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!)

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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?)

Mar 022020
 

The other day in the car, we had the regular radio on (weird, I know) and the intro to a very familiar song started to play. I screamed, “OMG IS THIS—-” but then it morphed into some dumb song which was decidedly not what I thought it was going to be. Yet another homogenous rapper sampling a really great song from my youth, that’s all. 

Meanwhile, Henry was still shook because if there’s one thing he loves to experience while driving, it’s my random, sudden loud outbursts from the passenger seat.

I had to Shazam the song on the radio, because I couldn’t for the life of me remember who sang the sampled song, other than it was three girls from the mid-90s who were signed to Michael Jackson’s label. 

Turns out the rapper is some Canadian, Tory Something (I already forgot) but now that I knew that, I was able to Google to find the name of the group AND IT WAS BROWNSTONE. Holy shit, I hadn’t thought of them in years and years but I had their debut CD and this song was a mixed tape staple of mine. Of course, I put it on Spotify while regaling Henry with the highlights of their Wiki page, such as how ONE OF THEM WAS FOUND DEAD in 2015?! She cut herself after falling in her home. Ugh.

Anyway, here is the song, please revel in its luscious R&B tones:

Oh man, this song brings back so many memories of crying over Justin Kail in 10th grade, lol. I was so pathetic.

This past Saturday night, Henry and I went to Sugar Spell Scoops because two of the Saturday flavors were calling to me: black forest and coffee cake. But as we walked in, and I mean literally as we crossed the threshold, BROWNSTONE’S IF YOU LOVE ME started playing, almost as if Henry had called ahead and requested it (that would never happen). This was such a mind-blowing moment for me that I blurted out to the shop owners, “JUST THE OTHER DAY I COULDN’T REMEMBER WHO SANG THIS SONG BECAUSE SOME RANDO RAPPER SAMPLED IT AND I HAD TO GOOGLE IT AND THEN I DID A BROWNSTONE DEEP DIVE, AND I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S PLAYING RIGHT NOW.”

They just laughed and one of them commented upon how the shop’s playlist is so random, but that’s just it: it’s not a song that you would typically hear on the radio anymore, let alone a vegan ice cream shop’s soundtrack. WHAT ARE THE ODDS. 

I dunno, but it made my scoops taste that much better. (Not that they ever need any help!)

It reminded me a little bit of the Boz Skaggs Rabbit Hole. 

On that note, I’m going to put on a Brownstone playlist while I continue recovering from the awesome stomach bug I caught after spending the last week sterilizing everything and taking my temperature every 20 minutes after so many people at work contracted the flu. At one point in the middle of the night, I was laying on the bathroom floor, sobbing into a towel, and promising God that I would be good if he would just put a moratorium on the vomiting. Ugh.

Feb 292020
 

Last week, Indiana Beach announced that it’s not going to open for the 2020 season and I was like WHAT YOU SHUT YOUR FACE INDIANA BEACH. While we only ever visited this amusement park once, it gave us a lifetime of memories (such Hallmark words coming from me, I must definitely have a fever, let me check—99.4!!!! THAT’S GETTING CLOSE!!!). I actually had been tossing around the idea of trying to make it back out to this park this summer, and I’m bummed that it won’t happen now (unless someone buys it! CEDAR FAIR?! THE KENNYWOOD PEOPLE!?!?) so I have been mourning the loss of such a unique, historic park by watching YouTube videos of my favorite coaster enthusiasts having fun on the Lost Coaster, which was one of the most unique coasters I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding.

I’m taking a break from my obsessive-compulsive temperature-taking and ritual hand sanitizer application to share with you, today, my day at Indiana Beach from 2014. RIP to a super quirky, incredibly fun amusement park in some small town in Indiana. Sigh.

****

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My criteria for planning a road trip is pretty simple:

  • Are there friends along the way that I can impose upon?
  • Does my Roadside America app approve of this route?
  • Are there amusement parks in the vicinity?

I’ve wanted to go to Indiana Beach (fun fact: not actually a beach) for awhile now, and it seemed logical to combine this with a long overdue visit to Michigan to hang out with Bill, Jessi and Tammy and also meet up with some other ladies I have been Internet friends with for YEARS. (More on that later!)

We had to drive through actual farmlands to get to Monticello, Indiana, at which point a man of about 100 years of age collected $7 from us and told us where to park.

Which was “anywhere in the wide open, empty parking lot.”

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We got there right when the park opened, and not only was it a ghost town, but none of the rides were running. We roamed around for awhile, getting turned away from the Hoosier Hurricane and wasting time at the shooting gallery. Also, the humidity was so bad that it felt like Hell with the lid on; my face took on the sebaceous sheen of a glazed Christmas ham in no time. It was disgusting. But not so disgusting that I would consider visiting the dilapidated water park portion of Indiana Beach, which was included in regular admission because the lazy river wasn’t running. God only knows why not.

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No thanks, dirty pastel water slides. God only knows what kind of fungi you’re getting ready to launch into my vagina. (I have phobias, OK?)

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Chooch killed some time at the shooting gallery, while I paced around, waiting for the adjacent Frankenstein’s Castle to open their dumb doors already. I refuse to partake in the shooting galleries at amusement parks because HENRY won’t teach me how to aim. So I almost never hit anything. And then I pout, which morphs into an inevitable Hulk Rage later on.

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Fuck you, Henry.

Lame Henry didn’t get the ride-all-day wristband because he’s too old to have fun at amusement parks now. But he sure does enjoy the ones with free general admission so that he can walk around and complain for nothing. I promise you, we broke up at least 87 times that day.

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The main (OK, the only) reason Indiana Beach made my list is their staggering collection of THREE dark rides. Two of them, The Den of Lost Thieves and the most-anticipated House of Frankenstein were basically the last rides to open that day. But oh, were they worth the wait.

The Den of Lost Thieves is a shooting ride, which I generally do not enjoy. Kennywood took out a great dark ride, the Goldrusher, and replaced it with a modern shooter-type dark ride and the only thing remarkable about it is how incredibly boring it is. I would gladly bypass this one every time we visit Kennywood, but Chooch always drags me on it. I hate waiting in line for it too! You wait and wait and wait only to get put in this holding room, like a foyer, where they force you to watch some animated portrait on a wall telling you the story of Ghostwood Estate and then the door opens and it’s a fucking free-for-all. Everyone pushes their way through so even if you were the first one in line before entering that room, chances are you’ll take a fanny pack to the groin and wind up 17 people back.

So when I realized that the Den of Lost Thieves was also a shooting ride, I was like, “Damn, we drive 8 hours for this?” But it turned out to be FANTASTIC! Old, musty and full of old-school scares. I loved the shit out of this ride. Especially since I got more points than Chooch.

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Another dark ride in the park doubled as a coaster! It was called the Lost Coaster of Something I Forget Who Knows. There was no one in line when Chooch and I walked past, so I shoved all of my belongings into Henry’s chest and bolted for it.

“Um…it’s gonna take a few minutes,” the older, orange-shirted ride operator said. “It got stuck, and I’m waiting for someone to push it back out.” Oh OK, no big deal, you guys. Rides get stuck like all of the time, right? And probably not back-to-back times, right?

He said something about the cars not being “properly weighted” and I was like, “Oh well if you’re looking for all of the weight, you’ve come to the right thunder thighs.” Four more people joined us right as a mechanic came grunting out of the fake cave, pushing the double mine cars in front of him.

The ride operator seemed confident that we had enough bodies to successfully propel the mine cars from start to finish, so we loaded up with me and Chooch and some lady and little girl in one car, and a guy and kid in the one behind us.

Awkward thing about this ride: four people fit in a car, but the seats face each other, so unless you’re with three of your homies, you get to stare at strangers for the next two minutes and I hate that you guys. Looking at people who are looking at me, it’s just…ew. Not for me.

This ride was pretty thrilling and volatile, just like a relationship with me! All of the ups and downs and whiplash and violent shoves. Will you need a PFA? Maybe! And then…nothing. It just stopped, right in the middle of the dark cave.

“Is it supposed to do this?” I asked the people in the car with us.

“I DON’T THINK SO BUT THE STEEL HAWG GETS STUCK ALL THE TIME,” answered the little girl in an octave only little girls can manage.

****Mental note to be wary of the Steel Hawg. (Which never opened that day anyway, so moot point.)

Anyway, guess what guys? We were stuck! I think this may have been my first time ever getting stuck on a ride, too, so thanks Indiana Beach! That’s a cherry I sure needed popped.

As if it wasn’t hot enough that day, now we were stuck inside some muggy faux-cavern, in a near-enclosed car, with no rescue in sight. I had sweat rolling into my eyes and mouth, I could feel it dripping from the backs of my knees, my whole person was slick with the moist essence of PANIC.

And I had these strangers staring at me and I had nothing to say other than nervous laughter and then the kid in the car behind us started to cry and his dad was mouthing off about how this was such BULLshit and Chooch kept meowing and I was like, “WHY IS NO ONE TRYING TO COMMUNICATE WITH US OVER AN INTERCOM OR MORSE CODE OR CROP CIRCLE?!” And then finally, after a good FIVE MINUTES OF NOTHING, that same disgruntled mechanic came trudging up the track behind us, shouted an answer to a garbled voice over his walkie talkie, fumbled with some switches in the breaker box next to us, and then said “Enjoy your ride” just as the motor kicked in and we went STRAIGHT DOWN A HILL. Oh that’s right, we were stuck on the zenith of a hill and had no idea because it was so dark in there. So…that was definitely a thrill.

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Meanwhile, Henry had been dreaming of buying a taco all day. That’s what he’s thinking about in this picture, as a matter of fact. Indiana Beach has a taco stand that was apparently featured on the Food Network for some reason. I love me a good taco, but I knew that Indiana Beach was for sure not going to have a meatless option. So Chooch and I decided to get pizza and then Henry was going to get his coveted taco afterward.

Except that Chooch only ate one slice of his personal pizza and Henry acted like a motherfucking martyr and ate the rest of it. Like, who cares? Sometimes I think he does this shit on purpose, like he’s some Leftover Scraps Hero. OK, you ate three small slices of crappy pizza, good for you.

Oh, you ate the rest of Chooch’s waffle for breakfast? Well, FUCK Henry. Thanks for taking one for the team. Shit.

I knew all of his moaning and groaning over this would eventually paint a bigger picture, and I was right: Now that he had eaten Chooch’s pizza, he was “too full” to get a taco, and that was ALL THAT HE WANTED, you guys. A fucking taco, but now Chooch and I had ruined his life by having the audacity to get pizza for our own lunches. Last time I checked, no one was forcing pizza down Henry’s enlarged hatch.

I kept coaxing him to get a taco, but he was being such a bitch about it. He was acting offended almost, like he was on a porn diet and I was trying to get him to succumb to peer pressure by showing photos of naked broads going to town on tacos.

So bizarre. Maybe he’s trying to fit back into his SERVICE costume?

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Wistful thoughts over the taco stain on his shirt that could have been.

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Dreaming of brushing a taco with his moustache bristles to the tune of a Selena song.

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He had his chance right here! Going, going….

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Gone. This was right after he said, “I DON’T WANT ONE NOW. JUST FORGET IT.” Oh wow, someone’s come down with a case of the Erins.

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Imagining a lake where all the sailboats are tacos and he’s a great, venerable taco sailor.

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Not buying a taco.

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Yeah Henry. Don’t forget. Bitchbaby motherfucker.

(I think Mexico might find it hard to believe that the world’s best tacos are in Indiana.)

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Honestly was about to scratch a Will on my leg with a paint chip from this sad, downtrodden Paratrooper—it was such a janky ride! On one hand, I was like, “At least if we’re flung from this shoddy piece of mechanics, we have a 50/50 chance of hitting the lake and surviving” and then on the other hand I was like, “EW I DON’T WANT TO TOUCH THAT GROSS WATER!”

I’ve only ridden on one set of Paratroopers more run down looking than this one, and that was at the Washington County Fair.

A fresh coat of paint goes a long way, Indiana Beach. Just pretend like each umbrella is one of Tammy Faye Bakker’s eyelids. Go wild!

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Faces of Paratrooper survivors.

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That guy has what we call 1950s Indiana Swag.

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I love the Tilt-a-Whirl so much but not on days where elves are spooning viscous scoops of oil from my facial pores to use as liliputian love-stick lubricant. Let me spell it out for it: IT WAS HOT AND HUMID. I can’t ride spinny rides when I’m in the throes of heat stroke. But Chooch rode this three times in a row. God, good for you, Chooch. Why don’t you just write a song about it on your dumb keyboard, ugh.

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Obligatory ice cream cone shot. Can I get any more predictable.

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Seriously, these guys. I was obsessed. Also note: this was pretty much how crowded it was all day until late afternoon when the water park mysteriously closed down and a horde of Indiana’s finest invaded the park like beached whales.

Pale, so pale, very pale beached whales.

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This is not where I got my ice cream.

I haven’t even finished writing about this park yet and I’m already trying to con Henry into taking us to another one. I’M NEVER SATISFIED. Just ask the doves when they cry.

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I read some reviews online (because that’s what I do: read amusement park reviews all day long; I don’t have any friends to occupy my time, remember?) that complained about the employees were terrible. This was definitely not the case on my visit, because they clearly know I have a blog and want all of the glowing words written about them. I will say that I didn’t have a single run-in with surly orange-shirts all day. And I even left the park with two favorites: the dude from the Lost Coaster ride and this sweet Russian broad from the Hoosier Hurricane.

The Lost Coaster guy reminded me of the Salute Your Shorts camp counselor, Ug, in that he thought he was way cooler than he was and tried to act tough by yelling things like, “LIKE DON’T SIT ON THE RAILING!” But I guess he was still more intimidating than me because Chooch never listens when I tell him to get off the rail but when Ug hollered it, Chooch hopped off with a quickness.

I accidentally left my phone on the ride and realized it about 3 minutes afterward. When I ran back up the exit ramp to the ride platform, he was checking the next riders’ seat belts and casually holding my pink cell phone and it just made me crack up so bad.

“Hey, that’s my phone,” I said in faux-outrage and he put his hands up.

“I tried to chase you down but you were already gone!” he explained, handing it back over and we both had a good laugh. Why, I’m not sure. But I think I probably was definitely in the beginning stages of heat stroke by then so everything was funny to me except for things that Henry said/did/didn’t do because those things just made me inexplicably ANGRY.

OK, now let’s talk about the Russian. (I mean, after I type out hundreds of words that seem totally unrelated to a Russian broad, of course.)

A few days before we left for our road trip, Chooch acquired some sort of cut/scrape thing on the top of his ankle. Something about he went to kick a soccer ball, missed, tripped over it, bent his foot all the back and scraped it against the sidewalk. Then he proceeded to wear Converse high-tops, which ended up rubbing his scrape raw while forming a blister all at the same time.

So now he had a mutant cut/blister injury in addition to his foot hurting in general from being bent all the way back. He would be fine in the morning, but once he started walking too much, it would aggravate the wound and make his ankle get all red and slightly swollen.

The humidity that day, and also the OINTMENT (I love that people hate that word) that Henry slathered on the wound, made Chooch’s ankle too MOIST (hahaha) for Band-Aids to stay adhered for very long. So when were walking up the metal-grated steps of the Hoosier Hurricane coaster, Chooch forgot how to walk and fell, banging his ankle against the metal edge of the step below him, knocking off the Band-Aid and making him wince in pain.

Henry wasn’t with us, since he wasn’t RIDING anything that day, so I had to try to be a mom and tell Chooch things like, “It’s probably going to be fine” and “You’ll probably still have a foot after all of this is over” and “PLEASE START WALKING, I REALLY WANT TO GO ON THIS ROLLER COASTER.” As soon as we made it into the station, a super sweet Russian girl took down the chain for us and said to Chooch, “Oh no! What is happened to you?” But Chooch was still blinking back tears so I had to do my best to make it look like I hadn’t abused my child.

“There is first aid down there,” she said, pointing over her shoulder. She was really concerned about Chooch’s ankle, which was really endearing. But then we got stuck standing awkwardly next to her while we waited for the coaster to come back, so she made broken-English small talk about the weather.

“It is hot,” she said in a staccato.

“Yeah,” I agreed, struggling for words. And then after a stretch of about 30 million acres of silence, I thought of something else to say. “That, uh, humidity makes it worse.”

“Oh yah! The humidity is worst!” she agreed, and I thanked the arrival of the coaster for interrupting our cliche weather discourse.

She made sure Chooch and I were safely buckled into our seats and then said, “Enjoy ride!” and I secretly hoped it was meant just for us and not any of the other sweaty bastards behind us.

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After we got off the ride, Chooch ran ahead of Henry and me because he knows everything, including the way to the first aid trailer. Eight-year-olds don’t need parents, you guys. By the time we caught up and walked into the first aid trailer, Chooch and the park medic were just sitting there silently, Chooch on the edge of the bed and the medic at his desk.

“He just came in and sat down,” the medic explained. “Said he was waiting for some people.”

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And then Chooch relayed the entire, sordid saga of the Origin of the Wound.

He loves to talk about it. Last night, as soon as we got to his piano lesson, he sighed and mumbled something about his foot hurting. (Side note: that fucker is pretty much healed by now, so I guess he’s experiencing fantasy pains similar to Henry’s imaginary war wounds that don’t exist because Henry was never in an actual war when he was in the SERVICE.) “Oh no, what did you do to it?” his piano teacher Cheryl asked.

“Ugh, why does everyone ask me about it?” Chooch cried and I was like, “OH OK, MY LEFT FOOT, MAYBE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T STOP BRINGING IT UP.”

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Here’s Henry re-doing Chooch’s Band-Aid 3 minutes later.

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There was another Russian girl working the Cornball Express, another roller coaster, but she wasn’t as nice. I mean, she wasn’t a dick head or anything, but she didn’t go out of her way to smother us with attention like Hoosier Hurricane did. The other Cornball Express girl routinely helped me unbuckle my seatbelt all 137 times we rode that coaster (honestly, there were no lines to wait in). Chooch, who had quickly mastered the secret of the Houdini-approved seatbelts, kept crying out, “Oh for Christ’s sake, mommy!” Before eventually just not waiting for me anymore.

I seriously have never struggled so hard with a seatbelt in my life. It was almost embarrassing. Ok it was embarrassing.

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After hours of stalking Frankenstein’s Castle, those fucking garage doors were finally a’lift and we had the confusing task of trying to add dolla dolla bills to the Indiana Beach cash card thing. I forget to mention that this is one of those amusement parks where, if you don’t want to plan on riding much, you can load money onto credit cards and then scan it before you get on the rides. Even the ride-all-day wristbands have barcodes on them and everyone is required to stick their wrist under a scanner at the front of all of the lines. Waldameer Park in Erie does this, too. It’s annoying, but whatever.

Anyway, Frank’s Place wasn’t included in the ride-all-day admission price. Some dark rides are like that and while I’m not exactly sure of the reason (Chris? Can you help here?), I have a few theories, mostly that it’s a restoration thing. It was an additional $3.50 per person and BE STILL MY HEART, Henry actually paid for THREE. At first, I thought maybe there was some sad albino kid in line behind us, tugging on Henry’s bland heart strings and making him do charitable thangs. (I didn’t want to end on a rhyme. You understand.)

But no, he was paying for himself! Henry was finally going to not sit on a bench with his nose pressed against his phone, looking at Pinterest! (Honestly, Chooch and I made fun of him from every line in which we stood. Because why not.)

As soon as the ticket booth broad granted us admission, our nostrils were slammed with the unmistakable vintage bouquet of moth balls and Aunt Edith’s cedar closet of muumuus. It’s a smell that I love because it means old school amusement park. Fuck those flashy sterile, steel concrete jungles known as Six Flags.

I want that fancy dark ride musk.

If they bottled it as perfume/cologne, that’d be a surefire way to get me into your backseat.

(Oh come on, don’t pretend like you thought I was classy.)

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“I just paid $3.50 to walk through a fake castle with two screaming d-bags. I bet that taco would have also cost $3.50 and have been way less annoying.” – Henry, if he ever thought about anything.

After sitting on a bench and listening to a crackling recording about what scares we were about to encounter, a disinterested young Indiana Beach employee opened a door and ushered us in for the “OMG crashing elevator” segment. At first I thought this was going to be totally lame, and that part was, but then she opened another door and set us free, on our own, to shuffle through the guts of a mostly pitch-black haunted house.

Here is Henry’s review:

It was fun. I got pushed through by two scared little people. That’s about it.

Wow. Titillating as always.

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There were no scare actors, just the effective non-use of light bulbs, enclosed animatronic displays that managed to pop on when I was always the most unsuspecting, moving floors and enough enclosed spaces to make a claustrophobe fake their way through the rosary.

THIS IS A CLASSIC DARK ATTRACTION. One that keeps it real and doesn’t rely on modern, high-tech scare tactics. Let me put it this way: there are chicken doors located throughout the length of the castle and if Henry hadn’t gone in with us, I guarantee the first one would have a chunk taken out of it in the exact outline of my body.

This is the type of haunt you want to walk through with the person you’re obsessively crushing on or maybe the hipster you just met IRL on Tinder and want to terrorize in the dark with rusty hedge clippers while wearing your mom’s skin on your face. Butterflies!

I’d go back to Indiana Beach every summer just for another 10 minutes inside Frankenstein.

YEAH, YOU READ THAT RIGHT.

Feb 232020
 

We have a little more than a month before we leave for our mini-theme park Euro-trip so I’ve been spending most of my free time scouring the Internet and YouTube to ensure our itinerary is as padded and stacked as possible because I am super high-strung when it comes to DOING THE MOST AHHHHHH WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!

Now, I have previously been to several places we will be hitting on this trip, but I was a kid and sadly, unless I pull out the old travel journals, I have very spotty memories of these times which is pathetic because some of these cities I have been to more than once.

For instance, my only memories of Amsterdam:

  • Getting stuck in the elevator of the Pullman? Astoria? hotel we were staying at;
  • My Pappap finding a piece of glass in his dessert at the same hotel’s restaurant (I have a vivid memory of the dessert being a peeled pear, like straight of a can, sitting on top of a chocolate sauce pool);
  • Another time being in Amsterdam as a surly teenager and having a huge fight with my aunt Sharon and writing horrible things about her in my vacation journal, and then going on a tour of a diamond factory and her buying me a diamond ring for my birthday and being all, “Dear diary, I take back everything I said about Sharon; I was just tired and hungry. Oh yeah, and she bought me this cool ring!” And I definitely probably didn’t use a semi-colon though because I’m sure I didn’t know how to use those yet, but I mean, do I really know how to use them now.

And Cologne:

  • Milling about in a courtyard and walking along some slanted brick thing, the kind of things that usually have a tree or flowers in the middle, and I lost my balance and fell, sending my camera skidding across the courtyard, batteries popping out and rolling all over the place, and I skinned my knee too probably, that sounds about right;
  • Another time we were in Cologne and I was like, “OH HAY GUYS REMEMBER??” And then I began to do a mocking reenactment of The Fall and then accidentally fell again and injured myself;
  • I think it was also that last time, I spotted these two people who looked like the Gorgs from Fraggle Rock. The lady was straddling the man on a bench and they were slowly rocking back and forth and I was like look at those people, they look like Fraggle Rock and Sharon was all OMG THEY ARE HAVING SEX and then slapped her hand across my eyes and lead me away.

Brussels was the only city in Belgium that I’ve been to and we’ve opted for Bruges instead on this trip, but either way, my only memory of Brussels is seeing the statue of the peeing boy and fighting with Sharon.

We were honestly the WORST travel partners. I mean, it was ok when my grandparents used to travel with us because I could at least seek refuge and reprieve from Sharon in their room.

Anyway, now it’s hours later and this post inspired me to dig through the treasure trove of photos I took from my Pappap’s house when we were cleaning it out in 2016 and I actually found a photo that Sharon took of me in 1995 standing in front of that dumb thing I fell down when I was 10 and you can tell by my scowl that I loved having my picture taken. And right after this was when i was like HAHA I WAS SO STUPID LOOK AT ME I’M ERIN FROM 1989 NOT KNOWING HOW TO WALK and then I accidentally fell down.

Yeah. You’re welcome.

I also found a picture of this guy I was in love with from one of those trips and I have been wanting to write a travel memories post about him for quite some time now so maybe that will inspire me to do so someday when I feel less lazy.I really got away from my point here which is I really appreciate that I had the opportunity to do so much traveling as a kid and thank God I kept travel journals else I would barely remember anything. For instance, we are going to Frankfurt and I have to actually flip through those ancient tomes* at some point because I am not sure if I have been there before?!?! That’s…pathetic.

*(The best edition is the one where I was going through a phase when I spelled ‘really’ as ‘rilly’ and replaced any ‘s’ at the end of a word with a ‘z’ just BCUZ KAY GUYZ? And every paragraph was in a different color ink. Would you believe me if I told you I’m actually less obnoxious now?)

I tried to get Chooch to start vacation journaling when we took him to Disney in 2016 but he is super not into that at all so I guess at least he has my blog to fall back on. For instance, when we were hate-watching these dumb Australian travel vloggers who were in Savannah. They went to Leopold’s for ice cream and I shouted, “WE WENT TO LEOPOLD’S WHEN WE WERE THERE TOO!” and Chooch was like, “I wonder what flavor I got” and I said “Probably something dumb, here, I’ll check my blog.”

“Yep, as suspected: Probably Something Dumb,” I happily reported back.

I think I veered off track somewhere up there but the whole point of this post is that this is my first time traveling to this region of Europe as an adult and without the shackles of an organized bus tour so we will be in full control of the things we do and I want to make sure we do the right/best/most funnest things and eat all the good foods because unless stroopwafels weren’t a thing yet in the 90s which I find hard to believe, our stupid tour guide never made sure they found a way into our mouths, not a single time I was in Amsterdam, how can that be so!? That is just an example of the things on my Erin Returns: The Redemption Trip.

That’s just a name I thought up on the spot. It’s subject to change, a work in progress. We’ll see where it goes.

That’s all for today. I’m revisiting Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution program and today I started Workout 5 and still feel slightly nauseous from that so I think I might go and dry heave into a waste basket and then put myself to bed early WHO CAN BE SURE.

(Do I have a waste basket though? Is it just a garbage can?)

Feb 072020
 

The other night, I tried to start a fight with Henry because we’re not precious like Robert and Mary, but he didn’t take the bait. Anyway, I hadn’t listened to this song IN A MINUTE and the feels came crashing into me like the waves that Henry will never frolic in with me because he’s Henry and he doesn’t frolic or much of anything relationshippy, for that matter.

I never actually wrote about my experience meeting The Cure in Australia back in 2000, and I’ve been considering possibly transcribing my vacation journal entries from that trip on here, which I’m sure wouldn’t be embarrassing and a shit-covered cringefest AT ALL considering I was 20 and a million times more annoying than I am today at 40 and I am still pretty fucking annoying, so chew on that fat for a minute and get back to me.

I also have actual video footage of when I met them but it’s on an 8mm and I need to get that digitized at some point so I can blast social media with the excruciating 2 minutes of me stuttering and stammering in King Robert Smith’s face. It was…really something. Definitely not something that kept me up at night.

It’s weird to think that I was in a country that far away, pre-smartphone age, for a full week, and managed to come back alive when, at the age of 40, I can barely go to the store by myself. People who know this version of me usually think I’m fucking with them when I’m like, “This one time, in goth-rock band camp…”

(I actually had a weird moment in a taxi though on the way to the Canberra airport, where I 100% thought I was about to get raped, and I am not even exaggerating a little bit. That was a strange time.)

Well, if you’d be interested in reading something like (not an almost-taxi rape, but The Cure thing), then perhaps that will happen soon because I am in the mood for getting nostalgic, y’all. I get like this sometimes.

Jan 292020
 

This won’t be as good as a Sophia Petrillo Sicily Story, but….PICTURE IT: Brookline, 2002. Henry and I were still in the beginning stages of Dating, but I knew that I wanted him to move in with me. And that says a lot because I had been a solo-liver from the time I moved out of my parents’ house until then. So, basically like 3 years. Wow, such independence. I never asked any other boys to move in with me, and I barely even liked it when they stayed too long the next morning.

When I decided that I was going to ask the dumb oaf to move in, I did the right thing and talked to my landlord first. Now, back then, my landlord was the sweetest guy: super old, hearing aids in both ears, very approachable. (His son took over after he died and now we’re basically living in a slum even though Henry says I’m being dramatic but that is another story.) So my landlord sat me down in his office and actually talked to me like he was a parent, asking things like if I was sure this was the right guy, does he treat me well, etc. It was fucking adorable.

And of course I said yes but hello the bigger picture was that this dude could cook and do housework-y things, so yes, please move in, share my bills, feed me, stop me from vacuuming liquid out of the refrigerator (um, another story for yet another day). So now that I had the landlord’s blessing to add the dumb oaf to the lease, I went to the HARDWARE STORE – can you imagine me in a hardware store? And it wasn’t some big box one like Home Depot, either. It was this small-ass family-run joint that my dad always went to, called DANIEL’S HARDWARE, the kind of place where you have to turn sideways to walk down some of the aisles because the shelves are spaced stupidly. Anyway, I went to DANIEL’S to get a copy of my key made. Some dude did it for me, and I was like, “Wow, that was easy” and it was only like $2 or something, so that was something new that I learned that day.

Then, on Valentine’s Day, Henry came over and was all KISSY WISSY because this back when he was still trying to impress me and hoping that I would find his all of his baggage cute and charming, which would have been easier if the baggage was goldfish and not two kids, but I digress. Now, imagine the hearts boinnnnnnng’ing out of his eyeballs when he opens the pretty velvet ring box I’ve presented to him* and finds…

Nothing.

Because I forgot to put the fucking house key inside.

*(This is, hilariously, the only time a ring box was ever presented to someone in this house, NAH I’M NOT BITTER OR NUTHIN’ said Little Miss Unwed with a butcher knife behind her back.)

So, this key was a lemon. It was a real rough cut, and only Henry knew the “trick” to turning it successfully within the lock. But Henry never complained about it and has been using it without issue all this time.

Somewhere along the line, Chooch became grown enough to need his own key. This time, my key birthed a nice, competent copy. I think we had it made at Home Depot and I have a vague recollection of Chooch being all smug because he got to choose some novelty key design so his was “better” than ours.

Then, he lost it.

And found it.

And lost it.

Got a new one made.

Lost it.

In a pinch once day, I lent him my key, the golden master key, the OG key, the ride or die key.

AND THAT LITTLE SHIT LOST IT. LIKE, LOST IT LOST IT.

So now, Henry has to have a new key made using HIS degenerate mongoloid key so now we have two fucking aggravating piece of shit keys. One time, I had to use Chooch’s spare because I knew no one was going to be home when I came home from work, and, well….

Bad Key Killing Spree

One time, Janna was babysitting Chooch and they had Henry’s key and couldn’t get in the house so she had to go next door and get Hot Naybor Chris to help. I know what you’re thinking: “OK, fine, but that’s Janna. She’s nearly as bad as you, Erin.” BUT WAIT—-

A few weeks ago, I took the day off work while Chooch was home on Christmas break, and we went to the trampoline park, Taco Bell, and Crazy Mocha without a hitch. Can you imagine?! Until, that is, until we came home. We had Henry’s house key that day and of course, we couldn’t get in the house. I swear to god, I’m always waiting for this fucker to slice my hand and hit an artery and then someone’s going to find me unconscious in a pool of blood on the front porch and think, “Wow, I didn’t realize she hated her life that much” and I DO NOT WANT TO BE REMEMBERED AS THE GIRL WHO TRIED TO SLIT HER WRIST WITH A KEY AND MISSED.

That got dark but I don’t care! The street lights have been burnt out in my head for quite some time now.

OK back to the door. Thank god on this day, Blake was home so Chooch went over and was like, “Help us open our door” and Blake immediately cringed because he was on cat duty for us the first time we went to Korea and wanted to fucking kick down the door because Henry’s key pissed him off so much and I think he was really trying to hold himself back on this day because I was standing there but he was definitely lowkey raging and kept muttering things like, “WTF IS THE DEAL WITH THIS FUCKING KEY. OMG I FORGOT HOW MUCH I HATE THIS FUCKING KEY.” And then he did some breathing exercises and some arm-crosses, cracked his knuckles, and said to me, “There’s a trick to this, but I can’t FUCKING REMEMBER” and meanwhile, I’m blowing up Henry’s phone like he’s going to be able to coach us.

“Now…1, 2, 3, TURN.”

Or tell us what the magic word is.

Is it FIRE? Because I’m not above threatening the fucking front door.

After a solid 8 minutes of wrestling with this cursed key, it finally clicked and the door opened. Blake was so angry at this point that he didn’t even say anything to me, he just walked away and went back to his house.

This key is FUCKING SOUL-SUCKING.

I’m not going to lie, when I leave the house and know that no one will be here when I come home, I leave it unlocked. Henry hates it when I do this because we live on a busy street in the city, but wtf else can I do!?

YEARS this has been going on. YEARS. And then on Sunday, Henry got a package from Amazon – A REKEY KIT.

HENRY RE-KEYED THE DOOR WHATEVER THAT MEANS NEVER MIND I KNOW WHAT IT MEANS—IT MEANS I HAVE A KEY THAT ACTUALLY SLIPS INTO THE KEYHOLE LIKE A BUTTERED DICK:

This was big news at work today when I told….well, Glenn and Carrie. But they were like, “Oh shit!” because they know all about the trials and tribs about us Pioneer Ave Kids tryna’ get into the damn door. I’m mostly excited to get a new keychain for my new key! NEW YEAR, NEW KEY!

I know my old key, the OG Key, is going to wash ashore now that it’s too late.

Jan 242020
 

Is it weird to only listen to you favorite band occasionally, maybe even as infrequently as once a year? That’s how I am with The Cure, who, in spite of all the music phases I’ve tried on over the years, have never been dethroned as my All-Time Most Favorite Band In the World, bury me to Same Deep Water As You.

It’s because my emotional response to their music is so strong that I will likely expire prematurely if I indulge myself too much. But while I was reading the other night, I put on a Cure playlist and from there, Disintegration played in its entirety. Suddenly, it was winter of 1999 / 2000 all over again and I’m lying on a floor pillow in my sparsely decorated house, having only moved in several months prior, listening to this album on repeat, crying myself sick while seriously contemplating self-slaughter and now, all the way ahead in 2020, I’m wondering how I made it through that long, soul-sucking winter.

Those were some bleak times in my life. And I’d like to say something cheerful and uplifting about how The Cure saved my life and really pulled me out of the mental pit, but um…have you heard The Cure? My inner doom & gloom fed off their discography, which I played over and over again because I have always been one for torture and self-loathing.

Anyway, the other night while reading, only a split second of “Last Dance” had begun to play and I was already catching my breath and feeling that familiar lump forming in my throat. And then I just silently let myself cry a little.

That song is just as beautiful as ever but fuck does it rip me up inside.

Jan 202020
 

Today’s blog post is about two past phases I went through. Enjoy.

Disco Delite

I sometimes do walking/dance workouts on this one YouTube channel called Up to the Beat Fitness and one of her videos is disco-themed, which is pretty fun/hokey/hilarious to do. I was doing it as a filler workout over the weekend, while Henry was grueling away at the serial killer Valentine factory, aka in the next room over at the dining room table. The music of this workout made me super nostalgic.

“Did I ever tell you about the time went through a disco phase?” I called out to Henry, who murmured something that sounded like, “If I say yes, will you leave me alone?”

“It was in the early 90s when I was in middle school,” I began my tale while performing a sidestep/John Travolta finger point combo.

I remember VIVIDLY being at the K-mart (ew) checkout with my mom and eyeballing a rack of best of the decades CDs. They always had Billboard Top whatever from some random year, and I had a bunch of those already in my strange CD collection. But on this day, I noticed new ones: Disco’s Greatest Hits, Disco Inferno, Disco Delight. Coke-snorting mood music, basically. They seemed interesting to me, so I threw some in the cart. My mom was like, “that’s cool” because she never said no to me.

This is why I’m the way I am.

So, turns out, I REALLY LIKED DISCO. Like, it fucking SPOKE TO ME. The only thing was, it wasn’t “back in vogue” yet, or whatever, to like it. So everyone at school was like, “The fuck is a disco?” But I wanted to talk about it ALL THE TIME like I was on a one-way trip to motherfucking Funky Town. I think it was in 8th grade Language Arts where the class had to get into groups and write a skit for some reason, I already used up a chunk of 1992 brainspace on the aforementioned Kmart memory, so excuse me for being a bit vague here. Anyway, my group, I literally can’t remember a single person who was in it, but we did some sort of Brady Bunch spoof.

“I was Cindy.”

Henry mumbled, “Of course you were.”

I begged my group to let me add something disco-related into our skit and they were like NO NO NO YOU FUCKING STRANGE BIRD because I guess I was pretty strange back then (certainly not anymore) but for as strange as I was, I was also extremely convincing so in the end, the group relented and after the final scene, I got to “hustle” on in from the sidelines, stop in the middle and exclaim, “Disco delite!” and then dance away.

Everyone was like, “OMG wow” and it was never spoken of again.

Bonus disco memory: My mom suggested that I pop a squat and watch Saturday Night Fever since I was suddenly Groovy Erin, and while I LOVED it, the only thing that sticks out in my mind when I think about it was that it was the very first time I ever heard the word “cunt” (surprisingly not a common swearword in my middle school in the early 90s for some reason unless I was just hanging out with squares!?!?) and so I got to ask my mom, “Hey, what does cunt mean” and she was like, “DO NOT EVER SAY THAT WORD IN SCHOOL.”

Lol.

Side note: I made Henry do one of the Up to the Beat Fitness walks at another point over the weekend and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” was one of the songs in  the totally random mix, and I had to stop walking and do the pee-squat because I started laughing uncontrollably when I imagined Henry walking slowly through a grocery store, vacant eyes, savoring the borrowed time he had away from Chooch and me, while “I Will Survive” played overhead. He just glared at me when I told him this through laugh-wheezes.

Mumblecore & Me

In 2006, I became obsessed with this movie called The Puffy Chair.

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HOLY FUCKING SHIT, at the time I remember feeling like the earth was moving around me and thinking, “THIS FILM HAS CHANGED MY LIFE.” So then I made Henry watch it and he was like, “….
and then I made ex-bff Christina watch it too and she was like, “….” but to be fair, she was a fucking moron and Henry has literally no taste when it comes to cinema. From this movie, I became OBSESSED with Mark Duplass and then learned that MUMBLECORE was a legit genre of film. I was all-in, man. I needed to see everything. Now, this was before the years of streaming, back when you still had to order real life DVDs from Netflix, and actual video stores still existed.

In the back of the original location for the local cafe, Crazy Mocha, there was a small video store called Dreaming Ant. Between that place and the SORELY MISSED Incredibly Strange Video which I could walk to from my house, I was spoiled with the selections of student art films, Asian horror, international dramas…..and MUMBLECORE. If it existed, they had it and I went on a renting flurry.

Wikipedia defines mumblecore as:

a subgenre of independent film[1][2] characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (sometimes improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s.

Henry H-A-T-E-D it. So much talking. So many young people, just talking. Can’t relate. Put to sleep. Boo hoo.

And anytime I would try to explain it to friends and (pre-Law Firm) co-workers, they were like “That sounds dumz0rz.” So I got made fun of a lot.

One of my favorite films in this genre was “Hannah Takes the Stairs” which starred then-unknown Greta Gerwig.

“Greta Gerwig was in that movie and I would gush about her all the time and my friends were like no one cares BUT NOW THAT SHE’S DIRECTED LITTLE WOMEN EVERYONE IS LIKE OMG GRETA GERWIG BLAH BLAH BLAH, LIKE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO USED TO MAKE FUN OF ME!” I wailed at work last week to Glenn, who was like, “Don’t worry, I still don’t care.”

Sorry. I have been a little UP IN ARMS about this.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta Get Down Tonight.

Jan 182020
 

This was intended to be a Friday Five but then I went all in after work yesterday on putting the finishing touches on my cult & spiritual leaders Valentine minis which have been plaguing my brain since I first decided last year that I wanted to make them. Hopefully people like them, so look forward to that – should be posted on Etsy later today!

So anyway, here are five things that I have been putting off memorializing on this piece because I’ve had bloglock over the last few months – I think I still enjoy writing in here but I can’t be sure, and then there’s the lack of motivation because all of my energy is funneled elsewhere, so maybe the blog-era of my life is finally winding down? Here is where I perform a big, lazy shrug for no one to see.

  1. My Neglected Son–Wait, I Have a Son?

Several months ago, Chooch and I were on one of our nightly walks — you know, the ones where he oscillates between talking about school drama and new math (he had a math test the other day and practically swan-leapt out of the house, fucking weirdo) — when he so very casually mentioned that he had been interviewed by “some broad” at the teen center.

“For what? What about? Who was she? Where is this being published?” I asked in the spit-fire nature of an interrogating mom.

He shrugged. All I could glean from him was that it was something about the head of the teen center, Caitlin. And they wanted quotes from him because he’s “basically the face of the teen center.” Um, his words.

Well, on the first of January, I received an e-newsletter from the teen center – apparently he signed me up for this so now I can have evidence that I’m marginally involved in his teen center activities.

In the newsletter was this graphic:

CHECK OUT THAT QUOTE FROM RILEY, 13-YEAR-OLD 8TH GRADER…Yes, that is my son, putting his parents on blast for allegedly neglecting him and never being home. WOW JUST WOW OK SON. We get home at 6pm everyday, like most working parents, yet he stays at the teen center until 9pm anyway because he’s obsessed with being there! He even eats dinner there even though Henry makes dinner at home!? I called him out on this and he shrugged. “They took it out context,” he explained. “I also said that you guys aren’t home after school because you’re busy working hard.” YEAH, THAT SURELY SOUNDS LIKE SOMETHING HE WOULD SAY.

So, that’s cool. One Saturday, Henry and I walked past the teen center while Chooch was in there and I said, “Should we go in there and officially announce ourselves as his parents so they know we exist?”

Henry considered this, then said, “Nah” so we continued eating our cookies from the bakery while walking home, and YES WE GOT COOKIES FOR CHOOCH TOO even though he is the one who abandons US but that’s fine. I’m not bitter.

Fucking teen center kidnapped my son.

2. Guy on Road

I was walking to the ATM the other night when I saw some commotion at this one intersection a block down from my house. Some guy was standing in the road directing traffic, and as I got closer, I noticed that another man was lying prostrate on the road with a small crowd of people around him, wailing, “I am in so much pain” and I’m not sure exactly what happened but I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that he was trying to cross (AT THE CROSSWALK) and some OMG-IN-A-HURRY car came barreling up the hill and hit him. I HATE crossing the street here and I have to do it every morning on the walk to work (actually, I could walk on the other side of the street but then I would have to cross extra times and I am bad at crossing streets except that I just admitted to Henry that I have become better at jaywalking since working downtown because Pittsburgh is like the unofficial capital of jaywalking, not sure if we should be proud of that). Anyway, I can’t tell you how many people barely – BARELY – stop at the stop signs at this 3-way intersection and I have nearly been clipped numerous times after already establishing my right-of-way by making it to the middle of the walk. I usually have to do this really clumsy deer-run to the other side every morning because nothing makes me more nervous on my walks to the trolley than morning commuters because you know, they’re in a big hurry to turn the bend and sit in traffic at a red light.

Actually, there is something that makes me more nervous and that is having a brick fall on my head which recently happened – not the “falling on my head” part but bricks did in fact fall from the top of a building that I habitually pass by but luckily it happened late at night when no one was standing there. It was roped off by police tape for a few days and when I found out why, I did a cartoon *GULP*.

Anyway, back to the man. On my way back from the ATM, the whole rescue brigade was there by then and the street was lit up by emergency lights which is nothing new for Pioneer Avenue. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I sure hope that guy didn’t die.

Unless he was a bad man. Then die, motherfucker. Get what you deserve.

Random Drew.

3. Geomi-Nim

I know I mentioned at one point that I had obtained a pet kitchen spider and named him “Geomi-Nim” which means “Mister Spider” in Korean but I don’t have a Korean keyboard on my work computer so I can’t type it properly. Well, he had a good long run (at least two months, I think?!) in four different locations in the kitchen, but I guess he ultimately either tired of me screaming Korean vocab at him and packed his shit and left, or he died. Because he’s been gone for a month now and hasn’t resurfaced, which makes me sad but Henry is just happy that he can use his container of sesame seeds again without being a literal homewrecker.

Anyway, here’s a picture I took Geomi-Nim in his third property. I miss him and his beautiful webs.

Also, I have no idea what gender he was because I refused to Google; look, having one mild-looking spider in my house is one thing, but I do not want my computer screen filled with threatening photos of spider species. Henry said that he thought spiders were genderless but I was like, “OK, explain then Charlotte, then” and he was like, “………that was a cartoon.”

4. ANGRY MEETING

Earlier in the week, we had a meeting to go over a new thing that is happening. During this, someone said, “But what about *boring work thing*?” and the person in charge of the meeting was like, “What are you talking about” and then I said, “Here is my idea for a work-around to *boring work thing*” and person in charge was like, “No that is dumb that won’t work” IN SO MANY WORDS so I was like, “OK” and went back to shutting down because this is my work life lately. Shrinking into the corners and hoping no one will look at me, lol.

About 10 minutes later, GLENN said, “Can’t we do *INSERT EXACTLY WHAT I HAD PROPOSED*” and person in charge was all, “Huh! Let’s test that out!” and I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open, thinking IS NO ONE REALLY GOING TO SAY ANYTHING so I did what I do best which is drop down to elementary school age, flap my arms in the arm, and whine, “THAT IS EXACTLY THE SAME THING I SAID THOUGH?!!?” and person in charge was like, “No, it wasn’t?” and I was searching the room with desperate eyes, willing someone to stand up for all that is right and take my side WHICH IS ALWAYS THE GOOD SIDE but no one did so instead of dropping it, I pressed on and said, “No, that’s the same thing I suggested and you said it wouldn’t work” and Lauren was like, “Maybe you said it a different way, I think” AND NO I DID NOT. Meanwhile, Glenn was over there wading in Smug Lagoon with a handful of old people butterscotch candies, looking so pleased with himself and I was like, “I WILL NEVER LET THIS GO” and true to my word, I spent the rest of the day fueled by that fire and made sure to tell everyone who would listen.

“I’M NOT SAYING I’M GOING TO LIGHT A FIRE OR ANYTHING, LORI, BUT MAYBE DON’T GO OVER NEAR GLENN’S DESK LATER,” I fumed, and Lori was all, “OMG you’re mad.” But Nate and Cathy consoled me afterward and both confirmed that I did, in fact, suggest the same thing, and Cathy, who always wants to give people the benefit of the doubt, said that maybe person in charge just understand fully at that time what the issue at hand truly was (she definitely didn’t, so I will agree with Cathy there). I usually don’t show my temper at work but this really set me off, primarily because it brought back some really bad, negative feelings from a former position I once held there and I didn’t like it. Bad memories. Stay in the past.

I mean, in what world does GLENN have a good idea, anyway!??!

I’m OK now though. I was invited to be a part of a brainstorming session for something else and the other people involved in this will not be so dismissive of my suggestions, so I am looking forward to that.

5. The Ring

Sometime back in 2003, Henry and I went to Salem, MA for a little vacation. This was still early into our relationship – we had been together for about 2 years at this point, I guess, and sometimes I look back on those times and think, “How did we make it to 2020?” Oh, I jest! Only a little. Anyway, while there, I bought this ring at one of the little witchy shops and I loved it, but then almost immediately after purchasing it, I accidentally wore it into the shower once and the soap/shampoo left the once-clear stone completely cloudy, so that you could no longer see the witchy design it was meant to magnify.

I complained about it a ton back then, off and on for at least 5 years I would bring it up, because I would still wear it sometimes in spite of the soap scum, which was in the underneath of the cabochon so I couldn’t reach it. I tried using a q-tip to scrub it but it was too big, I tried soaking it in jewelry cleaner, I tried witchy spells to cosmically cleanse it, but nothing worked! Henry. when asked for help, would  smoosh his mustache up while inspecting it and then shrug.

The other day, I wore it because like I said, I paid money for the thing so I’m still going to allow it to decorate my finger, you know? For some reason, I felt inspired to once again bring up my plight to Henry.

“Hmm, let me see that,” he said, taking the ring off of me. And then he got out one of his tool-things, popped the cabochon out from the prongs, polished its underside, and then put it back.

JUST LIKE THAT.

HE COULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS 17 YEARS AGO?!!?!?

“I literally did not know that this was even a thing,” he said defensively, confused as to why I was yelling at him instead of thanking him.

So this leads me to believe that Henry just blocked me out for much of the early years, so should I be happy that he listens to me now, or pissed that he didn’t listen to me then? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

Actually, I think he just hadn’t learned to fear me yet in the beginning. He’s learned a lot over the years about my INNER WITCH.

And I think that’s all I got for this belated Friday Five. Today I will be focusing on Valentines, Korean-learning, and reading. I got two books from the library on Thursday! ALL BY MYSELF!

 

Jan 162020
 

I needed background music while Chooch and I were having reading time on Sunday, and Kpop wouldn’t work in this sense because I always find myself focusing on the words to see if I can figure out any of the Korean (#obsession). So on a whim, I put on a dark synthpop playlist on YouTube. A MILLION MEMORIES AND WARM FEELINGS CAME OVER ME.

So, I’ve gone through a lot of music phases; some of them make me feel uncomfortable when I think about it because of the weird time of life it was, like when I was into very cold, angular indie-experimental stuff like Blonde Redhead and Deerhoof; I actually shudder when I think of those days. But when I was very heavy into synthpop, it was the very, very, very beginning of my relationship with Henry. I was obsessed with this label – A Different Drum – and used to buy all sorts of compilations from them. Henry, in an effort to win my heart, used to make me CDs of synthpop that he ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADED OMG. Can you imagine Henry, 35-years-old at that time, living alone in some weird apartment, burning synthpop CDs for me? I mean, it’s kind of cute.

Those CDs remind me of cozy winters, so even though it was unseasonably warm over the weekend, it still brought back waves of comfort as I curled up on the couch and read a book.

But then I had an idea!

I typed in “Synthpop workouts” in the YouTube search bar and was sad to see that there really isn’t much of a goth/synth cardio niche on YouTube. Look, I have been considering (only half-jokingly) of making my own amateur workout videos for some time now. My only problem, aside from being extremely awkward on camera, is that I have a difficult time moving while narrating what’s coming up and singing out motivational filler. I would want to do just super-casual and fun walking workouts, because those are my go-to videos on YouTube when I need to boost my step-count, I’m too tired/sore/sick for high-impact cardio, or I still have some energy to burn off after doing a strength-training workout.

I’m kind of obsessed with constantly moving. I don’t even watch my K-Dramas without walking in place (here is that part where I make a subtle hint for Henry to finally buy me that treadmill). But the walking workouts on YouTube are…eh. There’s Leslie Sansone, but her shrill Janice-from-Friends laugh gets to me. There’s Jessica Smith, but she always uses that generic cardio music which doesn’t help motivate me. I really like this one broad, Gina B, because her walking workouts are all themed to things like, “Walk to the 80s!” or “Disco Walk!” – so it’s fun because you’re doing these upbeat walking/cardio workouts to good pop music from past eras, and it helps keep you interested. IT DOES THAT FOR ME, ANYWAY.

But man, I would be so down for a synthwalk. Even the real morose dark synthpop still has that thumping bassline which, I truly believe, would translate well to simple box steps, grapevines, step-taps – whatever walks are in the arsenal.

So the other night, I cried out, “I WILL JUST MAKE MY OWN SYNTHPOP WALKING WORKOUTS!” And Chooch and Janna will be my back-up walkers (Chooch already said no and Janna doesn’t know yet but I guess she’ll find out if she ever reads this; say yes, Janna) and we will all black – maybe gowns? Robes? Stompy boots, for sure. And we’ll light candles everywhere, and in between the higher-energy tracks, we’ll do body-weight moves to a slower-tempo funeral dirge, maybe hoist a weighted plank, a move we will call, “The Pallbearers.”

Fun fact about the above song: I once listened to it on repeat for an entire 8-hour shift at this one shitty job I had where I worked with like 8 people in a basement until midnight, and then I genuinely wanted to fucking kill myself afterward. No hyperbole here.

This could be a good cool-down track. PASS THAT INVISIBLE ORB OF ENERGY.

I have a vision of Janna crying at some point, to help keep the ambiance in the room aligned with the tragic vibe of this Mind Side Out track, so perhaps this will be the portion of the fitness video where Henry burns her with a candle off-camera.

I was telling my co-workers about this on Monday and they were like, “Wow. Glad you found your….calling.” I mean, I’ve attempted and failed at making writing, photography, and art a career,  so hopefully fitness figurehead is where my true talent lies!

NO I TAKE IT BACK: My favorite Depeche Mode song would be the PERFECT cool-down song:

 

See also: Wendy 1999 for a scintillating story sort of about this song.

“So what, are you just going to use your phone to film this?” Chooch asked me in that AWESOME judgmental tone of a middle schooler bracing himself for impending parental embarrassment. But the fact that he’s thinking this far ahead means that he BELIEVES IN ME!

Anyway, hopefully this comes into fruition once I conquer my inability to say motivational things without stepping on my foot. I think it’s going to be way better than my idea from 2004 to open a Crucifixion-themed restaurant.

ETA: I was just filling in Chooch re:The Pallbearer move.

“You made me pause my movie for that?” Chooch snarfled, and Henry Buttinsky was all, “Where are you getting this ‘weighted plank’?” because when he’s not White Knighting, he’s standing in a corner with a needle, punching holes in my logic.

“I mean, it’s just going to be, like, a board with weights on it,” I shrugged, like what else would I use? An actual coff—-

OMG I NEED AN ACTUAL COFFIN!

Jan 092020
 

OK guys, it’s crunch time. January is the saddest month, with February following close behind, so it’s time to plan as much as fun activities as possible to beat the winter blues. We’re already down one weekend, and I must say, no complaints here on my end.

Saturday was GLOOM-HEHEHEHEHEHE-MY. All gray and moist, cold with a tinge of snow. Chooch ditched us almost as soon as he awoke because GOTTA GET TO THE TEEN CENTER OMG. He didn’t know what to do with himself during Christmas break because that damn place was closed. I kept sending him pictures of Drew and me, which really triggers him because Drew is “HIS CAT” but I was like, “I’m her best friend now since you abandon her all the time for the teen center.” If that made him feel guilty, I wouldn’t know because he certainly didn’t come running home from the teen center.

It was super dismal Saturday afternoon and that made me feel very tired, but I still met up with Jiyong for the first language exchange of the year. It was real fun because we talked about the differences and similarities of dating culture. So, one of the things I learned from watching k-dramas is that Koreans use this term called “some” to explain the stage two people are in right before they commit to officially dating. So they’ll say that they’re “in a some.” Jiyong asked with the western equivalent of that would be and I guess “flirting,” although that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to lead to anything since some people are just flirts by nature, lol. And I guess if you wanted to get super old-school, you could say “courting.” So I said that things were so different back in when I was in high school because cell phones weren’t a thing that everyone and their baby sister had – my mom had one but it was literally considered a “car phone” then and I remember it had this bulky vinyl case or covering, it was so strange. I told Jiyong that we would write notes and leave them in the person’s locker, or have a friend hand-deliver it.

“You didn’t have a pager?” she asked in disbelief, because I guess it was common in Korean for teenagers to have pagers in the 90s/00s?! I actually did have a pager, so it was funny to me that she mentioned that because, and correct me if it was different wherever you, Dear Reader, grew up, but in my area of suburban Pittsburgh, it was considered something of a…certain type of status symbol to have a pager, and it also subtly implied that perhaps you were a drug dealer, lol.

I had one (it was a translucent purple Motorola) because I begged my mom for one since I needed to keep up my urban aesthetic and my mom went along with it because she figured it was a way to digitally nag me. I had my pager soooo customized. I would always change the song that played when someone called it and I remember thinking I was SO CLEVER the time I changed it to Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell,” a song I only knew because it was on some movie soundtrack from around that time in the 90s although if I had a pager right now, it would be this song:

Anyway, I guess my first “boyfriend” and I were basically “in a some” because we only “dated” for like a month and in that time, the only time we saw each other outside of school was when we met up at a tennis court near his house so I could teach him to play tennis (look I know I a slut back then but this truly is not a euphemism) but then his super over-protective mom stood in her yard and screamed for him to come home after 30 minutes i.e, the amount of time it took her to realize her son was out with a girl thanks to one of his NARC-y little brothers. But yeah, I think we held hands once in school, maybe? And then that relationship ended when my friend Scott fought him in the boy’s locker room because Scott liked me too and then they both had to go to the principal’s office and I literally cannot imagine Henry ever fighting for me (or getting called to the principal’s office for anything more than being a flunkee) so at least I can say that at some point in my life, I was fought over. THAT IS PRETTY COOL I GUESS, if you’re into Disney Channel teen programming.

Also, back to pagers, I remember being super into calling random pager numbers to see if anyone would call back (I only did this when friends were over, I wasn’t that lonely and conversation-starved back then) which having my own private phone line made it easy to do. One time, this guy called back and said he WAS A COP?! I remember we were so scared – I can’t remember who was at my house with me that time, maybe Christy? But we were just like OMG OMG OMG OMG don’t arrest us.

My mom would always text me with a 9-1-1 and it was so annoying. Everyone knew that 1-8-7 was the real emergency number to use.

SHIT NOW I KIND OF MISS MY PAGER?! I think there’s even a picture of me somewhere with it clipped to my (overalls) pocket hahaha.

Jiyong also recently came back from visiting her friends in DC, and there are lots of H-Marts in that area (the greatest Korean supermarkets in America) so she made me a little treat bag of Korean snacks, bless her. I also think I’m getting better at annunciation?! That’s what she said, anyway.

Aside from that, I feel like my Saturday mostly consisted of incessant blathering about BIGBANG? That….sounds about right.

The next day, JANNA came over in the afternoon and we headed out to Sugar Spell Scoops for some sweet vegan delights before they go on winter hiatus for the month of January. I’m sad but really, I only go here once a month anyway so I’ll survive, and it’ll just make it feel more exciting the next time we go! This is how you look at things optimistically.

I had a scoop each of Pink Peppermint and Maple & Waffles. YEAH BOI. What more can I say? I have had some subpar vegan scoops before (AHEM MILLIE’S) but Sugar Spell is so consistently delicious. They don’t get that weird, dry texture that some vegan ice cream has – I honestly can’t eat most store bought plant-based ice cream. It just always has…a taste.

Meateater Henry even enjoys an occasional animal-friendly scoop. Here, he can be seen eating the Winter Break sundae, which he had made with peanut butter chocolate ripple. It’s filling enough for a burly lumberjack-type such as himself, and the best part is that I can scarf down two scoops and not feel like absolute shit afterward. Maybe I might be mildly lactose intolerant – Janna and I were just talking about this because she thinks she too might be and this is one of the reasons she, as a carnivore, does not bitch when I suggest going to Sugar Spell and not, I dunno, the Milkshake Factory or whatever the fuck.

If you live in or around Pittsburgh, or are coming in for whatever reason, I HIGHLY suggest stopping here. The people who own it are a freaking delight and the inside of the shop is so charming with a light witchy-vibe. Just be mindful that they’re closed for the rest of January and only open Friday-Sunday otherwise. (Just Saturdays and Sundays in the winter though.) Their pints are available at some local stores so you should check their website/socials for that information – LOOK AT ME BEING A RESPONSIBLE BLOGGER.

They also do custom ice cream cakes so that might be a fun change for Chooch’s next birthday, sorry Bethel Bakery.

I love that vegetarianism/veganism is becoming so much more prevalent and accepted in America. I rarely have those awkward moments at work lunches anymore where there’s nothing on the menu for me and I have to ask for something special or just get a house salad, hold the chicken/ham/bacon thanks.

I still laugh though whenever friends become newly meat-free and start asking me questions about tofu preparation and I’m just like, “Please see Henry, thanks.”

See also:

Don’t Ask Me About Tofu

After we filled up on ice cream, we brought Janna back to our house, where we force-fed her with Korean pop culture and she at one point made the mistake of murmuring, “That guy is really good-looking” to which I practically lunged at her while screaming, “WHO?! SONG MINO?!!? YOU LIKE MINO?!” so then I made her watch a bunch of Winner videos and clips of Mino in various variety shows and then I sent her his Instagram profile and then ran into the kitchen to scream, “JANNA FINALLY HAS A BIAS AND IT’S SONG MINO!” into Henry’s face while he was making kimchi (our house smelled like the ocean all day) he mumbled, “OK, I heard” but I’m sorry, this was a big deal for me!

Image result for song mino gif"

Overall, a pretty solid weekend. Cook on, mothercheffers!