean, once it was unearthed that Henry had played the game before, everyone relaxed and decided it couldn’t be that hard. I was thankful to not be stuck on a team with Stacey.

Right in the middle of the fourth practice round, Melissa arrived with her baby. I let her fill in for me because I was too rambunctious to be doing so much sitting. Instead, I stood behind Henry and pinched the back of his neck many times and mocked him every time it was his turn to get his team to guess the catch phrase. Most of the time, I couldn’t figure out where he was going with his hints, because he really is a special sort of durrr, but I guess that’s what makes him so endearing. I mean, if you’re the type of person who would think someone is endearing, who typically, I am not.

Every time Catchphrase ended up in Melissa’s hands, she would take too long to get her team to guess the word and the buzzer would go off. She attributed her distraction to Stacey’s “beautiful cleavage.” It could have been an uncomfortable moment, and my innards were aching from laughing so hard, but Stacey took the compliment with grace and the game went on. This would turn out to be a suggestive hint to where the night was headed: Down Girlsex Alley. Of course Brian took great pleasure in this and went to great lengths to egg Melissa on until finally she knew no other topics other than Boobs, Tits, and Pussy. It was very apropos later on when her Catchphrase word was nipple.

And don’t let Ryan fool you, but I was in the kitchen with him when he was getting a refill of his Faygo (haha) Blue Raspberry and totally saw him reach for the Windex instead and quickly try to play it off when I started laughing.

“I knew it was Windex! It was in my way and I was moving it, I wasn’t going to drink it!” Lol oh.

My favorite moment of the night was about an hour after Brian confided to me that, “I’m not trying to be conceited, but I really do know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff.” He was trying to get his team to guess Stalingrad and decided to tackle the “Stalin” part first. He kept saying, “Russian tsar! He was a fucking Russian tsar, Janna, you idiot!” (Put those two on a team together and it’s truly like having a wholesome 1950’s TV family sitting in my living room.) Somehow, Janna was able to piece together his mis-hints and after she finally guess it, she quipped, “Stalin wasn’t a tsar, Brian.” I wasn’t on their team, but I did a jubilant fist pump in her honor. It’s not often Brian gets put in his place.

No, I was wrong! I have a different favorite moment of the night, because that one wasn’t about me. But this one is. It was Henry’s turn and all he said was, “I don’t know. Um, female singer” and I screamed “Carly Simon!” and it was totally Carly Simon and I seriously rode that horse for the rest of the night.

“Remember when all he said was ‘female singer’ and I totally guessed Carly Simon because I really am that many layers of awesome?”

After playing Catchphrase for about three hours, because we’re all clearly pathetic, it turned into Ask Uncle Brian comedy hour, wherein Melissa asked Brian questions of a sexual nature, but I do not have permission to go there.

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Finally, it was after 1AM and I was coming dangerously close to achieving auto-annoyance, so everyone said goodnight and then Janna came with me to drive Ryan home. I started to pat myself on the back for not losing my temper and Ryan was like, “Really? You don’t think you lost your temper? At all?” and Janna kind of gave me this sad look that read, “He’s right, you know.” Fine, so I got a little angry, but I kept my paws and claws to myself and no one got hurt and nothing got broken. I did good considering what I’m capable of!

Unfortunately, it began to unravel after I dropped off Ryan. One of the scenes where Stacey gave my Scattergories answer a thumbs down started to replay in my mind and I punched the steering wheel. I slight honk was emitted, which kind of sucked because it was like 1:30AM and we were driving through a semi-scary area. I ended up bending one of my nails all the way back.

It hurts really bad today.

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And now some thoughts on this night from 2014 Erin: That kid Ryan turned out to be the Biggest Douche and started a huge flame war with me in 2008, and prior to this, literally every last one of my friends were begging me to stop inviting him to my parties because no one could stand him, BUT I NEVER LISTEN; my thoughts on RSVPing have not changed and I WILL hold it against you; Melissa supposedly left her husband and child and ran off to the Playboy Mansion, and I haven’t heard from her in years; could my pictures be any smaller; Stacey’s work schedule prevents her from attending game nights now but there’s a part of me that wonders if it’s really because she just can’t take the blinding light of my Scattergories brilliance; I’m totally going to play Scattergories alone tonight after work.

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Dec 092014
 

I went into work on Monday thinking it was going to be another boring day. But then Glenn came back from lunch and said to me, “There’s a crime scene out there. I’m surprised you’re not at it.”

“WHAT?” I gasped, and while I rushed to shove my stupid arms into my jacket, he explained that someone apparently either shot someone or used a machete. I figured he was exaggerating, but I was already running to the door before he could finish.

The scene of the crime was right outside the same trolley stop that I use every goddamn day, so that’s just lovely. There’s also a bus stop alongside of the trolley station, and it is a pretty grimy bus stop at that. There’s literally no need to walk past it so it’s easily avoidable. However, this time I walked right over to the small crowd that was gathering on the other side of the police tape.

I walked up to a young couple who were bitching about how no one was giving the cops space. Like, “Look at all these dumb people, come to gawk at the real life crime scene.”

“Wow, what’s going on, I wonder?” I asked casually, trying to use my best “Do-do-dooo, oh wow, what is going on guys? No really, I didn’t come out here just to see a dead body*” tone.

*(There was no dead body. The victim had already been transported to the hospital by the time I got there.)

“I don’t know,” the guy said in a way that made it sound like one long word. “We just got here.”

“Someone got shot or cut up,” the girl shrugged. “That’s what they saying.”

“Wow. Scary,” I chirped, and immediately played it back 384,789,234 times in my head, kicking myself for sounding like fucking Annette Funicello talking about smearing some peanut butter on two slices of white.

I crossed the street, hoping to have a better view from over there. I called Henry. “Pretend like you’re on the phone with me,” I whispered. “I don’t want to look suspicious.” Then Henry was getting annoyed because he kept asking me questions and I would just whisper, “Hold on. I can’t tell you right now” so then he was like “This is dumb” and we ended the call. I was going to just go back into the Law Firm, which is right across the street from the trolley station, but then I remembered that Glenn suggested going INSIDE the trolley station and looking out the window.

So I did that and by golly, he was right. Literally nothing separated me from the two puddles of blood but one pane of glass. There were three guys who had the same idea, so we huddled together, taking pictures and saying things like, “Wow, this is so crazy” even though really it’s not THAT crazy because, you know, American cities are prone to violent crimes, apparently.

But…machete.

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The biggest puddle you can see I’ve circled beneath the bench and then there’s more over by the curb. At first I felt like an asshole, photographing this, but everyone else was doing it too. So…Plus, I haven’t ever seen crime scene blood before so this was a pretty big deal for me. Real blood is so bright! Like paint!

Everyone I talked to said the same thing as Glenn: that some guy apparently got off the bus and attacked a man with a machete. The thought of someone randomly riding the bus into town, waiting to slash a bitch with the machete hidden up the sleeve of his parka, was really frightening. I decided it was time to go back to work.

Slowly, more information started to trickle in on various news sites, the first update stating that THE MAN WITH THE MACHETE WAS ON THE LOOSE like some fucking Jason Takes Pittsburgh bullshit. And I was out there! Glenn snidely said that it was probably one of the guys I was talking to, coming back to admire his work.

FUCK.

But then another update explained that it wasn’t a random act: the victim and the perp knew each other and were apparently fighting over some broad. One of the news accounts said that a woman stepped in and intervened, causing the perp to flee. I wondered if that was the same woman who inspired this independent slasher film and if she was even worth it, because I can’t imagine Henry taking a machete-swipe for me.

By the end of the work day, we learned that this Yinzer Jason Voorhees had walked right down the street the Army Navy store, bought the machete, and walked back to the bus stop where he cut the other man’s hand right down to the bone. I also read another account that stated the man also took a blow to the head. He’s expected to be just fine so now I don’t feel as bad for posting pictures of his blood on Instagram.

And Facebook.

And my blog.

****

The next morning, Nate came over and said, “I didn’t know all this machete stuff was going on yesterday! Why didn’t anyone tell me!?”

“We did!” I argued.

“Yeah, but when you said you were going out to see the crime scene,” he reasoned, “I thought you were just ‘being Erin’.”

[Ed.Note: My favorite part of this whole thing is that I used the A Beautiful Mess app to edit the photo of the crime scene and then tagged it #abeautifulmess on Instagram so all their beautiful pictures of ridiculous DIY projects and perfectly-styled lattes is thwarted by a photo of the blood of a man who was hacked by a machete. Surprisingly, none of the ABM staff members have commented with #needsmoremasonjars or #putabirdonit.]

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Dec 092014
 

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I’m having major Christmas tree apathy this year, and not just because I need to find a new tree topper since I decided that I am done with Jonny Craig. DONE WITH HIM! FOR GOOD! Seriously though, I have been using this as a tree topper since 2011, ugh. Change is hard. The good news is that I have finally nudged (OK, knocked out and shoved) Henry on board with my ideal Christmas tree-that’s-not-a-tree that I have been dreaming about having since high school.

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The good news is that I have finally nudged (OK, knocked out and shoved) Henry on board with my ideal Christmas tree-that’s-not-a-tree that I have been dreaming about having since high school. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet found the perfect specimen because Henry only gave me the green light a few weeks ago and these things take time. Last week, I was talking to The Processor Formerly Known As Mean Amber about the roadblocks I was running into while searching for my future Christmas tree.

“Like, most of the ones that I keep finding have hair. I don’t want one with hair. I want one that’s androgynous,” I was whining right as Nate walked by and stopped in his tracks, because this was clearly his kind of conversation.

In the meantime, we might be getting a friend’s old artificial tree so we can at least avoid the whole live tree hassle this year. (I feel so guilty having real Christmas trees! Throwing them out afterward is such a sad feeling).

This probably reads as me hating Christmas. I don’t hate Christmas. Not even a little! I grew up around beautifully-decorated Christmas trees and I love looking at OTHER people’s beautifully-decorated Christmas trees, but I just don’t care about having my own beautifully-decorated Christmas tree. Maybe if I was part of the Horton or Brady clan and everyone came over to my house to hang their own signature ornament upon a bough, I would be more into it then, probs. Perhaps it’s time to reschedule that Pornament Party I had to cancel a few years ago and we can have ourselves one swingin’ tree trimmin’.

Or…I could just leave Chooch wrapped up in lights and garland for the remainder of the holiday season.

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Oh, this chokes? Fine. Forget it.

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Dec 082014
 

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GAME NIGHT PARTY PEOPLE

Janna

Kara

Blake

Corey

Ricky

Tim and Patty

Chris, Kari and Katelyn
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In lieu of a traditional Thanksgiving at our house this year, I opted to have a casual game night the following Saturday night. And then it occurred to me that, Jesus Christ, I haven’t had a game night here since 2010! And if I remember correctly, we didn’t even really play any games that time.

So it was settled. I sent out Facebook invitations a few weeks in advance, which is how Henry discovered that instead of cleaning the house and cooking a turkey, he would be cleaning the house and cutting cheese cubes. I think he was OK with that.

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All day, Chooch was like, “PLEASE CAN WE PLAY HEADS UP AT GAME NIGHT?!” and I was like, “NO BECAUSE THIS IS MY GAME NIGHT NOT YOURS GO AWAY UGH” and then Henry was like, “STOP FIGHTING! YOU TWO CAN SHARE GAME NIGHT OR THERE WONT BE A GAME NIGHT!” Ugh. So I took the high road and let Chooch play his stupid game as a sort of game night aperitif while we were waiting for everyone to arrive. I really dislike this game for some reason, probably because Chooch always wants to play it and then literally never knows the answer and he sucks at giving clues UGH. But anyway, I had one turn and Kara was like, “Blah blah blah, you probably think this song is about you” and I yelled, “CARLY SIMON!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!”

You guys. At one of our past game nights, we were playing Catchphrase. When it was Henry’s turn, he honestly only said, “I don’t know. She’s a singer” and just to be a jerk, I screamed, “CARLY SIMON!” because who really thinks of Carly Simon anymore other than maybe Warren Beatty. Everyone was like, “Yeah, haha, OK” but then Henry quietly passed the Catchphrase device over to the next person and I said, “Whoa, wait. Was it seriously Carly Simon?” and the next person checked to make sure Henry was fucking with us, and it was totally Carly Simon and I know it’s not that big of a deal but I think I have probably referenced this on my blog 87 times since that happened because I honestly consider it to be The Moment I knew that I wanted, NO–NEEDED, to stay with Henry for the rest of all Time.

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Something totally devastating happened though, mere hours before game night was scheduled: I realized our beloved Catchphrase no longer worked! I thought maybe it just needed new batteries, but NO. I actually felt panicked, because this is pretty much the game we ALWAYS start with, since it forces people to have to yell out answers and serves as a good ice breaker. (Although my punches worked pretty good at soothing nerves, too.) Janna stopped at Target or somewhere, I don’t know I’m not her keeper, on the way over and bought an electronic version of Taboo, which is similar to Catchphrase, so I felt a little better. God knows how much how I hate change.

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Hi this is Chooch my review of Game Nite is “Inappropriate Content Deleted”

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Beverage Buffet, Game Nite Style. Some kind of red wine cider punch thing and a cinnamon roll punch, which was originally supposed to be pumpkin pie but for SOME REASON, I had trouble finding Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie vodka immediately after the holiday with the biggest pumpkin pie demand. So I had to swap it out with the Cinnabon flavor, which was delicious anyway so who cares. Pumpkin is overrated.

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Patty and Tim brought a STACK of games that we never got around  to playing and I’m pretty sad about that. They were going to teach me how to play Fluxx which everyone says is the easiest game to learn but I have read the directions 4 times (see also: skimmed half-assedly, one time) and I just don’t get it. I have a really hard time learning how to play games, which is amazing considering how stellar I am at playing people.

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We are great at parenting. Also, Chooch won.

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I kept the hockey game on in the background because hockey yields to no motherfuckin’ game nights. And then this exchange happened:

Me: [Evgeni Malkin] reminds me of Don, don’t you think?
Corey: No! No, I do not! One is a Russian hockey player and one is YOUR CAT?!

But then Kara pointed out that Corey thought a seagull and pelican were the same, so I shouldn’t put too much stock in his opinion, and this made me super giddy because now I know that not only is my brother colorblind, but he’s also BIRDBLIND.

(On a serious tip though, Malkin really does remind me of my deceased cat Don and I just want to cuddle him so bad. No one sees it, though. Sigh. Does it help if I add that Don was a Russian Blue?)

(JUST FORGET IT!!!)

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Something to note about Game Night: Resurrection is that I didn’t hit Janna. Not even once! I don’t even think I raised my voice at her! I’m going to go ahead and thank the beverage buffet for that one.

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We finished the night playing some new game that Janna brought over that involved writing answers on paddles with dry-erase markers! One of the questions was something about a weird movie you’ve recently watched and I was stage-whispering to Henry (who played zero games all night, OK tough guy), “WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THAT GERMAN PORNO WE RECENTLY WATCHED? THE ONE FROM THE 70s* WITH THE PRIEST?!” And Ricky was all, “You do know the point of this game is to try and match answers with the rest of us, right?”

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Idiots.

Anyway, now that these photos have been effectively dumped, it’s time for me to call it a day. Can’t wait until the next game night! (Right, Henry?) (Maybe in February? VALENTINE EDITION?!)

(No, that’s dumb.)

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