Jul 272020
 

Hello. Earlier today I had a migraine (I think??) and then ended up puking up a smoothie bowl and sleeping from 7pm-9pm and I feel better so now I’m all HERE I AM! but everyone else in my house has moved on with their lives* and don’t care that I’m out & about so I’m entertaining myself by looking through old pictures which I brought downstairs over the weekend because remember when I said I thought it would be fun to include pictures of Henry and me from the 80s on the fridge? Don’t you listen to anything I say?

*(Actually, when I stumbled downstairs at 9pm Henry was near-catatonic on the couch while Chooch was fully immersed in minecraft & I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned for a split second that Chooch had actually poisoned us so that he could open up our house to his guild of Dischord misfits.)

I found a nice assortment of oldies but of course I was stoked every time I found one from Wildwood and then I would try to explain each photo in agonizing detail to Henry who was barely listening because he was nailing trim to the wall or whatever, like that’s more important. But then I realized, I can come here and do that thing that I do where I hear myself saying the words that I’m typing out loud, in my head, and I picture that I’m presiding over a table full of syncophants who are hanging off my every hyperbolic word, probably with better manicures than my own but they’ll pretend not to notice that I use drug store nail polish because they’re infatuated with my BRAIN not my APPEARANCE. Except that they covet my accessories. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s OK. I’ll tell you where I got my teeth cameo if you ask.

I chose this picture to talk about tonight because it warms my heart even though, yes, it features my brother Ryan WHO RUINED MY LIFE WHEN HE WAS BORN. I still to this day tell people that my favorite number is 4 because that’s the last good age I had before my Only Child Crown was wrenched from my blond dome. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan! I mean, now.)

So this would have been the summer of 1985 because Ryan was born in May of that year and there he is looking like he still cannot support his own dumb head, what a loser. Anyway, this was taken at either the Olympic Motor Inn or the Waikiki, which were two of the motels we used to always stay at on our family trips to WILDWOOD, NJ, the best place ever (until I discovered that South Korea existed). I always loved the “motel” scene in Wildwood and would get so fucking excited every time we arrived and parked in the garage, because I couldn’t wait to get a Dole Fruit Bar from the vending machine outside of the swimming pool area and use the outdoor shower to get the sand off my feet before going back into the room.

Oh man, would you look at the wood paneling?! The best! That makes me think that this was probably the Olympic (which I think still exists but they took out “Motor Inn” from their name since now people associate motels with and quarter-fed vibrating bug-infested beds and sleazy affairs. But in Wildwood, it meant FAMILY VACATION TIME!) because we only ever stayed elsewhere twice: once at the Waikiki which as the name alludes was Hawaiian themed and I was so excited about because there was A ROOFTOP RESTAURANT and I thought I was fancy sitting up at breakfast drinking orange juice out of a glass with my hair all pulled back in a bun. And then the last time we ever went was in the early 90s after my other brother Corey was born and we stayed at this newly built resort where we had a whole-ass 2-family townhouse thing to ourselves, an immaculate pool, and a private beach: I HATED IT. It didn’t feel like Wildwood. This was also after I started to realize that I had become fat and ugly and had to be seen in a bathing suit and oh yeah I had braces too, and now there were two additional grandkids for my grandparents to pay more attention to and I basically just hated life anyway so it probably wouldn’t have mattered where the fuck we stayed, to be honest.

My grandparents always came with us, which made these trips even better, because my immediate, core family could never sustain a healthy. functioning vacation on their own (I still have nightmares about the terrible time we went to Niagara Falls and my mom decided she was going to leave my step-dad and I was like YES THIS IS THE BEST TRIP EVER but then she didn’t and I was like “Niagara Falls sucks.”

But you know, just like with my brother Ryan, all the love for my dad!

OK back to this picture. I loved that night gown – it had a panda on it, and I am 100% holding a plate of my mom’s specialty: buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon. Oh man, every time she made that for me, I was like, “MY MOM LOVES ME.” I’ve tried to make it several times as an adult but it’s just OK. It’s like how sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them for you, but that logic probably doesn’t apply if I’m the one making you the sandwich, just so you know.

It was weird looking at this picture, because I could instantly remember how that toast tasted (LIKE A MOTHER’S LOVE BEFORE SHE WENT ON TO HAVE TWO ADDITIONAL KIDS AND PAID LESS ATTENTION TO YOU AND ALWAYS TOOK YOUR STEP-DAD’S SIDE IN YOUR KNOCK-DOWN DRAG-OUT FIGHTS SO YOU TRIED TO JOIN A GIRL GANG AND THEN DROPPED OUT OF SCHOOL…), how that orange blanket felt (kind of scratchy, tbh) and just generally how that room smelled (like Wildwood, duh). I also remember that Wildwood had Nickelodeon before our cable company in Pittsburgh offered it so it was a TREAT to go there every summer and watch THE MONKEES and YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON TELEVISION (Alastair 4ever).

I always talk about the Boardwalk whenever Wildwood comes up, but to be honest, the Olympic (and Waikiki that one year with the rooftop OJ!) was such a huge part of these vacations that just thinking about it makes me get super choked up and emotional. I want to go back there so badly but I know in my heart it won’t be the same and now Chooch is a teenager and he’s going to be like, “I’m here with my parents and everything sucks” and maybe I’ll just wait until he goes off to college and Henry and I can have an Old Person Beach Escape but then who will ride the rides with me on the boardwalk!? UGH.

And if I ever go back, it will be nice having the option to JUST SAY NO to Cape May, which my grandma always insisted on day-tripping to every summer during MY WILDWOOD TIME and I hated it so much, going to endless shop that all sold the same dumb beach art and jewelry while she filled my head with fat-shaming microaggressions and then one time I bought Mexican jumping beans and thought they were magic. There is a picture floating around somewhere of me looking like I’m contemplating feeding myself to seagulls while we were on a dolphin-watching boat tour, I look like I’m the epitome of pre-teen angst and am looking for ways to peel off my skin, step outside of myself, and swan-drive into the raging sea. So FUCK YOU CAPE MAY. (Although, according to Yelp, it looks like there are some cute vegan restaurants there now. NO! I WON’T BE SWAYED!)

WILDWOOD CREST NJ Olympic Motor Inn Ocean Ave | eBay

Jul 242020
 

Still over here pouting about all the amusement park action we’re missing out on although I guess you could say that this covid experience has been a real roller coaster ride. Here is a Flashback Friday to the time we went to Kennywood with our Castle Blood friendos. Adding this to the list of shit I will no longer take for granted!

***

It’s become a tradition for us to go to Kennywood on Father’s Day, rain or shine, but this year Henry was all, “We have too much going on this week, so no Kennywood.” I was about to pitch one of my signature wailing fits over this, but then I remembered that we’re going to an amusement park later in the week in Indiana so I silently resigned to the fact that there would be no June Kennywood outing this year.

Look at me, acting my age.

But then on Saturday, our friends the Handas asked if we were going, because THEY were going and also so was Ricky, better known as Gravely of Castle Blood fame.

“Chris just asked if we were going to Kennywood tomorrow,” I sighed dramatically. “Because they’ll be there.”

“IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER!” Henry reminded me in Dad Voice. “YOU WANT TO DO ALL OF THESE THINGS!” Then he went outside to check on that kid that we occasionally parent.

A few minutes later, he came back in and sighed. “Do you really want to go tomorrow?” he asked me in a peaceful tone.

“YES!” I squealed, when I realized that I was about to get my way again because I’m the best, bitches!

And that is how we ended up at Kennywood by noon on Sunday. Chris and Kari were 5 minutes late, god forbid, and Chooch was flailing around on a bench openly preaching about how bad he hates his life for having to wait an additional handful of minutes in front of Kennywood. His story could basically be the Diary of Anne Frank of his generation. But then he became distracted by the three people next to us who each brought their own can of Pringles, which Chooch felt was overkill.

“REALLY? THEY ALL HAVE TO HAVE THEIR OWN PRINGLES? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” And they were only three feet away from us, so that was lovely. Meanwhile, I was busy mocking all of the families that arrived in matching t-shirts but secretly I wished that I had made Team Douche Troop shirts for my group.

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Stupid Chooch and Katelyn beat us on the Racer (that’s the name of RACING ROLLER COASTERS for those of you who do not have the luxury of going to Kennywood and knowing these things) and kept bragging about it for like a full 3 minutes which was annoying in and of itself but even more annoying to me was their lack of dedication to the bragging, because if it had been me, I would have mentioned it for the rest of the day, in a variety of ways. Spelling it out in ketchup and cheese fries if I had to. BECAUSE THAT IS HOW TRUE WINNERS ACT.

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I have always been terrible at shooting galleries, but have really fond memories of my Pappap kicking ass at the one in Kennywood. Henry taught Chooch how to aim at the targets and I was like, “Henry, Henry, Henry, teach me, teach me, teach me” while tugging on his shirt but he conveniently acted like he didn’t hear me. OH OK FATHER OF THE YEAR. God, fuck you. I’ll get some nice even-older gentleman to show me the next time and then you’ll be sorry.

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YES YOU WILL BE SORRY.

Sadly, it seems that our Father’s Day luck has run out because the park was actually crowded. Henry and Chris kept arguing that it wasn’t that bad, but look: I have grown accustomed to sashaying my fat ass right onto any ride I please with nary a wait in line.

So when I saw that there was maybe a fifteen minute wait for the Log Jammer, I was like, “OH ARE YOU KIDDING? NO JUST NO.” So Chris took Chooch and Katelyn on it while I hung back with Henry, Kari and Ricky and whined about needing food and beverage and then Henry snapped some generic retort at me so then I got all pouty and Fuck You-y and Ricky just stood there taking it all in.

“Wow, you must have really great angry sex,” he said.

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God only knows what sorts of competitions Chooch and Katelyn engaged in on the Log Jammer. They get along surprisingly well for kids that age but there’s still that underlying “We are opposing genders and must meet the quota for pointless arguments” theme going on.

Like when we were eating lunch and they were competing over who knew more math and who had the healthier meal.

God, these kids are such hooligans.

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About that lunch. We ate at the cafeteria, but there was nothing there that I wanted so Henry hurried up and got me pizza from a different part of the park before I freaked out in front of his bros, OMG.

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We constantly had to wait for the grown-ups. Ugh. Grown-ups are slow. COME ON, GROWN-UPS. My favorite part of the day was later when we were heading for the Swing Shot and Chris told Katelyn to stop running.

“But Erin’s running!” she cried. Damn right Erin’s running. The faster I run, the fewer the bitches that get in line before me. Please, let me write an Amusement Park Handbook.

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 It was a full day of weird poses. pulling faces and line-standing contortions. I was just thankful that there were very minimal pleas to play games, which is my least favorite thing to do at amusement parks.

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EXCEPT WHEN THE PRIZES INCLUDE STUFFED UNICORNS ARE YOU KIDDING!?

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 Sadly, I didn’t win a unicorn. BECAUSE HENRY NEVER GAVE ME MONEY TO PLAY!

(Did I mention that I lost my wallet last week? Because I lost my wallet last week. I canceled my debit card but still haven’t gone  to the bank to ask for a new one because I clearly don’t have adult priorities.)

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All day long, Chooch was whining about wanting to ride Kennywood’s newest ride, the Black Widow, but no one would volunteer as Sucker Tribute because that ride just looks like a swinging heart attack. It’s actually similar to that German torture device I rode last year at Canobie Park with Alyson, but it goes much higher in the air.

“Ricky will ride it with you,” one of the grown-ups joked. I wasn’t paying attention who was saying what at the moment because I was too busy trying to calculate how many rides we still needed to ride versus how much time was remaining. I AM A TYPE A AMUSEMENT PARK GOER.

“What am I riding?” Ricky asked, blissfully oblivious.

“The Black Widow!” Chooch shouted triumphantly.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s just a Kiddieland ride,” I laughed.

But then Chooch told him what it was exactly and Ricky said, “Oh, it’s an actual ride. I thought you were talking about your mom.”

It took me awhile to process this, but then I laughed. GOOD ONE, RICKY.

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Thunderbolt idiots!

Chooch is finally tall enough to ride everything in the park! This was his first year riding the Thunderbolt now that he’s a magnificent 52 inches in height, holla atcha yardstick. When we were in line, he accidentally touched this white foamy stuff on a bush and I was like, “OMG YOU TOUCHED SPIT! THAT’S SO GROSS!” But then later when we were telling Henry, he was like, “That sounds like it was spider eggs to me” so I was like, “OMG HE TOUCHED SPIDER EGGS! THAT’S EVEN WORSE!” God, my kid is disgusting. I hope none of those eggs found their way into his ass. That’s all we need.

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Chris and Ricky sat in front of us on the Thunderbolt and I was so excited to see Ricky’s white locks billowing in the wind. It was as majestic as…billowing white locks on the Thunderbolt.

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Then we went on Noah’s Ark, which used to be the best dark ride that ever dark rode, but has been super lame for me these last several years because they changed it so much and I hate change, but this time, Chooch and I got to lead the group and for some reason this was extremely hilarious to me and I got super hyper and kept screaming cries of faux fear and concern and then I had the bright idea to turn the flash on and start taking sneak attack photos of Henry and the rest of our group from behind corners, and  then Chooch and I would cry with laughter and run away real fast.

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Here is where I’m pausing to breathe.

This kept going on and on through the whole Ark until we got to the end and discovered that random people had managed to insert themselves in the middle of our group, so we were mostly just being assholes to strangers.

Otherwise known as: Any Other Day.

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This was Henry’s standard “You guys are fucking idiots” reaction. And then we all sat at a table while Henry told us stories about how he watched Actual Noah building the Actual Ark.

Because Henry is old.

Fun fact: Henry wore that same shirt to Kennywood last year, too.

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This is the first year that Chooch didn’t spend the entire time “wanting.”

“I want ice cream.”

“I want stuffed animals.”

“I want games.”

“I want the deed to Kennywood.”

Except, he did have a moment in line for Noah’s Ark where Henry was The Worst Dad He Ever Had because he wouldn’t buy Chooch lemonade at that exact moment.

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THANK GOD he got his fucking lemonade afterward though and calmed down enough to take the 57th selfie of the day with me. Right after this photo, I ran into one of my old high school friends, Heather the Ken! I hadn’t seen her since 1998, so it was pretty awesome/awkward. “You ain’t kidding,” Henry drawled when I later said that it was kind of awkward. I suck at seeing people I know, but it was still cool.

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Call it old age, but these last several years, I have felt SHEER TERROR every time I even just glance at the Phantom’s Revenge. And every year I make the conscious decision to not ride it. But then every year I somehow find myself in line, doing the pee jig. This year, it was just Henry, me, Chooch and Chris who rode it. Henry and I sat behind Chris and Chooch and I wasn’t aware that I was being loud enough for Chris to hear my panicked narration, but when we got off the ride, he said, “You are my new official soundtrack of the Phantom’s Revenge.”

It starts with the ascent up the inaugural hill, which is where I moan, “Oh, I forgot how much I hate this part…..oh god we’re going to die….WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?!” and then after we reach that daunting daunting zenith, I am an emptying bag of battle cries. I also enjoy letting every one know each and every time I feel the slightest twinge of pain, like, “MY BACK JUST BROKE! I ALMOST LOST MY ARM!” And then I usually cap it off with a finale of Nancy Kerrigan-approved “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY”s.

And then the ride coasts back into the station and I’m all “Fuck yeah, Phantom!”

Afterward, the rest of my party turned into unfocused loiterers and I was getting so anxious! I even walked far away from where they were sitting at one point to see if they noticed that I was gone. I DON’T THINK THEY DID!!! I was in a BIG HURRY because I wanted to ride the Exterminator next and that’s basically the best ride in the whole park in case you don’t live here or just have bad taste in amusement park rides. I nearly pee my pants on it every year! (And sometimes you can scratch out the “nearly.” FULL DISCLOSURE UP IN HERE.)

While waiting for my group of Southern Meanderers, aka Careys, I stood and watched the Black Widow do its thing. When we were in line for Phantom’s Revenge, I caved and told Chooch I would ride it with him, but ONLY so that I would have leverage for the future because that’s my solid gold parenting style. Just watching it Jello-fied my legs, but a promise is a promise. However, I started imagining every last worst case scenario, so that really helped.

(NO IT DIDN’T HELP.)

Finally, everyone started walking toward the Exterminator and I was like, “YES YES YES!” and started to get in line, but then they all went and fussed with the lockers and in the meantime, approximately FIVE PEOPLE got in line in front of us.

THANKS A LOT, GROWN-UPS.

The line was kind of long and Henry kept trying to put me on blast by pointing out how whiny I was being when I really didn’t think I was being whiny just because I kept letting my body go limp against him and saying things like “WE HAVE BEEN STANDING IN LINE FOR-EVHAHAHAHA-ER.”

But whatever, the Exterminator is worth the wait. It’s basically like the Crazy Mouse but INSIDE A DARK BUILDING. It makes me choke on my own laughter every single time, like I have a disease.

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Chris got in a car with Chooch and Katelyn, leaving me, Henry, Kari and Ricky to squish ourselves into the next one. Except that the car we picked was “sensitive,” whatever that means, and the bored Kennywood worker made us get into the next available car all the way at the end of the line. This meant that Chooch, Katelyn and Chris had returned to the station before our ride even started, since there were four cars in front of us.

“They’re going to think we perished when they see that we’re not behind them anymore,” I laughed. And we found out afterward that they sent our car through empty since it was malfunctioning, so when the kids saw an empty car return to the station, they got scared. HAHAHA.

Anyway, I managed to not pee my pants this time but fuck, I laughed so hard that my face hurt (I know, I know, it’s killing you guys too). It’s such a satisfying ride!

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After that, I rode the Whip with Chooch and Katelyn, whose relief that we hadn’t actually perished on the Exterminator had worn off by then. It took us forever (read: 5 seconds) to get in line though because we couldn’t get around dumb Henry who was walking excruciatingly slow and totally Whip-blocking us. That motherfucker.

Every time our car would whip us around the bend, we would scream “WHIP SELFIE” because it’s imperative to be obnoxious at amusement parks. Also, because we had just taken a Whip selfie:

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The next day, I noticed that my Facebook friend Kelly had checked into Kennywood on Sunday as well, and I commented to tell her that I wish I had seen her. She said that she saw me speed-walking by when she was getting on the Whip, so it must have been right around this time. It made me laugh so hard to know that someone witnessed me being an impatient maniac.

Right after this, Chris, Chooch and I convinced Katelyn to ride the Swing Shot and she basically hates us forever now. As soon as the ride started, I remembered how horrible it is and screamed, “MY TEARS ARE REAL!” at one point, which I’m sure did wonders to ease Katelyn’s nerves. Henry, Kari and Ricky were watching from a table and said that looked like an actual cartoon during the whole ride.

I mean, she didn’t cry, but she certainly was NOT happy.

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Henry trying to escape.

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Then it was time for ice cream!! This is my favorite part of the day, food-wise. Most people will tell you that Potato Patch fries are the creme de la creme of Kennywood cuisine, and I won’t argue there because those are the most perfect french fries in the entire world. But I rarely hear anyone mentioning how delightful the Golden Nugget square cones are! You guys can get soft serve anywhere. Gimme my square-edged chocolate-dipped delight.

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Cone-dipping consternation.

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Sprinkle carpet.

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Henry and Chris were talking about how they used to think it was just a Klondike shoved into a cone until they saw the Golden Nugget workers actually cutting blocks of vanilla ice cream. It never occurred to me that it could have just been a Klondike, and Henry was like, “REALLY!? I THOUGHT IT WAS AN OBVIOUS ASSUMPTION SINCE KLONDIKE’S ARE FROM HERE!” in that belittling tone he loves to use on me, except I’m paraphrasing here because clearly “assumption” is too big of a word for him.

Fun Fact: Klondikes are apparently from Pittsburgh. I just learned this on Sunday because I’m seriously the worst Pittsburgher ever.

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This was right before the hardcore amusement park riders ditched us for Kiddieland. They were gone for an hour! (Don’t worry: Chris went with them.) The rest of us hung back and found ourselves in a discussion about Mr. Big, Extreme, and Meatloaf which met Henry’s criteria of “Anyone but Jonny Craig.”

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Ice Cream Brones.

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Look! It’s a Henry in its natural, agitated state.

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Gross, I know.

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Chooch is finally tall enough to ride the Sky Rocket, which is Kennywood’s newest coaster. It’s nothing too spectacular, but it does go upside down. Henry, Chris and I had to beg Chooch to go on it. It wasn’t the upside down-ness that had him scared, it was the first hill, an inversion, that was freaking him out. (And he didn’t even know that it was one of those launching coasters.) At one point, he sat down and put his face in his hands, but then he turned around and started to twerk. Hey, do what you gotta do, right? Twerk it out son.

There was a guy in line with us who had an apple tattoo and I wanted to sow him mine so we could be apple ink bros but Henry stopped that from happening.

Spoiler alert: Chooch made it through his first Skyrocket ride alive. His reaction was, “That was it?” I just kept screaming, “IT TICKLES!” the whole time and Chooch was like, “Please stop embarrassing us.”

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I asked Chooch for a quote expressing how he felt about riding the Bayern Curve with Katelyn and he said: “I’m a cat.”

So anyway, this was a hilarious moment for the rest of us because the Bayern Curve is one of those rides that pushes the front rider into the back rider so Chooch was like FML through the whole ride. It was incredibly rewarding to watch, as a parent who is verbally abused by her son on the daily. (His sass is off the charts these days.)

WHAT’S UP NOW, MOUTH?
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Remember when I said that Chooch mostly made it through the day without tantrum? Well, that’s because he was waiting for the VERY END, when the park was closing, to project his exhaustion and hunger on the fact that Henry wouldn’t buy him Dippin’ Dots because Henry is a terrible person who doesn’t feed his children. He was outright CRYING about this and it was so annoying and disgusting, so I guess 8 is not the magic age where kids stop acting like spoiled assholes in amusement parks.

We left the park and Henry fed him a burger and miraculously, Chooch was fine.

“Ugh, he’s so much like you,” Henry muttered.

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As always, it was wonderful spending a day with the Handa’s and Ricky being there was an added bonus even though he MADE FUN OF ME a lot and even when he was just saying regular things to me I think he was still making fun of me but sometimes I’m too dumb to realize.

I feel like I’m forgetting lots of things.

And now we get to do this all over again at a different park on Thursday, wooo!!!

P.S. We never made it on the Black Widow. Chooch and I were in line for approximately one minute before he said, “So….maybe I should just wait until I’m talk enough to ride ALL of the rides here*. And then I’ll ride the Black Widow.” Then he ducked under the railing and left me standing there alone.

*(There’s only one ride he can’t ride yet and it literally never running every time we’re there.)

SONOFABITCH. All that positive thinking I put myself through, for what.

Jul 232020
 

When we last left off, Henry was ready to demolish the entire kitchen to get the pantry to fit. I’m pleased to tell you that he was able to finagle it into that tight space without coming in on a wrecking ball, thank god. But now it’s way too close to the stove so he has to get some kind of metal sheet thing to put on the side of the pantry, apparently, else the kitchen goes up in flames.

Drew is so excited to have new things to explore, much to Henry’s chagrin, lol.

Her own shelf!

My rug came in the mail last week too so I put it down immediately but then Henry was like WE NEED TO GET SCOTCH GUARD and he ordered some but then still hasn’t sprayed the rug, so that’s cool.

I mean, I suppose I could.

I’m excited because we’re getting closer to the time when I can finally start adding my magical flourishes! I have been carefully curating an 80s themed art collection for the room, which is great because I’m running out of space on the walls in every other room in the house. #junkhouse

And my fabric arrived over the weekend! I’m excited for Henry to take off his contractor helmet and put on his pin cushion headband to make curtains out of this beauty!

Meanwhile, I busied myself by adding Memphis design details to light switch plates.

Over the weekend, Henry FINALLY STARTED TO  TACKLE THE FOURTH WALL! I never knew that the window could be so clean! He even took down the screen and cleaned it!!

One of the things I wanted to include, decor-wise, was framed postcards from 80s-era Wildwood, NJ. My family vacationed here every summer from the time I was a baby* until I was 11. I’m not sure why we stopped going, although I like to blame the birth of my brother, Corey, lololol. I get that warm coating of nostalgia in my gut anytime I think of this place and when I started scrolling through the options on eBay, hoooooboy, mama got blasted to the past.

*(I asked my mom about this the other day and she said that when she was a kid, they went there every summer with my great-grandma, and I honestly never knew this and why have I not seen any pictures of these trips!? Unless they perished in the house fire that happened when my mom was a teenager….God, there are so many things I don’t have the answers to and I wish I had asked my grandparents to tell me more shit when they both still alive. I’m a failure.)

I mean….duh.

I knew I wanted stripes on this part of the wall but I didn’t feel like painting them so I found this glittery black tape on Amazon and told Henry to have fun.

Henry was going to throw this cart/shelf thingie away but I was like WAIT!! There is nothing spraypaint can’t improve, I fucking swear. So this ugly cart is now sparkly silver and ready to hold all of my coffee stuff. Tom Selleck needs to be hung up, but he’s going to live right above the cart. I love him and I’m so glad that he’s one of the things we salvaged from my grandparents’ house

I have a plain, basic coffee canister from Target, but I bought an Alf figurine from eBay to use as the topper so I will include that in my next update post! (God forbid I should use a plain coffee canister.)

This design is programmed into my muscle memory for life now, I think.

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Tom lives in the kitchen now.

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I loathe to post this, but this is what the sink sitch currently looks like. The cabinets are still not stripped and that whole bottom part needs to be cleaned and repainted. The drawers need to be painted too. I looked up Corey Haim and Corey Feldman cabinet pulls but SHOCKINGLY they do not exist (see also: non-existence of Phil Collins cookie jar) so now we have to make our own, I guess. I’m sorry, but I’m not going through all this effort into cultivating an 80s haven and then using regular cabinet pulls?!

The one thing we CAN’T make ourselves is the neon sign. We shopped around from some prices and I think we found a good place but we keep dragging our feet. I don’t want to commit to anything until the design we came up with and the proof they send us is 100% perfect because custom-made neon ain’t cheap, would have guessed.

(Actually, who would ever think that neon signs are CHEAP?)

I’m considering this my birthday present to myself since I can’t do anything else for my birthday this year, lol ugh.

Vintage Halloween masks! The one on the far right is pre-80s, I think, but I didn’t want him to be left out.

She takes over EVERYTHING.

My current project is finishing the design on this door (Henry has to take it back off the frame because I need to assume my official artist posture which is HUNCHED OVER a/k/a Chiropractor’s Dream Patient. Once the door is down and the trim is put back, I think the room will finally start to come together! TOO BAD I HAVE NO PATIENCE.

Last but not least for this update, I suggested that Henry and I find a picture of ourselves from the 80s to also include in the room (maybe just in a magnetic fridge frame?) and he proudly presented this gem last night:

Oh, you guys. This is fucking perfect. Plus, it was when he was IN THE SERVICE!! I hate how nice his legs are! They still look like that, too.

“I can’t remember if that was my dorm room or the one next door. Nope. That’s mine because there’s my Atari 7200.” This was when he was living in Indiana!!!

Well, tune in next week to see if any progress is made, I guess.

Jul 212020
 

The other day, Chooch made me go through my phone to look for old pictures of the cats so he could do throwbacks on their Instagram accounts (this is what pandemic life is like on Pioneer, yo) and in the process of doing so, I came across videos from when Chooch and I went to Carly Rae Jepsen at Mr. Small’s in 2016. I got RULL caught up in all of that emotion and felt inspired to share a clip of CRJ performing her mega-hit “Call Me Maybe.” One of my friends commented and told me I should listen to this show called The Session On Air, where the host breaks down “Call Me Maybe” and at first I was like, “Is she setting me up for a temper tantrum?” because people love to rag on me for liking not just this song, but Carly Rae Jepsen in general. Then I went and watched The Session video on YouTube and it was AMAZING. The host, Christian James Hand, takes songs and breaks them down, layer by layer, piece by piece, so the casually music lover can really understand just how much magic goes into one track. So he starts off by telling the other people on the show that he has these amazing speakers that cost like $5000 and the song that he always uses to show his friends how awesome the speakers are is “Call Me Maybe,” and then goes on to say he thinks it’s one of the greatest pop songs ever written, to the shock and disbelief of the others on the show.

But listening to him gush and fanboy over every nuance, every blip, every layer of this song brought actual tears to my eyes and then I was openly crying while telling Henry how amazing her concert was and IDGAF who thinks she’s a “one hit wonder” (um, she’s really not) or a manufactured piece of bubblegum pop, because I know in my heart how pure and talented she is, and to hear this man sit there and say the things that I feel in my gut, it was VALIDATION.

Also though, I learned that Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame mixed “Call Me Maybe” and my mind was BLOWN. I had no idea! This makes me love it even more because I went through a heavy industrial phase in my late teens and loved Shinny Puppy! Anyway, all of this culminated into me thinking back fondly to the summer of 2012 when Chooch and I were OBSESSED with this song and had a dance party because Henry found someone’s phone and the alarm kept going off and….well, here—JUST READ IT FOR YOURSELVES!

ROSS’S BLACKBERRY

August 2012

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Chooch came barreling into the house yesterday, having just come home from the grocery store with Henry.

“MOMMY! DADDY FOUND SOMEONE’S PHONE ON THE ROAD AND HE GOT OUT OF THE VAN TO GET IT!” Chooch blurted out in one quick breath.

“Jesus Christ,” Henry muttered, coming in the door after him. “Why do you have to announce every single thing I do?” I think Henry expected me to be all apathetic about this turn of events, just like he was, but instead I got all excited and screamed, “OMG let me see it!”

“It’s just a Blackberry!” Henry barked, shouldering past me as I tried to snatch it from him. “God!”

The owner’s contact info was on the home screen, so Henry said he was just going to email him (his name is ROSS) and let him know he has it.

“OK, but let me think about this first. We should make it into some kind of fucked up, psychological mind game,” I murmured, mind reeling. “Kind of like ‘Saw’…” But before I could tell Henry to demand that Ross send us one of his teeth (or at least a nude), Henry had already sent him a Normal Person email reassuring him that his precious phone was not in danger. Goddammit! There were so many different ways this could have gone.

The rest of the evening was interspersed with me asking, “Did he reply to your email yet? How about how? Now? Or now? Here, let me email him—”

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like fate. I looked up the Blackberry owner on Facebook and went into full-blown Cinderella Story mode. I became convinced that Henry was meant to find this phone so I CAN FINALLY HAVE A HUSBAND YOU GUYS OMG. And then I saw that Ross went to school for mechanical engineering so surely that must mean he has a better job than Henry. However, the only activity he had listed on Facebook was fishing, and his profile picture was him holding a gigantic fish, which is really gross to me, and I couldn’t really see his face because of the giant fish carcass, but that’s OK because it made it easier for me to imagine he looks like Ryan Lochte.

And then I woke from a dream about Ross’s phone at 7:20am to Ross’s alarm going off, which means he must work normal hours unlike Henry whose alarm goes off at MIDNIGHT. I began fantasizing about having a normal relationship with a man who keeps normal hours, waking up together every morning in the same bed….

God, I hope he doesn’t snore.

But then I couldn’t get the alarm to stop, and it proceeded to go off every five minutes for the rest of the day, which will probably be the impetus to our first fight.

“Just take the battery out,” Henry said wearily after I called him for the 87th time in a row. (Hello, if he would just ANSWER the first time, I wouldn’t have to keep calling.) But I didn’t feel comfortable taking the battery out of some other person’s phone. Besides, then I wouldn’t be able to monitor his incoming calls.

I mean…what?

At 11:00, my sanity had splintered. Could not take the sound of that alarm anymore. So I came up with the best solution ever: A “Call Me Maybe” dance party! I put it on loud and on repeat, and Chooch and I totally wilded out. That song is like fucking sunshine for the ears, OK?

I should note that by “dancing,” I mean that I jumped around for 90 minutes, speed-bagging the air like one of those big inflatable balloon monsters outside of car lots, while Chooch repeatedly punched me, vigorously and with closed fists. I guess he learned that by watching me “dance” with Henry.

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CHAIR DANCING TO “CALL ME, MAYBE”!

Even with Carly Rae Jepsen singing at her loudest, I could still hear the fucking phone alarm, so I ran upstairs and smothered it beneath Henry’s pillow. I could still hear it, but at least it was muffled, and at that point, it didn’t sound worse than any of the other sounds in my head, so who am I to complain, really.

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“Look Mommy! I’m Ju-On dancing!” he cried, squirming beneath the chair like his favorite Japanese horror villain. OK. Whatever.

Weirdo.

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UNICORN MASK DANCE PARTY! SAME SONG, DIFFERENT HEAD!

And then Henry came home and pooped on all of the fun. Turning down the volume to the best song of all time, he informed that he was meeting Ross (who lives right down the street, how convenient for my future booty calls!) at 6pm; Ross said if he can’t make it, he’ll just send his girlfriend.

Just like that, my dreams were dashed. Now I’m really regretting not taking all of those pictures of myself with his phone like I had considered. God, I’m so stupid.

As soon as we got in the car (read: The Juice Van; our car is still not fixed), “Call Me Maybe” came on the radio. Chooch and I cheered in tandem as I turned up the volume and began dramatically lip synching.

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The “I’m Trying So Hard to Frown But It’s Hard To When I Secretly Love This Song, Goddamn You, Carly Rae Jepsen” faux-frown.

“Try to get a picture of Ross!” I called out over my shoulder when Henry dropped me off at work. I know he totally won’t, but I’m still in the best mood ever today.

***A FEW HOURS LATER***

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Oh, Ross. If you only knew.

****
EDIT! Just learned that Henry didn’t get Ross’s “I’ll be wearing a blue polo” email until after the fact, so he proceeded to approach every man in the CVS parking lot, asking, “Are you waiting for a phone?” like it was code for “Are you selling blow jobs?” Meanwhile, Chooch was laughing at Henry’s awkwardness and then when they finally found Ross, Chooch was sure to tell him how annoying his phone was.

God, I wish I had been there. I like blue polos.

****

Back to present day 2020. Another thing I always think about when I hear this song is the Summer Olympics from 2012 because the US Swim Team made a lip-synching video to this song and if you know me, you know that I get emotionally attached to the Summer Olympics and OMG don’t even talk to me about how doubly depressed I am that COVID ruined the 2020 games.

This song is already so iconic and it hits me in the same way that classic songs like “In the Air Tonight” do, where if they come on the radio right when you pull into the place you’re going to, you do NOT turn your car off until the very last note of that song plays. “Call Me Maybe” is one of the songs and always will be!

Jul 172020
 

During these trying times, I’ve been biting my tongue every time I start to cry or whine about how I want to go here or there or ANYWHERE, because I would rather stay home and keep OTHER people healthy rather than risk going to, I dunno, Kennywood just because they’re open and the desire to ride a rollercoaster is making me weak and then suddenly I’m That Person who now has covid even though she did wore a mask and did everything right except for THAT ONE TIME. Because that would be my luck. 

But man I gotta tell you, right now I’d be happy to even go to Conneaut, and if you know anything about parks, you know that this one is pathetic. I still managed to have a lot of fun there last June with Chooch and Janna, rain storm and all!

Let’s revisit that day, because it’s the end of another very long week and my back still hurts and I’m pretty bitter and depressed about staying home but I’m doing it anyway because I want this fucking nightmare to be over already. PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASKS AND STAY THE FUCK HOME. You know, like how all the other countries did it. 

Fun fact: this was also the day that started the CAROUSEL SELFIE tradition!

CONNEAUT: A BLOG POST FROM JUNE 2019, WHEN WE COULD STILL LEAVE THE HOUSE AND DO SHIT.

Janna follows some frozen custard place on Facebook and mentioned that she had wanted to stop by and get some but that perhaps driving 90 minutes to Conneaut Lake was a bit much just for ice cream but I was like BITCH PLZ, BEST REMEMBER WHO U BE TALKIN’ 2 so after I took off my queen bee rapper chains, I quickly convinced her that this was the best idea she’s had probably ever and that I would be happy to accompany her.

In my head, I had it billed as some big deal GIRLS DAY OUT and wonder who would be Romy and who would be Michelle, and I was so giddy about this all last week! When Saturday rolled around, aka THE BIG DAY (god, my life is so rich), Chooch was moping around. “Where did you say you and Janna were going again?” he asked, and then sadly murmured, “…oh” when I told him.

Later that morning, when I was upstairs drying my hair, MOM GUILT crept in. “Do you want to go with us” I texted him. A moment later, he bounded up the steps, dove onto my bed, and screamed, “Yes!”

Janna was like “Sigh.”

No, j/k, we’re all BFFs here.

The plan was to swing by Conneaut Lake Park for an hour or two as well even though it’s sad and decrepit…but, it’s there and it’s $10 for a ride-all-day, lol. They have a really old wooden coaster and a pretty rundown but fun dark ride, too. Janna surprisingly was on board with this even though rain was in the forecast all day…

…and it started literally the moment we turned off the highway on the Conneaut exit.

I blamed Janna because it took her so long to come and pick us up!!

We were going to alter plans by going to a cafe first so Janna pulled over in some spookily small town so we could troll Yelp but since we weren’t in some metropolitan area, the options were very slim. I got frustrated and eventually just decided for the whole car that we would continue on to the park even in the rain.

In the few minutes it took to get there (Janna had to turn around a few times), the rain had ceased! It was still a dreary day though, and kind of chilly too so I was glad I wore a jacket. Janna parked basically in a field and we immediately found ourselves surrounded by LAKE FREAKS. Just like, you know, townies trying to enjoy a rainy day at the broke down amusement park, same as us BIG CITY CREEPS.

STICK IT TO THE DEVIL.

We rode the Devil’s Den right away, as soon as we got our wristbands. (Janna reluctantly bought one too once she realized that otherwise, she would have to buy $5 worth of tickets just for one ride–maybe Henry could have found her a coupon during one of his Bored Housewife Coupon Hunts.)

The ride operator has to actually push the cars into the entrance and around a corner until the car catches the chain on the small lift hill. Basically, Henry might be able to build something like this, is all I’m saying.

I thought it would be funny for Janna to go first for some reason and then the next day, I started cracking up because what if we had sent Janna in alone and SHE GOT MURDERED. I tried to tell Henry this but it came out as a indiscernible bray courtesy of my giddiness.

Janna was playing some podcast about the Susan Powell case during the whole ride there and back so I guess I just had murder on the mind.

I don’t know why I’m laughing like a maniac here because the ride isn’t really all that great but it has been long enough since my last jaunt through the Den that I forgot enough of it to make actually scream. But yeah it’s most just a bunch of darkness and Kmart decorations from the 1970s.

When we rode it the second time, we were all supposed to ride separately so that we could each take a picture of each other but then Janna wasn’t privy to that plan I guess because after Chooch departed alone in his pretzel car, Janna got in the same car as me! So then there was no one to take my picture!

I mean, the obvious solution to this would have been to get back in the non-existent line and ride again, but we were over Devil’s Den by then.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was riding the Witch’s Stew again, I guess just because it looks cool?! I mean, the ride itself isn’t that great and it’s actually in pretty bad shape. There were cobwebs in the car Chooch and I chose and when the operator slammed the door shut behind us, a swarm of tiny gnats awoke and fluttered out from god knows where, you guys, it was creepy and I was afraid of inhaling them.

Anyway, the ride takes forever to start because the cars can only be loaded one at a time due to the fact that there’s not an platform that people can walk up to access the cars that are on the incline. So jacked.

Janna stood by the fence and diligently took photos of us like she was our mom. It was adorable. WE ARE ADORABLE.

lol jk we’re annoying.

Yeah boi finally time to ride the Blue Streak! It wasn’t running when we first arrived because it had been raining. I was really stoked about this one and let me tell you something: absence make the body forget pain because in my mind, all I remembered was, “Yeah, I think this one is pretty rough if I remember correctly, but it’s not like, the worst.”

Oh no. It’s actually the worst. I mean, it starts off great! You go straight into a tunnel that seemingly goes on for miles and Chooch was screaming, “I love this already!” and we were pretending to pull Janna’s hair, Janna who stupidly sat in front of us, Janna who had no idea this ride was going to be the difference between a relaxing Sunday at home and a painful Sunday getting fitted for a neck brace in the ER.

As soon as we began the ascent up the first hill, I started to have flashes of recognition and suddenly wondered if this would be the worst idea we made that day. The ride is in BAD SHAPE. I mean, the track going up the hill wasn’t even straight! It was all warped and the wood looks like a termite commune. And then as soon as we hit the bottom of that first hill, the discs in my back cracked like knuckles on a cold day and Chooch started howling in pain and Janna passed out and then slid out of the car and her limp body somersaulted into the woods of Conneaut where the townies came and made pinwheels out of her vertebrae and then stole her ride-all-day wristband for their five-year-old who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

DAMN JANNA, YOU AND THOSE PODCASTS.

Chooch’s review was, “I feel like an old man. I never want to ride that again.”

The best part honestly was the two weirdos running the ride. They had more personality than all the fishermen on the lake COMBINED.

We had to recuperate on the carousel after that.

Carousel crew. I love this picture so much! I need to get a frame for it and keep on my desk at work to remind me OF THE GOOD TIMES. This is also such a great depiction of the relationship the three of us have – it’s not like “me and Janna and my kid” but it’s like we’re all the same age and just hanging out for the day. Chooch has always been one of the grown-ups! Or maybe it’s just that I have always been one of the kids…maybe Janna feels like she’s our babysitter?!?

For years, I wouldn’t ride carousels because I have a fear of heights, even low heights, and I would GET STUCK on the horses because I’d be too scared to try and get off when the ride ended. Many embarrassing episodes resulted from that. I actually almost fell off the one I rode a few weeks ago at Waldameer.

You guys. This ferris wheel is NEW FOR 2019! I’ve seen nicer ones at church carnivals, but Conneaut’s trying, I guess. I mean, this place is on the brink of shuttering it’s proverbial windows every season so this is a good sign!

We walked over to the lake for a brief look-see and Chooch immediately tripped and nearly took a nose-dive into the wet sand that might as well just be mud.

Hotel Conneaut is haunted!

We saw a wedding party getting their pictures taken in the “midway” of the park which is cool if they were going for a post-apocalyptic carnie style.

These were supposed to be pictures of us “relaxing” but we just look like Janna roofied us.

Chooch took this picture as an example of the shitty framing Henry does when we ask him to photograph us and I love how it turned out because I was literally in the middle of bitching about Henry so I imagine this is how my face must look the majority of my days.

Meanwhile, we were in front of the hotel and Janna said, “Wow, I guess this is where those people got married. That’s weird.”

This infuriated me.

“Why is that weird?! People get married here all the time!” I exclaimed. “Did you think they got married in the amusement park?!”

“No, but I mean, this is just a weird place. Like, why here?”

“BECAUSE IT’S A BEAUTIFUL HOTEL?!” I screamed, and then I realized what Janna was talking about was the chairs set up in THE CAR PORT in front of the hotel. Like, they literally got married in a glorified driveway and so then I was all touché, Janna.

And then it started raining again, pretty hard too, so we left and went to get Janna’s beloved frozen custard. Chooch and I were actually getting pretty hungry at this point (Henry wasn’t home to make us lunch before we left) so it’s a good thing we left when we did because our OTHER FACES were going to show very soon.

Conneaut needs another coaster, like a Wild Mouse or something, and maybe a log flume. Then it would be more worth the whole whopping $10.

Jul 152020
 

This whole kitchen re-do had me thinking about how my design tastes have seriously not evolved or matured – AT ALL. My mom is the one who created this monster – even though our house when I was growing up was very modern and muted, except for the living room and dining room which was a tasteful (for the 80s and 90s!) floral.

When we built my childhood home (lol, like my family was actually out there with hammers and saws), my original bedroom was SUPER LAURA ASHLEY. Lilac carpet and pale floral wallpaper. I mean, it was fine for a girl in elementary school.

But sometime in 8th or 9th grade, my mom was like, “Look, this room is too young. Let’s change it.” So we did the whole thing. Darker purple carpet, this super retro purple & silver foil wallpaper, original furniture completely made over with purple and yellow spraypaint. Christmas lights, neon lights, a totally groovy beaded curtain – my room did a complete 180 from little girl’s room to a bitchin’ teenage sanctuary. At one point, there was serious discussion of finishing the third floor attic and creating a slide/firemen’s pole from the attic into my old bedroom, which was going to be repurposed into a giant walk-in closet.

My dad quickly shut that down though.

:(

Hilariously though, after all of the changes my mom green-lit for my bedroom (that furniture she pained was that good wood, too), she flipped her shit when I used her ceramic paints on my windowsill?! OK then.

I moved into my first apartment when I was 18 and it was essentially a neon clubhouse for my friends. I was always having parties and get-togethers, so people who didn’t know me that well assumed that my ceiling Slinkies were party decor. Nope! All day, everyday decor, thanks!

I really miss that wavy water sculpture – my aunt Sharon got it for me but I don’t know where. Every couple of years, I do a half-assed Google sleuth to see if I can find something similar. And that Nickelodeon phone was LIFE! I loved it so much but it annoyed the friends who spent the most time at my place. One of the ring-tones sounded like a dying car horn from the 1930s.

I miss that phone every day!

Speaking of phones, I called Henry on one last week and in lieu of any standard salutation, I went right into, “Henry, I had an idea” which resulted in him audibly clenching on the other end. “What if we got an old wall phone from the 80s, hung it on the kitchen wall, and then you can do magic to it so that when the receiver is lifted, 80s music starts playing from a hidden speaker.”

You guys, he hasn’t given me a definite no yet!

There was a long stretch of time, in my current residence, where everything was just…blank and blah. Looking back on those times now, it was clear to me that I was in a deep but functioning depression. But once I started painting the walls and actually decorating the way that I used to, things started to look up. I started feeling more like myself. And now that this kitchen project is in flight, I am really feeling a burst of endorphins (I mean, also a lot of stress and anxiety, don’t get me wrong, but at least those are situational and not me sinking into another bi-polar spiral!). I don’t care about “flow” or “feng shui” – I just want to be surrounded by color and lights, I LOVE LIGHTS. In fact, we are currently shopping around to have a custom neon sign made, which has been a life goal of mine forever (I low-ball my goals in order to not go through life disappointed, lol).

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to tell you that I am currently adding “rainbow Slinkies” to my cart so that I can recreate that sick 1998 apartment aesthetic. I might even listen to some Korn and Candlebox while I hang them up.

Jun 252020
 

I was just sitting here wistfully perusing the Roadside America website, wondering if things will ever be OK so that I can lasso Henry into driving hours out of the way to see the world’s largest cuckoo clock or some gigantic Mary statue in rural Ohio. My birthday is a little over a month away and I am desperate to find some safe and sterile road trip that we can go, where all of our meals are take out and we do nature things instead of amusement parks and museums.

Or ghost walks :(

SPEAKING OF, when we were in Williamsburg a few years ago, I conned Henry and Chooch into doing JUST THAT and it was kind of dumb but also fun enough that I still think about it from time to time and also, I hated one of the people on the tour so much that I have a framed picture of her on my bedroom wall*

Anyway, please enjoy. Be safe. Wear your masks so that this will go away and I can go and do stuff again, lol.

Love,
A Megalomaniac Leo

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

July 2015

One of the things I really wanted to do while in Williamsburg was go on a ghost tour. I mean, you can only watch Colonial actors perform Colonial acts so many times, if at all. You know? (Actually, aside from walking down the main street in the sweltering heat, looking for ginger cakes, we opted out of the Colonial exhibits. As I mentioned previously, we were given tickets for that shit from our resort, but we exchanged them for Busch Gardens tickets instead, because we ain’t be needin’ no history on this vacashun.)

When I told Henry about the ghost tour, he was like, “……”

And then when I was like, “Well, we’re doing it,” he was like, “………………………………”

And then when I was like, “I paid $4 extra a person for the EXTREME version,” he was like, “Oh for fuck’s sake, Erin.”

We left a little bit early so that we could go to this peanut shop we saw the day before, because Henry and I are what you might call “peanut connoisseurs,” in that we often like to partake in the mastication of groundnuts. For example, right now I’m at work, eating a small cupful of peanuts that I cribbed from another part of the department. (Yes, I’m still a snack stealer.)

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Chooch wasn’t feeling it.

Then we visited some some large tourist trap of a shop full of moccasins, souvenirs, and bacon-flavored everything. Basically, an “outpost” stuffed with shit no one really needs. They put a fluorescent vintage VW minivan thing out from and a giant bear to sit on in order to lure people in. It works.

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Chooch desperately wanted a pen that looked like a rifle, and of course it was basically glowing in neon letters WILLIAMSBURG! CIVIL WAR! HISTORY! MORE THAN JUST A PEN! It was only $5 or something but Tight Wad Hank was like, “NO” which made Chooch sad, and I have to hand it that kid: he wasn’t being too spoiled so far. Sure, he was asking for everything, but 99% of the time, once we said, he moved on.

Except with this pen. He like, needed this pen. His heart was aching for it. So I gave him money to buy it and then told Henry to go fuck himself, basically. Henry just batted at the air with his blue-collared hand and walked away, leaving me to stand in line at the checkout with Chooch, who was getting really tired of thanking every old woman who stopped to tell him they liked his hair. THEN DYE IT BACK ALREADY!

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We came outside just in time to catch the tail end of Henry taking a picture for two broads who were also drawn off the road by the prospect of sitting on some fake bear’s crotch.

“Hyuk, hyuk, you’re welcome!” Henry was saying after he handed the phone back to them. Of course, Chooch saw right through this ruse and knew immediately that Henry probably had programmed his number into the phone and is by now deep in the throes of an affair. And that’s fine, because Henry’s not my type, anyway.

(Please see: must wear fitted flannels and beanies, be known to attend a Thrice or Circa Survive show BY CHOICE, neck/hand tattoos, preferably in a band.)

I bought our idiot tickets online rather than going to the “general store,” wherever the fuck that is, so once we got back down to Colonial Williamsburg, we walked straight to Bruton Parish, which is where the website said we should all plan on meeting. Since we were already there once that day, I felt less like a tourist since I knew right where to go. (It also helped that it was on the main drag.) Gradually, more and more people started popping up and I was getting angry. How were we going to get the full experience with so many motherfuckers who had the same idiotic idea as us (me)?!

A family of four plopped their asses down near us and naturally, the mom started moving her lips in the shape of small talk; why. Why why why why. Go talk  to your own family!  Henry of course was standing further away with his face firmly planted in his phone, so no one bothered him. This broad was even talking to people who were just passing by. Like, lay off lady!

“What makes this ‘extreme’?” Henry eventually broke down and asked.

“I don’t know, it just says it starts at 9:00* and there’s equipment involved,” I verbally shrugged.

*(Good old 9:00PM. SOME SAY it was the runner-up for the Witching Hour.)

Sometime after 9, some broad from the ghost tour office arrived and started collecting tickets and, thank god, dividing the now-sizeable crowd between several guides. Each group ended up having about 15 or so people in it, and we were separated from the Talker, so I was pleased. Except that in exchange, we got a family of 5 that included A BABY IN A STROLLER.

WHO BRINGS OUT THEIR BABY DURING THE (RUNNER-UP FOR THE) WITCHING HOUR?

We got paired with some hyperactive older woman who Chooch pointed out later reminded him of Ellen, and when Henry had the audacity to ask, “Ellen who?” Chooch shouted in disgust, “SERIOUSLY?! Oh my god” because there is only one Ellen in the world and that is the Degeneres one.

I actually don’t think I ever caught the guide’s name, so we’ll just call her Ellen. Thanks, Chooch.

Ellen was mildly humorous (some of the less intelligent people in our group thought she was a fucking riot, though) and asked us to keep an eye out for horse shit on her behalf since she was backpeddling while telling us historical ghost stories. She encouraged us to take pictures with the flash on. Have you ever taken a picture at night with a cell phone? Well, if you haven’t, get stoked, because you’re about to put your eyes on a shit ton of iPhone night photos, and they are real lookers.

Henry, annoyed before it even started because GHOSTS AREN’T REAL, spent nearly the whole tour trailing behind the group, reading the same status updates over and over on his phone (he only has like, 70 Facebook friends) and probably reading things about the Republican Party and pinning mason jar DIYs on Pinterest. This is what he looked like:

I’m going to go ahead and tell you that this is some kind of paranormal activity that my advanced phone camera picked up.

Turns out that the “equipment” included on the EXTREME tour was one (1) EMF meter. (I had to google that.) Ellen gave it to the vocal non-believer of the group, this broad named Donna, who was there with her husband and two bitch-daughters who were wearing t-shirts that said “Got Ghosts? Williamsburg does.” Chooch hated them right off the bat, and I quickly realized that it was because the one was a huge dickhead whiner just like him.

“I NEED SOMETHING TO DRINK,” she spat at her father through gritted teeth pretty early on into the tour. “I AM LIKE DYING OF THIRST.” God, that sounded familiar. I could almost hear that coming out of her mouth in Chooch’s bitch-voice.

And mine.

Quickly, Father! Run to the nearest haunted Williamsburg well and quench your dumb daughters thirst!

Anyway, DONNA got to hold the EMF meter first and surprise, surprise, she was picking all of the activity! Ellen was delighted. The non-believer was attracting all of the ghosts! Oh ho ho, isn’t that always the way it works? All hail, Donna! She encouraged everyone to bombard Donna with photos because this would be a great time to capture orbs. Of course, Donna’s husband took a photo that basically made it look like Donna was a magnet for paranormal activity. Ghosts were coming down from Salem, for Christ’s sake! DONNA THE NON-BELIEVER’S HERE, GUYS! LET’S APPARATE!

Everyone crowded around to see the poster for Paranormal Activity 6: Douchebag in Williamsburg on her husband’s phone. It was early into the tour so I was kind of interested in what was going on, I wasn’t full-on pouting yet, but I couldn’t get close enough to see what had everyone so excited.

I don’t know what this was supposed to be. Tree. Fence.

Ellen told us a handful of, truthfully, very interesting stories, which had us all gathered around like this:

There was this one broad there with her friends, they were probably in their early 20s, and she was fucking scared out of her mind. I mean, nothing was happening. There were no chainsaws. No scare tactics being employed. And with all the taverns in Colonial Williamsburg, we were far from being the only idiots out there that night.

Henry, closing his eyes to better enjoy Ellen’s stories.

Chooch and I agreed that the best story was about the Ludwell-Paradise House. Lucy Ludwell was the daughter of a prominent family, but her ginger cake was missing some very important ingredients, if you know what I mean.

Let me rephrase that for my non-Colonial friends: she was batshit, guys. I was reading about her on some historical Williamsburg website after the fact, and she is adorably referred to as an “eccentric.” This made me laugh, because I have been called that a lot in my life.

She would get all up in ladies’ grills and tell them that she liked their dresses. And then when they would nervously say thanks, she would ask for the dress! Of course, they’d be like, “The fuck?” and quickly retreat. So she would follow them back to their houses and stand out front, watching through the windows, until she saw that the dress in question was now hanging up outside on the clothesline, and she would promptly go into their yard and take it! Oh, Lucy. Nothing is more charming than a rich person stealing from her neighbors.

Of course, her parents would pay people off to save face. And in order to make people like her, Lucy would invite people to her house and promise them carriage rides, because she had this beautiful carriage that she brought from England. But Lucy’s definition of a carriage ride was to have the help pull the carriage back and forth on her back porch.

Eventually, once her parents were dead and no one was left to protect her, she was thrown in the mental institution, which is now the art museum.

Lucy sounds like she fucking fabulous and the whole time Ellen was regaling us with her story, I felt an electric kinship, like she was watching me through a window of her old house, psychically implanting  me with her lunatic chip. #lifegoals

A tree. Fence.


This was the prison, where Donna was attracting so many motherfucking ghosts it was about time to call in an exorcist, for Christ’s sake. Chooch and I exchanged annoyed eyerolls and silently agreed that Donna was a fuckerbitch.

Chooch’s review: “It wasn’t scary at all and eff Donna.”

The highlight of the tour for me was when DONNA LOST HER PHONE OMG! HER PHONE THAT WAS CAPTURING ALL OF THE GHOSTS IN THE HISTORY OF GHOSTS BEING A THING!

“How the hell did she ‘lose her phone’ when it’s never not in her hand?” Henry grumbled. So we had to linger in front of some house that apparently wasn’t haunted at all but it sure as fuck was scary, while Donna and her husband walked back toward the prison to look for it. Mu theory is that she just needed some extra time to orb-ify more photos with whatever ghost hoax app she was using. Get fucked, Donna.

OMG don’t worry though! Donna found her fucking phone.

FINALLY! MY RUDIMENTARY IPHONE LENS FAKED AN ORB! I was so stoked because I did just as Ellen said and took a series of photos in a row and just like that, one of them produced an orb.

“SHOW HER!” Chooch cried, trying to pry my phone from my hands.

“No!” I hissed. “I don’t want these a-holes passing my phone around!” I mean, what if I got a sext during that time? Talk about a ghost hunt foul.

I just asked Henry for a review and he laughed without mirth, shook his head, and said, “No.” I think he’s still trying to not think about all of the peanuts he could have bought with the money I flushed into this ghost event. My favorite thing to do during the tour was whip my head around and make “OMG!!!!” faces of disbelief at Henry as Ellen told us story after story. He was so mad.

Hilariously, the three of us pretty much walked separately from each other the whole time. God, what a team we are.

I wonder if ghosts and Amish people ever get together and talk about how fucking annoying tourists are.

Ellen showed me some photo of a window on her phone and I have no idea what I was supposed to be seeing, so I just said, “Wow. OK.”

Toward the end of the tour, someone else finally got a chance to use the EMF meter and promptly mistook it as her chance to try out new modeling poses she saw on A Beautiful Mess.  Still not as annoying as Donna though.

I wonder, if no one is paying attention to Donna, does she cease to exist? If Donna falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear her, does she take an Instavid of herself to prove that she made a noise?

Finally, the tour was wrapping up and we all headed back to Bruton Parish, where Donna told us some story about lightning striking and leaving ghoul faces on this grave marker:


And then Donna came flying over to show Ellen more of her doctored photos and I didn’t even try to be subtle about the barfing noises I was making. We left without saying thanks or goodbye to Ellen, but that’s OK because only had eyes for DONNA anyway.

DONNA DONNA DONNA DONNA.

And here I was worried that a baby was going to be the douche of the tour, but no. It was a grown-ass woman. Douchey Donna. I hope she took some evil entity home with her to her Douche Headquarters. She must be so proud of herself, being the star of some dumb ghost tour that no one will ever remember. EXCEPT FOR ME BECAUSE I HAVE A STORAGE UNIT FULL OF GRUDGES.

In summation, I enjoyed the historical and ghost stories Ellen told us (I didn’t write about all of them because they’re all taken from books written by some dude name L.B. Taylor so they can be easily accessed if anyone was interested in learning more) and to be honest, once we ventured off the main drag, it did get kind of creepy. But I would not recommend paying extra for the “Extreme” version because that EMF meter was a fucking afterthought. I don’t even think Ellen even really explained to everyone what it was doing, and she honestly seemed to forget that it was in use most of the time.

As soon as we were out of earshot, I was like, “Fuck Donna.” And Chooch and Henry wholeheartedly agreed, so really you could say that this was family bonding experience. It’s not often we’re all in agreement on something.


*what, you thought I was joking about the picture on my wall??

Jun 242020
 

With the inevitable return-to-work date fast approaching, I’ve been trying to get back into that groove where weekends are wonders to be worshiped. Weekends obviously haven’t felt the same of late since we’re always home during the week now and even when it IS the weekend and we might not have to log on for work, there’s nowhere to actually GO. Literally the definition of first world problems, isn’t it?

My new mindset must be working because my Monday Dread has come back to visit on Sunday evenings! THE POWER OF THE HUMAN MIND. 

Anyway, this past weekend sure was…grand? Do people still say that, or are all the people who used to say that dead now? The weather was great and we spent a lot of time outside fucking around with the almost-garden. I added a South Korean flag so now we’re really representin’! I need to get or make a Black Lives Matter sign too  because I’m tired of the rain washing away my good social activism work on the sidewalk.

But then we kept hearing loud bangs and after carefully analyzing the sound in my brain, I asked, “Were those gun shots or firecrackers?”

Chooch said, “Firecrackers. Couldn’t you hear the crackle?”

“Yeah, but I thought maybe that was gun powder.”

Chooch looked at me like I’m a real stoop, and asked, “…do you know how guns work?”

On Saturday, Henry worked some more on our coffee table update, disappeared for a bit, then emerged from the attic with an actual briefcase full of his old cassettes and I was screaming! “JUDAS PRIEST! TED NUGENT!” I called out before flinging the case open, and boy was I not disappointed! I  know I love to make fun of Henry for his pre-Erin tastes, but the fact of the matter is that I went through a very heavy classic rock phase in my later teen years (though I never cared for The Nuge or Judas Priest…or AC/DC….or Motley Crue….or Aerosmith….OK so our tastes didn’t really align very much!) and I get the most amusement out of picturing Henry in the 1980s, in his late teen years into his early 20s, carefully cataloging and curated his latest National Record Mar acquisitions (or were you more of a Camelot and Music Oasis kind of guy, Henry?). I bet he was the one who fixed all of his friends’ broken tapes too.

The night prior to this, I had bid on a lot of Korean cassettes, as well. Unfortunately, they weren’t tapes of actual Korean artists, but imports of Western artists like Pat Benator, Duran Duran, Toto…but I wanted them because the cases are in Hangul and I think it would make a great art piece, somehow. (Something separate from the spice rack!)

When we were in the car going to get pizza on Father’s Day later that weekend, a Ray Parker Jr came on the “oldies” station we were listening to (I know what you’re thinking: “wha—no Kpop??” but I was reading and Kpop is too distracting because I become too busy trying to see how much I can translate in my head, lol) and Henry was so hyped about this because of his cassette briefcase. And then not one but TWO Toto songs came on, one each way, and neither was “Africa”!

Of course I had to text this to my partner-in-.38 Special love, Lisa. 

And a separate text was sent to Alyson, who questioned the absence of Steely Dan, which brought up a good point: did Henry’s ex-wife gain custody of the Steely Dan cassettes in their split, or could it be that Henry just….DOESN’T LIKE STEELY DAN?

I went on a search for him around the house and found him in the bathroom, re-caulking the tub (whatta man!) and asked him with rushed urgency. You know, now that I think about it, he never really gave me an answer so I still do not know if I’m sharing a bed with a non-fan of Steely Dan.

Steely Dan does seem a bit too uppercrust for him though.

Also on Saturday, a total Karen left me mediocre feedback about how she loved the card but the shipping time was unacceptable and I’m like, “OK sorry the USPS took a week* to get a birthday card to you but maybe put that energy into BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

*a week is not unacceptable; and if she would have noted the tracking info, the card was mailed the day after she ordered it (all of our cards are made to order!!) so this 100% should not have affected the feedback she left me, but it doesn’t fall under the criteria for disputing feedback so I have to live with it I guess. CAN’T PLEASE ‘EM ALL.

We hung around outside with Haley and the kids Saturday evening and it was really nice! It’s been a long time since we had neighbors to hang out with. I guess ever since Toya moved? (I miss Toya. She lived on the other side of HNC with her two songs and invited us over for her older son’s graduation party one year and it was the best fucking grad party I ever went to – ART OF NOISE WAS PLAYING AT ONE POINT!?)

Also, our cat Drew is suddenly enamored with the outside but luckily she stays on the porch so that’s great.

Henry lit some citronella candles, which never ever ever saves me from mosquitoes.

One time in high school, Janna was over and I don’t know where the rest of my family was because they hated me and always went out to dinner (MMM MEAT YUM YUM YUM) or away for the weekend without telling Erin the Black Sheep, but I know it was a Friday night AND THE POWER WENT OUT so I was probably running around and screaming like a jackass because I lived on a private road surrounded by forest and I was certain the attic AND THE FOREST was haunted OMG but then we lit a bunch of candles and having light in my life again calmed me down long enough to declare that OMG WE SHOULD MAKE S’MORES or maybe it was just something as simple as roasting marshmallows with none of the extra sandwiching effects. But we did this, and then later on after my mom came home and yelled at us for spilling wax on the carpet (because Janna tripped while carrying a candle, she just recently owned up to it when I was piecing together this memory with her!), I complained that I didn’t feel well and said something about how it was probably from the s’mores and my mom was like, “What were you making s’mores with?” and I said all snottily, “Uh, with the candles?” because ‘le duh’ amirite? And my mom was like, “THOSE ARE CITRONELLA CANDLES, NO WONDER!”

Anyway, this is how I knew to tell Chooch not to roast marshmallows over a scented candle the other night, or should I have? We clearly learn from our experiences!

And to end, here is a cute picture of Chooch and his niece Lily. <3

May 282020
 

When the world finally finds a way to give the coronavirus the ass-beating it deserves and we’re able to go back to our regularly scheduled programming, I’m going to go hog-wild on road trips. I cannot tell you how much I miss rest stops, coleslaw from shitty small-town diners, bickering with Chooch or Henry or Chooch AND Henry in the car, LIVEBLOGGING!!!, and most importantly: finding terrible/awesome roadside attractions that add an extra four-to-eight hours to our travel time.

One of my favorite Roadside America finds was the Vent Museum, which is literally a house full of dummies in Kentucky. Good lord, did we have an experience there during the summer in 2014. WHY DON’T YOU READ ABOUT IT?

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As soon as I saw a museum of dummies listed on Roadside America, my heart sang, “This is the place for us, Erin Rachelle Kelly!” I was ready to get lost in the bowels of a ventriloquist’s wet dream.

[Insert joke about why Henry would want to pay to see dummies when he’s with two of them for free every day.]

After killing an hour in Fort Mitchell, we rolled up to Vent Haven about ten minutes early. The curator was outside and waved to us, so we got out of the car and tentatively approached the property.

“Are you the one who just called today?” the curator asked, after introducing herself as Lisa. I said yes, that was me, and she told me that she almost never has an opening the day-of. “So this is almost like winning the lottery!” she laughed, and I could tell Henry was vehemently disagreeing to himself.

Right when I was panicking about having The Small Talk, another group arrived. This alleviated some of the pressure from us (because Henry damn well wasn’t going to be talking — he was still annoyed that this was pushing back our arrival home!).

We all stood around outside in the yard while Lisa gave us a brief rundown of the history of the museum, which was started out of the home of W.S. Berger when he started collecting dummies in the 50s and eventually his collection grew so large that he ran out of room in his house and had to build auxiliary shed-like buildings in his backyard. Thus, Vent Haven was born, the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism!

“When people see that it’s by appointment only, they think this is some pretentious museum, but I’m the ONLY EMPLOYEE!” she stressed. “I can’t give a tour if I’m at Kroger’s! I need to know when people are coming to my house,” she laughed. Because, you know, she actually lives there too. And it’s funny that she mentioned that because Henry totally groaned when I mentioned that I had to call ahead, because I’m sure he had visions of a stuffy exhibit full of stern-looking elderly people popping Werther’s Originals while an unamused curator monotoned facts around accusatory stares.

(Honestly, I always feel like they think I’m up to something!)

The more Lisa talked, the more I loved her. She was the antithesis of what you’d expect from a roadside tour guide: she was hilarious without being cheesy, informative without being boring, and her genuine enthusiasm for ventriloquism was contagious. Within minutes, Henry was smiling and laughing. The exact opposite of when we went on the Williamsburg ghost tour!

While waiting for the last group to arrive, she talked a bit about the psychological reasons why a lot of people are scared of dummies, or dolls of any sort.

“But really, even if they were all going to spring to life and come after you, why would you be afraid of something so small? They’re like the size of toddlers, just kick ’em, you know?” and then to Chooch she hurriedly explained, “I mean, I wouldn’t really kick a toddler…well, you know what I mean.”

I looked at Henry and mouthed, “I.LOVE.HER.”

At exactly 1:00, she interrupted herself and said, “Well, it’s 1. I’m not waiting for them. Let’s go inside and get started.”

ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE HER.

I can’t post the majority of the pictures I took, because of copyright reasons, but there were some photo ops that Lisa gave us permission to share on social media, so that’s what you’ll see here. So just imagine walking into a small building and being met with hundreds of dead, ogling eyes.

IT WAS EXHILARATING.

I’m not scared of this stuff at all. I mean, I collect clowns and have a mannequin that I use as a Christmas tree—I think I’m relatively immune. But it was admittedly slightly overwhelming at first—the collection is just crazy! Vent Haven is up to 900 now, but not all of them are displayed. Lisa actually had just received a literal carful of presidential dummies (from JFK to Dubya) earlier that week but hadn’t yet built a display for them.

That’s the other thing about Lisa: not only does she know her shit (one of the people in our group pointed to a random dummy and Lisa dove right in, regaling us with its colorful history), she is the sole creator of the displays and exhibits. “I just really love my job,” she said several times during the tour. It really showed.

And when I pointed out that one of the dolls reminded me of Lady Elaine from Mr. Rogers, Lisa looked at me strangely and said, “You’re not old enough to know Mr. Rogers! I grew up with Mr. Rogers!”

Kentucky, I love you. You make me feel young!

(And standing next to Henry helps, too.)

The last couple finally did arrive and as Lisa watched them get out of the car, she promised she wouldn’t shame them. “I’m an Army brat, can you tell? My dad made sure we were always on time.”

“My dad always made me late to everything when I was a kid, so now I make sure I’m always on time!” I blurted out, wanting nothing more than for Lisa to like me. Henry just rolled his eyes. He hates it when Suck Up Erin makes an appearance.

A little bit later, Henry got to steal my thunder when Lisa asked, “Does anyone recognize these famous ventriloquists?” She pointed to three separate b&w photos on the wall. All men in old b&w photos look the same to me so I gave up after 1.6 seconds.

“Hmmmm….Johnny Carson,” Henry said, pointing to the young guy in the middle.

“Yep!” Lisa said happily. “A lot of people didn’t know he was a ventriloquist.” She told us that puppets and dummies were recurring characters on The Tonight Show during his tenure, but when Leno took over, they ever appeared again because he hated ventriloquism.

As if I needed another reason to hate Leno.

Henry studied the pictures a little harder and, with a hint from Lisa, he was able to also guess Ted Knight. No one got the third one — DON KNOTTS. Too bad, so sad, Henry. You’re not that great.

(Honestly, though you should have seen how happy he was to know things.)

Then we got to go outside and play around with three demo dummies that Lisa keeps on hand. We were allowed to take pictures of them, and Lisa even took a picture of Chooch to put on Vent Haven’s Facebook page.

(He acted like a little teenaged shit about it, but that kid was secretly enthralled by this place. I know this because he was enrapt every time I looked at him and he never once asked to use my phone.)

 

The wife-portion of the couple who arrived late told Lisa that she had a dummy when she was a kid, but she’s not sure what her parents ended up doing with it.

“I haven’t seen it in years,” she said. “I have no idea where it went.”

“Maybe it’s here!” I said, clearly as a joke, but she very curtly said, “It’s not. I looked.”

OH OK. This is why I don’t talk to people!

After playing around with the dummies, Lisa took us into another building, where we learned about Harry Lester; the most successful vaudevillian of all time (not just in ventriloquy!) who was basically penniless when he died; and Paul Winchell, who was also the voice of Gargamel on The Smurfs and as soon as Lisa said that, I could picture his name in the opening credits! We talked about Edgar Bergan of course (he was really the only famous ventriloquist I had heard of going into this) and Shari Lewis, and then Henry got to go to the head of the class again when he knew that Wayland Flowers and Madame replaced Paul Lynde as the center square on Hollywood Squares.

 

Something he can control!

You guys, Vent Haven brought out a side of Henry that I never knew existed.

There was a section on Jeff Dunham here too. Apparently, he is very generous with the museum and donates a lot of his old props, etc. This is where Chooch’s interest was really piqued.  Lisa played a clip of one of Jeff’s Ahmed routines and Chooch, being right on that apathetic cusp of teenagedom, acted like he wasn’t impressed, but I could see his mind reeling.

There was one last building to visit, with even more dummies. It doubled as the gift shop and Henry’s good mood started to shift when he heard me tell Lisa that I wanted a magnet and her book and sure Chooch, you can get that Jeff Dunham hand-puppet set. Henry hates souvenirs.

Lisa was so flattered that I wanted to buy her book. But she was so entertaining and knowledgeable! There were numerous dummies throughout Vent Haven that had signs which said “I’m in the book!” so of course I had to buy it. I had to stop myself from gushing my way to a restraining order, but I just really wanted Lisa to know that I was obsessed with her in all of the good ways.

“You’re seriously the best tour guide we ever had,” I said all breathily as she wrote up an invoice for the admission fees and our souvenirs. I could sense Henry’s cringe all the way on the opposite side of the room. But Lisa took it well!

Chooch wants everyone to know that the 90 minutes we spent there got him into Jeff Dunham (he watched YouTube videos of his performances on Henry’s phone almost the whole car ride back to Pittsburgh) and he is trying to learn how to throw his voice now. I can’t tell you how many times this past week we’ve talked about the things we learned on that small, unassuming residential lane in Fort Mitchell, KY.

Oh, and he also wants everyone to know that Henry had a crush on ANGELICA, the main person from the second group who joined us and that he kept looking at her ass.

If you ever find yourself in the Louisville/Cincinnati area, I highly encourage you to call up Vent Haven and take a tour. Go not just for the dummies, but for Lisa’s biting humor and delightful stories. She’ll make a dummy-lover out of you!

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“That was fucking awesome, admit it, Henry,” I squealed as we drove away.

With just a hint of a smile, he quietly said, “Yeah. It was pretty awesome.” Ladies and gentlemen, I think Henry had a little bit of fun amongst dummies.

I mean, 90 minutes where all three of us were equally entertained and enjoying ourselves? Lisa was right: it really was like winning the lottery!

May 262020
 

Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve had worse Memorial Days (like the notorious one in 2005 when my ex-bff came to visit and I locked myself in my room and she and Henry literally took off my bedroom door because they thought I was trying to OD on meds?! I WASN’T, for the record).

I mean, it would have been nice to be able to wild out in an Ozark watering hole (KIDDING, EW, NOT EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO COVID) but it turns out that we were still able to have a fine day without traveling.

I guess.

And I know that I complain about and ridicule that dumb local parade that slithers past my house every Memorial Day, but it was actually kind of sad that it was canceled this year. I guess theoretically the parade could have still happened, but who can trust hundreds of Yinzers to stand six feet apart from each other on the sidewalks?

Henry and I went to Jefferson Memorial for a walk earlier in the day and it was so freaking hot that we were both huffing and puffing on every hill and then there was this huge blast which made me scream WAS THAT A GUNSHOT as two more blasts fired out.

Henry paused, head tilted, SERVICE manual activated. “Yes. Seven guns. Three shots. Equals 21.” Then he noticed that I had contorted into a floating question mark next to him so he clarified, “it’s a military thing.”

OH OK.

When I told Chooch about this later, he died a little.

Apparently, there was a whole memorial thingie-thang happening in this cemetery, so that was great. I don’t think any of those super old farts were even wearing masks, so that was even greater. We made sure to take a different path because yeah, no thanks.

(Henry did have a little bit of a SERVICE boner though, I think he would really like for you to know that.)

Meanwhile, the book we chose was something that I thought was going to be fluffy YA but hoooooooo-boy, nope nope nope. I mean, yes, it was YA, but it was pretty heavy. Asian Readathon has been going SO WELL that I already can’t wait to do it again next year even though I basically followed none of the prompts and played by my own rules, which was essentially HOW MANY BOOKS BY ASIAN AUTHORS CAN I READ IN ONE MONTH, IT’S A RACE!

Back to Memorial Day. I was chatting on Kakao with my pal Kyoung who lives in South Korea and he was like “oh, what is Memorial Day, my Erin”* and I had to google it because I couldn’t remember, lol, please revoke my America card, I don’t want it anymore. This resulted in me asking Henry what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and he started to answer me but then I didn’t care so I started playing the audiobook.

*(He calls me his Erin and I think that’s so adorable, I bet Henry does too—wait, I’ll ask him. BRB. OK, I’m back. He was doing the dishes and muttered, “Whatever.”)

Anyway, I decided that since we couldn’t really do anything fun on Memorial Day (and who am I kidding, it’s not like we typically get invited to any cookouts, pandemic or no pandemic, lol #friendlessinPittsburgh), then I wanted Henry to make some of my favorite cookout foods from when I was growing up, those Kelly Family Summer staples (which, if you know my family, sounds like some dysfunctional game of abuse that we maybe might have played, involved chasing each other with staplers while foaming at the mouth).

So, I’m not sure if this is something that was INVENTED in Pittsburgh, but I do know that it’s been a hometown favorite since I can remember, and that is the princess of all picnics, the Strawberry Pretzel Salad. My mom made it for every single cookout when I was growing up, and I always just thought it was one of those things that everyone made for cookouts, but apparently people not from Pittsburgh are like, “????” so if you’re reading this and you’re not from Pittsburgh, please let me know if you have ever heard of this. I mean, there’s a Betty Crocker recipe for it for god’s sake! And when Henry asked me to text my mom for her recipe, she was like, “I’m not home. Just go on Pinterest.”

WOW OK.

Anyway, Henry did an OK job.

But while we were chowing, he admitted that he HAD NEVER HEARD OF THIS UNTIL WE STARTED DATING AND HE WENT TO HIS FIRST EVER COOKOUT AT MY MOM’S HOUSE AND I AM SO FUCKING SHOOK, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE BEEN FAKE-MARRIED FOR 18 (19?) YEARS AND I AM JUST LEARNING THIS. My friend Sandy said she feels sorry for childhood Henry. I agree. What a sad childhood.

He also made ambrosia, which was definitely not like my mom’s (she said she’ll look for her traditional recipe and give it to him for his birthday, lol) and Watergate salad, which actually isn’t something that we would generally have at any of my family gatherings, but I do like it in other non-Kelly Family Cookout contexts and haven’t had it in a very long time, so why not make the picnic side salads a full trifecta, you know what I’m saying?

Henry picked a good Watergate salad recipe because that shit was ON POINT. (I told him I never wanted to look at his ambrosia again, though). The Watergate salad also made me miss Eat n Park a little bit, which is actually open for take out during social distancing, but what I specifically miss is their salad bar even though EW I don’t really want to think about salad bars at a time like this, but they almost always have pistachio fluff in their “pudding/jello” section, and on very rare, special occasions, they up the ante and make it a full-blown Watergate.

Not the most attractive picture, but that’s what you get when it’s plated by Henry’s big bumbling blue-collar meat-fists. It’s important to note that this salad is probably the most “Yinzer” thing about me. Honestly. I fail pretty much every other Yinzer test out there.

So yeah, lots of sugar for dinner! But…also lots of fruit?

Later that night, Henry and I watched a Chinese adaption of this really great Japanese crime novel we “read” together over the weekend and Chooch was like, “I’M NOT WATCHING THIS” because he’s jealous that Henry and I have our weird/creepy audiobook couple’s club now. Haha.

May 142020
 

In the spirit of vicarious traveling during this pandemic, I am here to retell the tale about the time I strong-armed Henry into making a detour on our southern road trip in 2015. Those were the days.

****

Last winter, after we decided where this summer’s vacation was going to take us—-and Henry started bleeding money from all blue-collared orifices—-I excitedly consulted Roadside America to find all the ways to drag our trek back to Pittsburgh into a poorly-written modern remake of Homer’s Odyssey, only with less blood weddings, spiritual growth, and Latin declensions.

One of the “attractions” I read about was this mysterious-sounding African village in Sheldon, SC called Kingdom of Oyotunji. I sent Henry the link and received no response. Shocker. During the beginning half of our trip, I kept bringing it up, and Henry just kept saying things like, “We’re not going that way” and “It recently burned to the ground” and “Katy Perry is performing there all week.”

But I would not be deterred.

It turns out, when we left Savannah that Friday in July, the village was on our exact route to Charlotte, NC. Henry either must have had his guard down or was just that fatigued from fielding my lofty requests all week, because he actually turned off the highway when we arrived at the Sheldon exit! I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

“Is this place is even open?” he sighed. “It better fucking be open.” But I could tell that what he really meant was, “I hope it’s not open because I don’t want to go but I am still going to be mad if it’s not open because either way this is a waste of time and I hate you.” Over the years, we have learned to communicate through a series of huffy sighs, glares, and fists slamming against steering wheels.

Actually, their website said that they were open until 7:00 (it wasn’t quite 6 yet so we had time in our favor, at least), but they recommend that you email them if you want to stop by for a tour. I mean, I did that, but we were already about 20 minutes away so we were going to stop by regardless. Also, it seemed weird to me that this mysterious US-seceded African village in the Gulleh Geeche South Carolina low-country (I got that from their website because I’m a journalist now) even has the Internet and didn’t require me to send notice via carrier pigeon.

Just kidding. I’m not that culturally ignorant. But on that note, the Oyotunji community is something that I definitely know nothing about and I was genuinely interested in learning about how they live. (And also genuinely interested in making Henry feel uncomfortable, because he HATES taking tours of places.)
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Chooch was sleeping when we made it to the entrance of the kingdom, which required us to turn off the highway and continue on down a dirt road buffeted by forest. The whole time, Henry was murmuring, “I hate you. I fucking hate you. Fuck my life” through gritted teeth, while I cracked up next to him so hard that I was wheezing.

“It’s not fucking funny!” he said. BUT IT IS, HERNY.

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At the end of the path, we could see the gate to the compound, and Henry started to rejoice because it was closed.

“Yeah but keep going, maybe there’s a doorbell,” I urged, because we had come so far!

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Most of my pictures are blurry and out of focus because I guess I was just that excited about being there.

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Henry kept trying to tell me in a dozen different ways that this joint was closed, but too bad I noticed the “Blow Your Horn” sign next to the gate before he had a chance to gouge my eyes out with his strong and masculine Service thumbs.

“Blow the horn,” I demanded.

“No, I’m not blowing the fucking horn,” Henry hissed in response.

But if you ask Henry to do something enough times while consistently raising your voice until it’s a crackling screech, he eventually gives up and does the thing! So he reluctantly pressed down on the car horn and then we waited.

“No one’s coming,” he sighed, ready to throw the car into drive.

“Just wait!” I begged, holding my gaze hard against the big red doors.

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After about 30 seconds of nail-biting suspense, a man dressed in a white robe stepped out from behind a fence along the left-hand perimeter of the property.

“Oh great, Erin. Just great,” Henry huffed, lowering the window so the man could talk to us.

“Are you guys looking to do the tour?” he asked after we exchanged proper Southern salutations. (You know. “Hello”s were said.) Leaning across Henry, I emphatically nodded my head. You bet your white-robed ass I want a tour. I want to know all about the Oyotunji tribe! I was just getting ready to barrel-roll myself out of the car when he went on to explain that unfortunately, they’ve been mourning the death of their leader, in Africa, for the last three days and had closed the community off to the public for that.

“We open back up tomorrow though, if you’ll be in the area?”

Henry nodded and said something along the lines of, “Yeah, we might be.”

“I was actually just on my way out to take a shower when I heard you beep,” the man said, explaining that he’s not usually the one who gives the tours.

He then gave us a brief run-down of the community, told us how he’s originally from Florida but had shed his American citizenship 20+ years ago in favor of living a simple life in the woods of South Carolina. They’re a community of around 40 people, self-sustained, they home school their children, and basically live a life where no one has to give a shit about the things that Americans give a shit about that don’t even matter, like Donald Trump, the idiot Superbowl, and Miley Cyrus’s pasties.

I can only imagine how better behaved their kids are than Chooch.

This whole time, I was trying to maintain strong eye contact with him while chewing on the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing outright. Look, please understand that I don’t think anything about their community is funny, and I certainly don’t find humor in the fact that they were all in mourning, but it was the situation itself: the detour into the woods of Beaufort County, Henry’s reluctance, the Jonestown Massacre vibe of it all….it was all of these things, like sitting in church during the homily and feeling that itch to laugh out loud for no good reason, that had me writhing in giddy discomfort.

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Some other tourist-sucker pulled in behind us about 10 minutes into our on-the-fly history lesson from our new robed friend. He quickly wrapped it up and then excused himself to go talk to the other visitor.

“Are we really going to come back tomorrow?!” I screamed as we slowly drove back out to the highway.

“Wha—-? No!” he said, his big bushy brows all furrowed.

“But when that guy asked if we were going to be in the area—”

“Yeah well, I didn’t mean it.” And he used his End of Story tone, so I sulked for awhile.

Oyotunji, I’ll be back for you someday.

But then we pulled over at the Carolina Cider Company! We had been on a mission to procure boiled peanuts the whole time we were in the south and finally, it was our time. On our last day, no less.

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Chooch was still sleeping, how he managed to sleep through all of the Oyotunji excitement, I’ll never know. At first, Henry was like, “Just crack the window, he’ll be fine.” But then I was overcome with paranoia and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on….the overwhelming need to PARENT, maybe? Nah. I think I have it confused with the desire to not have Child Protective Services called on my ass.

What would the Oyotunji do, I thought hard to myself.  Aside from probably not giving a shit about boiled peanuts, I mean.

I went out to the car to wake up Chooch and proceeded to set off the car alarm. The proprietor of the cider establishment and the only two patrons there at that time stopped what they were doing in order to gawk at me from the open doors of the store.

“What are you doing!?” Henry yelled, marching over with the car keys to stop the alarm. SO SORRY THAT I WAS TRYING TO SAVE MY KID FROM ASPHYXIATION.

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So then I was able to save Chooch and he groggily followed me into the store while I excitedly told him about what he had missed, but I don’t think he believed me.

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Henry bought us stuff and boiled peanuts are weird as fuck, yet I couldn’t stop eating them.

Eventually, we made it to a shady Red Roof Inn, I mean shadier than the typical Red Roof Inn, in Charlotte. We had to pass Carowinds on the way, with its coasters all sexy and lit up against the night sky. I begged Henry to take us there but he was like, “IT’S NEARLY 10’O CLOCK AT NIGHT!” God, he always has an excuse.

Luckily, the Red Roof was only shady on the outside (i.e. the parking lot and the entire right section of the motel where I’m pretty sure people were living and since it was a Friday night, shit was popping off) and the inside was clean and recently remodeled. I realized that HENRY hadn’t fed us dinner, so he went to a vending machine and came back with snacks and a Snickers. THANKS, PA.

We live large on vacation.

***

Anyway, aside from some additional pictures from our travel day back to Pittsburgh, that pretty  much wraps up our whirlwind Southern road trip, which took me an entire month to recap. But holy shit, we did so much! I love these trips so much, and I know that they don’t really seem like “vacations” because we’re so go-go-go, but I couldn’t imagine sitting in one place for 7 days and “relaxing.” I honestly don’t know how to relax. I look forward to these trips so much because we get to see cool things, meet really awesome people, and make some pretty hilarious memories.

We hadn’t even crossed the Pennsylvania state line yet and I was already asking Henry where we’re going to go next. He just glared at me.

May 042020
 

 

For this week’s thrilling installment of THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE, let us ooh and ahh at this tin collectible beverage mug that I insisted Janna buy for me at the Fayette County Fair in….2013? I’ll tell you in a minute when I do an archive deep-dive in order to copy&paste that old blog post here because if there is one thing QUARANTINE has taught me, it’s to recycle/reuse/regurge those old-ass blog posts because hello lazy me. 

Anyway, I wanted to share this here today because all these years later, I still smile when I see it! I never did it use it to chug additional servings of root beer from the comfort of my own home, but I have since repurposed it into a planter. JANNA I BET YOU DIDN’T THINK I WOULD KEEP THIS – actually, you’ve known me too long and my pack-rat sentimentalism is no mystery to you.

Because county fairs are possibly another thing that’ll be missing this summer, here is that the blog post that includes not only delirious fun on rickety death trap rides, but also the origin story for THE CHUCK WAGON SODA VESSEL. 

(And I was off by two years. This happened in 2011!)

******

Spending a birthday at the county fair seems like a great idea on paper: gut-churning rides, complimentary (if not downright sleazy) carnies, fried desserts (calorie counts are nil on birthdays, everyone knows that), the cacophony of laughing children and tractor pulls (forgetting for a moment that I hate children and anything with even the slightest redneck-tilt).

Yes, a perfect day!

But then you add in Henry, whose face threatens to crack a million different ways if even the slightest hint of a smile creeps upon his lips; Blake, who is apparently an 80-year-old retiree in an 18-year-old’s body, adverse to sunlight and complaining of back pain and lethargy all day; Chooch, who is a little motherfucking birthday killer-in-training who makes the day all about HIM HIM HIM; and Janna, who won’t ride anything aside from a carousel and a 20-second-long Haunted Mansion ride that Henry’s SAT score out-scares.

Not to mention the fact that these assholes weren’t constantly fawning over me and winning me plush Family Guy characters. IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY, NEED I REMIND YOU.

Blake and his new friends, planning their upcoming move to Florida.

Awkward Standing.

At first glance, I was like, “Aw shit, this fair might be pretty good.” I mean, it was run by Powers Great American Midway, after all, and I am obsessed with them. However, it was only about half the size of the Big Butler Fair, and I’ll tell you: That fair can spoil a bitch. Power’s light blue unit brought along some choice rides. (Is it sad that I know which “unit” PGAM deployed to the Fayette County fairgrounds? Maybe I look at their website too much.) And I saw lots of familiar carny faces, one of which was Kirk’s! I didn’t talk to him, though. What’s the point when my lame non-carny boyfriend was glued to my side all day?

But the layout of the fair sucked. And it was super muddy and smelled like sewage, but that was probably because Henry kept standing so close to me. Still: 100% better than the shitty Washington County Fair. (I go to county fairs a lot. It’s kind of become A Thing.)

You know you go to a lot of fairs when you start to recognize carnies, is all I’m sayin’.

Blake: Jeepers, it’s so hot! I think I’m dying! And I left my cane at the home and missed my 3:00pm dinner! I wonder if Dad has any individually-wrapped prunes in his pocket before I pass out.

Thank God Lisa and her husband Matt met us out there a few hours after we arrived. They joined us in standing around awkwardly, which is something that people need to master before even attempting to hang out with me. (I suggest going to a crowded store and standing right in front of a doorway or at the top of an escalator for practice. Do not move when you find that you are blocking foot traffic, and ignore the scowls you inspire. Only then can we hang out.)  Lisa was in a really good mood and I like to think it’s because she knows how delicate of a situation my birthday is, like the entire premise of Speed, with less bus more birthday cake, but actually Lisa is always pretty chill and somehow wasn’t completely put off by the foul moods of my companions who need to be reminded that SOME PEOPLE AREN’T LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET TO GO TO THE FAIR.

Fuck!

Within minutes, Chooch claimed Matt and I’m sure everyone at the fair assumed they were father and son after that. I’m sorry, Matt. But Henry and I were relieved to be off the hook for awhile.

***

A week before the fair, I was on the phone with Lisa.

“I hope the fair is a good one,” she said thoughtfully.

“Um, Lisa? Of course it will be. It’s run by Powers Great American Midways,” I informed her haughtily.

“I don’t know what that means.”

THAT’S BECAUSE SOMEONE DOESN’T READ MY BLOG.

***

Lisa and Matt agreed to ride the Orbiter with me immediately after they arrived. I was SO EXCITED. Finally! I get to ride something moderately extreme! But then we got in line and I saw it said “No single riders” and those asshole words are ALWAYS BEING SNEERED AT ME at fairs because I am perpetually single in this world of grinding traps of pleasure (amusement rides, not vagina dentata).  I looked at Janna who had accompanied us to the line and she said no before I even asked her. Way to tag along on something you’re not a part of, then Janna! So I had to run over to Henry and Blake, who had combined to form a Dildo-ic Duo while Chooch rode some stupid train operated by Kirk.

I hadn’t even approached them yet and I was already absolutely wailing about how Janna ruined my life and wouldn’t ride with me and Blake, while I was still approaching them mid-run, said no. Henry, however, said: “Fine.”

“What?” I asked in surprise.

“I said fine,” he sighed.

I guess he was trying to make up for the fact that he failed epically in the birthday present department once again. (Seriously, he got me a shirt that I already have, which proves that he doesn’t look at me. Ever.) This was the SECOND ride he rode on! (We rode on the Swings when we first got there. They made him sick.)

Oh, I was so happy! And the best part was that it took so long for the ride to get loaded to capacity, that Henry and I had plenty of time to talk about Jonny Craig!

Henry bitched about the Oribiter for the rest of his time at the fair. “I have cold sweats,” he kept complaining, though I’m not sure to whom because last time I checked, his mommy didn’t come with us and she’s the only person who gives a shit about him. He didn’t ride anything else after that, though I kept trying to con him into being my partner on the Skydiver, since it’s less commitment that being my partner for life. He kept saying, “We’ll see,” which everyone knows means NO.

After Chooch and Matt, Lisa, Janna and I had our turn at sliding down the Fun Slide, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid and good goddamn is that scary. Ascending the steps alone made me clutch my heart. I felt like there was going to be a religious cult waiting at the top to push me back down the steps into God’s eternal arms. It was like walking into the hospital on D-Day and wanting to run back out the doors but having 3 nurses pull you back in because “that baby’s gotta come out one way or another, sweetheart!” Longest climb of my life.

“I’m scared,” I told the Mexican carny who smiled, probably assuming I said, “Let’s go fuck behind that lemon cart you pushed across the border.” What? The Pennsylvania border, you guys.

Lisa thought it was the funnest thing at the fair, Janna had no comment, and I was just glad I didn’t slide through piss, shit, vomit, a chewed-up wad of Skoal or semen. And by “it,” I mean the Fun Slide, not Mexican carny sex. I know you were probably confused.

Things took a turn for the worse when I decided I was ready to eat something and made everyone halt and bow to my whims. I ended up getting a small bowl of haluski, which seemed like an OK choice as far as keeping my stomach lining primed and at the ready for vigorous riding.  (And yes, finally I’m talking about sex!)  Besides, it was either that or throw away 16 years of vegetarianism for some unidentifiable meat on a stick. There was some lame square dance bullshit happening inside the 4H building, so we all sat around and pretended to care about that while I ate. (Lisa really did care, though. She likes the simpler things in life.) This was about the time Chooch turned into the biggest prick of all the fair, and Blake did nothing but antagonize him which only increased Chooch’s crowd-drawing by 500%.

I attempted to not look like I belonged to the two of them by focusing my attention on the asshole inside the 4H building who was singing the most ridiculous square dance songs for these idiotic plaid-tastic children to clomp around to. I almost wished he had CDs for sale so I could buy one and break it in front of his face. God, get fucked with your pathetic farm melodies, douchebag square dance warbler.

In the middle of the Chooch & Blake: American Assholes show, there was an older lady sitting nearby (the blond Peg Bundy in the background of the above picture) who said about Chooch, “Boy he sure is cute” but what she meant to say was, “Damn, child. Your mama needs to put you in a cage because you are acting like one hell of a mother fucker.” And then to me, she said, “We just ate some fried Oreos for dessert. Boy they sure were good!” and what she meant by that was, “Bitch, why don’t you go to the other side of the fairgrounds, far away from me, and choke your bastard child on some fried Oreos, because he is being one hell of a mother fucker.”

Chooch flipped over a chair in response while I pretended that Janna was his mom.

The square dance brigade had some young child canvassing the area with literature. He approached me with his stack of white and green papers and said, “Would you like one, they’re free?”

“I want a green one,” I said with just the right drop of bitchy entitlement. He looked slightly stunned, like no one had ever bothered to make a color request before. While he shuffled through the stack in search of a green one, I said smugly, “It’s my birthday.”

Lisa and Janna were watching this pan out. Lisa looked mildly amused and Janna looked like she was bracing herself for the ‘splaining she was going to have to do to the kid’s mom by the time I was done antagonizing him. This is just how I talk to children: in a very demeaning, ironic way. They seem to like it.

Meanwhile, the guy who was inside singing the square dance “songs” promised “this next one” would “speed up.”

“You should join our square dance group!” He sounded nervous, slightly intimidated by me. Just how I like boys to be.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, as I folded up the paper. (The age limit is 20, by the way. THAT KID RULES FOR THINKING I’M NOT OLDER THAN 20.)

“This next one” still hadn’t “sped up.”

“Dylan!” a lady called from inside the 4H house. “Come dance to this last song!” Sure, maybe there was some plaid lass inside who missed being partnered-up with Dylan, but I have suspicions that this lady just didn’t want him near me anymore.

“Yeah!” I yelled in my best “I’m riding the Wacky Worm, motherfuckers!” impression and when he looked at me all startled-like, I gave him a thumbs-up and said, “Do it! Wooo!

Lisa hadn’t heard the lady call for him in the first place, and admitted later that she thought I was just spontaneously excited, though she was confused why I was telling some young boy to “do it.”

Then I called Dylan my “new son” and Chooch got all upset. I win at parenting.

I have no recollection of Henry being anywhere near us that whole time.

Oh apparently he was off supporting his cocaine habit.

I told Dylan I was going to watch him, but that was actually the time we rose up as a group and went to the petting zoo. Fucking with children is the one true talent your God gave me.

Here is all I remember about the petting zoo: I relayed my birthday woes to a camel and then Chooch fell in a pig sty and Henry had to take him and Blake home.

Coincidentally, my night really picked up after that! Janna bought me root beer in a tin mug from an old broad who tried too hard to sway our decisions and Lisa and I rode the Gravitron with the cast of Jersey Shore. It was fabulous!

Lisa encourages me to take pictures of every little thing she does. She’s like Chooch, but grown.

The only downside to the Fair: After Hours (read: After the Douches Left) was that neither Lisa nor Matt would ride the Zipper with me. I was only able to ride it once, earlier in the day before Blake’s desire to drink a glass of Metamucil and take a nap got the best of him. We talked a little bit about music while trapped inside the Zipper’s jaws, but I could tell he wasn’t having too much fun.

Everyone is growing up but me.

Janna, Lisa and I rode this moderate thrill ride called the Tornado, which is pretty tame but Janna was still clutching her rosary and trying not to re-eat her haluski while Lisa manually spun our car around on top of giving Janna dating advice. My favorite part was when the ride ended and Lisa’s safety bar didn’t release. She pulled it toward her, hoping it would spring back, but it only made it tighter. I fetched the carny and then ran away to stand outside of the ride’s gate by Matt, who had been relegated to little more than a Purse Tree at that point.

The carny gave Lisa a hard time for awhile before manually releasing the bar for her. As she and Janna approached Matt and me, Lisa yelled, “And I love how Erin just ran away!”

Behind her, looking a gorgeous shade of gangrene from her jaunt on the Tornado, Janna irritably mumbled, “Yeah. She does that.” Possibly Janna’s way of suggesting that Lisa spends more time with me.

Janna bought* me a birthday ice cream cone from a girl who had been punched in the eye. Lisa opted for more scatastically phallic fare. Then we said goodbye to the fair and immediately upon leaving the parking lot, Janna’s GPS lured us out onto un-lit backwoods lanes and I’m not going to lie: It was scarier than riding the Zipper in a lightning storm with the cage unlatched. This was after Janna got raped by a bug.

(* This mostly happened because when Henry left the fair, so did my money.)

Happy fucking birthday to me, to me, to me.

 

Apr 242020
 

Guys, hold the phone – tomorrow is Chooch’s 14th birthday so I’m devoting today’s Friday Five to my five favorite birthday parties that I threw him hahaha because it’s all about me, why bother asking him for his opinion?!

It’s going to be weird not having a party for him tomorrow or taking him to dinner at the very least, but we will make the best of it and for as much as I scream at him for acting spoiled, he’s actually not that bad (considering who his mother is) and he’s pretty content with laying low and having a Netflix Party with some of his friends. 14 is a weird age, anyway.

OK, in no particular order, here are some of the birthday parties he’s had! Click on the links to go to the original blog post for each party, where you can see more pictures and probably multiple paragraphs where I complain about how stressed out I was, make me a martyr already.

  1. Rollerskating Party

This is kind of weird to include this one on the list because it was his first birthday party right after the BLOG CONTROVERSY at his old Catholic school wherein I wrote about some of the bitch-moms and they found it and there was a confrontation and shit got real and then they punished me by not letting their kids go to his party, because yes – I’m the one who suffered there. Some of the kids did still come, but we had a lot of friends who turned this into one of the most funnest parties ever! We rented out the roller rink and even though one of my friend’s son’s fell and broke his wrist, it was quite a nice 6th birthday!

We had become pals with the people who ran the rink at the time (it was since taken over by some not-great people with questionable beliefs so we don’t go there anymore), and they were so generous with their contributions to the party!

2. THE CAT PARTY!!

I was so proud of how this party turned out! We had all kinds of cat-themed food and games and a cat-themed photo booth and so many people came and Lisa’s baby puked on Janna and Bill had a feud with a kid and stole one of his toys and threw it out when he was in the porta-john, and seriously, when I think back on these parties, I love my friends so much, lol.

Bill and Jessi came all the way from Michigan (I mean, this can be said for nearly every one of Chooch’s birthday parties though, they are legit family to us, man) and it was so much fun decorating cat cookies the night before. Party prep is so much more tolerable when you’re drinking with friends!

This party was a great blend of friends, family, and Chooch’s school friends. Let’s be real though, his real friends are my friends, which should be annoying to me but I guess I’m OK with sharing my friends with him. (Most of them like him better than me anyway, lol!)

3. The Disney Shocker

For Chooch’s 10th birthday, we took him on a surprise road trip to Disney World. He thought we were going to visit Henry’s “Uncle Walt” right up until we arrived in the parking lot of Disney, he’s so dense. This one was really hard for us to pull off because we are not rich people and, you know, Disney ain’t cheap, yo. We were even less rich 4 years ago so it was nothing short of a miracle that we managed to scrounge together the funds to make this happen. He was so happy though and this honestly was such a huge win for us as parents. I love giving the gift of EXPERIENCE!!

4. The Zombie Party

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I just remember that a bunch of people showed up for this at my mom’s house and we had a little graveyard set up where people could get their photos taken and Bill accidentally scared Chooch too hard and made him cry, which was promptly added to the list of Times Bill Accidentally Made My Kid Cry (surprisingly, many times, but they are still best douche-cups for life!).

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I’m pretty sure I have a picture of Chooch crying on the actual blog post, so you don’t forget to click those hyperlinks!

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My friends are such great sports!

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Kara and her son Harland, who I can barely remember ever being that tiny!! He’s so tall now!

I’ll also remember this as the day my friend Christy (Chooch’s godmother) told me she was pregnant with twins!

5. The Surprise Butterfly Party

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For Chooch’s 11th party, I realized that while we had that surprise birthday trip to Disney, we never actually had a surprise PARTY for Chooch. And I used to be the QUEEN of throwing surprise parties! It was like, my thing back in the day, to the point where probably everyone expected one eventually. But look, you have to know this thing about me: I thrive on taking things that people HATE and using those as themes because I’m fucking rotten.

TO THE CORE.

I mean, I have a rotten apple tattooed on my arm for God’s sake.

My child is not exempt from my devious ways.

Anyway, he was surprised and annoyed all at once, and then happy when he looked around and saw the people who were here but tried to play it off by saying he was just happy for getting a balloon, because he resorts to untimely awkwardness just like his dad.

Oh wait, I mean, his mom.

Tomorrow will be low-key, but I will still try to make his 14th memorable. I mean, turning 14 during a pandemic is memorable in and of itself, I guess.

Apr 172020
 

Look, I’m skipping my Friday Five: COVID Diaries edition for this week because it’s quite literally more of the same. I had the day off on Monday which consisted of, you know, more of not leaving the house, but less of work-stuff. So that was nice, not having to rot in front of the computer for 8 hours. 

But the rest of the week was: work, exercise, books, Kdramas. Chooch has been doing admin shit in Minecraft which really shows off his sociopathic side, that’s for sure. He built a house for someone, wow how nice, filled it with diamonds, WHAT A GENEROUS CHILD!, lured the guy in there, collapsed the roof on him, rude!, and SPAWNED A BUNCH OF WITCHES TO FILL THE HOUSE, what a psycho! He was laughing so hysterically that it was as contagious as the coronavirus. 

Aside from that, we haven’t Battle Royaled it out yet, though he did jokingly come at me with a knife today and I had to pull out that age-old parental line of THAT’S HOW ACCIDENTS HAPPEN!

One of the books I’m reading currently is Haruki Murakami’s “After Dark.” Several scenes take place in a Denny’s, of all places. I guess I’m just very emotionally fragile these days because I immediately felt a strong pull of nostalgia as I imagined these scenes playing out at a Denny’s in Japan. It’s probably been about 7 years since I’ve been to a Denny’s, for several reasons: 

  • since I started adjusting my diet in 2012, diner-like food makes me so SICK, that I have to eat it sparingly;
  • I refuse to pay what they charge for a fucking grilled cheese in this day and age!!

But hoooo boy, what I wouldn’t give to be able to leave my house and sit in a Denny’s at all hours of the night with some friends and a pack of cigarettes right now, am I right?

(OK, we can deep-six the cigarettes.)

I didn’t eat at Denny’s very often with my family (my pappap always preferred Italian restaurants, but when he felt like “slumming it,” we’d always go to Blue Flame, obviously). So it wasn’t until high school when I really became a Denny’s loiterer, probably when I became friends with Lisa. It was always the artsy/music scene types that hung out here (who knows where the “preps” and jocks hung out), and we’d just sit in a booth for hours on end, socializing, smoking, making new friends (I even went on a date with a guy I met at Denny’s, but that’s a story for another day), watching Lisa smash her molten lava cake into a soggy mess, acquiring a legitimate taste for coffee. 

Denny’s is where I started a fight with this guy James (who I later became friends with and his wife is the one who did my majestic Marcy tattoo!) because he was harrassing my friend Dan at school. (I literally pulled James out of his booth by his collar and made him go outside with me so I could yell at him – I had SOME decency to be a loud mouth in private, OK?). Denny’s is also where I wanted to go the first time, all those years ago, Henry said he wanted to take me out to dinner.

“Really? Denny’s?” he asked, surprised.

“I want a grilled cheese,” I shrugged.

I pulled out some old photo albums this morning thinking that I would look for two or three pictures I knew I had from various hangouts at Denny’s back then, but was surprised when I found around 12 almost immediately. I thought it would be fun to share them here because who doesn’t like sharing pictures of themselves with bad hair, fat faces, too-thin eyebrows, etc etc. 

I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS DAY (even if I wanted to – I have hours of it recorded on 8mm). This was the day of our friend Evan’s art show at Carnegie Mellon. We went to Denny’s first, of course, and our friend Justin and this guy Tony who was visiting from Virginia and whose mom was friends with Lisa’s mom and asked if we’d let him hang out with us and then he kissed me in my driveway hahaha) also were there, and Evan stole a door knob from a door in one of the CMU buildings and it looked like it was a super antique, and I think he gave it to me (do I still have it!!??) and then afterward we went to visit my friend Jeremiah in Hazelwood who tried to help me join a girl gang but I didn’t drive and didn’t know how to take a bus to get to the initiation. 

This was the best fucking day. 1996 could have been a perfect year if it wasn’t also the same year that my Pappap died. 

Justin!

Lisa and I were so well-known at Denny’s but no one, and I mean NO ONE loved us like our favorite waitress Marianne. She even kept my school picture in her keychain next to his actual kids’ pictures!! Sometimes I think about her and wonder if she’s doing well. She really cared about us. 

Meanwhile, there was this waiter, Gerard. He was like, Denny’s After Hours. Everyone who hung out there late at night knew him and the “Gerard Special,” which was a banana split made to resemble a weener and balls. When I was dating Psycho Mike in 1997 and he got kicked out of his house, Gerard let him crash at his apartment for a bit and Mike said it was one of the scariest times of his life which is really saying something because he once burnt down a house and spent time in a juvenile mental institution at least twice.

Don’t mind my Devilish expression, but Denny’s is also where my friend Brian fake-married me and my first love, Justin K., three years after we had broken up, lol.  I also have a picture of Justin fake-kissing me that I kept hanging on the fridge but then Henry would flip it over so the picture-side was hidden, and I eventually put it back in my photo album because it was starting to get ruined. 

Henry hates knowing that I had past lovers, lol. 

Also, this was the closest I ever came to actually getting married. 

LOL, I used to place personal ads all the time because I LOVED going on dates (this was also when I was dating Jeff, and he was not really on board with this). I would almost always take friends with me though. This particular time, I met a guy named DeeDee who was aghast that I didn’t like football. We went to play pool and then of course went to Denny’s. Lisa came with us and brought her friend Petra, who was an au pere for a family that Lisa used to babysit for. I think she was Slovakian? She was very sweet and I remember stopping by my parent’s house at the beginning of the night for some reason and talking to my dad in his garage. Petra gushed over his classic cars (he had two at the time, a 55-something and a 36-blah blah. My dad was like OBSESSED with her after that. It was hilarious. 

(Sadly, DeeDee and I didn’t really hit it off and never hung out again, but it was still a super fun night!)

Justin (not the one I fake-married, but the one mentioned earlier) sleeping in the best booth. We could do things like that at the Denny’s on Rt. 51. 

I think this was 1999, sometime in the fall. 

Janna looking bored AF (in her defense, it was likely 3AM). And we were almost always there with Jon and Justin because none of us were 21 yet and it was either sit at my apartment all night or sit at Denny’s, sometimes both. 

Dang, now I want a grilled cheese and coffee, really bad. (And kind of a cigarette too, ugh.)

Mar 292020
 

Since there’s not much else going on in life during isolation aside from lounge wear and calling into meetings, I figured I would start a new “series” (but you know how I am with these things; I’ll probably do two and forget about it) featuring items around my house, tchotchkes and souvenirs that have little stories behind them, etc etc blah blah blah.

To start out, let’s talk about this stuffed hippo that I have had since I was 16, and in every place I have lived, he has always been out and about on display.

Please say annyeong to Steve the Hippo!

But, let’s back up. Like, back waaaay up to the summer of 1995. I was a freshly-minted 16-year-old on one of those coach bus tours through Europe with my aunt Sharon. These tours were always the same: a bunch of retirees, maybe some middle-aged couples, and then me, the lone kid. Lots of continental breakfasts where the hot chocolate is ACTUALLY OVALTINE, and hectic tours of one cathedral after another. And Sharon and I were so hot and cold with each other and more often than not, we would bicker and then go half the day giving each other the cold shoulder. But this time, on this particular trip, there was a slew of young’uns in our group and I could not have been happier. I had other people to sit with, walk with, eat with, and Sharon HATED THAT.

This tour consisted of mostly elderly people, still, but we also had Nick (14), who was traveling with his grandma; Amanda (15), Natalie (13), and Noah (10), who came with their single mom; Andrea (19) and Sarah (22), on a girls trip with their mom; and Greg (14), Steve (20), and Amy (22) who were with their parents. This was my favorite trip ever. Normally, when we had travel days on the bus, I would sleep or read, or stare out the window sullenly after having another argument with Sharon (seriously, oil and water, but damn do I miss her and these wild adventures she took me on), but now, I had friends to sit with and let me know you – we were total jackasses.

Sharon ended up befriending Andrea (who reminded me so much of Alanis Morissette – I was enthralled by her) and Sarah’s mom, Mary. When we were cleaning out my grandparents’ house in 2016, I found a bunch of cards and letters from Mary in Sharon’s room; they apparently had kept in touch for quite some time after the trip ended and that made me simultaneously happy and sad, because Sharon didn’t really have friends “in real life” so it was nice to know that she had made a somewhat lasting connection with someone from the group, but it also made me sad because I started to wonder about Mary – is she well? How are Andrea and Sarah? I was inspired to look them up on Facebook when I was still on there, and I actually found someone who might have been Sarah, but I felt weird about sending a friend request, like “Hi, I was just over here in Pittsburgh cleaning out my deceased aunt’s bedroom and found letters from your mom and so I did a deep-dive on the Internet and you probably don’t remember me because we only knew each other for three weeks in 1995 but wanna be friends?”

I guess it’s not that weird, really, but I was so emotionally drained during that summer in 2016 that I let it go.

Right before that trip, I had gone to get my hair cut at some shitty salon in Century III Mall called Shear Talent or something and I even brought a picture of Carrie Brady from Days of Our Lives with me and told the bald hairdresser that this is what I wanted, but he listened to my mom instead and cut my hair IN REALLY SHORT LAYERS, literally the shortest my hair has ever been, and it was actually traumatizing (oh, don’t act like you have never thought your life was over because of a bad salon experience!!!) and I remember wailing, “I NEVER SHOULD HAVE TRUSTED A HAIR DRESSER WHO LOOKS LIKE MR CLEAN!!” So, I went into this trip with relatively low self esteem. I was ultra-conscious about my hair cut and basically just didn’t want anyone to look at me.

But then one day, Mary looked at me and said, “You know who you look like? Drew Barrymore.” And just like that, my confidence soared. All these years later, and I still remember this so vividly, this nice woman named Mary from Michigan telling me I looked like some cute actress instead of the total toad I saw every morning when I looked in the mirror. She was being very generous with her compliments, though.

I know, you’re thinking, “I thought this was about a stuffed hippo?” We’re getting to that! I just get derailed sometimes.

Out of all the young people in our group, Steve was the one with whom I had the best rapport. At first, it started with just little sarcastic jabs here and there, but then I found myself looking for excuses to talk to him. I have always been super big into souvenirs. On one of our trips, I was obsessed with obtaining a collectors spoon (????) from each country, and I’m currently a serious magnet hoarder. But on this trip, it was all about key chains. And European key chains, at least in the 90s, were really hard to open. So I’d buy a key chain in every city and then sidle up to Steve and ask him to do it for me. Even if I could do it for myself.

I mean, I definitely have not outgrown this at ALL.

I totally had a crush on him—and even admitted it at one point in my vacation journal so you know it’s real—which probably definitely was not reciprocated by him because he was in college and I was some chubby, brace-faced 16-year-old from lame-ass Pittsburgh but our hyper-snarky love/hate banter always gave me that super minuscule inkling of hope that maybe THIS WAS LOVE.

In a truly passive-aggressive declaration of love, I bought a this small stuffed hippo at an Auto Grille in Italy, on a travel day from Venice to Florence. Back on the bus, we were trying to decide on a name for him, and I smugly said, “I think I’ll name him Steve.” And everyone laughed because you know, wow, Erin is insulting Steve, she must really NOT LIKE HIM AT ALL. (I was so fucking transparent.) All of the kids on the bus were obsessed with Steve the Hippo, for some reason. He became kind of a mascot and everyone would take turns holding him during the long bus rides.

Near the end of the vacation, we were on the bus, going to the overnight ferry that would take us to Greece. Natalie asked Steve, “If you were stuck on an elevator, who would you want to be stuck with?” and without even a millisecond of hesitation, Steve said, “Erin, because I’d like to get to know her better.”

My heart. My goddamn coal-chunk of a heart. I still get a little jolt in it when I remember this moment.

I mean, he also said I was the meanest person on the bus but that’s just because my flirting tactics are borderline-bullying.

Of course, we never kept in touch. And every once in a while, I would get inspired to Google him but always came up empty.

All of these years later, Steve the Hippo is still out and about, and oddly is one of the most precious and sentimental (and cheapest) souvenirs I ever brought back from one of those trips. I was inspired to write this because a couple months ago, I was leaving the bedroom and said goodbye to Steve the Hippo, who lives on my dresser, and Henry was like, “?” so I yelled, “DO YOU NOT KNOW THE STEVE THE HIPPO ORIGIN STORY?!” Needless to say, he was subjected to a much more winded and gushy version than you just read here.

While reading my vacation journal to get details for this post, I said, “Steve threw Steve the Hippo at me so I hit him. Oh look, Steve and I arm-wrestled!”

“Of course you did,” Henry mumbled.

Every time I look at Steve the Hippo, I think about how one time, years ago, someone chose me in the hypothetical elevator game. As I age and lose more and more of my personality, become more introverted and wallflower-y, and am having a particularly low self-esteem day, this memory gives me a boost.

Steve is the first guy there on the left.

On the last day of our vacation, we were on the bus en route to the airport and Steve was holding the hippo. “You’re going to go home and rip all the stuffing out of this thing, aren’t you?” he said to me. I joked that I was going to give it to my dog, but man, if he only knew!

If.He.Only.Knew.

(I wonder if he even remembers me?)