Jun 032024
 

Here’s another vintage Chooch photoshoot throwback because it’s Monday and this is all I’m capable of doing. I want to watch some Stray Kids content (Han focus, thank you) and read a little and then maybe go for another walk, OK? God, you always want to know everything.

Anyway, this was originally from March 2018 before our first Korea trip and I know this for sure without even going back and looking because I thought Chooch looked so cute here and then right before we left, Henry took him to get his hair cut and he ended up looking like he was cosplaying Julius Caesar in Korea. Literally had short, straight-across bangs. #BlameHenry

[Anyway x2 WRONG, ERIN: This was from OCTOBER 2018, thanks Janna for mentioning the reference to Fright Farm in your comment, lol. I was so sure of myself but I was clearly confusing this with another photoshoot from that same year that I conned Chooch into doing.]

*******************************************

Being off work this week, I didn’t expect to see Chooch much at all because he always has places he “needs” to be after school. However, I was graced with his presence both Monday and Tuesday, but it turns out that’s just because the stupid Teen Center where he loafs (lol, such a dad word) is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and he’s on the library blacklist until Saturday.

(“All the librarians hate me! I don’t even do anything there!” he cried incredulously when explaining to me his latest banning. This time, his sentence is for two weeks and “Denice” hates him so much that she even intercepted him when he popped into the library last week to use the water fountain. “I was CHOKING, my throat was SO DRY! They wouldn’t even LET ME HAVE A DRINK!” he wailed. I don’t even want to know what goes in that library, but his latest offense couldn’t have been THAT bad because that damn library has our phone number and no one called.

And by “our” number I mean Henry’s number, lol.)

After he finished his homework on Monday, we decided to watch a horror movie. We settled on “Open House,” which is part of Netflix’s cache of shitty horror. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was home invasion and that always gets me good. Chooch and I bonded over it because it’s centered around a mom and son; the dad recently died when he went to the store to get eggs (AND HE FORGOT THE MILK THAT HIS WIFE ASKED HIM TO GET) so when Henry said he was going to the store later that night, we were like, “WE WILL GO WITH YOU. WE DON’T WANT YOU TO DIEEEEEEE.”

Of course Henry was clueless because he’s never part of our things.

So we went to Giant Eagle with Henry, which he loves because it guarantees he’ll spend 5x more money and get treated to a grand finale of Chooch dramatically reading tabloid headlines in the checkout line.

We made Henry buy some ugly squash hybrid because it looked like a corpse and he was not thrilled about it and I just looked in the kitchen and noticed that it’s gone so apparently he cooked it already and I ate it without even knowing?!!?!?!??!!?!?!?!?

Chooch came home after school on Tuesday too and after he did his homework, we were bored because Henry still wasn’t home from work so I was like, “Let’s go for a walk” and Chooch was like, “OK” and then I also grabbed the camera on the way out the door and Chooch was like, “Wait—I didn’t agree to this” but then he was posing with nary a cue from me because this is his second nature, guys.

He’s a poser.

Henry drove past us on his way home from work and covered the side of his face, pretending like he doesn’t know us. OK HENRY, YOU’RE SO COOL.

We walked down Brookline Boulevard and I wonder if people in Brookline are like HERE COME THOSE WEIRDOS AGAIN like we do about people in Brookline. I mean, it’s almost always the same people carousing the boulevard and we’re part of that, when you think about it.

OMG WE’RE LOCALS.

Henry saw this picture asked, “WHERE IS THAT” like he was all paranoid that we’re hanging out at some drug shack or something.

On the way back home, we saw two of his jerky little ex-friends who we hate because they think it’s cool to use various “gay” slang in a derogatory manner, and they harassed one of Chooch’s friends and called him fat, then got all aghast and offended when Chooch stood up for the friend. I already hated the one kid and he knows it, so both of these little brats got all nervous when they saw me walking with Chooch, and Chooch and I started giggling.

Oh, the best part is that they’re only in 4th grade, hahaha. I stared them down once from the front door and Henry was like, “Wow, you’re bullying fourth graders. I’m so proud of you.” Whatever, Blake hates them too!

The best part is that they try to prank call Chooch but they call Henry’s phone, thinking it’s Chooch’s, and leave the dumbest messages like, “Hi this is the drug store. Come to the Teen Center if you want to buy weed.” Like, OK dumbass 4th graders, good job.

The Teen Center is open today so I probably won’t see Chooch right after school but he better not be TOO LATE because we’re going to Rich’s Fright Farm tonight with Jannnnnnnnnnnnnaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

(I have a lot of pent-up energy. I love being off work but good god damn, I am not great at being alone!!!)

May 202024
 

Hi I’m over here feeling sorry for myself and panicking about how Chooch is about to be a high school graduate and college freshman and OMG apparently he posted a story today on IG and Henry can see it but I can’t!!?!?! And now he’s denying that I’m not filtered out of his inner circle?!?!

Anyway as I was saying, some of these photos came up in my ON THIS DAY memories and I felt inspired to reshare the blog post from May 2017 because this was still when he was sort of letting me style him for photoshoots and apparently he even let me interview for this one. Ow. Owowowowowowowow. He better let me do one more of these before he leaves my nestttttttttttt.

Well, I might do this several more times from now until the end of my days so bear with me or x out or something, it’s fine. *ANGUISH*

**********************

IMG_0678

Oh hey, today I woke up and decided that I wanted to boss around Henry and Chooch some, and the best way I know to do that is to find some schmancy get-up to stuff Chooch in and then yell at Henry to hand me whatever lens I need. I DON’T KNOW THEIR NAMES. I AM A FAKE PHOTOGRAPHER.

We went to Buttermilk Falls, which was the location of the picnic we had once in celebration of me not dying on a carnival ride in 2013. (I just made the sign of the cross, because I’m religious when I feel like it.) Instead of just dumping these so-so pictures here, I thought it would be fun to ask Chooch some questions about his life currently.

IMG_0660

Me: I’m going to ask you some questions now. Isn’t this fun?

Chooch: *heavy sigh*

IMG_0684

Me: What’s your favorite thing about 5th grade?

Chooch: I don’t know. Why do you make me do this.

Me: Was the grilled cheese Wesley’s mom made you better than my grilled cheeses?

Chooch: You don’t even make grilled cheese…..do you?

Me: No…

Chooch: Exactly.

IMG_0693

Me: What is your current favorite Kpop song?

Chooch: Ugh. No. Um, “Signal” I guess?

Me: What is your current favorite food?

Chooch: Veggie burger.

Me: Talk about being a vegetarian.

Chooch: It’s amazing.

IMG_0695

Me: What is your favorite TV show?

Chooch: Um, hard to say. I have a lot that I watch on Netflix.

Me: Well, just recommend three of them.

Chooch: They’re all kids shows! No one cares!

Me: UGH FORGET IT. NEXT QUESTION.

IMG_0701

Me: What was it like to crowd-surf at the Emarosa show?

Chooch: Spooky, and scary…skeletons.

Me: You’re wearing a Cardboard Swords shirt in these pictures. Would you recommend them to people?

Chooch: Sure. You recommend every band you like to people, so why not.

(I think what he means is that I shove my music faves in everyone’s face constantly.)

IMG_0706

Me: Talk about Spencer.

Chooch, in his weird Corgi Mania voice: Spencer!! *throaty giggles* Spencer’s awesome! Spencer’s a Corgi! No, not a Corgi. An amazing Corgi. A Corgi who walks past my house everyday and I pet him and he loves me!

(Chooch honestly gets delirious in Spencer’s presence. He was excited yesterday because now Spencer rolls over when he sees him and I was like “Yeah probably so you’ll think he’s dead and leave him alone!”)

IMG_0714

Me: Why do you reject Korean food?

Chooch: Because YOU like it.

(Oh that little fucker better wait. His birthday cake next year is going to be one giant chapssal-tteok.)

IMG_0716

Me: Why don’t you have a hand in this picture?

Chooch: I went to a bar and someone stabbed it off of me.

Me: Any big plans for when Grandma Judy watches you alllllll summer long? Family Feud marathons? Go Fish for money?

Chooch: I’ll be going to Wesley’s all day.

Me: What if Wesley goes to camp?

Chooch: Well then I go to camp.

(WHAT IS SO FUCKING GREAT ABOUT WESLEY.)

IMG_0723

Me: If you started a band, what would you call it?

Chooch: The Bambi Penises.

(He’s been calling Drew “Bambi” lately, and we call Penelope “Penis” sometimes, so there’s that.)

IMG_0725

Me: what’s so great about those dumb spinners that every kid has suddenly?

Chooch: They come in a whole bunch of different varieties!

Me: Wow. Riveting. DONT YOU KNOW YOU CAN DIE FROM THOSE.

IMG_0741

Me: If you were a tour guide in Pittsburgh, where would you take your tourists?

Chooch: Spencer’s house. *erupts in giggles.

Me: *MEGA EYE ROLL*

IMG_0747

Me: Do you think the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup?

Chooch, with that cheery monotone enthusiasm of Today’s Youth: Yeah. Hopefully.

IMG_0726

Me, bothering Chooch while he’s trying to concentrate on some adult connect the dots book he got today, and not “adult” as in connect the STDs to each porn star, but as in each page has hundreds of numbers: Quick do a haiku.

Chooch: Bambi is special / Peen Lop never gives a crap / She needs more friends quick.

IMG_0728

Me: If you could be penpals with any celebrity in the world, who would it be?

Chooch: Dan & Phil.

Me: That’s two people, and they’re not even celebrities, they’re lame YouTubers.

Chooch: They live in the same place! Fine, just Dan.

IMG_0737

Me: Do you want to go watch Running Man with me.

Chooch: NO.

Mar 202024
 

A bunch of us law firm lovers of Barb got together at DiBlasio’s (a certified Barb approved restauran) for a memorial dinner. I was even part of the “party planning committee” lol: Wendy was in charge of reservations/restaurant-related logistics, Jeannie handled the official email invite and kept track of RSVPs, I was on decoration duty, and Aaron…oversaw this I guess lol.

I made prayer cards since that apparently is my fall-back if I ever decide to leave the law firm. The nuns at the church where we had my aunt Sharon’s memorial service went ape shit over my DIY prayer cards and kept asking, “where did you have these made??” My…dining room? Lol.

Sue even took some extra prayer cards to give to some of Barb’s friends <3

Anyway, I made a regular version with like, Mary on it or something but then I made a Barb-version using this picture that Tyler took of her YEARS ago at work:

I was lowkey nervous that some people might find it inappropriate but they collectively proved me wrong!

The attendees were, in addition the Party Planning Committee: Sue, Rachel (who wanted to talk about college things since she had twins who are also waiting to hear back and I was like I AM SO STRESSED CAN WE NOT), Nate, Lucas, Ethan, Lauren, Amber and Tracey who I haven’t talked to in years because she left our dept for another dept years and years ago, so that was really nice and I forgot how effing funny she is.

Anyway, I was sitting with Tracey and all of the directors of our dept and totally felt like the kid who snuck over to the Grown Up Table at Christmas, lol.

But yeah, it was reallllly nice sharing Barb stories, reminiscing about the dept in general (I love hearing stories from the Pre-EK days too and there was plenty of that last night!), laughing uproariously a multitude of times (our table definitely had the most fun!), and eating good food at a place Barb loved.

And it was also nice to talk about my marriage plans for next week which actually relieved some stress, especially at the end of the night when everyone was hugging me (ugh but also aw) and telling me they were excited for me, that things would work out, to post lots on Instagram, etc. I have felt kind of lonely & insane during this not-wedding planning process because there’s a part of me that feels stupid talking about it, I know it’s dumb but I am so bothered by the fact that it has taken this many years and I’m kind of embarrassed? So anytime I get excited about something, I sort of just sit on it. But these last few weeks my friends at work (not work friends – just friends) have made me feel really special and seen. These people are like family to me, honestly and actually. But I am so sad and upset that Barb isn’t here for this. She was one of the biggest advocators of the “Get Erin Hitched” movement! It’s just that I have made so many amazing friendships through work and Barb was at the heart of it all. Barb was one of the people who interviewed me for that job! And she was the reason I stuck it out in the beginning when I wasn’t sure if I liked it, if anyone liked me, if I would ever fit in. There are layers of emotions and issues here that I still need to work through. Losing Barb was one of the worst things ever and the ensuing grief has proven to be more complex than I imagine.

In the parking lot, Sue returned some of the paintings I made for Barb over the years which were found during the house-cleaning process. It was bittersweet. I’m happy to have them back and to keep them in Barb’s honor but also just sad and depressed about it. It still doesn’t feel real?! Like, today I had the urge to text her and tell her some of the things we gossiped about last night and then, with my hand hovering over my phone, I said, “Oh. Right.” Grief is so weird.

Mar 192024
 

One of my best childhood friends was named Spring and one of our middle school teachers called her “Vern” as a cutesy little nod to Vernal Equinox and now I always think of that every time, in addition to a picture I have of him faux-wrestling her / trying to get her to smile for the camera and he has his hands clamped over her face?!!? LITERALLY THAT PICTURE JUST POPPED INTO MY MIND AND I AM GOING TO LOOK FOR IT RIGHT NOW AND INCLUDE IT HERE BECAUSE OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE ANYONE THOUGHT THIS WAS “OK” LIKE HE IS AN ADULT MAN FULLY MAN-HANDLING A CHILD?!

Deep breaths, Erin.

But no seriously, does Spring ever think about this, I wonder?!!? Like, “Wow, I was a child and being blatantly groped by a teacher, cool cool cool.”

Anyway, it’s spring and true to Pgh form, there is snow on the ground, lol.

Anyway, hey Marsha. What’s up Peg. I see you over there, Jimbo. Welcome to a Tuesday dumping of thoughts and feelings, I guess. I have been wickedly mean to Henry the last few days, totally annoyed by pretty much everyone in general. I know it’s stress, but c’mon Erin. Go sit in a corner, etc.

Oh, here’s one thing that REALLY irritated me last night!

My brother texted the below and then it took a solid minute before the image was also sent so I was sitting here stewing in wet anxiety, wondering who in my family died or had a surprise surgery scheduled.

But no, just a restaurant closing:

Granted, it’s the most special restaurant to me personally, having literally grown up there and spent so much time with my Pappap and his friends there, but Corey’s lead definitely took some of the sadness away, that’s for sure. Because instead, I just felt relief that no one was dying or had died or was about die on an operating table.

And then I was just pissed off because that was a long minute of worrying about what he had to tell me! Then a bunch of texts from other friends followed too so by then I was like, “yeah I know, oh well.”

This place was so special for a time, but really went downhill.

I was just texting with my friend Lisa about it because there was this one night – I want to say the summer before senior year so probably 1996 – where there was a shitload of us that took over the back room there. It was honestly one of the best nights of my life, but probably the same could not be said for the servers and other patrons, haha. I have video footage of this somewhere and hopefully someday I will get it transferred to the computer so I can relive it because it was seriously such a blast!

And all the after-church dinners Christy and I would have there with my Pappap. The servers (who were pals with my Pappap) called Christy and me the Bobbsy Twins because we always ordered the same thing, but it was just a cheeseburger and fries which, you know for an elementary school-aged kid, isn’t really wild and unusual??

It’s nuts because aside from the luncheon we had there after my Pappap’s funeral, I can’t think of any times that I was there with my immediate family growing up. It was always me and my Pappap. Always.

My mom texted me last night and said it was the first restaurant they took me to as a baby, so I guess I was there with my mom at least once back then, lol.

And now I’ll interrupt this I’M ANNOYED ABOUT EVERTHING shit show to post a clip of my faves, Pam and Kevin, riding the train at Farup Somerland.

In other ANNOYED WITH EVERYTHING news, I had asked a costume-making friend for help fancying up a basic tulle skirt that I want to wear for pictures in Korea. Their response was not excited as I had hoped, but more pragmatic and left me feeling discouraged with my ideas. So, I kind of just dropped it and bought the skirt anyway, figuring “oh well, this is nothing special, just me finally getting married after waiting for 23 years, who cares how plain I look.”

Look, I’m being a pill about this, I know, and guess what I don’t care.

Anyway, the skirt arrived and I thought it was so cute, it’s so comfortable and “my style” which is to say: not a wedding dress. So, I was feeling good about it staying the way it is, but then I remembered that we have a bunch of wood stars left over from the wall (not really wood, but like a chipboard material?) and I had this moment of empowerment where I rose up and said, “You know what, fuck this. I don’t need anyone’s help. I’m going to fucking embellish this skirt myself!”

And then I immediately delegated the task to Henry:

I mean, the skirt has a tulle overlay, so it seemed like a no-brainer to just glue some tie tacks to the backs of the stars, and they’re light-weight so I don’t imagine they will pull the fabric very much. Boom, done. And for the price of glitter, tie tacks, and whatever those stars cost last year. And I don’t even have to pay for the labor!

Also, last night, I was KaTalking with my friend Jiyong about next week and she has calmed my nerves down A LOT. I’m so happy to see her after 3 years, in her hometown no less! At the end of our chat, she told me to let her know if she can help with anything and I said, “Maybe you can help me with the locations of kpop idol birthday billboards??” and she was like “haha ok ok I’ll try” and was then probably instantly reminded that she’s friends with a grown-ass Kpop stan. ;D

But yeah, this time next week….who knows.

Feb 202024
 

Every so often*, I go through some boxes of old photos, always on the hunt for ones that I want to frame, post on here, share with family, rub in Chooch’s face (he hate hate hates my storied childhood, lol). I recently found this one of my aunt Sharon, me, and my Pappap posing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in 1989 and I knew I had to keep it out of the box because Henry and I were recently watching someone’s travel vlog in Pisa and I was questioning whether or not I ever went INSIDE the tower because when I googled, it appears that it’s been closed to the public for quiet some time.

*(Approx. 3x a week, honestly lol.)

So today I was inspired to dig out the ol’ vacation journal and see what 10-year-old me wrote (IN YELLOW INK, APPARENTLY) about this moment of my life, and it appears that YES, I did go inside the tower, phew, now I have something else to rub in Chooch’s face.

Anyway, here’s a little transcription of the super informative words I wrote on August 30, 1989. :/

TODAY IS GRANDMA’S BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and a google more. We went to breakfast and now we’re on the bus going to Pisa. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa after lunch. Me and Sharon walked up to the top. Well, not the very top. (Sharon was afraid to.) Then we finally ate lunch! Thank goodness (for Chef Boyardee). We ate at the turnpike.  Then we went to the hotel. It’s called the Hotel Cavalieri. Then we ate dinner with the tour. It was like a buffet. It was very good. I didn’t like desert [sic]. Then we went to Pappap’s room & sang happy birthday to grandma and had a mixed fruit strudel (fig newton almost). Then we went to bed.

WOW. I FEEL LIKE I WAS THERE ALL OVER AGAIN, DON’T YOU?? Drowning in detail over here.

Some thoughts:

  1. I prob thought I was tres cool for using the word “google.” I wonder if I had just learned it from Highlights.
  2. All of those exclamations were done in BUBBLE-STYLE, thank you very much.
  3. So…did we eat two lunches?
  4. I think by “turnpike” I meant that we ate at one of the really cool truck stop restaurants but I can’t think of the name now. Sharon used to love those places because if you bought whatever the “special” was, it came with a collectors plate.
    • LIKE THIS ONE.
      • According to that post, the highway restaurants were called AUTOGRILL
  5. Can you imagine Little Orphan Chunkie up there in that photo not liking a dessert?? What was it, dirty prunes?
  6. The Chef Boyardee shoutout, I probably was cracking up writing that. OK calm down Erin.
    • as if I don’t still crack myself up when I’m blogging, once a loser…etc.
  7. August 30th and I wasn’t in school?? This must have been back in the good ol’ days when school didn’t start until after Labor Day.
  8. WHAT ELSE DID WE DO IN PISA, ERIN?? I feel like we were there for a few hours. I have a vague memory of walking down a road full of locals shilling their wares and trying desperately (and succeeding a lot) to swindle tourists. I think I bought a coin purse?! Who the fuck knows, ugh.
  9. All joking aside, revisiting these days of my youth seriously brings me so much joy. I really miss my Pappap, and my grandma and Sharon even though they were often, um, pretty cruel and emotionally damaging to me. Ha ha haaaaaaaa. Ha. :/

I want to try and do this more often: post an old travel picture, find the corresponding vacation journal entry, and then see if I can remember anything else to add. Obsessed with documenting memories? Join my support group. It’s currently just me sitting in pile of journals and photos, wet with tears. If you bring donuts, I’ll brew the coffee.

Feb 032024
 

Hello from my couch on an actually sunny Saturday afternoon. I’m the only one here right now and it’s the first time all week that I have been alone with no distractions so the thoughts, they do be marching in.

This past week felt like it was a month long. It really did. There has been so much emotion-processing, Stages of Grief maneuvering, ugly cries, quiet cries, shower cries, subconscious cries, gluten free cries. So many kinds of cries. I’m still waiting on the Big Cry though because I can feel it building and I can feel the valve shuddering.

There was a small burial service and luncheon on Thursday for Barb. It was a very heavy day, also cathartic with a side of confusion, and it’s all really hitting me now. I am so grateful to be given the chance to say a final goodbye, and to be there in the company of some of my favorite people (and to also see some ex-law firm friends – DebSev and Kaitlin, that was a lovely surprise and such a comfort.). There were moments that felt straight-up surreal, such as when a photo slideshow played during the luncheon at Houlihan’s: the number of times I had the urge to turn and lovingly make fun of Barb only to remember that she wasn’t there…it was a huge emotional “ouch.” Like when you wake up from a dream where you were free-falling? That’s what it keeps it feeling like.

I did have a nice laugh with Jeannie and Aaron though as we perused the luncheon menu and I saw that there wasn’t anything meat-free I could choose from. “One last ‘eff you’ from Barb,” I said, and we all laughed. (No really, we did laugh! The mood had significantly lightened once it was luncheon time. And anyway, as Barb would always quote from Steel Magnolias: laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.)

When talking to Barb’s son and brother, I couldn’t even get any words out, just felt frozen with grief, so I smiled sadly and nodded a lot and then instantly regretted not saying the things I needed to say. I wore a necklace that she bought me years ago on Etsy and I wanted to point that out and say something that wasn’t just a canned platitude, like, “Barb was so special to me and had a huge impact on my life, and I know there are so many other people who share this sentiment” but – grief had other plans for my vocal chords I guess. I am so much better at putting my feelings onto paper. Or this dumb blog – which, hello, has been super helpful this week while Wendy, Jeannie and I try to remember things like, “When did we go to Olive Garden with Barb?” And I had forgotten that the four of us had met for dinner at Proper, July of 2019, so that may have been the last time I saw her IRL. I had previously thought it was 2018.

Apparently, Barb couldn’t read the drink menu that well because of the low lighting so the server brought her over a cup of “cheaters”. This picture cracks me up.

I want to always remember this too: at the luncheon, Barb’s brother came over to me at our table and asked, “Are you Erin Kelly? Boy, my sister really loved you. She talked about you all the time. You sound like a very….interesting…..person.” !!!! I started tearing up immediately and then he was too and it was the best peace of mind anyone could have given to me at that moment because these last few years, with her not being responsive to texts and invitations to hang out, talk, whatever, I really started to wonder if I had done something to push her away, if she didn’t like me anymore, if she would have been pissed to know that I was sitting there at a luncheon in her honor. The relief I felt was immeasurable.

I’m so thankful for all the memories I made with Barb over the years, for Barb inviting me into her life outside of work, and for being in the company of so many great friends who are also really going through it right now. Jesus Christ, Barb, if you’re up there milking wifi off some celestial cafe, sipping on an angel-made PSL (holla!) and reading this – look at the impact you had on us! Holes in our hearts.

Jan 302024
 

 

Over the years, I have written numerous tributes to my most favorite Barb to ever Barb. From birthdays to surgery recovery thoughts to work farewells, you can find so many “best of Barb” lists and fun facts and shout outs and, well, barbs.

But I wasn’t, am not, and will never be prepared to write one last tribute. So, we’ll keep this one short because to be honest, it’s hard to see the screen when your eyes are being blurred by hot AF tears.  Just know that this woman was more than just my “work mom,” or my “office bff.” No, our relationship transcended the confines of the office. She WAS my mom in all of the most important senses of the word. She was one of my best friends – not just at work, but in life. She was my role model, my confidante, the person who could make me laugh so hard that I would have to run to the bathroom at work and shut myself into a stall so people wouldn’t see me basically ugly-crying from the laughs.

It’s crazy to think that for the first nearly-two years I worked with her, our shifts only overlapped by 90 minutes, yet we managed to form a solid friendship right off the bat. I’m not exaggerating. I felt so immediately at ease with her that I very quickly put down my walls. She was the first person I shared my blog with at work because our senses of humor were so aligned that I knew it would be OK.

There were days when she would stay past her quitting time because I was going through it and needed someone to talk to. When I say that I wouldn’t have lasted a month at the law firm if not for her, I’m not joking. She was the reason I kept going in every day, took it seriously, and now it’s nearly 14 years later and I am still here, Jabbering people like, “Remember that one time Barb said…” what seems like every day, and teaching all the post-Barb people about her magical, larger-than-life presence.

Even my non-work friends know and love Barb. Henry’s mom asks about her every time I see her. She came to all of Chooch’s birthday parties, all of my birthday parties/dinners (even when they were at the roller rink!!!), Marcy’s memorial dinner, our Christmas parties, game nights, pie parties. All of my friends considered her a friend. Barb was famous in this circle.

I just hope that she knew how loved she is and always be, and that she is at peace. And, selfishly, I hope that one day I can be a Barb Riley to someone.

Bonus picture of Chooch saying, “Ghis wasn’t on my list!” after opening a present from his frenemy Barb, and then getting pissed off when he discovered that she also gave me A present at his birthday party. Man, I loved their fake feud.

Jan 262024
 

In my NOSTLAGIA BOX rummaging (I used RIFLING in my last post, so gotta mix it up because once upon a time I was a kinda-writer, remember), I unearthed this old picture of me from 1986 (love that my mom had a camera that lasered the dates on the photos – I bet that was super high-tech back then) doing my favorite thing ever: reading a book. This was taken when we lived in our old house on Sylvania Drive in South Park, and here are some facts about that house:

  • This is the house my mom was living in with my birth dad back when I was born. Then my dad died, my mom started dating who I consider my actual dad, things got serious so we moved into his house in Castle Shannon. I actually hated that time in my life, every memory is bad (it’s where the neighbor kids abandoned me in their tree house and I was too scared to come down on my own and I just sat up there and cried until my mom realized I was missing, to name ONE of the bad memories). Anyway, after those two married, we moved back to the house on Sylvania Drive! I should probably ask my mom about this because I have no idea if she put the house up for sale originally and no one bought it so we moved back? Or if we moved out with the intention of eventually moving back? Was anyone living there while we were gone!? I feel like we were gone for at least a year.
  • I met my childhood BFF Christy on this street – she and her family on the cul-de-sac. We were BFFs up until the end of high school when I became a huge disappointment by dropping out of school and not going to college, opting to slum it with Psycho Mike instead. Christy was probably the only one who cared enough about me to actually try to stop this and get really fucking pissed and then we eventually grew apart. I was salty about it for years but being so far removed from that and actually in a good place in my life now, I can’t blame her one bit. I was so stupid. Everything happens for a reason, etc, but I can’t help but wonder if I still would have eventually ended up with Henry even if I had opted to NOT throw away those formative years of my life. For years I said I didn’t regret those idiotic decisions, but hoo boy, ask me again now. Anyway, Christy and I are still friends and she’s also Chooch’s godmother. We just don’t really hang out that much which is sad.
  • Little did I know then that a girl I would meet almost – omg this kills me – forty years later was probably not yet born BUT her family was also living on this same street!
  • After my brother Ryan was born, my parents started building a house on a plot of land on the street my Pappap lived on – it was actually my Pappap’s plot of land and I was so fucking sad to leave Sylvania Drive when I was in 2nd grade, but the house that was being built on Gillcrest is still to this day the house that I consider my childhood home. My mom still lives there but I honestly can’t remember the last time I was inside it. Probably not since Chooch was like, in preschool??
  • There was a huge ass maple tree in the front yard and I have no idea the origin of this game, but Christy and me, and sometimes this other girl Michelle who was kind of an auxiliary member of our friend group would sit in my yard and wait for cars to drive past. Then we would glare at them and point the leaves at them, funneling all of our wicked petulance through the stems and then – what? – killing them? I can’t remember what we thought the outcome would be but I will say that I drove past this house not too long ago with Chooch and the tree was still  there! I told him the story and he was like, “That’s a stupid game.” WELL, WE HAD TO USE OUR IMAGINATIONS BACK IN THE 80s OK!?

Oh well, I was also going to drop the names of 5 books I loved as a kid but then I got sidetracked and now I’m bored with that idea and also today was terrible. Bye.

Jan 242024
 

I was rifling (do you say rifling or riffling?!) through a photo box and these pictures were in the mix. I must stumble over them once every couple of years and it never gets old because I can remember this moment like it was yesterday and not the summer of 1998. I posted the second one on IG today with a side note acknowledging that I probably repost these like every year but after scrolling thorough this graveyard of words, I apparently only posted the backstory once during Blogathon in 2010!

So here is the story again because I’m back to having nothing to say since winter life is so stale. Boo hoo. Time to find a new K-drama to binge.

****

All I was doing was putting gas in my car at a gas station. It was night time, near my apartment, and I was eighteen. A lot of things happened to me when I was eighteen.

“Is that an EAGLE TALON?” some ginger guy shouted with thick Pittsburgh intonations. It turned out he also had an Eagle Talon at one point in his life, so we started talking about that. Then I thought it would be a GREAT IDEA to invite him back to my apartment for a get together! Because that’s what you do when you meet strange men at the gas station late at night!

I wasn’t home alone though. My friends Heather and Brian were there as well. Brian gave me his typical “What did you DO?” eye brow raise when my new friend Kevin arrived with his friend. We ordered pizza and for the most part, Kevin and his friend sat at the dining room table, drinking large cans of Miller. Every one in awhile, Kevin would blurt, “MAN DO I LOVE THIS PLACE CAN I MOVE IN WITH YOU” and I would giggle sweetly. Because that’s how I do.

Kevin’s friend excused himself to use the bathroom. Getting to the bathroom required one to cut through my bedroom. A minute or so later, I went up to my room to get something.

The bathroom door was open.

In the reflection of the mirror, there quite clearly hung a large penis.

I screamed, because I was a VIRGIN! Sike, naw. But I did scream, because I was very immature about things like this. I would NEVER screamed right now if I saw some random penis! Not in a million years would I!

I ran back downstairs and crumbled to the floor in laughter.

This was a much better story at the time. Now it’s just DUMB AND I’M SORRY I CAN’T ENTERTAIN YOU, MY GOD.

I look so psychotic in that picture. I NEVER look like that! Not in a million years do I!

****

Present day Erin here. For some reason I left out the part that I was dating this guy Erik at the time and he was LESS THAN THRILLED that I brought these gas station randos home with me. Kevin was soooo wasted and kept telling Erik that he thought I was pretty and at one point he asked Erik, “do you mind if I steal her from you?” Or something up that effect.

AND ERIK SAID “BE MY GUEST.”

The worst part is that I’m pretty sure this was caught on video because we were always filming our random hangouts back then like a low low low way down low budget reality show. I still think about this from time to time.

Be my guest.

Erik and I didn’t last very long obviously. I think it was less than a full summer!

Jan 182024
 

In addition to Saturday’s Blue Flame trip down a grilled cheese-greased memory lane, here are some other small happenings.

Chooch, leaving for college in less than a year, has suddenly decided that his bedroom needs a makeover so he made us take him to Ikea because he wanted a small bedside cabinet thing. He saw this giant bear and bought it with his own money – Baby Chooch is still in there somewhere after all!

(Actually, I’m pretty sure the impetus for his cleaning spree is A GIRL NAMED KYLIE, aka from whom the bracelet on his wrist came.)

On the way home, I got a news alert that BILL HAYES died, so I screamed.

“Who?” Henry and Chooch asked in unison, Henry sounding moderately concerned but Chooch? Not so much as expected.

“Doug Williams? HOPE’S FATHER??” I cried in agony.

No response. Blank stares.

“OMG OK, wow. Well, he’s from something near and dear to me, something that I reference almost every day,” I coaxed.

“I don’t know, your blog? Days of Our Lives?” Chooch mumbled.

Yes, Days of Our Lives, good job!

Doug and Julie - Days of Our Lives Photo (15062275) - Fanpop

A few nights later, I subjected Henry to approximately an hour of Doug and Julie DOOL clips on YouTube while screaming about how “JOE COCKER’S LOVE LIFT US UP WHERE WE BELONG WAS THEIR SONG!” but GUESS WHAT?? My ironclad DOOL memory bank failed me because that was actually covered by MARILYN MCCOO at MARLENA AND JOHN BLACK’S wedding?! How did I mix that up?! Why do I have such a vivid memory of this song playing in a Doug & Julie scene??

It’s really hard for me to get out of the DOOL loop once I start spinning. I never thought I’d be participating in this, but it occurred to me the other night that my Roman Empire has GOT to be when Hope was supposed to marry Larry but when Larry lifted the veil, it was actually HOWIE because Hope, previously Holding Out For a Hero, was riding off into the horizon on the back of Bo’s hog.

So then, lounging in bed with this clod-stomping through my mind, I pictured Howie with a fat cigar in his mouth which made me then hearken back to the time in my life, senior year of high school specifically, when I decided that I wanted to be a cigar aficionado – I was about to say inexplicably but now that I’m slipping back into 1997 during daylight hours I think it must have been because my dad was a pipe and cigar smoker and I just thought it smelled good and imagined – now near me out because this makes no sense and it’s also hypocritical to my newly formed vegetarian lifestyle back then – that it would taste meaty?! Like a thicc Bob Evans sausage link!?

I was about to question my thought process with this next part, but then remembered that I was an idiot teenager, but in any case I thought it would be a great idea to steal some of my dad’s cigars and then wait to attempt to smoke one while riding around in Psycho Mike’s silver Omni from the 80s (named Elliott because one day after he got the car, he asked what he should name it and we were on Elliott Drive, so…). First of all, I’m fucking certain I didn’t light it properly – I mean, aren’t you supposed to clip off the end first? I cannot picture myself doing that. Man, I took a big manly drag and then PROMPTLY screamed EW OMG while accidentally inhaling the plumes of decidedly NOT breakfast meaty smoke, and, as a reflex, I chucked the flaming cigar not out MY window, but ACROSS THE CAR and out of Psycho Mike’s window WHILE HE WAS DRIVING and OH BTW his window WAS NOT DOWN.

Now Psycho Mike’s screams had joined my own in hysterical unison as the STILL LIT cigar ricocheted off the closed window and into his lap, which was now smoldering. He had to veer off onto the shoulder of the road (we were on Waterman, which was super windy and made for a great setting for CIGAR-IN-THE-CAR ESCAPADES) and let’s just say this is one of the many moments I look back on and wonder how I walked away from that relationship alive.

Henry just came home from work and I had to sadly admit to him by DOOL gaff, and instead of just leaving it as “I was wrong about that Joe Cocker song,” I instead opted to reenact the clip I watched with Marilyn McCoo mccooi’ing her cover of it at whatever Doug’s lounge was called  (maybe that’s why I associate it with him and Julie??) while John Blake creepily whispered “I love you” to Marlene with a wink, and over at another table, Patch was intensely glaring at Kayla  (to be fair, he always looked like he was ready for a murder party) while Kayla breathed heavily in response.

What is my fucking life.

Sunday was pretty chill. Drew got pissed off at birds. I fed the squirrels.

Sent Henry out to Allegro for their BBQ oyster mushroom “chicken” sandwich and it was absolutely so divine. I gave myself a big stomachache though because I ate it like it was the only food I was given all weekend.

Oh!! Also, I finished watching This Is Us. Look, listen Brenda. I was an OG-viewer of that series. I watched it in REAL TIME most weeks, even! But when we cut cable, I was having to watch it on On Demand. Then something got screwed up midway through the final season and the next episode I needed was gone from On Demand and I didn’t want to keep watching it without that one. Henry and people of his ilk can do these things, but not me. I need order.

So then I just gave up. Meanwhile, my mom had JUST DISCOVERED it right after that and was like “OMG have you heard of this show” and I’m all “yeah I was watching it for 6 years of my life and now everything is ruined” and she watched the entire series in like a month somehow and I had to beg her to not talk to me about it.

Anyway, hail to Netflix, I finally got to pick it back up (it took a while to figure out where I left off!) but then once I did, I tried to drag it out so I could savor it but I ended up finishing the season and the series in less than a week and needless to say, I am wrecked. That show was pretty close to perfect, honestly. (I know it was the point, but I really fucking hated Toby there for a minute, I forgot how dreadful and unbearable his character had become! Glad he was tolerable at the end at least.)

Chooch and I both had the day off for MLK Jr Day so we walked to 802 for some local coffee. I had a mediocre banana chai (it was fine but I really like Crazy Mocha / Yinz Coffee’s chai lattes the best – everything else just tastes so watered down to me) and then I accidentally chose the wrong kind of donut (again – fine but also underwhelming) BUT!!! Chooch actually acknowledged me the entire time and that is the whole point so who cares about the rest! There was a large Mexico coffee table book in the nook where we were sat (LOL I wanted to know what it would feel like to word it that way; like the coffee and donut, it felt fine) and Chooch was actually flipping through it and showing me places he had been when he studied there in 2022! I was trying to play it cool but it truly felt being noticed in a positive way by one of the mean girls, you know?

Well, I think that’s all. It was a long weekend, and also a LONG WEEKEND if you know what I mean. I’m over winter. Ready for March. Let’s go.

P.S. Back to Doug & Julie, I had NO IDEA ABOUT THIS but they started secretly dating in the 70s and then proceeded to also secretly get married, and when people found out they demanded that their characters, who weren’t love interests at that point, get together on the show and that is how Doug & Julie became a soap opera power couple and ALSO, in my Internet travels today I learned that they were the only soap couple to be featured on the cover of Time! Sit down, Luke and Laura. Pfft.

The passing of Bill Hayes has donkey-kicked so much information into my brain. It’s crazy.

Jan 152024
 

While Chooch was at his Pitt game creation class on Saturday, Henry and I had our Blue Flame re-do. I don’t think I have been here since 2021 when Corey and I closed the place down with our incessant talking. This was when we first discovered that they were advertising HERSHEY ICE CREAM all over the outside of the restaurant, but we never really bothered to investigate.

I rarely come here anymore because it seems like every time I get the urge, they’re not open. Their hours have been fucked, and I feel like that was even before the pandemic and now it’s even worse. They’re not open for dinner AT ALL and even though the website says they’re open until 2PM, it can be a crapshoot. For instance, we made sure to leave the house around noon just in case on Saturday and it’s a good thing we did because once we got here, Henry overheard one of the servers saying they were closing early.

Well, I can now report that it’s a legit ice cream counter and I am simultaneously impressed and also disgusted by this. Let me explain. Before it was this ice cream thing, it was the location of the breakfast buffet – another thing that I did not care for because THAT replaced the best section of Blue Flame. There used to be a semi-enclosed area here with two large wrap-around booths. With the exception of an doorway, it was surrounded by a wooden wall and if my memory serves, I want to say there were also stained glass windows in the official colors of the 70s – orange/yellow/browns.

I wish there were photos of this in the mad stacks I inherited when we were cleaning out my grandparents house. It was where my Pappap always sat with me when we went there on weekdays for lunch. I would have been LITTLE, pre-school age, and he would always be meeting up with his buddies. I loved those days so much that my nose is starting to burn right now as my impending tears announce their arrival. I’d have my prized stuffed dog, Purple, with me. My Pappap would be drinking coffee, bullshitting with his other business-owner buddies, whacking on his water glass with a knife with purposeful obnoxiousness in order to get the attention of one of the waitresses who LOVED to dish it right back to him — my favorite was Monica and I can picture her like it was yesterday and she was telling me not to let those guys bother me as she slid my grilled cheese* onto the table.

*(Except that back then, I called it “girl cheese” because I seriously thought that was what they were called and that they were only for girls.)

And now, it’s just a stupid counter slinging basic-ass Hershey’s ice cream. Cool cool cool.

Change is for the fucking birds.

The grilled cheese was way more satisfying than the limp one I got last week at Deer Creek Diner but the fries were not good, another thing that’s changed because Blue Flame was the origin of my obsession with the “good ones,” those elusive perfectly crisp fries that Henry still doesn’t understand to pick them out of a line up.

Now they’re just…dry and ordinary.

And there are only young high school girls who work there now it seems, no Monica. (There was another OG who I can picture vividly but I can’t remember her name, although I think she was still there up until my adult years because I swear I had the “You probably don’t remember me…” conversation with her and she flipped out when I name-dropped my Pappap. Goddamn, it’s been a while since I cried about him, yet here we are, lol ugh.)

The bathroom has looked like this for as long as I can remember, and Blue Flame in general has a very distinct smell that has persevered throughout. Not a bad smell, but an old, nostalgic stench of, I dunno, grease, potpourri, and whatever cleaner they use.

And then after you leave, you have to walk to the edge of the parking lot and look at the creek. It’s, as my friend Alyson would say, part of the process. Henry of course went straight to the car because he’s not a member of the Blue Flame Club so these things aren’t important to him. Henry also has exactly zero amounts of sentimentality.

So yeah, that was my decent-but-sad lunch at Blue Flame on Saturday. I should go there more often because if they ever close, you know I will be the first to bitch about it while having done nothing to contribute to their business over the last decade. So, anyone want to hit up Blue Flame some weekend for breakfast, you just let me know. The earlier we get there, the less chance we have of them closing early on us.

:(

P.S. While we were there, I had a flashback to junior year when I took my whole entire friend group there for dinner and there were so many of us that we had to go to the backroom and pull several tables together. I have video of this somewhere which I would share but I need to digitize my entire home video collection and this makes me tired thinking about it so I keep telling Henry to handle it and he’s procrastinating as always. But damn, I’d really love to see that. There were so many of us that night and, as I told Henry through a mouthful of masticated grilled cheese on Saturday, it was one of the best nights of my life. *tear*

Dec 282023
 

I still have one more amusement park to recap on here and hopefully I will get to that by the end of the year, but I wanted to skip ahead and do my annual Carouselfie Collection post! NONE are from the US! We did go to several US parks this year but they were ones where we already have carouselfies from, or they didn’t have a carousel (Fun Spot America).

So, with the exception of the first one pictured, these are all from our Coaster Crew trip, which makes them even more special to me! (Of course, none of these are printed, framed, and hung yet but it’s been a stupid several months).

First carouselfie of the year was also our first park of the year – Canada’s Wonderland! It was our first time visiting this pretty massive park right outside of Toronto and it was aight. I feel like the first park after a long, boring winter is always kind of weird – for me, at least – because I have to remember how to tolerate crowds.

I thought it was a really cute carousel though!

Next up was this crazy carousel in Denmark’s Bakken (the oldest amusement park in the world!) where you just run and jump on it while it’s still moving. Mmm, I wasn’t super OK with that, but I guess that’s the American sue-culture in me. But yeah, our first European carouselfie!

It doesn’t look so scary, but man, I really thought I was going to get a foot chopped off jumping on this thing.

NEXT UP: Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen!

I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to get a good carouselfie because Henry and I had to sit in a spinny thing so I tried to do a video edition instead. Don’t worry, that didn’t become a thing, lol.

We’re all wearing the same clothes as we were in the first carouselfie not because our luggage was lost but because this was the SAME DAY. You would know that if you read my blog.
The next day, we also did two parks but the first one didn’t have a carousel sadly. So, these photos are from Tivoli Friheden, somewhere in Denmark.
I wasn’t a big fan of this park in general, but I thought the carousel was beautiful. It was also super sloooooow, though. Some kids actually asked to stay on and I couldn’t tell if it was ironically or not.
The next park didn’t have a carousel, so this was the next-next park: Farup Sommerland, also in Denmark. I loved this one! It was woodland creatures and motorcycles!
HOW COULD I NOT LOVE THIS ONE?!
First and only carouselfie in Norway! If it looks like Henry and Chooch are wearing the same clothes as the last picture, it’s because THEY WERE because everyone slept in the bus while we drove overnight to Norway after the biggest storm in 20 years cancelled all ferries. I was prepared and made sure I had a shirt to change into though because, vanity.
Anyway, this was at Tusenfryd and I was generally super in love with this park. Loved the vibe, loved the views. It was beautiful.

OK stop – was Liseberg the best park of the trip? And was this also our first carouselfie in Sweden? Ugh, there are no lies here. We spent two days here and it was a goddamn dream. I hope to return here one day! I hope that Chooch has children someday and we can take them, too because this place was built on magic. Disney is cool, BUT LISEBERG BLEW MY HAIR BACK.

Fun fact – adults (Chooch included) aren’t allowed to ride on the animals on the carousel here so we had to sit in the spinny tea cup thing.

Yo, Stockholm carouselfie! This was at Grona Lund, our last park with Coaster Crew. :( We also went to two other places prior to this one but no carousels were to be found.
First Finnish carouselfie!! Linnanmaki is another park that I hope to return to some day. It was so quirky and pleasant and just a joy to be at.

And lastly, here is the one that I haven’t actually recapped yet, but we did a day trip to Tampere in Finland and went to Sarkanniemi, which was….meh but super scenic and something really unexpected happened while we were there so I guess you will just have to check back and see if I ever get around to posting about it!

My legs look like giant hotdogs and it’s creeping me out.

OK, that was fun. A bunch of carouselfies. I hope Chooch doesn’t think that he’ll be exempt from these once he starts college??

Nov 302023
 

Hello from 2023 where I am currently stressing out over Chooch / college / etc. When I say it’s eating away at me…well, that’s a lie because then I would be actually losing weight instead of gaining weight, which is what all of this absurd stress is doing to me. IT’S FEEDING ME. Anyway, I was searching for something on my blog yesterday and this old post from 2014 came up which made me feel all nostalgic and sad. Also, it’s apropos because Pitt is in his Top 2 currently which is pretty cool. So I’m resharing this. Enjoy the pictures of 2014 Chooch *cries in Aging Mom*

****************************************************************

Sometimes, Chooch and I give Henry a break and venture off on our own, except that by “on our own,” I mean “definitely with a chaperone.” Originally, Chooch and I (+ our chaperone Janna) were going to go to see The Secret of NIMH at the Hollywood Theater, because that was one of my favorite childhood movies of all time but no way does it still make me cry, OK? But then I saw that the sun was going to be out all day and I didn’t want to be in a dark theater during that, and it’s all about me anyway so I didn’t really ask Chooch and Janna if that was OK.

Instead, we went to Oakland because I thought it would be fun to show Chooch the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning, which is part of the University of Pittsburgh. (Maybe some people reading this aren’t from here, I don’t know! God.) I’d call it my alma mater, but I didn’t actually graduate and I’m not a liar.

On the drive there, I jokingly said I had to quit college because I became a mom*.

“To who?” Chooch asked, and then within a minute of me posting that exchange on Facebook, someone corrected Chooch’s grammar. Thank God for the Internet. But you know, I guess that’s my fault for typing my conversations verbatim, instead of editing to make my 7-year-old sound like a pretentious grammar douche and not, you know, a 7-year-old. He’s got the rest of his life to learn how to talk like Mr. Belvedere.

*(Anyway, this isn’t true. I quit because I was bored, frustrated and realized that college definitely wasn’t for me. I mean, it didn’t do much to help me, because luk att how turrible i still write-z0rz.)

20140310-154704.jpg

As soon as I parked the car, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet which was devastating because the plan was to eat lunch there afterward and I’m not going to lie, I was already starving.

When you walk into the Cathedral, it’s like being swallowed by a gothic cavern. There’s this amazing Great Hall that would make Hogwarts’s figurative weener shrink; you set foot in it and it’s like being transported back in time. The Cathedral of Learning was my favorite thing about Pitt. It had been about 6 years since I had gone back, so the novelty of it was definitely there.

You know what else was there? Chooch’s Grand Canyon-esque echo. Just what everyone there wanted: my kid’s ever-running mouth in primitive surround sound.

20140310-154517.jpg

The audio tour for the Nationality Rooms isn’t free, but the rooms are open to the public regardless, so we just took our own tour, renegade-style. Whatever that means. I’m on my fifth cup of coffee. This was just as well, because Chooch’s attention span did not allow us to stay in any one room for more than 3 minutes. (Except once, and it wasn’t even a nationality room; just a regular classroom as non-descript as Henry’s wardrobe.)

20140310-191647.jpg

20140310-154531.jpg

Chooch’s attempt at college math. In his head, this made sense.

20140310-154548.jpg

A ceiling in one of the rooms, the nationality of which I do not recall because I quit caring after the fourth room when I noticed that Chooch was no longer carrying his phone and Bunny (I didn’t even notice that he brought that damn thing!) so we had to backtrack and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s backtracking.

(I just imagined myself having to backtrack in Alaska and I think I’m done with this day now.)

20140310-154556.jpg

Chooch made a beeline for the blackboard in every room and immediately left his mark. In a lot of the rooms, there was the same writing in Chinese characters, so Janna and I started saying, “Looks like Chinese Chooch was here” and of course Chooch didn’t get it which made it even more fun to say.

We kept trying to get him to look at the shit in each room, but he was under the chalk’s spell. So basically, it was for the best that I left my wallet at home and couldn’t pay for the audio tour.

20140310-154610.jpg

 “Guys, come on.” Sometimes I really have no idea where he gets his independence, but that kid walked around like he owned the place.

20140310-155133.jpg

Don’t worry, Chalkboard NARCS & Religious Zealots, I erased it. (2023 Erin: Wouldn’t it be funny if this was FORESHADOWING.)

20140310-154634.jpg

20140310-154645.jpg

Sadly, being a non-traditional student (and part-time to boot) didn’t leave me with too many fond memories, though a painting of Copernicus in the Polish room recalled a time when I made Janna enroll in the same Magic, Medicine and Science class, because see above where: I really have no idea where my kid gets his independence. This was back in 2004, Jesus Christ—TEN YEARS AGO. (See? I don’t need no college degree.) Anyway, that class was a piece of shit and our instructor was some young broad named Holly who hated us because we sat in the back of the class with some lady we befriended and we would literally sit there and write shit to each other in our notebooks while Holly and her class pets would go off on tangents about Plato’s Cave.

Anyway, one of the things Holly would make us do was read a million pages of super-dry Galileo bullshit from our overpriced text book and then write an outline, except that she called it some fancy word steeped in academia because “outline” was too pedestrian. Turns out I was a natural at these bullshit papers, and you know who wasn’t? Janna. On the first one we got back, Holly had scribbled angrily in red marker about how Janna had PLAGIARIZED and to this day, this is the best thing that ever happened to me in college. Not making the Dean’s List. Not having my Creative Non-Writing instructor tell me I was her favorite student (hahaha). Not watching my College Algebra teacher repeatedly Windex herself in the face instead of the overhead projector.

No, it was Janna being accused of plagiarizing her HOMEWORK. That was the best fucking day.

20140310-154652.jpg

Having to PeeSoBad in the Italian room.

20140310-155121.jpg

 Seriously, this kid. I tell him, “Go stand there so I can take your picture” and he does something Chooch-y every time.

20140310-154714.jpg

Ladies Room Selfie. Yeah, that’s right. When Henry’s not around, Chooch loafs in the ladies room.

Haha. “Loafs.”
20140310-154721.jpg

We walked past the room where I had an English Comp class and that made me think about the time Christina was visiting from Cincinnati during the spring of ’05 and she decided to come with me and hang out on campus while I had class. I specifically told her what time class was over and I made sure she had the room number memorized so I EXPECTED her to be waiting outside the door like a good fucking puppy at exactly 3:30.

Of course, she was nowhere to be found, and this was before either of us had a cell phone (I was notoriously anti-cell phone; she was just notoriously poor) so I marched all over the fucking Cathedral, breaking out into a sweat and eventually having to stop into the bathroom to pee because hide and seek has historically always revved up my bladder. Finally, I ran into her as she meandered out of a stairwell, no big deal.

“Oh, was class over early?” she asked casually, BECAUSE THAT BITCH THOUGHT SHE WAS EARLY. Do you know why she thought she was early? Because she never set her watch ahead for daylight savings time and she was actually an hour late because she was too busy lounging outside in the grass, watching people JOUST.

I was only That Mad because everything Christina did made me That Mad.

20140310-154730.jpg

Thoroughly interested in reading about this giant tome of sheet music. Thank god.

20140310-154745.jpg

I’d love to see how he sits in his actual 2nd grade class.

20140310-154805.jpg

I found the aforementioned College Algebra classroom from 2006. “This is where I used to sit while you were in my belly, I mean, sitting next to me in your unhatched pod,” I sighed with maternal warmth to Chooch, who was 100% not interested.

Like so many dummies, I was forced to take remedial college math courses because my cumulative high school math average was not cutting it. (Somehow in high school, they kept putting me in advanced math classes even though I kept telling my guidance counselor that I was bad, just plain no good at math.) But I didn’t hate college math because I had the best instructor ever. Joanne was the fucking shit and quite literally gave me so many “a-ha!” moments from which I definitely would have benefited in high school. Her classes were the only ones I enjoyed going to and actually spoke to the other students. (I’m still friends with one of them IRL, actually. You know, as opposed to just in Toon Town.)

On the first day of that class, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves. When it was my turn, I blurted out, “AND I JUST FOUND OUT I’M PREGNANT!” Totally taboo to make such a public declaration so soon into the pregnancy but I was so excited. This class was full of older, non-traditional students, so no one really shirked away from me like the younger students did in my geology class, but that might have been because my pregnant, bloated belly got stuck behind a desk one day, and that was when the professor had to go and get me a desk that had a detachable chair. That was a really awesome memory.

Anyway, this particular math class was split in two, but most of us ended up together during the spring semester too, and those sneaky brats, along with Joanne, had a fucking baby shower for me during class one day! (Much to the chagrin of the men in that class.)

I still get all teared up when I think about it. OK, sorry Janna the Plagiarist, but maybe that’s my favorite college memory.

20140310-154818.jpg

(2023 Erin again: I hadn’t fallen down the K-hole yet – LOL OK that doesn’t work here, now it just sounds like I’m a drug addict and not a Koreaboo – so I didn’t realize in 2014 that the first thing written there in this picture is HELLO IN KOREAN. I actually assumed that I had written it until I saw that this was 2 years pre-lifestyle change.)

Report if you see bullying to the chancellor’s office, is what that is supposed to say, but Chooch kept saying “chandelier.” This was after he tried to force his way into said “chandelier’s” office. Thank god it was Sunday.

And locked.

Like real life college students, we were starving and thirsty, so Janna suggested that we go to the basement and see if the vending machines took credit cards but they only took Panther Cards, which are the dumb college card things and Chooch was like, “YOU WENT HERE SO WHERE IS YOUR PANTHER CARD? USE YOUR DAMN PANTHER CARD!” But Mean Henry would never let me put money on my Panther Card because what…I’d use it to buy Adderall? Who knows. And even if I did have one back then, hello, I haven’t been a student since 2008; go get your own Panther Card, Doogie.

Look at me, giving my kid a taste of true college life! Spread your wings, Chooch!

20140310-154850.jpg

Even though we were ready to collapse with hunger and thirst, we’d have been remiss to leave without taking Chooch to the 36th floor to take in the nauseating view.

20140310-155108.jpg

20140310-191427.jpg

20140310-191842.jpg

Man. What a great afternoon.

****

When we went home to retrieve my wallet, Henry was lounging about like the goddamn Sultan of Brookline.

“I can’t believe you didn’t check in on us, not even once!” I cried.

“I knew where you were,” he said casually, so now I’m convinced he’s having me tailed.

 

Nov 252023
 

I am having a pretty good day and I hope you are too. (Look at me being positive and nice!) The past week was pretty good too aside from some weird work anxieties – nothing major but I think I am just very on edge lately since OMG CHANGES IN MY LIFE. I just really don’t adjust to change all that well. The best way I can describe the last month-and-a-half is by comparing it to the time middle school was on vacation with my grandparents. I think we were gone for nearly 3 weeks, just long enough for me to really experience homesickness. I was happy to come home to my dogs (mm probably not the rest of my family though LOL savage) and the familiarity of my bedroom. EXCEPT THAT MY MOTHER CHOSE TO REARRANGE MY ROOM WHILE I WAS GONE.

Kevin, excuse me but do you know how disorienting that is??

I think that’s similar to how I have been feeling lately. To be honest, I don’t think I really got back into the groove since we came back from vacation. That was a long time ago at this point. I just feel so uncomfortable every day? Nothing feels right? And then the new neighbor situation has really fucked me up and I can’t explain why. Yes, it’s been sort of stressful, but I think it’s more of the fact that my routine was bulldozed for weeks and I just can’t get back into it. I’m trying to start up my exercise routine again because that was totally ruined and my diet was fucked, all of this PLUS the stress causing me to gain weight and you know the underlying theme of my life is WEIGHT OBSESSION / FOOD PHOBIA etc. so god bless my neighbors for sending over plates of delicious food and homemade bread, but I know associate them as a whole unit with WEIGHT GAIN and I am to the point where I am almost hiding from them and that’s so fucked up. I am fucked up. Do I need therapy, you think? Here are these people just trying to be nice neighbors by feeding us and I’m over here developing an aversity to them because I’m fucking neurotic. I hate myself.

Anyway, all of that aside, some nice things happened over the past week to get me out of the house and talking to people aside from online chatting with my work friends (not knocking that AT ALL but sometimes I need some IRL conversing).

I had brunch plans last Saturday with my friend Lindsey and I was reallllly looking forward to it. It’s only our second time hanging out but, at least on my end, it feels like she is an old friend (I mean, she *is* Internet-wise!) and the nerves are not there at all, which I really appreciate. Henry drove me though because Chooch had his gaming class at Pitt right before that and it was convenient for us to drop him off together so that we could then go to Home Depot and pick up paint for our current project. There is this one person I used to follow in IG who would drop little bread crumbs about her latest project and then say I CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW YOU WHAT IT IS and half the time she never would. I will not be like and just tell you that we (LOL *WE*) are redoing the twin to the current beverage buffet we have and we are doing it in a garish clown theme. No big secret to reveal later, unless you want me to assign it a gender and have a dramatic announcement when it’s done.

OK so the whole point in me telling you this is because we had the best cashier ever, this super personable older black woman who first initiated conversation by saying that she liked my hamburger purse and then she started asking me questions about it like is it wagyu I don’t fucking know and I was like, “Oh, I just bought it because I thought it was funny since I’m a vegetarian” and she was like, “Oh ok. Are you ready for Thanksgiving? What are you cooking?”

I laughed, like a really hard staccato HA! and said, “Nothing!” She looked at me like I was FUCKING CRAZY. “Trust me, no one wants me cooking!”

Henry was off to the side making grunts of agreeance. Then he said he does all the cooking and she was like, “WHY YOU DON’T YOU TEACH HER??”

“Oh trust me, we’ve been together over 20 years. There is no teaching her.” And I added, “It’s true. He has tried and I get so distracted and start looking up at the ceiling.”

She was dying. Then I told her about the time I tried to make Chooch pierogies and didn’t realize that I had melted the spatula on it until I saw him about to shove a forkful of pierogi and spatula tendril into his mouth.

We had actually already finished checking out and were still standing there talking about this and it was one of the rare times lately where the small talk felt so real and natural?? It reminded me of how I used to be before the world and texting and the Internet ruined my knack for verbal communication. I forgot that I used to be really good at it and would have good chats with people everywhere I went! I kind of feel inspired to do that again??

Then it was time for brunch with Lindsey at Scratch!! First of all, it was so awesome to see her again and eat what were quite possibly the best donuts I’ve had in Pittsburgh? My friend Wendi was raving about them to me, and I can confirm that they were worth the hype!

The avocado toast was also totally filling and also beautiful – look at it up there! I can be kind of bratty about avocado toast because trends also annoy me but sometimes a good avocado toast can be so satisfying.

Then one of the waiters interrupted us to tell Lindsey that she has the best laugh and I totally second that! But then it was kind of awkward because I wasn’t sure if he was going to ask to join us….? He just sort of lingered there and then eventually offered to take our order because our original server was busy with a large party, but honestly, I kind of felt like he was he interested in Lindsey and then lost his nerve and tried to play it off by taking our order?! LINDSEY IF YOU’RE READING THIS, DID YOU GET THAT VIBE FROM HIM?

We overstayed our 90 minute welcome window and were asked (politely!) to leave, lol. I mean, the host did offer to move us to the bar area, to be fair! I can’t believe how fast that 90 minutes flew by though! It was so fun to catch up, complain about Pgh’s food scene (eff you, Oak Hill Post!!), and tell her the Coaster Crew trip deep cuts.

I totally forgot to ask someone to take our picture!

My Coaster Crew friend Pam is in town this weekend for an event at Kennywood (it’s being held by a different coaster club) but she made time to see me after she got into town yesterday! We met at Yinz Coffee (owned by the former owner of Crazy Mocha which was the ONLY cafe in Pgh that had a good chai latte and I’m happy to report that Yinz Coffee uses the same recipe thank god) and had a wonderful catch-up sesh! Kind of surreal seeing her here in Pgh and not out in the wild of some Scandinavian amusement park. #tears

Henry came in toward the end and Pam was like, “IT’S HENRY!” Ugh, Henry! Henry! Henry! Henry barely even talked to anyone on that trip and I guarantee he’s still the one people would remember the most!

That was really fun, and it made me want to have a reunion with everyone from that trip so I posted on Instagram that we should have a Phantom’s Revenge marathon party next year and then everyone can stay at my house and Jean (!!!) commented and said, “Let’s do it!” and Henry was like, “DO THEY KNOW HOW SMALL OUR HOUSE IS?!?!” But if we wait until Chooch goes to college, we’ll technically have two spare rooms to fill with beds and sleeping bags?!

Or we could be grown-ups and buy a house.

I was really thinking a lot last night about our Coaster Crew friends and it made me wonder if any of them were at the Coastin’ By the Ocean event we did in 2022 – it was technically an event held by Morey’s Piers but you had to be a card-carrying member of a coaster group to be able to register, so we were able to do it as Coaster Crew members. Of course, we had never done a Coaster Crew event before that so we had no idea if anyone from that group was there.

I looked up the group picture and literally SCREAMED:

FREAKING DAWN AND ROBERT, TWO OF OUR FAVORITE PEOPLE WHO WE ALSO RAN INTO IN FINLAND?? (Spoiler – I haven’t written about that yet, oh well!) And they were RIGHT IN FRONT OF US? I am shook. Honestly, the world is so small sometimes. It’s humbling.

Today, Chooch and I met Janna, her sister Julie and bro-in-law Marcus and their son August at Eat n Park so that they could talk to Chooch about his college plans, tell him about their experience at CMU, answer questions for him, etc. It was really informative and interesting even for me, the big stoop at the table. It also occurred to me on the drive there* that I don’t think I have seen Julie since high school??

*(You’ll be shocked to know that I actually drove Chooch and myself there and here’s why I did: I knew I would be able to park there; if I am going somewhere with street parking, Henry better drop what he’s doing because I will have an anxiety attack before I even grab my purse, requiring him to drive me and drop me off like I’m fucking Miss Daisy or a 4-year-old going to preschool.)

Anyway, I really really really appreciate that Julie and Marcus took time out from their holiday visit to meet with Chooch and I don’t know how he’s feeling about it because he never tells me this shit, but I know that I for one felt a bit better and less stressed about it by the time we left.

The college process in general I think (OK I  know) is another reason why this fall has felt so alien to me. Most nights, I lie in bed with such anxiety, that I can feel my blood rushing even in my gums. Like a sizzle/tingle along my teeth. I know, I know, “this too shall pass,” but I am having such a hard time calming down. I need one of those sweaters that dog’s wear to keep them calm during thunderstorms. Maybe the human version of that is a hug? I don’t know.

Oct 022023
 

a/k/a Erin’s Redemption Era

Me, before Riot Fest: We don’t even have to be near the stage. We can just stay way back on the fringe, sit down and relax, etc.

Also me, 30 minutes the Cure’s set: *TRUDGING THROUGH THE MUD AND CROWD WITH ARMS AKIMBO, ELBOW-JABBING THROUGH HORDES OF PEOPLE, TRYING TO GET AS CLOSE TO THE STAGE AS COMFORTABLY POSSIBLE*

We ended up decently close, on the right side, surrounded by a pretty good cluster of Cure fans. It was 10000x better than the crowd at the Blossom Music Center, I will tell you that much right now. I really liked the older couple next to us – the woman was so short, I felt awful for her. There was a very tall guy, like Corey-height if not taller, with his friends in front of her and he was trying so hard to duck out of her way. She was like, “Listen, I’m short – I’m not going to be able to see no matter what! You’re fine!” and for a split second I considered trying to be like her, not giving a shit about seeing, just enjoying the music, etc etc but then they came on stage and I was on my tip toes, craning my neck, bobbing and weaving. It’s so futile, lol. I could actually see, mostly, but also the screens at Riot Fest are EXCELSIOR, way better than the ones that they have at most of those dumb ampitheaters, so it was almost impossible to not see.

The Mars Volta finishing up on the other stage. I think they had everyone in a trance by the end. I haven’t listened to them in YEARS, probably actually since their first album, and I know I saw them at least once back then, maybe twice, so the nostalgia was there for me. Not so much for Henry though. He was acting like his ears were bleeding.

And then magic happened for the next 2.5 hours. You guys. YOU GUYS. It was so nice to just enjoy the concert and not wonder if SOMEONE was going to ask me SOMETHING, etc. etc.  And I think Henry can also attest that the night was a lot more fun for him too, not having any expectations. When they performed “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,” Henry grabbed my hand and pulled it into the air and I was like “YOU’RE SO DUMB I HATE YOU” but on the inside I was like *rainbows and grilled cheese*.

I love this aerial shot so much, credit to Riot Fest, obviously. I left my drone at home.

This was 100% worth coming to Riot Fest. I love the Cure so much, and I guess Henry is up there too, just not as high. And not as unconditionally.

***SET LIST***

  1. Alone
  2. Pictures of You
  3. High
  4. Lovesong
  5. And Nothing Is Forever
  6. Cold
  7. Burn
  8. Fascination Street
  9. A Night Like This
  10. Push
  11. In Between Days
  12. Just Like Heaven
  13. At Night
  14. Play For Today
  15. A Forest
  16. Shake Dog Shake
  17. FTEOTDGS
  18. Endsong

ENCORE:

19. Lullaby
20. The Walk
21. Friday I’m In Love
22. Close To Me
23. Why Can’t I Be You?
24. Boys Don’t Cry
25. 10:15 Saturday Night
26. Killing An Arab

And Dumb Henry bought me this beautiful poster to add to the collection!

It’s already frame and on the wall going up the steps, right next to the one of the entire Riot Fest lineup <3.

Incredible night. The weather was wonderful. The Cure was perfection as usual. (They are physically unable to put on a bad performance, I swear to god.) The company was….eh. Decent. The only annoying part was waiting for Henry to pee afterward and then the stressful process of catching the train back to the hotel, which actually wasn’t that bad except that I got stuck talking to some guy about my posters and he was definitely one of those guys who asks you questions about music just so he can not listen to your response because you’re a dumb dumb silly goose girl and then before you even finish he’s already on his mansplainin’ podium. He wasn’t THAT bad, just moderately annoying and I was fucking tired and didn’t want to exert energy needed to form sentences.  I was actually kind of praying that he would try to throw down some Cure facts on me just so I could take him to school but he eventually set his sights on the guy behind me who was wearing a band shirt that he could relate to, I don’t know what was going on, I was trying not to fall asleep while standing erect.

There was a line going down the sidewalk just to get INTO the train station thing and by the time our group was the next to get herded through, there was a public transit worker guy who was trying to usher everyone down as far as they could go by hollering, AND IT WAS REALLY COMPLICATED SO YOU HAD TO REALLY PAY ATTENTION, “Everyone keep walking down the track as far as you can go!”

But….they didn’t go as far as they could go. They just…stopped halfway. So, then the train came and everyone just stood there, and Henry and I were like, “Um, we’re going ALL THE WAY DOWN, peace out motherfuckers” and that is how Henry and I got to snag a completely empty car and secure any fucking seat we wanted, while all the other cars were packed to the gills with Riot Festers who were too dumb to FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Jesus Christ. And people have the nerve to say that Kpop stans are dumb. Mmm.

I’ll end this with one of my favorite Cure songs of all time. When I first moved into this dumb house in the fall of 1999, I used to watch the music video for Fascination Street over and over and over and over and over and…..ugh.

OK now I’m crying. Goodbye.