Jan 192018
 

Perhaps you remember me whining last spring about how my good friend Lisa was moving to Idaho. Well, she moved to Idaho. And I have been missing her so much ever since! Even when she lived in Pittsburgh, she was really the only friend I talked to on the phone (LITERALLY TALKED TO ON THE TELEPHONE who even uses phones for talking anymore?!) so you would think that we would still talk fairly often even now that she’s gone and ditched the ‘Burgh, but those pesky time zones, man. Those pesky motherfucking time zones.

Ugh.

Luckily, she hasn’t completely forgotten me because I made the short list of people she wanted to see when she was back for a visit last week! She asked me about a month in advance if I was free on MLK day for dinner and I was like look if I wasn’t free, I’d make myself free! I mean, unless my prior plans were with G-Dragon. Then sorry, Lisa. We’ve seen enough of each other since high school, I’m sure we could skip this one time.

But sadly, I did not have prior plans with any beautiful Korean, so Lisa got lucky!

We met during a snow storm at Needle+Pin, which I had been wanting to try since it opened last year and Lisa was enthusiastically on board. It worked out for both of us because, since it’s Indian-English fusion, there are several vegetarian options, and it’s also one of only three gin bars in Pittsburgh and coincidentally Lisa has recently become a gin drinker.

Right off the bat, we had excellent rapport with not only the waitress, but the bartender as well, who came to our table to answer Lisa’s 1548452 questions about gin, while I was super low-maintenance and ordered the Blackberry Bramble simply because it sounded delicious and despite the fact that I’ve mostly avoided gin ever since my ex-boyfriend psycho Mike grabbed a bottle of it from my grandparents’ basement bar and got shit-faced on a hill in South Park in high school.

I just vomit-burped at the memory.

Anyway, the bartender–a sweet, young boy–praised my choice and I was so smug about that. Lisa had two different lemon-y gin drinks and was “meh” about both of them while openly coveting mine. It was so fucking good, you guys. And the best part was that the single, large ice cube slowly melted and mixed with the leftover blueberry syrup stuff at the bottom of my glass, so it was like the gin-gift that just kept gin-giving.

The ambiance and decor was just my style.

After the drink-ordering, we stressed over the food. The waitress broke my heart because they didn’t have the vegan bangers & mash that night, but the Tikka Masala I ordered was freaking delightful.

Lisa had ordering remorse again and it was just like old times.

And then I went back to 2008 and took this picture with my red Blackberry Curve. Here’s Lisa trying to steal some of my paneer.

Gin phone booth!

Lisa told me that on the plane to Pittsburgh, she was randomly sitting next to a man who started talking to her about he CS Lewis book she was reading and eventually she learned that he’s my second cousin Mike! His mom was my Pappap’s sister, and I haven’t seen him probably since I was 10 so I have very vague memories of him and that side of the family, however, Lisa said that the way he talked about my Pappap to her was exactly how I talk about him and I started crying right there over my Blackberry Bramble. Time has healed a lot but shit, I still cry about my Pappap A LOT.

A LOT, A LOT.

Overall, it was an emotional dinner. Ugh, it was so good to see her again and catch up!

MOVING OVER BY THE ELEPHANT FOR PICTURES WAS MY IDEA, OK!?

Lisa made me pose for this one and I hated every second of it. Payback for all the years of shoving my camcorder in her face I guess!

Before we left, we stopped at the bar and chatted some more with the bartender, who gave us straws and let us sample some gins. I think it’s safe to say that I will probably not be venturing out from the mixed gin drinks, but it was still fun to try and listen to him and Lisa nerd out about gin baths or whatever.

And then, just like that, the night was over, and I had to say goodbye to her all over again. Hopefully the next time I see her will be in Idaho. She was showing me pictures of where she and her family moved and it is definitely NOT Potatoville everywhere in Idaho, apparently!

Jan 072018
 

Remember the other day when I posted a sob story? I know, all my stories are of the sob genre, but specifically the post about how fucking cold it’s been here in Pittsburgh. Well, Saturday was still fucking cold.

I started the day with several walking workouts on YouTube since it’s just been too much to walk around the neighborhood in this weather (my Mexican taco cart boyfriend has probably forgotten me by now, ugh). And then I watched Goblin – it has taken me nearly a year to get through this drama because IT IS SO FUCKING SAD. It makes me ugly-cry so hard, it’s repulsive. Even more than This Is Us. But it is so, so, so good.

Henry rules.

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And then Henry made me this bubbling ramyun for lunch because HAVE I MENTIONED IT’S GODDAMN COLD OUT? Every year I swear that I won’t be that person who complains about the weather or points out the obvious but man, I will just never be OK with winter. Sorry all you winter stans.

After lunch, Henry had to go to the eye doctor and originally I was just going to stay home. But then I remembered that the eye place is very close to Century III Mall, and since Chooch and I haven’t been able to get in our nightly walks, I thought it would be fun to pose as elderly mall walkers. Because, if you’re from this area you already know — there ain’t much else to do at the near-defunct Century III Mall.

Henry dropped us off and I was shocked to see that since I was last there (less than a year ago), nearly every store had closed. I’m not being hyperbolic here, either. We walked through almost an entire wing before we finally came across something that was open — freaking Things Remembered, ugh that store is so lame.

One of my friends posted a few months ago that Italian Village Pizza, the last remaining joint in the food court, had closed. Chooch and I walked over to that side of the mall and it was actually really cold, obvious that it wasn’t even being heated anymore. And my favorite wing of the mall is now entirely off-limits: the steps and escalators are all blocked off.

I know I’m a super sentimental person, but I was shocked at how much this hurt. There was a pet store down there that my friend Rachael worked at and I would visit her there in high school. And then off to the right down there was Champ’s, where I would buy all of my Champion and Starter hoodies and coats (I was a yo-girl and dressed almost exclusively in JNCO & Karl Kani jeans and college sports sweatshirts, lol — I really liked Michigan for some reason?!). When I was in 9th grade, I befriended the cutest salesguy in that joint — Will. Ugh, he was so dreamy, and like probably in college. I remember my friends Jameelah & Erika also really liked him and would get so mad because he paid the most attention to me, and after I started dating my “first love” Justin, Will would always tell me that he wasn’t good enough for me. We used to talk on the phone sometimes too (my mom WAS NOT A FAN OF THIS) but I realized later that he probably just liked me as a little sister and truly did look out for me, which was pretty awesome now that I’m old enough to see it for what it was.

I tried to regale Chooch with some of my memories, like how the dark, cobblestoned portion of the bottom floor had a shop called the Pittsburgh Store and it’s where I would get all of my stickers. “I collected stickers and had like 87 sticker books,” I told Chooch.

“Of course you did,” he sighed.

And how there was a Dairy Queen back there too, where Keri and I would always stop for refreshments on one of our ritual Friday night mall lurks. (I would always get the tropical flavored one.) And how one time we were accused of shoplifting at the Claire’s in the now-closed wing of the mall, and of course we proved that we didn’t do it but I couldn’t get the bitch manager to apologize so Keri’s mom called the mall and flipped her shit on them.

There was actually only one time in my whole life that I shoplifted, and it was when I was like 4 or 5 years ago. My mom and I were in some kitchen store on the second floor of that mall and I walked out with two magnets made out of peanut shells, and then felt so terrible when I realized what I did that I cried all night and never did that again.

But honestly, I practically lived at that mall from 7th to 10th grade. In 8th grade, I’d get dropped off every Friday night with the hopes of seeing SCOTT DAMBAUGH, who I was desperately crushing on. Even Henry knows the Dambaugh lore.

To be honest, that mall started going downhill back in the 90s when it was first sold and renovated. It was “modernized,” which basically just means they took out all of the cool parts, like the stage area that was outside of Kaufmann’s (Richard Simmons performed there once!). And the smaller third floor area was pretty much just left to die, and that has always pained me because that’s where my favorite music shop was (Waves — I bought what feels like a million dollars-worth of cassingles from that place), where my friend Liz and I “accidentally” lost the French foreign exchange student who was staying with my family during the summer of ’92, and where the best arcade was (the mall had two back then). It was also where one of my first memories originates, it’s super unclear, but I remember my Pappap and me walking around the mall a lot when I was really young, like pre-school age. And there was a…OK bear with me because I just tried to tell Henry this story and he looked at me with question marks undulating around his furry brows. How to even start this. There was a department store on that side of the mall – I thought it was Gimbles but Henry was all THAT WAS ON THE SIDE WHERE THE MEXICAN RESTAURANT IS NOW. Maybe it was Hornes then? It doesn’t matter. All that matters was that on the wall outside of it, next to the entrance, there were buttons. I never knew what they were for, but it was like a ritual for me to push them every time. And the one was brown so I would pretend that every time I pushed it, coffee was being made.

I started to remember this when I was an older kid, and when I brought it up to my Pappap he was like, “Bitch you cray” and when I started hanging out at the mall later in life with friends, I actively tried to find those buttons and no one ever knew what the hell I was talking about.

Also, the third floor used to have this super cute It’a A Small World-esque Christmas display AND NO ONE REMEMBERS THAT EITHER. Please, dear god, if you’re from Pittsburgh and have any clue what I’m going on about, PLEASE COMMENT AND VALIDATE ME.

Oh man, I just now had a recollection of buying Billy Ocean’s greatest hits for myself at Waves, and as the cashier rang me up, I turned to my friend Christy and shouted, “SUSIE IS REALLY GOING TO LIKE THIS CD” because I didn’t want the guy to know it was for me, and it’s hilarious to me that I even once cared about what someone would think about my musical persuasions!

Or going to National Record Mart when I was in third grade because I wanted to buy the T’Pau record but all I knew was that I liked the song “Heart & Soul.” When the clerk asked me who the artist was, all I could say was, “I don’t know. She looks like Tracey Ullman.” OMG AND GOING TO KAUFMANN’S TO BUY CONCERT TICKETS!

UGH AND POGS!!!!!!

Other memories I have of the mall are, pre-vegetarianism, skulking around Hickory Farms for the free kielbasi samples; eating at Alby’s Big Boy as a kid and falling into the dark hole of penpalling thanks to the penpal section of the kids menu (I WAS EVEN FEATURED ONCE!!!!!); getting all of my film developed, with doubles!, at Ritz Camera; meeting some of the Penguins at an event there after they won their first Stanley Cup (Phil Bourque and Peter Taglianetti were definitely two of them, but I’d have to find my old pictures to remember who else was there); playing the Simpsons arcade game with my brother Ryan; GETTING THE WORST HAIR CUT OF MY LIFE AT SOME SALON THAT’S NOT THERE ANYMORE THANKS MOM; Taco Tina’s.

I’ve still been going to that mall a handful of times a year, because it still has Hot Topic and Journeys. But now Journeys is gone too! I hope that my Dance Gavin Dance friend Sam got to relocate to a different Journeys. :(

On this particular afternoon, it was pretty much just me, Chooch, some elderly people, and a kid pretending to be a zombie. Chooch wanted new shoes and that was a struggle considering 90% of the stores are closed and JC Penney is the only department store left. But we eventually found a cool pair of red ADIDAS at Champs (in a new location). And they were majorly on sale too because the mall was sold to UPMC and all the remaining stores are just waiting for their leases to run out, I guess. I mean, even Spencer’s is gone. Does a mall even exist without a Spencer’s?

Free carousel ride ftw!

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Inexplicably, what the mall DOES have is a beautiful double-decker carousel that’s managed to last for several years now. Chooch and I naturally wanted to ride it but my credit card wasn’t swiping properly so the ride operator graciously let us ride for free!

“ARE WE GOING UPSTAIRS?!” I cried, and of course Chooch answered yes so we clobbered up the steps and picked our animals.

The ride operator waved to us every time we rotated past her, and I waved back the first few times but then just pretended like I didn’t notice after that because it was getting to be too much.

After this, we went to Penney’s, because we still hadn’t reached 10,000 steps (we got Chooch a Fitbit for Christmas and he and I are “healthy” competitors). I was about to try on some slutty jeans when Henry texted and said, “Don’t buy anything.”

Um, OK, control freak.

“Especially not stupid, overpriced red shoes.”

I showed Chooch and we both looked at each other like, “WHAT HOW WHY.” I figured he probably got a text notification that I purchased something from Champs because ever since we had our account hacked several years ago, Henry gets notified for every last purchase just in case.

“Or merry-go-round rides.”

OK, for sure I figured he probably just saw our picture on Instagram, but I wasn’t sure how he knew that we bought red shoes. Then he asked where we were and after I said “Penneys” he appeared behind us LIKE A FUCKING CREEPER. Turns out, he had been in the mall for a minute because he had to go to the Verizon store, and on his way there, he walked past us just as we were getting on the carousel. He even mimicked me saying, “ARE WE GOING UPSTAIRS?!” Lol! I was like, “OMG were you so proud to know us?!” and he said no, that he hung his head in shame and hurried past us before we saw him.

WOW, RUDE.

Henry said the first thing he noticed was that Chooch was wearing brand new bright red shoes hahaha.

So that took up pretty much the whole afternoon.

I spent some time in the evening making some new Kpop cards, and then later we had family KpopX night! THIS IS MY FAVORITE NIGHT! HENRY DOESN’T EVEN TRY!

We finished the night by watching an old Running Man episode featuring IU, so I had my tea in an IU cup. It was a good day. I mean, it was cold as fuck. But it was good.

Nov 062017
 

No spoilers here I promise but we finished Stranger Things last week and I am 100% on the Steve Harrington bandwagon, NO FUCKS GIVEN.

Steve, I’m sorry I wanted you to die so badly in the first season.

The biggest reason that I like him so much is that, now that he’s had a chance to grow as a character in this new season and redeem himself (although let’s never forget about how he slandered Nancy!!!), he reminds me a lot of my favorite character from one of the BEST 80’s MOVIES OF ALL TIME, The Monster Squad. If you’ve seen it, you already know that I’m talking about RUDY.

  1. Too cool-high schooler chillin’ with monster-fighting middle school dorks? Check.
  2. Bitchin’ hair? Check.
  3. Total dick most of the time? Check.
  4. Memorable one-liners? Check.

I’m kind of surprised that Stranger Things in general, especially season 2, hasn’t drawn more Monster Squad comparisons.

When I was in high school, my brother Ryan and I named our pet rabbit after Rudy. Clearly I need to get another rabbit and name him Steve Harrington.

NO: STEVE HAREINGTON, OMGOMG.

Jun 092017
 

Well, it finally happened. Lisa made good on her threat to leave me and took her whole family to Idaho on Wednesday.

FOREVER.

UGH!!

She had a going away thing on Saturday at Rock Bottom. The whole time I was like DONT CRY. DONT YOU DARE CRY, ERIN. But then she hugged me as Henry and I were on our way out and my eyes started sweating, probably an allergic reaction to the strange beer concoction I let the bartender sell me, and not at all because EVERYONE LEAAAAAAVEEEESSSSS MEEEEEE.

I think the last thing I said to her was “I hate you.”

</3

So I decided that instead of dwelling on the Great Betrayal, I would make this a happy hop down memory lane, or whatever.

Lisa and I have technically known each other since 6th grade (199-You shut your damn mouth) but only had one middle school interaction (during the 8th grade Halloween dance when she threatened to kick my ass after I had a fight with my ex-bff who she also happened to be friends with) before becoming legit besties in high school.

She’s also the only person who has been able to break through my anti-hug barrier, as seen in the picture above. It took a lot of violence to get to where we are now, hugging freely and without force.

I just had a random memory of the time I had a Pampered Chef party (HENRY MADE ME DO IT) and when the Pampered Chef lady asked everyone how they knew me, Lisa said we met when we were working the same corner.  I think she and I were the only people who laughed at that.

Anyway, the above picture is from the first night in my first apartment in 1998 when we were all 18-year-old babies! AKA THE GOOD OL’ TIMES.

Lisa and I have a very strange love for the classic rock band .38 Special. Don’t ask. (No seriously, please ask me so that I can direct you to this wonderful essay of Lisa and my strange love for the classic rock band .38 Special!)

The above photo is from the one time we went to see them in 1997 at the Rostraver Ice Garden. I look like I have no hair, but I had recently undergone a very terrible hair shearing at the hands of some Borics follicle assassin. (I had a stylist at a real salon, but Lisa and I were at Borics with her friend Kim who was just getting a trim so wasn’t worried of the outcome, and I was strong-armed into getting my hair cut too but BORICS CAN’T DO LAYERS, YALL. So I wore a silk scarf* around my head for the first two weeks and then spent an additional month pulling what remained of my hair back in a crappy ponytail.)

*(Not to be confused with the time I got braces in fifth grade and wrapped a silk scarf around my face like the Invisible Man for a whole week.


Back then, Lisa was my ultimate haunted house partner. Sometimes we would hit up 3 different ones in a night! This is us at Castle Blood, and note that my hair still had not grown back.

We hung out at Denny’s so much that our favorite waitress Maryanne carried our senior pictures in her wallet. She was the best. (The Denny’s in the valley was always preferred over the one on the hill.) Anyway, this was taken the night of Evan’s art show at CMU, which was one of the best nights I had that year, but don’t let Lisa’s bored face tell you otherwise.

I think this was from 1996. The same year our crew tricked Lisa into going to see ICP and she slipped on the Faygo-coated steps of Club Laga. OH MEM’RIES!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lisa moved to Colorado for a while after undergrad, but we always hung out when she was home for a visit. Here we are one summer in 2007 when I still had most of my pregnancy weight a full year later, go me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lisa with a teething, slobbery Chooch.

And then I was tired of looking through old photos because I have no attention span and nostalgia makes me sad AF.

Anyway, all sadness and self-pity aside, I’m excited for Lisa and her family and hope that their new adventure is everything they want it to be, even though it means that Pittsburgh loses. WOE IS ME!

****

Full disclosure: I didn’t know where Idaho was until Thursday night. I was texting with Lisa and asked her how far they made it so far on the drive to their new home. She said Minnesota and I thought, “Wtf—why did they drive past Idaho?”

So I felt inspired to look at a map, a good old-fashioned (Google) map. WOW, I had no idea Idaho was all the way over there! I thought it was in the middle.

Well, at least now Henry has a reason to take me on that cross-country roadtrip I’ve been dying to do thanks to my handy Roadside America app!

Mar 202017
 

When I had some old friends over last week, we were talking about my penchant for picking up hitchhikers—it was honestly like a sport for me. I would go out for drives specifically to look for them, like some bizarre reverse serial killer, like a fisheman who throws the fish back into the sea. 

I even have pictures of some of them because I ALWAYS had my 35mm camera with me back then. 

But one of the other things I used to do with 

  • wanton abandon, 
  • complete disregard for my safety, 
  • literally no forethought, 

was invite perfect strangers off the street and into my house every time I was having a party. 

I mean, this all ended after I started dating Henry (although I still got a few blind dates in there before he made me stop), but I had a really great run. I even briefly dated one of my street invitees!

But specifically, Sarah and I were talking about the time I had a party in 2000 because The Cure was nominated for a Grammy. (I like having parties, ok?)

Of course I had my trusty Canon and took a bunch of pictures of my friends who were tired of having their pictures taken. 

I found the roll of undeveloped film a few years later, after misplacing it, and when I had it developed, I discovered amongst the shots of friends at my Cure celebration party, a picture of a guy I didn’t recognize. 

I figured he must have been a friend of a friend, but when I showed the picture to my brother Corey, who was there that night, he said, “No! That’s that guy you called in from the street!”

And he went on to say that I flung myself out of the front door like I was known to do when I spotted someone passing by my web, I MEAN, HOUSE. I allegedly called this bro up to my front door and asked him if he wanted to come inside and celebrate the Cure’s Grammy nomination, and he said he was going to the gas station to buy cigarettes, but he would come back. 

So the story goes. 

And everyone was all, “LOL yeah, he’s not coming back, Erin. You fucking freak.”

BUT THEN HE CAME BACK. 

AND I HAVE A PIC SO IT HAPPENED. 

I honestly barely remember this and I remember almost everything so I must have had a lot to drink that night. But Sarah said she remembers this and she was there that night, so. 

I wonder if that guy remembers that night, if he ever tells people about the weird girl who practically chased him down the street until he promised to come to her party. I wonder if he even likes The Cure??

This concludes my story. 

(And no, The Cure did not win a Grammy. ㅠㅠ)

Mar 022017
 

Today for Throwback Thursday, I’m going to tell you the story of the picture of my imaginary cousin that has been on my desk at work for like, 5 years. Occasionally, someone stops and asks me who it is, so I guess here is a key to unlock a piece of my work desk of oddities. ENJOY YOURSELF.

****

It was kismet that we ended up having to go out to Tarentum, PA that Saturday.

“This place looks familiar. Have I been here before?” I innocently asked Henry.

When he said yes, it was all angry-sounding. I thought it was just because he was annoyed to be driving us out there, but then I later realized that it was a town where some dude who tried to steal me from Henry lived. No wonder Henry was so put-out.

After spending some time in Blackburn’s Pharmacy taking pictures of the cabinet full of old fashioned apothecary relics and getting asked constantly if we wanted to tour the showroom full of toilet seat raisers and walkers, we found Henry and Chooch emerging from some mysterious, dusty store with no name.

“What’s in there?” I asked.

“Stuff you’ll hate,” Henry murmured, tugging at his blue-collar while struggling to think of a word to play on Words With Friends.

Wanting to be my own judge, I shouldered past him and entered this horrible variety store that stank of hoarder’s perspiration, moldy newspapers and a flea market in a thunderstorm on a humid July morning.

“Told you,” Henry sighed behind me.  But Chooch and Andrea had already been engulfed by the store’s innards, so I inhaled deeply (and immediately regretted it) and followed them into the bowels of the store, snagging myself on the old, rusty store shelves and praying that I didn’t wind up with tetanus. (I never realized that “anus” is in “tetanus.” I will now be thinking of that all day. And possibly drawing pictures.)

And then Andrea found a table of horribly tacky shoes in nauseating shades of orange and yellow, manufactured specifically for women to wear when visiting their men in the Joliet slammer.

I thought for sure Andrea would gravitate toward these jaundiced disco stripper boots, but she surprised me by snatching up a pair of Pee Wee shoes for nurses.

“You’re not really buying those, are you?” I asked, full of disapproval.

“Um, yeah!” she said. “They’re only $10!”

I don’t know, you guys; I feel like she got ripped off. They’re so stupid! Still, I was so worried she was going to forget to take them back to California with her. One less dumb pair of shoes in Pennsylvania!

I’m sad I didn’t see anyone wearing this when I was in Tennessee. I had “Baby, Baby” stuck in my head for at least an hour after touching this.

Chooch and Andrea went off on their own and god only knows where Henry was — looking through bins of 1968 cookbooks and garden tools, probably — and that’s when it happened. I was walking down a cluttered aisle, half expecting that junk lady-troll from Labyrinth to come popping out with a handful of marbles and empty Spam tins for sale, when an image struck me in my periphery.

“Oh how cute,” I thought to myself. “A picture frame company that’s actually using intentionally funny stock photos!” I snatched one out of the cardboard box they were stashed in all haphazardly, and that’s when I realized that it was not actually a man dressed as a young girl on the day of her dance recital, but actually a young girl dressed as herself on the day of her dance recital.

Almost immediately, I found myself futilely fending off pee drops. I ran around the store, kicking up 85 year old dust and the stench of mothballs in my wake, until I found Chooch and Andrea.

“LOOK AT THIS,” I panted. “I’m getting it.”

And because they’re assholes like me, they both immediately laughed and gave my sweet find a giant thumbs up.

I ran back to look at the price and was shocked to find that it was only $1 (ONE DOLLAR).

For this gem? A buck? What a steal!

I ran past the giant collection of machetes and found Henry near the register, ready to buy a bottle of Mountain Dew.

“Here, you need to buy this, too,” I said all breathlessly, thrusting the boxed frame into Henry’s belly.

He looked at it and smirked. “You’re not serious,” he said in his Father Tone.

Of course he wouldn’t think it was funny. He doesn’t “get” things like this.

It was only supposed to be $1, remember, but the cashier charged him $2. He got all crotchety about this but I hissed, “Pay the broad, it’s worth it!”

***

I couldn’t wait to display it with pride on my desk that Monday, right in front of my kid’s picture and beautifully flanking my fangirl photo of Jonny Craig. I laughed every time someone would tentatively ask, “So…who’s that in the picture?” clearly wondering what side of my family bears Hispanic Amy Winehouse doppelgangers.

Most of my co-workers jumped on my wagon and a mutual appreciation for the awkward dancer was born. Of course there were a few people who said, “I don’t get it…” They can just go sit on a curb somewhere with Henry, drinking Mountain Dew and being boring and humorless.

Every time I feel sad or stressed at work, I look over my shoulder and laugh all over again. I’m so glad Andrea was here to experience this wonder with me. Andrea and her stupid shoes.

Feb 232017
 


If you’ve ever spent any decent amount of time with Henry and me, odds are you have seen him look like this, which I call the Please God, I’ve Cried ‘Uncle’ 87 Times, Take Me Away mode. 

This particular picture was taken in 2003 when Blake & Robbie (then pre-teens!) were in the car and we were screaming at people out the window until henry eventually rolled them up and locked them. :(

It hasn’t gotten any better, 14 years later. Now he’s got me and Chooch screaming like asshole lunatics. 

I love this picture. Anytime I make Henry look like this, where it appears his bandana’d spirit is trying to vacate his body, I consider that a huge success. 

Moments where he may find him in this meditative state:

  • When I decide I don’t like a certain vegetable anymore after he’s bought like, a bushel of it
  • Just now when he tried to take a blanket and I wrapped my legs around it because all I want to do is play games so he gave up and will sleep in the cold 
  • Watching me butter bread
  • During my intense apple phase
  • When Chooch loses another house key
  • When Chooch and I fight over control of Spotify in the car
  • When Chooch and I think we’re talking about people discreetly but….no. 
  • When Chooch and I tag along to the grocery store/Home Depot/the flea market/his work
  • The entire 8 years I obsessed over Jonny Craig
  • Anytime Christina comes back in the picture
  • Every concert ever
  • When Kara sends me some ludicrous auction full of old bumper cars
  • When Kara points out another clown picture I need for my collection and then it comes home with me
  • When Chooch won’t shut the door
Dec 302016
 

Picture it:

The year was 1999.

A hot July evening.

I was 19.

It had been about 6 months since I quit my job at stupid EchoStar, and my old co-worker Roniece wanted to catch up. The problem was that Roniece was over 21 and she didn’t want to go to Eat n Park for a motherfucking milkshake, you know? Her plan was to go to a strip club. Some male strip club in Braddock, one of the less savory neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.

This sounded like A Great Idea to me. I mean, this was back when I used to spray paint my feet gold, so most ideas sounded like great ideas to me.

My friend Keri wanted to join us, and now it was really starting to feel like a legit party. So on this hot summer evening in 1999, Keri and I drove to Roniece’s house in McKeesport, where Keri got stung by a bee and that’s how I found out that my friend of approx. 10 years was allergic to bees. Roniece’s grandma performed some old housewives’ miracle and Keri was healed, but that’s a story for another time because I only want to talk about myself right now.

THIS STORY IS ABOUT ME.

Before we left Roniece’s, she pulled out a fat blunt and this back when I was dumb and did stupid things like pop pills full of Ephedrine and starve myself for days because So Fat, Such Chunk. So Keri was all, “JUST SO NO” but I was all, “GIMME DAT” and thus started the night out on a high note.

OH….!

Now we were ready. Roniece wanted to go to a bar beforehand and I pulled my pockets inside out, like “Hello, no fake ID.” But Roniece just laughed and promised me that Keri and I wouldn’t get carded where she was taking us….

…which was the diviest bar that ever dove on some pot-hole ridden side street in Duquesne. We had to park in an alley, and go in through a suspiciously plain door on the side of a building that had no name, no windows.

“Just be cool. Don’t draw attention to us and ya’ll will be fine,” Roniece prepped our underage asses before entering The Bar.

Motown wafted out as soon as we pulled back the door; the bar inside was small and non-descript, not even the tiniest hint of saloon aesthetic. It was all over-flowing ashtrays and varying shades of brown. The patrons were older, urban, and all-around unenthused at the prospect of sharing their sacred space with a bunch of youngins. Keri and I got a few quick side-eyes as we sat down at the bar, but everyone quickly went back to staring into their beers while we giddily shared a pitcher of Long Island iced teas with Roniece.

Thank god I can’t remember how cool we must have thought we were, sitting at some sticky bar, drinking amateur cocktails in the company of legit sad sacks hiding from their wives.

I started digging around in my purse.

“What are you doing?” Keri asked suspiciously. Homegirl had been my friend since elementary school and was well-versed in my shady ways. My every movement was a cause for concern in her eyes.

“Just looking for some change so I can request a song on the jukebox,” I answered happily, because Long Island iced teas.

Armed with quarters, I went over to the jukebox and assessed the situation. Clinked in a quarter, punched in the numbers, went back to the bar.

“What did you play,” Roniece asked, right as the SEXY SAX INTRO of “Careless Whisper” cut through the thick swirls of cigarette smoke and regret.

You know that scene in Adventures in Babysitting where the suburban kids infiltrate a blues club? And everyone immediately stops talking because disgusted glares work better in a quiet room? That’s what happened on this night, in this bar, in this dilapidated part of town.

Every last bloodshot eyeball was focused on me, the giddy white bitch who skipped-to-her-lou into their bar and polluted their nicotine-curtained air with George Michael’s oozing sex appeal.

Keri covered her face.

“What? It’s Careless Whisper,” I said.

“Yeah, I know what it is!” Keri snapped and went back to shielding her face from the scowls attacking us from every angle. 

Roniece threw her head back and let out a huge laugh. “Girl! I told you to be cool!”

And I’m like, “But this is fucking George Michael, man!” Literally I had no idea what I did wrong, because anytime I hear that song, it always felt so right.

SO VERY RIGHT.

We left after a second pitcher of Long Island iced tea, and before I had a chance to request any other tracks from the Carlton Banks Greatest Hits mixtape.

This next part has nothing to do with George Michael, but it does have to do with the moment I died.

We arrived at whatever that goddamn strip club was called in Braddock, but it wasn’t open yet. I remember standing inside the vestibule while Roniece spoke with someone inside, and suddenly I wasn’t feeling right. I stepped back outside to get some air, and the next thing I knew, I was going down, but Ke$ha wasn’t around yet to yell timber.

This next part happened while I was dead.

(Because I swear to you, I was dead. I had done DIED on that sidewalk outside of Sleazy Braddock Stripperie.)

It was Christmas and I was little again! My Pappap was there. We were on the big porch, which is where most of the Christmases were celebrated throughout my childhood. I remember being overcome by extreme happiness and warmth (and most importantly – toys). I was engulfed in one of my greatest childhood memories!

SO THIS WAS HEAVEN.

And then I heard my aunt Sharon calling my name.

Erin Erin Erin.

Over and over.

And then I saw A BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT.

It doesn’t get any more textbook than that.

I was dead.

But the sound of my aunt’s voice brought me back.

Granted, it was Keri and Roniece who were screaming my name into my face, and the bright white light was the streetlight above me. BUT STILL.

Friend has near-death experience on street in a dangerous part town: that’s a pretty big party foul. Keri grabbed my car keys and dropped Roniece off at home. Then we stopped at a gas station in McKeesport where she bought a loaf of bread through a bullet-proof window, the bread was to soak up the poison in my stomach. And then she took me home where three more of our friends came over and babysat me in shifts.

And this is one of the reasons why Keri’s mom absolutely hated me. I was “too much drama” apparently. Like, who? Me!? No, not me.

A few days later, Roniece called to check in on me, and she admitted that maybe, perhaps, possibly there was a slight chance that the blunt she gave me was laced. That in addition to my so chic eating disorder, diet pill addiction and Long Island iced tea dinner was probably enough to stop my fucking heart. But what do I know!? I turned into a walking billboard for Just Say No after that.

Every time we go to Kennywood, I love to point out the little turn-around on the side of a road in West Mifflin where Keri had to swerve the car so I could puke up all my regrets on the way home.

***

“And so that’s what I think of whenever I hear George Michael,” I said in conclusion to this very personal tale at work on the Tuesday after George Michael’s death.

“What, your poor judgment?” Glenn mumbled.

WHATEVER GLENN, I LOVE THIS STORY.

Dec 182016
 

Henry just now broke the news to me that Zsa Zsa Gabor has passed away. My obsession with her started in 5th grade. I wrote about it during one of the Blogathon things I participated in, so please excuse me as I repost that in her beautiful Hungarian honor.

RIP you mahhhvelous broad.

****

When I Played Zsa Zsa Gabor

July 31, 2010

“You probably don’t know who Zsa Zsa Gabor is, do you?” Barb asked me the other day, having just read of Zsa Zsa’s bone-breakage upon falling out of bed.

“Oh, DO I!” I exclaimed, swiveling around in my chair.

In fifth grade, we had to get into interview/interviewee groups. I have no idea what we were studying that made this a necessary assignment, but I was in a group with my friend Spring and some asshole bitch whose name isn’t even worth mentioning (the same one who years later went on to befriend Henry’s ex-wife!).

Everyone else in the class chose normal people to role-play with, like one girl was Debbie Gibson and the interviewer asked her questions about her new perfume, Electric Youth. Someone was a skateboarder. Another boy was a weatherman. Normal fifth grade character studies!

Me? I was Zsa Zsa Gabor. My Aunt Sharon swore it would be a hit. “Either her, or you could be Imelda Marcos!” I had no idea who either of them were, but Sharon found me a shoulder-padded sequined blouse and a blond wig, so it was decided that I would be Zsa Zsa. Spring was the interviewer, and The Bitch was the cop who received Zsa Zsa’s backhand. That was the big thing in celebrity news at that time.

The Bitch was perfect for the role as the cop, because she was portly and looked like Chief Wiggums from The Simpsons.

I didn’t know much about Zsa Zsa. Sharon told me to just keep splaying out my hand and saying “Dahhhhling” over and over.

It was a train wreck. No one in the class understood who we were supposed to be, except for Mrs. Madden who was behind the camcorder failing at stifling her laughs.

Somewhere, I have a copy of this disaster on VHS. Maybe one day if I find it, I’ll find a way to put it online so everyone can laugh at my visible discomfort of playing the role of some old Hungarian stranger that no under the age of 40 knew back then, and then dance around in a ring of schadenfreude.

“You’re a very interesting young lady,” Barb said after I told her this story. Interesting is not the word Henry and Alisha would use.

Dec 122016
 

A lot of the stuff in my house looks like junk. Like the random rock on my mantel, or the 16-year-old orange Starburst in my freezer (it’s survived two fridge upgrades!), the $2 Last Supper portrait in my bathroom, or the tiny stuffed hippo on top of my bedroom dresser. There’s my Christmas tree topper that I cut from a flimsy baking tin that everyone always tells me I should throw away, and the tiny bottle of teeth in my curio.

But there’s a story behind everything. And that’s why I keep things that Henry would prefer I threw out, put back outside, burned, or buried.

There’s one random thing that looks almost too normal and basic to be in here, a bluebird tea light that guides the way to the bathroom when I have parties. The kind of object that no one would be able to imagine me walking into a store and purchasing with my own cash money. When I was putting a candle in it on Saturday, I started to laugh to myself because it’s a tangible souvenir from the time I was invited to a Mormon women’s dinner at their church in Greentree, back when I was taking a creative non-fiction writing class at Pitt and had to choose a stranger to interview for an assignment.

I picked the Mormon missionary who had swung by my house once on a solicitation basis, in her long, stiff wool skirt.

This one dumb ceramic bird is a symbol of extreme emotional discomfort, pushing myself out of my comfort zone* in order to write something completely different for me, back when I used to actually care about my writing and didn’t just blog from the WordPress app on my phone, crossing my fingers that the typos would be minimal, but also not giving enough shits to go back and proofread. My Pitt writing professors would be so fucking proud to see me now. #washedup

*(Back then, anything that involved me leaving the house was me “pushing myself out of my comfort zone.”)

Every once in a while, I catch of glimpse of this damn bird, and I feel really proud that I opened myself up to that strange experience, that instead of hiding from someone going door-to-door in a Jesus skirt, I sought her out and tried to understand why she does missionary work, and my reward for that was this blue bird…and an A on my paper. Duh. It also makes me think of how much has changed since then, when I was going to college to become someone that everyone said I should be, not who I wanted to be.

One stupid little candle holder, but so much sentimental value! DEEP THOUGHTS FOR A MONDAY.

Dec 012016
 

The wildfires in Gatlinburg have broken my heart. We had the good fortune to vacation there in 2011 thanks to our awesome friends Bill and Jessi. The resort we stayed in unfortunately did not escape the flames. Here’s some pictures & words from our first day there, when me n’ Gatlinburg became lovers. I will always associate this place with Bill & Jessi. So grateful they invited us there that year!

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

Henry: “The Smokies are pretty big, you know.”
Me: “Yeah, like your asshole.”
Henry: “I don’t even know why I talk to you.”

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We’re here! The trip down was not very eventful, except for THE MYSTERY HOLE which deserves its own post and I will do that when I’m home since I can’t get the pictures off the camera and am relying on my good ol’ iPhone to write this.

However, we did almost wreck minutes outside of our destination when some douchebag knocked over a traffic cone in front of us on the highway and Henry swerved into a barrel trying to avoid it.

I printed out two pictures of Jonny Craig to keep at my bedside while here. Henry was perturbed & disturbed by this, and threatened to stay home.

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We did some grocery shopping in Pigeon Forge this morning and you know I hate that shit but no way was I passing up the chance to snicker openly at the Tennessee drawls dripping like honey over the Food City intercom system. However, Chooch and I were being a bit rowdy, maybe running around too much, because I began to notice that we were on the receiving end of some nasty glares from other patrons. So we left and went to some souvenir shop next door where I got a wonderous Jesus pen (he’s real Big In Tennessee):
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Then Chooch got yelled at by a cashier because while I was trying to pay, he found an axe and was running around the store with it. True story.

Later, we followed Bill, Jessi and Tammy to downtown Gatlinburg which apparently is owned by Ripley’s. We had JUST gotten out of the car when Chooch bit down wrong on a candy bracelet and tears instantaneously sprung from his eyes. Then he was embarrassed because his idol Bill saw him crying so he started crying even harder.

I was able to calm him down and then Bill gave him a piggy back ride, which brings us to injury #2. Bill was bouncing Chooch up and down and didn’t realize that he had stepped underneath a store front roof and bashed Chooch’s face right off it.

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BIG TEARS ensued. Because I’m such a great friend, I pointed out that this was the second time Bill had injured my kid via Piggy Back.

Bill bought him ice cream to make up for it and then took him to look at a mini golf course after he spontaneously started sobbing because he misses our cat Speck.

Later on, a cashier in another store asked, “Who knocked you upside the face, boy?” and we all joyfully got to point at Bill.

I guess I shouldn’t be so smug considering I turned out and smacked him in the OTHER EYE with my big fat camera. (Injury #3, if you’re using a scorecard.)

More BIG TEARS ensued, but at least there wasn’t an audience for that one compared to the veritable Dinner Theater that Bill had.

Chooch almost fell down a flight of steps too.

(Chooch, when you’re taken away from us & dumped in foster care, please try to remember the good times.)

In between all this, we went into some optical illusion exhibit where Bill slammed a door in Henry’s face, I bought some cheap but amazing rings and AMISH PEANUT BUTTER, Bill had his palate scorched by salsa and I had to try to be sympathetic but really I thought it was pretty funny, and Henry scanned the area desperately for a barber to shear his luscious Kristy McNichol locks.

Tennessee rules. Here are some more pictures:

I miss this stupid porch.

This was moments before The Accident. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets punched in the face by an overhang.

Minutes later: friends again. Are you serious? I’d have made Bill beg for it. Chooch is way too forgiving and he so does not get that from me.

He at least got an ice cream cone out of it. I’d have asked for more. Like maybe money. Lots of it. OR MAYBE HIS WIFE.

On a weener prowl.

Every other store was Jesus n’ guns. Henry was getting some pretty big ideas.

Trying to DROWN my kid now.

The courtyard inside one of the little shopping areas in Gatlinburg. It made me wish I was wearing a Snow White dress.  Or at the very least, a tutu.

There was even a shoe store that sold TOMS. I had to hold back from buying a houndstooth pair.

So, this was an interesting week for Chooch and telephones. We’re one of the many families that have eschewed a landline for cell phones, so Chooch has never known anything but a cell phone. However, he quickly caught on that if he knew Bill and Jessi’s room number, he could call them from the phone in our room. Trust me, he memorized that shit quicker than the Situation memorized the number the STD clinic.

But then this happened one day:

Chooch, holding the receiver out: Oh shit. I dialed the wrong number.

Me: Then hang it up!

Chooch, slams it down and then picks it back up: Ew, what’s that noise?

Me: Well son, that there is what the pioneers call a DIAL TONE.

It’s just so weird to me that  landlines are becoming so archaic that my 5-year-old is as confused as you or I would be if we had to send a telegram. Also, when I was five, I was playing on a motherfucking Speak and Spell, not a computer.

Now imagine his double-excitement when he got to stand inside a payphone.

Chooch wants to be photographed everywhere now, and he can be a little bitchy divo about it. “Not on THOSE rocks, THESE rocks!”

I’ve created a monster.

Chooch and Bill inside a genie’s bottle at some Optical Illusion attraction that was good for a few laughs.

Stupid me, I almost didn’t take a picture of him hugging the fiftieth wooden bear sculpture, but he made sure to school me in front of a bunch of strangers. Everyone laughed and thought it was so adorable. I was tempted to lift my shirt and show them the welts from where he beats me with a scalding poker.

Pretending to like each other.

Nov 302016
 

Some of us do this thing at work where we share music videos on Friday morning. It started mostly as a means for me to force-feed my work friends all of the scene music I obsess over, and then Amber1 will retaliate with a boy band and Amber2 will send something featuring Michael Bolton on a horse, and then Glenn will be like, “Hold on, how do you spell Engelbert Humperdinck?” I think Todd fired back with some Paula Abdul “Rush Rush” action one time though and it felt kind of nice to be 12 again. And then Lauren won with TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART.

(The original, not that Nicki French snooze fest.)

Anyway, I’m sitting here alone at 11:30PM on an average Wednesday night, the Penguins just lost 3-5 to the Islanders, and my throat is starting to mildly hurt which in my mind means I’M DYING, when my friend Lizz Snapchatted me this video, and now I am laughing so hard by myself that I’m crying actual tears from the Women on the Edge collection, thinking of me and my work friends dancing like this on Friday as we share videos with each other.

TIME TO LAUGH MYSELF TO SLEEP.

Nov 012016
 

I listened to this song yesterday ALL DAY LONG ON REPEAT. Synth pop/darkwave/coldwave is the music that resonates the most with me, contrary to popular belief. (I love my posthardcore and emo but this is the shit that really cuts me to the core.)

The Black Queen sounds so much like it should have been on the label A Different Drum back in the late 90s, when in actuality the debut album just came out in the beginning of 2016—it’s the side project of Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and Joshua Austus (Telefon Tel Aviv, ex-NIN & Puscifer) and it absolutely reeks of rotted, decomposing beauty. 

Anyway. This song in particular makes me think it’s 1999 and I just moved into my house and have tons of candles around me as I lay on the cold hardwood floor, drinking cheap Manischevitz and crying.  BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I DID BACK THEN. 

AND THAT’S WHAT I DO NOW TOO. 

Except that now I have way less room on account of acquiring furniture and psycho cats who will likely start a fire if I lay out candles on ground-level and a dumb Henry  who will yell at me to grow up and get up off the floor.