Dec 302016

Picture it:

The year was 1999.

A hot July evening.

I was 19.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

I started digging around in my purse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keri covered her face.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This next part happened while I was dead.

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

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


And then I heard my aunt Sharon calling my name.

Erin Erin Erin.

Over and over.


It doesn’t get any more textbook than that.

I was dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“What, your poor judgment?” Glenn mumbled.


Dec 182016

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

RIP you mahhhvelous broad.


When I Played Zsa Zsa Gabor

July 31, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 122016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 012016

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


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


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

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

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


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

Then Chooch got yelled at by a cashier because while I was trying to pay, he found an axe and was running around the store with it. True story.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Chooch almost fell down a flight of steps too.

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

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

Tennessee rules. Here are some more pictures:

I miss this stupid porch.

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

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

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

On a weener prowl.

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

Trying to DROWN my kid now.

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

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

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

But then this happened one day:

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

Me: Then hang it up!

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve created a monster.

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

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

Pretending to like each other.

Nov 302016

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

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

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


Nov 012016

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

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

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


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

Oct 032016


It’s hard to believe that I’ve been a fan of Anthony Green for 12 years now and have never gone to any of his solo shows. I’ve seen Circa Survive a ton of times, and even Saosin and the Sound of Animals Fighting. But never just Anthony.

Henry and I actually had a mild argument over this when he was driving me to Mr. Small’s last Thursday, because even he was like, “No, that’s ridiculous and you must be wrong.”

But then he remembered how relieved he was to be depositing me on a curb and then driving off into the sunset (wait, what direction does the sun set…) with Chooch. I think they went to Taco Bell and then probably back home where they sat around in their underwear until it was time to come back to Millvale and pick me up.

The rest of the evening was full of beautiful music, but very little drama, so I’m afraid that this recap might be a little bland. I didn’t hate anyone there! No one made me angry! I had very little interactions with anyone other than the fancy-shirted bartender from whom I bought my obligatory nerve-numbing Angry Orchard and a few shared smiles with the other Solo Girl who was standing next to me for the entire show.

I considered talking to her at one point but then remembered how lame I sound in these moments.

Anyway, only three bands for this show! Secret Space started a few minutes after I arrived. I took my favorite spot along the right side of the stage and then did that thing where I pretend to be invisible.

I’ve never listened to Secret Space before and didn’t get a change to even give their bio a cursory glance before Thursday. So, they ended up being great! Just a really nice, pop-rock experience. The singer was pretty entertaining between songs, and I wonder how much of that affected my overall opinion. I feel like the music didn’t really grab me until the banter got my attention, but in any case — I thought they were great….

…just not as great as Mat Kerekes, who was next! Full disclosure, when I saw that he was one of the openers for this show, that was when I really knew I needed to get a ticket. Mat is the singer of Citizen, and I love Citizen so much, I wish I could squish them against my chest until their eyes bulge.

Oh shit, Mat was so personable and I wasn’t expecting that! He doesn’t talk much at Citizen shows so I guess I thought this was going to be some serious, somber shit, I don’t know, but he is so hilarious and irreverent!

He played one of my favorite Citizen songs, “Sleep,” and then Anthony came out and joined at one point too and of course everyone, even the boys, screamed their faces off, like we weren’t about to see Anthony later for 90 minutes straight.

I kept sending Henry pictures and videos in between sets and he was like, “I don’t care. That’s why I’m not there.”

Boo, Henry. Just boo.

Anthony came out around 9:30 and we all just went nuts. He has got to be, out of every band I’m into, the most charismatic musician I’ve ever seen in person. I have left Circa Survive shows feeling like I just worshiped in the coolest fucking church this side of SAINT GERMAIN AND THE VIOLET FLAME. (Seriously, I’m obsessed with this now thanks to GAYLE.)

I wept, I laughed, I cried. It was wonderful. Anthony is such a fucking delight. And he has overcome so much to be able to still take these stages and heal us.


He said the last time he performed solo in Pittsburgh was four years ago when he was touring in support of his Young Legs album, and that the show he played there at Mr. Small’s was the most fucked up he’s ever been.

Of course, there were people who cheered about this.

“No, don’t applaud that! That’s not cool!” Anthony said. “I was such an asshole that night! I spent the whole time talking in a Bane voice and then I got in a fight with some kid and stormed off the stage. If you were at that show, I’m sorry. And thank you for still coming out to see me.”

I was pretty much choking on tears by this point, because his struggle with heroin has been ongoing since I started listening to Circa Survive all those years ago, and his wife has stuck by him through it all. His album Pixie Queen is about that.


I remember seeing Circa Survive once in 2008 (when they opened for Thrice, coincidentally!) and Anthony just seemed like a mess. I think he was laying on the stage through their whole set and at one point I turned to Henry and said, “OMG is he going to die? I don’t want him to die.”

It felt good to stand there and scream. And to laugh. And to cry. But mostly it felt good to just smile because that’s something that I hadn’t been doing much last week.

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Pixie Queen tour.

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Thank you for being you, Anthony.


Recently, I was thinking about how sad I was when I was unable to go to very many shows. Like, I’d see the announcements for bands I liked and then sigh when I saw it was a week night and I couldn’t go because I worked until 9pm & it was a lot more difficult for me to take a day off then.

Or before that when I wasn’t working at all and we just couldn’t afford it. I was lucky if I went to three shows a year then. And I didn’t realize until recently how much of a negative impact that had on me, to love music so much but have to miss out on so many of those experiences.

My mom texted me a link the other night about how people who go to a lot of concerts generally have happier lives and I started to laugh because I had literally just left the Thrice show when I got her text. And it’s true – I can promise you that Henry and I fight a lot less and I don’t feel like I’m sinking in a pit of burning quicksand.

Well, not as much as I used to, anyway.

That being said, I was almost unable to go to the Anthony Green solo show on Thursday because of a last minute shift change and I was ready to raise hell but then everything was fine and I made it to the show and I felt like a thousand pounds of suck had been lifted from my dumb, slumped shoulders.

It was a good reminder not to take these things for granted. To keep going to as many shows as I can because who knows how much longer this will last.

I want to be able to keep paying for concert tickets, not therapy bills.


It was pouring down rain by the time the show ended, and that felt kind of perfect. I found Henry and Chooch, sitting down the street in the parked car, looking like creeps, and I rambled the whole way home about how magical Anthony is.

They didn’t care.

I finally managed to get to a point where I can not just tolerate going to shows alone, but I actually enjoy it (don’t think too much into that, Henry!). However, I like when Henry goes with me and then for weeks, I can say things like, “REMEMBER WHEN WE SAW BASEMENT AND ALEX LOOKED SO ADORABLE?!” and Henry will just mumble, “….I guess.”

Oct 012016



I think, if I had to choose, that Saturday was my favorite day of Riot Fest. Henry was being a cunt on Friday (he claims he was “tired” and “didn’t feel well;” see also: IS OLD AS FUCK) but after a really great leisurely morning of exploring Little Village and having some legit Mexican breakfast, we were both like, IN SYNC. Like MENSTRUAL CYCLES. But without the mood swings.

And blood.

Wait – did I bleed at all that day?



Originally, I said we didn’t have to get there early because the first band I had my heart set on seeing didn’t even start until 2 or some other late as fuck time of the day. However, we still ended up getting there by 11:30, without even rushing, and there was barely a line by that point so we just strode right on in.

Well, Henry did.

I had to be frisked and have my purse pillaged and I forgot that I had a plastic container of Mentos gum in there and the security broad threw it out, nooooo.

We had some time to check out the vendors, one of which was our favorite–Choonimals! We bought Chooch an obligatory pizza shirt because god forbid we come home empty-handed. I wanted to get him a Trump shirt that said Fuck Boi on it but Henry frowned heavily even though he approved of the shirt in general.


  • Brick + Mortar: The first band we saw was Brick + Mortar on the Roots Stage. I didn’t know anything about them other than what I read on the Riot Fest website a few weeks ago. It was just two guys playing honest indie rock, and I’m going to be real here: I’m not sure if I genuinely liked the music, or if I was just captivated by the hilarious guy they had on stage with them, dancing around like an idiot, coming back out dressed like a fairy-thing, and just being overall entertaining. Henry liked them too, so you know that the music wasn’t very offensive. It was a great start to the day though! Especially when the singer thanked everyone for taking a chance on them and that they had recently won a battle against their record label for the rights to their music, and that’s always something to clap about.

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Brick + Mortar

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  • Plague Vendor: Right after Brick + Mortar ended, Plague Vendor started their set on the neighboring Riot Stage. I told Henry that I didn’t think he was going to like them, but Henry surprised me by saying, “They’re not bad. He’s like…Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop had a baby.” WHOA. He likes a band, kind of, enough to make comparisons?! This day was really off to a great start. (Plague Vendor is fucking amazing, by the way—frenetic, rowdy California punk rock fronted by a singer with moves slick enough to make MJ grab his crotch in appreciation.


  • Microwave, acoustic set: Thank god for these StubHub acoustic sets, because I was unable to see Microwave perform later that day as a full band, due to scheduling conflicts. (They had the unfortunate scheduling luck of going up against Motion City Soundtrack, who were playing their penultimate show, but now I’m seriously regretting my choice.) I always miss this band when they come to town! Henry immediately peaced out, getting lost in the depths of his phone (what does he actually read on his phone!? I can’t even imagine. He only has like 79 Facebook friends so scrolling through this feed can’t take very much time and what else do old people use Smartphones for?!), and ignored the whole acoustic set, which admittedly wasn’t the best acoustic set I’ve ever seen (Nathan, the singer, seemed kind of nervous) but it was still good to hear some Microwave, even in that soft, scaled back capacity. He even covered that fucking “I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates” song which I thought for sure would appeal to Henry, since he’s old and probably danced with some big-haired hussy to that song at a school dance at some point in his life.

riotfest_2016041 riotfest_2016042

Henry ignoring Microwave.

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Microwave, acoustic set.

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  • Jessica Hernandez: NOPE. She was playing on the main stage and we had time to kill so we were sitting down in the grass and I was just like, “I CAN’T TAKE THIS BROAD’S VOICE, UGH BUT I’M TOO COMFORTABLE TO MOVE.” Also, I tried to snag a sip of Henry’s beer around this point but he yelled at me because there was “SECURITY” right next to us and I wasn’t wearing a 21+ wristband. Oh for fuck’s sake, Henry. Like anyone would ever do a double-take if they saw me drinking alcohol! Unless they thought Henry was my dad and I’m a super-old-looking teenager? A teenager who’s seen some shit? Anyway, this broad considers her band to be “dark soul and goth pop” but I didn’t get that vibe at all. All I got was some Gwen Stefani-mimicking annoying bray backed by trombones. Not a fan.



  • HippoCampus: We walked over to the Roots Stage to wait for Hippocampus to start, but Jessica Hernandez said, “We got two more songs for you!” and I was like, “WHAT? HOW?!!?” because it was like one minute away from Hippocampus starting on the neighboring stage. The Riot and Roots staging alternate, so as soon as one band is done, the next band immediately starts on the other stage, and Riot Fest is pretty good about keeping the schedule accurate. However, Jessica wouldn’t shut her trap, and then the powers-that-be did my favorite thing ever: THEY SHUT HER DOWN. She just kept singing, no sound coming out, until she finally realized what was happening and frantically waved her mic around like they were going to turn the sound back on for her, like it was an accident, like she was better than the next band and allowed to abuse her time on stage. Fuck OFF, Jessica Hernandez. Meanwhile, Hippocampus ended up being kind of boring, but I’m still glad they didn’t have their set cut short by that dumb bitch.
  • High Waisted: Since Hippocampus wasn’t capturing my heart, I looked at my app to see who else was playing. I quickly skimmed the bio for High Waisted, which mentioned 1960s SURF and DREAM POP, and I was on board. “I thought you don’t like female singers?” Henry asked when we rolled up to the tiny Storyheart Stage. He will never understand my criteria. This band seemed like it was in my wheelhouse and I was willing to give them a chance, and thank god for that because they ended up being a huge highlight of the whole weekend, especially when they had a legit Dick Dale breakdown at the end of the set. Plus, the singer, Jessica Louise, was hot AF! Unlike that other Jessica (Hernandez *hisssss*), this one had an Erin-pleasing voice. They’re on tour right now with Somos and Free Throw and of course it’s not coming to shitty Pittsburgh.


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Dick Dale vibesssss.

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  • Motion City Soundtrack: They were next on the Roots Stage and Henry begrudgingly followed me there. Neither of us are actually fans of this band and in fact, I can’t tell you how many times I walked right past whatever stage they were playing at numerous Warped Tours. I think probably because I associate them with Christina’s crazy sister. But this is the last tour they’re doing, probably for like 5 years at which point they will realize how much money there is to be made on reunion tours, and then they’ll be all, “Wow, we forgot how much we loved making music as this band so now we have a new album coming out! And another tour after that!” I mean, I can’t judge. At least five bands I really fucking love have done this to me over the last 10 years. But still, I wanted to be there and actually watch them for what might be my only chance ever. I only really know two songs and they played both of them so I was content. Henry made his “I don’t get it” face the whole time, and truthfully, we spent most of the set willing someone to “accidentally” step on this bitch who wouldn’t stand up:


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Motion City Soundtrack's penultimate show.

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Chooch’s new shirt for picture day.

Admittedly, my favorite part of the set was when some girl pushed her way through us and Henry casually said, “Oh hello, come on in.” I don’t know why it made me crack up as much as it did, other than the fact that I was fucking high on life. And then we saw a guy with flipflops literally tattooed to his feet. OH OK.

  • Bob Mould: I hope if you’re reading this that you know who Bob Mould is, but if you don’t: GET YOUR STUDY ON. He’s a living alt-rock legend, and his 80s bands Husker Du and Sugar are both essential for any music fanatic. I have never seen him before so I was pretty giddy about this, especially since he was supposed to be at the first Riot Fest I ever went to but then WASN’T and then when he was in Pittsburgh, I WAS AT RIOT FEST. Guys, these are the big problems in my life, OK? Anyway, a fun fact about Bob Mould is that when Henry and I first started dating, or whatever you want to call, he was way more accepting of my musical tastes and Bob Mould’s “New #1” was like, our song or something. I guess. We haven’t listened to it together in like 10 years because we don’t love each other anymore.


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Bob Mould is such a freaking legend.

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  • Balance & Composure: But, as much as I love me some Bob Mould, I REALLY FUCKING LOVE ME some Balance & Composure, so we split the Riot Stage about 30 minutes into Bob’s set and ran over to the small Rebel Stage, where B&C was setting up and I pulled Henry all the way to the front, which he just LOVES. Right away though, I heard A Voice that immediately made me feel angry and tense and then I realized it was the obnoxious Minnesota know-it-all from the line to get in on Day One! Henry started cracking up and I just slowly turned back around and proceeded to block her out. Luckily, I had SAM and her SNOWCONE to fixate on. She was standing next to me and I know her name is SAM because she saw one of her friends, who came over with another friend, and introductions were made but then they left and SAM continued to stand alone with her BLUE snowcone. She was interesting. And of course we saw her like 87 times the rest of the weekend too. Always alone! I felt so sad for her. But then B&C started playing and everyone around me just melted away. For being up against so many heavy-hitters and being relegated to the smallest stage, they really had a shit ton of people there for them! I don’t know what to say about this band other than they are just excelsior alt-rock, kind of emo-revivalist, really great song-writing, the kind of music you want to listen to in the car while driving around in October wearing your favorite sweater and MAYBE DRINKING A MAPLE LATTE TOO. They are for sure an autumn band for me, like just writing about this right now makes me want to go on a haunted hayride, good thing it’s October 1. (OMG it’s October 1 and I’m not done writing about Riot Fest, whyyyyy.) They have a new album coming out so they started their set off with two songs from that and then Jon (he’s the SINGER, you guys) admitted that they were nervous as fuck to perform those songs for the first time, and it did kind of seem like they were stiff and uncomfortable but once they dove into the old jams, they were shining like diamonds. For the record, I love the new songs they’ve released so far. This is one of them, it’s called POSTCARD and you should listen:

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ilu 💗

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Go back to Minnesota.

riotfest_2016052 riotfest_2016054

After Balance and Composure, we had some time to wander around and forage for food before Brand New started at 6:15. It was around this time that I thought I saw Justin Bobby and Henry was all WHO and I said “Justin Bobby” and Henry was all “…………….” and then I yelled, “FROM THE HILLS!?!?” Fuck Henry, turn on MTV sometime in 2006, OK?

I ended up getting one of the most texturally interesting veggie burgers ever:


I think it was made with potatoes. I liked it. It could have been warmer but it’s better than the soft pretzel I’d be eating at Warped Tour, so who am I to complain. Those food vendors are amazing every year though I feel like this year wasn’t as on point as the past two years. (I’M STILL NOT OVER THE FACT THAT DARK MATTER WASN’T THERE WITH THEIR HOT, HEAVENLY NECTAR A/K/A COFFEE. I missed those tiny donuts that were there last year too. Come back, tiny donuts.)

We saw, for the second time that day, a girl wearing the same Emarosa “For Fox Sake” shirt that Chooch has. She was sitting down with her friend and I did that thing that Henry loves where I boisterously comment on someone’s attire (I can’t tell you how many times I get all Tourettes-like when we’re in another city and I see someone wearing a Penguins shirt). I ran up to the girl and screamed, “I LOVE EMAROSA!” She was clearly caught off guard. I could tell by the way her hand flew to her chest and she let out a startled, “Oh!” But then she said, “Yeah, they’re fantastic!” and that response satisfied me so I continued on my way.

“Why do you have to do that?” Henry groaned.


Anyway, it was around this point where I started to notice a lot of vendors had put up Morrissey-related signs regarding their food and I didn’t realize until later it was because one of his stipulations for playing Riot Fest was that all food vendors had to stop selling meat after 8pm. Obviously I’m a huge fan of THE CURE but I am just a basic, average fan of the Smiths and not really a fan at all of Morrissey as a solo artist (not for any reason other than I just never really paid attention to it because I’ve been too busy worshiping at the feet of Robert Smith almost my whole life), so I didn’t know that this is something Moz supposedly requires of all venues he’s playing at. I guess it really sent Riot Fest attendees over the edge though because the comments I was reading online were so fucking hostile. Like, if you ever hear me complain about not being able to eat a certain food for a two hour block, please fucking kill me. Personally, as a vegetarian, this really made me respect Morrissey a lot more. How fucking punk rock is that?! Plus it incited so much controversy, which come on, who doesn’t love some fucking music drama!?

No one thought Riot Fest would comply to Moz’s demands, but they did and that made my veggie burger taste even more delicious and satisfying, not gonna lie. It’s not everyday us herbivores get a victory.


Riot Fest really starts to get crowded around 5. That’s around the time my stranger-danger anxiety usually starts to set in, but the way they had the stages set up this year made it feel like less of a cluster.  I mean, I still clung to Henry’s shirt tail like my life depended on it, but it wasn’t as gnarly as past years.


  • Brand New: Henry was being so nice to me around this time! So now instead of associating Brand New with terrible Christina things, I think I will associate them with Henry kind of showing me something that resembled affection! It was nice. But then he said he only knew one song that Brand New played that night and I was like, “YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT THERE IS NO WAY YOU DIDN’T KNOW AT LEAST 75% OF THAT SET LIST, YOU MOTHERFUCKING MORON” and then the mood was killed. But seriously though it was a delightful set. We stood far back enough that we didn’t have to deal with any of their asshole fans (honestly, Brand New has some of the douchiest fans I’ve ever encountered and I can’t even imagine them in real life scenarios outside of a Brand New show). I feel really lucky to have gotten to see them twice in two months, although I’m kind of annoyed that I didn’t jump at the chance to buy tickets to their upcoming Cleveland show because they just announced that they’re playing The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me in its entirety, fuck my life. I also think it’s kind of interesting that Jesse Lacey basically made a career of trolling his fans yet people still fall over themselves to see his band play. There’s a sick kind of respect there, I guess. (I do think this band deserves every accolade it receives though and anyone who says they’re overrated can go fuck themselves because I’m pretty sure Jesse Lacey is a fucking mad genius and when he sings Degausser I lose it every time.) Here is someone else’s video of it because I only have a few Snaps:

Honestly, what else is there to say about Brand New?

Somewhere around this time, we had our third conversation about rats (????). This time we were talking about how we saw rat traps in the yards of the houses we walked past that morning and Henry was mouthing off about how bad rats are, etc., and I said, “Yeah but, some of the rats of NIMH were good though…”

“Those were cartoons, Erin,” Henry sighed.




  • Death Cab For Cutie: This band needs no introduction. There was a chunk of my early 20s when they were my shit, I loved this band so much, before that TV show The O.C. made them a household band (I mean, good for them! But I’m just saying…) However, I stopped listening to them almost entirely after Transatlanticism. Not because I thought they got sucky or anything like that, but because I associated them with this. Basically, I was listening to DCFC when I found out that someone I had a very dysfunctional relationship with had been killed in a car accident/alleged suicide. Pretty hard not to think about that anytime I hear Death Cab nowadays. I actually saw them a week after that happened too, at Coachella in 2004. The first and last time I’d ever see them live, until now at Riot Fest. And I have to say, it felt like beautiful torture. It felt like having my heart ripped out of my chest, only to have it pumped full of life and love and reinserted. It felt healing and necessary. But…if they had played anything from Something About Airplanes, I probably would have had to leave. No lie.

(OH GOD why did I just let myself listen to this?!)

Riot Fest, you are a fucking violent stumble, heart-in-throat, down memory lane, Jesus Christ. I wasn’t ready.


  • Morrissey: I had a chance to begin processing the past that had been dredged up slammed into my face after Death Cab’s set since Morrissey kept us waiting for like 30 minutes. I get it, you’re a big star, but FYI: The Cure has never left me standing out in the dark, looking at my imaginary watch. SORRY TO KEEP MAKING COMPARISONS. There was some 30 minute long video montage that we had to suffer through and I guess he does this at all of his shows? OK that’s fine, but maybe don’t do that when you’re playing a festival and people have been there since noon and just want to see you play now so that we can all leave and pass out in our shitty Motel 6 hopefully-clean beds. People were leaving left and right, and Henry really wanted to leave too, but I got all white knight-y and said reasoned, “Come on, it’s Morrissey. We have to see him at least once.” Because unless someone gives me a free ticket, I can’t imagine that I would ever go to a show specifically to see him (unless the Smiths suddenly reunite, then it’s game on). There was a moment where we actually thought that maybe he seriously wasn’t going to be there after all, because when the Riot Fest lineup was announced last spring, he was like, “I never agreed to perform at Riot Fest so this is news to me” in typical Moz-fashion. I mean, you have to admire his consistency with being notoriously difficult and coy, I guess. He did, obviously, come out and immediately began singing “Suedehead” in his typical bombastic fashion and I found myself saying, “IT’S OK MORRISSEY, WE’RE NOT MAD!” because that damn voice. And: “By the way, thanks for opening with a song I know!”

When he sang “Ganglord,” there were images of police violence splayed out on the screen behind him and while it was difficult to watch, it felt so fucking important and I had to give him credit because that was a message that needed to be forced on everyone watching. Like, “Hey guys, you’re here right now enjoying your life at Riot Fest when this is the shit that’s happening in your idiotic country right now. Don’t forget that.” Henry hates it when musicians use the stage as a soapbox but I’m all for it. I feel like more people are going to listen to what their music idols have to say than what a politician is jawing off about, so go for it, Morrissey. Tell us to Dump Trump! WE’RE TRYING!


We stayed for five songs then made our way back down the streets lined with rat traps and rejoiced when we saw our car was still in one piece in the shady parking lot where we left it that morning.

This was by far the best and most emotionally satisfying day of Riot Fest and I wish I could hold it in my hand and squeeze it lovingly like a dove BUT NOT TOO HARD SO I DON’T KILL IT.



Aug 272016

Today has been pretty miserable, so miserable that I DIDNT EVEN WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR ICE CREAM. (Don’t worry, Henry brought it back for me.)

I was laying on the couch being miserable and I kept telling Henry to please turn the channel because 2 Broke Girls was on and I’m sorry but every single voice was sodomizing me and I just couldn’t handle it for one moment more while Henry was slowly scanning the cable guide menu thing so I grabbed the remote and blindly put it on the first thing I saw which was a Mamas and Papas special on WQED – you know the kind of special, where they show a truncated documentary about the band, spliced with YOUR DONATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!! interruptions, where they try to wow you with a CD set that can be yours for the GENEROUS DONATION OF $256.

I love these things. We recently watched one on the Carpenters and I was in some weird 1960s fugue state for the next 6 days.


Thanks to Michelle Phillips, I fell down the Knots Landing rabbit hole. That was one of the shows I watched when I was a kid in the 80s, thinking it made me so cool and sophisticated because it was a grown-up show (along with Falcons Crest and Hunter, obvi). I remember watching some comedian on an HBO special at my Pappap’s house; he did lots of sight gags and pantomiming, etc, most of which went right over my head, until he tied knots in several pieces of ropes and tossed them in the air.

As they landed on the ground, he looked at the audience and said, “Knots landing.”

I thought it was the funniest shit ever, mostly because finally, I understood a thing he was doing.

Actually, I was just thinking about this guy at work a few weeks ago and asked Glenn if he knew who I was talking about because Glenn is old but he said no and that’s because Glenn doesn’t like humor.

[ETA: Bob Nelson! His name is Bob Nelson. Henry is better at Googling than me. My searches are too narrow. I’d get fired for that at work. WORK JOKE, YOU WON’T GET IT. (Actually, that’s not a joke.)]

(ETAx2: it was balloons, not ropes.)

Naturally, I had to look up the Knots Landing opening theme on YouTube, at which point my Joan van Arc hatred was reignited.

Fuck that bitch.

“When are they going to get the part where she dies?” I asked Henry, referring to Mama Cass, obviously.

“Um….the end?”

Once they got to the 1970s portion of the biopic, every time they would start a sentence with, “And then Mama Cass—” I would rush to say, “CHOKED ON A HAM SANDWICH!”

“That’s not really how she died,” Henry sighed.

“Yes it is. That’s how I drew the Mama Cass Glenn at work, so….”

So then it got to the part where Michelle Phillips nonchalantly talks about how Cass calls her one night after a show and is all, “OMG I’M SO HAPPY” and how surprising it was to hear the next day that Cass had died—

“EATING A HAM SANDWICH!!!” I cried as Michelle calmly said, “—in her sleep.”

Henry gave me a disappointed frown.

“Yeah, in her sleep, on a ham sandwich,” I argued.

“That’s not true, that’s just a rumor that the fat shamers started,” Henry sighed.

“No, here, I’ll google it—OK yeah, it says it’s an urban legend but that’s just because they’re trying to preserve her pride,” I explained.

By the end of the show, Michelle Phillips is talking about how she’s the only one left and—-

“Michelle Phillips killed them all! Michelle Phillips is the ham sandwich!” I screamed.

“Did you just tweet that out?” Henry asked, basically all of his energy drained by this point. You would think he would be used to my obsessive latching-on to the small things by now.

Like when I became obsessed with freeing some guy who went to some island and got accused of killing of a person and he totally didn’t do it because he was so handsome but this was like 2009 and I can’t remember what island or who he killed, or you know, his name.

But anyway, remember when Henry said “tweet that out”? God, what an ElderDork.

“I wonder why Cass’s daughter never sang?” Henry mused out loud.

“She could have been in Wilson Phillips!” I yelled.

“Yeah but then it might not have been called Wilson Phillips,” he pointed out.

“They could have been called H—”

“Ham Sandwich,” he finished for me, rolling his eyes.

I AM GOING TO LISTEN TO THE MAMA AND PAPAS ALL NIGHT NOW. I am not going to eat a ham sandwich though because ew, meat. I might actually paint a ham sandwich, though.

Also, what was up with some of those early album covers where their name was spelled Mama’s and Papa’s?! Who approved those?! Probably the same person who approves my blog posts! (Oh wait, that’s just me and my unwillingness to proofread.)

Now some Italian d-bag is singing for more WQED donations. What a fucking Saturday night. And to think I was just going to take some pills and go to bed at 5.

(Kidding. I don’t take pills. Because I don’t have pills.)

Ooh, I hope that Gino Vanelli concert re-airs at some point tonight!!

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Aug 232016

Bun had been haunting Gillcrest for the last 10 decades,

No one had bothered him, not even the wool-clad Mormon mission-maids.

But then one Tuesday a stranger arrived with a bag—

The new resident of Gillcrest, it was a horned stag!

Bun watched this scene unfold from a darkened upstairs window,

and wondered, “How in the hell can I chase off this bimbo?”

The new resident brought with him nine pounds of lunch meat in a chest,

three truckfuls of IKEA and paint swatches tucked near his breast.

His name was Bart and he was quick to make himself at home,

Tucking into bed with a trashy airport tome.

Bun waited for Bart to close his eyes for the night

Before pulling out a nightmarish delight.

A mannequin, green like slime and with nary an arm

Out from the closet to cause all sorts of harm.

When Bart arose the next morn’ with a stretch and a spit,

His heart skipped a beat at the sight of the broad’s plastic tit.


“I swear this tart wasn’t here when I turned off the light,”

He swiped at the beads of sweat along his lip, butt clenching in fright.

Bart fled from his room and sank down into a corner,

Wondering if he was dealing with the supernatural or a burglar.


Bart thought he heard some blips, some gurgles, and a bleet,

Coming from the basement far under his feet.

“That’s probably just the house groaning, or feral cats under the foundation, boning,”

Bart laughed nervously, thinking he might call his Mother for some chaperoning.

Oh, but it was Bun, partaking in his daily routine:

A rousing game of Pacman and a few swigs of hooch at 10:14.

Bun floated back upstairs just in time to hear Bart on the phone,

Talking to his mommy who made him feel a little less alone.

She said to vacate the spooks behind the peregrine doors,

“You need to redecorate, and make this house yours!”

Bart assessed his new home from a red corner chair,

and thought, “How can I change things up around here?

I’ll knock down this wall and tear up that shag carpet,

and turn that grand bathtub into a germ-filled ball pit.”

It was like reliving his midlife crisis of 1994,

Which came with a Porsche and an affair with a Gabor.

(Not Zsa Zsa.)

“He wants to put a ball pit right here in my loo?

I gotta get rid of him with something stronger than ‘boo.'”

Bun needed to sit down and have a good thought.

So he went and did just that on the master pot.


29066342421_1029a60921_b (1)

Bun considered going the poltergeist route,

Tossing around dishes, chucking an old rubber boot.

Not wanting to break his things, he went with something more malleable,

And summoned an army of one of each stuffed animal.

Teddy bears and puppies and some weird doll-thing,

Surged upon Bart, pinning him to the wall like one big butterfly wing.


“It was probably just a fluke, something-something about gravity,”

Bart’s mom sighed over top of her daytime TV.

“You know what you need, a good healthy lay.

Go call up Bernice from 1-900-PONYPLAY.”


Bart knew she was right, some company would do him good,

So he tried to fix himself up, he did what he could.

He lubed up his horn and filled his satchel with smelling salts,

Then when downstairs to wait for Bernice and all of her faults.

(Daddy issues.)

After waiting in his chair for more than an hour,

Bart thought he saw something, a figure the trees tried to devour.

“Is that Bernice?” Bart thought, bringing his binoculars  up to his eyes,

(He always kept them handy in case a neighbor bared their thighs.)

But what he saw didn’t resemble a hag rode hard and put away wet,

No, this looked more like…somebody’s Easter pet.

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And what was that, just behind the bunny and to the left?

A head in a ditch, the chin had a cleft.

Was that Bernice, beheaded by this cuniculus killer

But Bart rubbed his eyes, and the bunny was gone, nothing out there but filler.


Bun came back into the house and changed his clothes,

Killing that stripper bitch left him bloody and anxious for her to decompose.

Bun knew that if he played his cards just right,

He’d have his estate back by the end of third night.

Just a few more moves left in this game by his pawn

Before Bart would be shitting his pants on the front lawn.


Bun spent time in the game room with his clown crew

While elsewhere in the house, Bart’s paranoia grew.

Was this some real life Amityville Horror ghost attack,

Or just another Vietnam acid flashback?

The bedside phone rang on Bart’s third night,

Not once but thrice, the trill giving his  faint heart a bite.

The first two calls were white noise, static silence,

Not even the slightest semblance of a sentence.


But the third call exploded with the angry bellow of Bun:

“Bitch you’re in my house, best run motherfucker, run!”


That was enough to get Bart to peace the fuck out, see,

So he called up a ride from the Teenage Hooker taxi company.

He waited and waited by the window, so harried and eager,

His hooves percussing the floor to the beat of Bob Seger.

“A real man would have lasted more than one day times three,”

He could already hear his mother say in between sips of her tea.

But mother can suck a dick, Bart thought as he ran out of the door,

To jump in the back of the cab driven by a whore.

(Out of Uber territory.)

Bun rejoiced on the deck beneath the sun’s bright rays.

“I got my house back and I have lunch meat for days!”


Aug 022016

On our way home from FOREVER FAR ICE CREAM on my birthday (a/k/a Forbush’s), I fell down a 1980s girl-pop rabbit hole, as previously mentioned. I was peeping the related artists for either Stacey Q or Lisa Lisa, who can remember, when I stumbled across a name that my heart swell.

Stevie B.

If you were friends with me in high school and are reading this right now, you’re probably starting to twitch, recalling the aural trauma you endured every time you got in a car with me and I popped in my mix tape of a radio-requested “Because I Love You,” not just once but 8 different radio recordings, all starting with my angelic voice manically blurting out, “This is Susie….from Clairton….” like anyone from school would have honestly been listening to Lite FM, but you never know, so I always used an alias. Usually the recordings would get cut off, or I would miss the beginning. But that tape was all I had.

I can’t even remember how it started – summer before junior year, probably. I just happened to hear it once on the radio (Spanish One Hit Wonder night?). My heart skipped a beat and my inherent obsessiveness sunk its claws into me and demanded me to grind this song into the ground.

The problem — or challenge — of the 90s was that you couldn’t just hop online and download a song. I had to physically walk into a record store and look for a Stevie B. CD. Maybe you’re shocked, but none of the local record stores carried it, nor did they even know who the fuck Stevie B. even was.

According to Wiki, Stevie B. was influential in the Hi-NRG dance music scene in the late 80s, so go fuck yourself National Record Mart, and probably Camelot, too. AND MUSIC OASIS.

I was going to have to be content with my mixtape full of radio recordings, I thought. Until I mentioned it one day to my Aunt Sharon.

The thing you need to know about my Aunt Sharon is that she was relentless when it came to obtaining something. She loved writing letters to companies, making calls to customer service hotlines, and in this case, flipping through the Yellow Pages and calling every last record store in Pittsburgh, until she was finally able to get one of them to order my Stevie B Holy Grail.

All the other things she could have been doing, but she stopped everything until she made damn well sure that I was going to have a motherfucking Stevie B CD to play a million times on repeat.

That story has a much happier ending than the time Sharon went to the mall to buy me Da Brat’s debut CD only to refuse after discovering it had A PARENTAL ADVISORY sticker on it. (My mom ended up buying it for me later because let’s be real, she didn’t give a shit about that.)


I found “Because I Love You” on Spotify that day, because it’s 2016 and if you can’t find something on the Internet then it probably only existed in your dreams. OR THE GOVT IS HIDING IT FROM YOU.

With much anticipation from Henry and Chooch, I pushed play; even with a large nostalgia cloud to the head, I still couldn’t help but notice that something about it was off.

“Like right there, when he says ‘Come on in’ — he’s adding a syllable to it and THAT’S NOT IN THE RADIO EDIT!” I cried. And then toward the end, he swaps out an “I” for a “STEVIE B.”

What the hell.

“This is all wrong,” I said with panicked desperation, scrolling through Spotify in search of the actual album version and not all these “REMASTERED” bastardized versions of the original classic.

“Ugh, they all sound the same!” Chooch groaned from the backseat after I played the third one.

“NO, THERE’S A VERY DISTINCT DIFFERENCE AND I CAN’T LIKE THESE MODERN VERSIONS, I NEED THE 1990 MASTERPIECE,” I angrily yelled, turning to YouTube for assistance. Go home, Spotify.

And of course YouTube pulled through for me.

“Do you hear the difference!?” I shouted.

“Nope,” Henry mumbled, praying that this Stevie B marathon would not surpass 4 plays.

Oh my heart soared! Hearing this song again, remembering the time I serenaded everyone in the parking lot of Dell’s Ice Cream in Munhall on a humid summer night, remembering Sharon giving me the actual CD after it arrived in the mail, remembering the excitement of getting my hands on something so elusive—it was bittersweet.

And it also inspired me to full-body pantomime my emotions along with all the good parts while Henry was “TRYING TO DRIVE!!!!”

I’m positive I thanked you for this back in 1996, but hey Sharon? If you’re reading this, thanks again. <3

Jul 242016

When I used to work with Barb, she would quote from Steel Magnolias a lot – it’s like her thing, so if you’re ever looking to get Barb a gift, just order her an aardvark cake or force a cup of juice into her face and yell at her to drink it.

And usually I would groan because that was my signature response to Barbisms, but anytime she would quote from the pivotal cemetery scene, I would get on board and buckle up. If you’re some weirdo who’s never seen that movie, there is a part where Dolly Parton’s character says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

That’s what I was counting on to get me through Saturday, when we had our memorial service for Sharon, and also my grandma, who died almost exactly 5 years ago. My brother Corey went above and beyond, doing all the leg work with the funeral home, church, and cemetery to make sure all the arrangements were made. It was a huge burden off of our mom and will forever be appreciated.

I’m not trying to be morbid or tacky (though these qualities come so easily for me) by recapping this but I honestly want to remember it as a day where friends and family came together in Sharon’s memory, and how it provided a sense of normalcy for some of us to have that experience this time around. Corey did such a wonderful job organizing everything and I never want to forget it! And it was really comforting to see the familiar faces of my friends Lisa, Chris & Monica, Angie and her fiance Keith; and family members I don’t get to see very often like my aunt Susie and her husband Larry, my dad and brother Ryan, and my cousin Karen and Aunt Donna. Corey had his friends Dan and Michelle there, and my mom’s friend Debbie came, plus Henry’s mom Judy, so it was a chapel filled with friendly faces and it really helped me breathe better. We kept it simple and casual, and it was the best way to go, I think. Especially after how traumatic and stressful the last several months have been for us.

My meager contribution was making a photo collage of Sharon, which was certainly in my wheelhouse because I am obsessive when it comes to photographs and knew where every picture was before I even got started (which is why I literally waited until the night before to start piecing everything together – I work well under pressure kind of, but not).

And then when we realized that prayer cards hadn’t been ordered, I decided to save Corey the extra baggage by offering to just make them myself. I mean, I made them for work once so I kind of have experience?

I found some images of old, antique prayer cards, back when they were printed on actual lace. I thought they were so pretty and knew they’d be perfect. They just screamed elegance to me. I spent some time looking for appropriate poems/prayers to put on the back, and then Henry did all of the printing because I don’t get my hands dirty with that stuff.

Once we arrived at the church, I kind of started panicking. I mean, I modeled the prayer cards off of ones I already have in my collection (for my Pappap, dad, etc.) so they were the standard size and whatever, but I felt very self-conscious about them since they were DIY and would Jesus frown upon that? I mean, he was a carpenter so he should be proud when someone makes something on their own, right?

Turns out, they took on a life of their own. After the mass, we congregated in the foyer of the church and people started murmuring about them. Monica told me that Sister Mary Eunice (the resident nun’s Monica-given name) approached her and said, “I’m sorry for your loss, but do you know where these prayer cards came from?”

I snagged this photo from Corey’s Facebook because that’s how I do.

So then she found me and started pumping me for info.

“Did you get them from the funeral home? No? You made them!? Do you have a business?” she asked.

I mean, technically, I do have a business…but it’s serial killers not prayer cards.

And then, “Do you mind if I take a couple extra for the girls in the office?” I mean, who can say to such a sweet old nun? She was so earnest about it.

That provided some much needed levity, as well as my dad pointing out that the church left the key in the door and maybe I should take it to have a copy made so that I can come back anytime I want (you know, since I’m SO HOLY), and my eyeball purse making the family service worker and Father Dan bust out laughing at the cemetery. (Thank god Chooch wasn’t there. He hates that purse so he would have been real angry that it was getting attention as usual.)

Laughter through tears, you guys!

After the cemetery, some of us convened at Blue Flame for lunch, and that’s when I realized that Chris and Lisa are some sort of strange, parallel people with nearly the same hair cut (swooped to opposite sides), nose rings on the same side, and a penchant for chair-dancing to whatever 80s monster ballad was playing on the radio — in tandem without realizing it. By the end of the lunch, they were making plans to go kayaking together!

This was also when I learned that Chris knew she wanted to be friends with me when she saw my quotation mark finger tattoos – I never knew! So between that, the waitress nickel-and-diming us (“Just so you know, that’s an upcharge. Just so you know, that doesn’t come with it. Just so you know, that will be considered an extra side.”), and Henry’s dumb face, we had a lot of laughs and it felt so good.

AND THEN PHIL CAME ON THE RADIO! So I got to make a Phil Party Instavid, wherein I instructed everyone not to talk but my brother Ryan didn’t get that memo and NEARLY RUINED THE VIDEO by asking, “What are you doing?” Ugh, Ryan. Just ugh.

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Phil Collins Party at Blue Flame that MY BROTHER RUINED.

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After lunch, we took Chris and Monica back to The House so they could see it for the first time, and Corey and I got to share childhood stories with them with also helped with the healing process. I had to laugh because right as we were getting ready to leave, it started hardcore thundering. I think it was Sharon telling us to wrap it up in there, because she would always get so antsy and nervous any time people came over. We heard you, Sharon. :)


I went home that day feeling very peaceful and thankful to have known Sharon, to have such wonderful people in my life (a lot of my friends who couldn’t be there reached out via text & Facebook and it really meant so much), and to finally have that sense of closure.

Also, that was the second time in a week that I found myself in church and lived to talk about it. I fell right back into the motions of genuflecting, “Peace be with you”ing, and reciting the Our Father FLAWLESSLY thank you, so now I’m considering making this a weekly thing, maybe? Chooch seemed to enjoy all the parts where he got to repeat after the priest, so maybe he’ll go with me.

Laughter through tears. Every time.


The next morning my mom called me and said that her friend Debbie called to ask her about the prayer cards. She sounded so annoyed, haha. Those fucking prayer cards.


I will end this with a picture of Sharon in her signature Bon Jovi shirt. <3

Jul 212016

I have never been one to try and hide my deep-rooted love for soft rock. I don’t even try to downplay it by calling it “my guilty pleasure.” No, I’m PROUD to be a card-carrying member of the octogenarian set who sway in their rockers and walkers to Engelbert Humperdinck and Barry Manilow.

Ever since we determined that the kitchen stereo speakers still work, the first thing I do every time I go to Gillcrest is immediately crank up the soft rock. It brings a sense of normalcy to all of us I think, and Corey has even started listening to the soft rock radio station in his car.

This particular station is also a breeding ground for sweet, blissful 80s pop. Prince was on last Sunday and I was like, “EVERYONE STFU SO I CAN MAKE MY WEEKLY SOFT ROCK DANCE PARTY INSTAVID” but naturally, you can still hear Chooch’s big ass mouth in the background.

And then Phil came on because why wouldn’t he?

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PHIL PARTY AT @thestonick

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Anyway, tonight Chooch and I were sitting when he said something like, “That sounds fun….no, now it looks boring” and I looked up to see a commercial for the ROCK AND ROMANCE CRUISE?! A cruise jam-packed with a ton of soft rock bands from the 70s that I FUCKING LOVE so I nearly pushed Chooch off the couch for saying it looked boring.


Firefall?? STEPHEN BISHOP? Oh you know he’s going to sing that Tootsie jam. I literally just woke up Henry to scream-read this line-up to him.

“AND GUESS WHO THE CELEBRITY GUEST IS??” I squealed. “DELILAH!” That was his cue to fall back asleep.

But holy shit, Ambrosia, you guys. Ambrosia.

“You’re the Only Woman” is the only song Henry and I have danced together to (back when we liked each other, like way before Chooch was born, lol) and even when I was a kid, I would think to myself, “GOSH I HOPE SOMEDAY THIS IS HOW SOME IDIOT FEELS ABOUT ME.” Same with Foreigner’s “Waiting For a Girl Like You” but come on like what girl doesn’t have a diary entry about that one, I mean right. That song is #goals.

Anyway, sometimes when I feel like I need help falling back into like with my blue-collared man-friend, I will listen to some Ambrosia, and say a wistful “Aw” out loud. I have that song on my the DJ’s play list for my imaginary never-wedding, right smack in between Army of Lovers and Cock Robin. It’s too bad I’ll never get married, because in my head, it’s a FEAST FOR THE SENSES. You’d walk away feeling thankful it wasn’t your own wedding, but also inexplicably sad that it’s over. And hopefully slightly scared that it happened at all.


Jul 122016

The first concert I ever went to was Bon Jovi in 1993 when I was 13. I wasn’t a Bon Jovi fan at all, but my Aunt Sharon was and she begged me to go with her. I remember being so annoyed about the whole thing, but this was also right around the time “Bed of Roses” came out so secretly, I was kind of excited that I would probably get to hear that MONSTER BALLAD, lol.

I barely remember anything about it other than the weather was bad (it was February) and Sharon almost considered getting a hotel in town that night so we wouldn’t have to drive home in the snow. I also remember it being so dark and overwhelming in the Civic Arena, and teasing Sharon about having a crush on the creepy man in the long black leather jacket standing near us.

I remember that the Jeff Healey Band opened and Sharon telling me the singer was blind.

I remember being secretly pleased that Bon Jovi played “Bed of Roses.”  (DON’T JUDGE ME.)

I also remember how fucking happy Sharon was to be there.


Sharon passed away Monday afternoon. It wasn’t sudden, but that doesn’t make her death any easier. “Easy” and “death” just don’t ever make sense together, no matter what. But, for me anyway, there is a sense of relief. It’s been a roller coaster since March 30th. I’ll spare the details, but we went from being hopeful to hopeless, rewinding and replaying the same tape, until a few weeks ago when a doctor was basically like, “Look, she’s not going to bounce back from this, probably.”

We all convened at the house last night. I gravitated toward Sharon’s room and just kind of stood there helplessly, and that’s when I saw the basket of clothes in a corner, hidden behind a chair full of creepy old dolls. No wonder I never noticed the basket past the porcelain horror-army!

In this basket, I found her signature Bon Jovi shirt and pile of stonewashed denim: some overalls, some with suspenders, one with a pair of giant red lips, but all stonewashed. When I picture the best version of my Aunt Sharon, it’s the 80s, her hair is frosted and teased, and she’s wearing this goddamn Bon Jovi tour shirt with stonewashed jeans. That’s the Aunt Sharon I want to remember, the one I’m mourning. The one who showed me the world, and the one who took me to my first concert. The one in the stonewashed jeans, with the frosted hair.




Posing for the millionth picture of the day — you guys think I’m snap-happy? I learned it by watching my grandma!



When Henry and I got in the car to come home last night, “Wanted Dead or Alive” was playing on the radio. Universe, you are weird and wonderful.

With that old, yellowed Bon Jovi shirt in my lap, I started to cry. I hear you, Sharon. </3