Jan 222015
 

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In collecting old photos of my Pappap’s house, I found several that reminded me of how much music has always been a part of my life, and why so much of it naturally reminds me of that house.

I got my first damn cassette player from my grandparents for my third (fourth?) birthday. A year or two later, I upgraded to a Fisher Price tape recorder—it was taupe in color like all electronics were in the early 80s and came with a microphone, which I would hold up to TV speakers in my Pappap’s den, in order to record shit from Friday Night Videos. Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” was on my very first mixtape. That song came on in the car a few weeks ago and I tried to get Chooch stoked on it but he only thought it was just ok.

The above picture was taken on the porch of my Pappap’s house, and anytime I hear the song “Under the Boardwalk,” my mind automatically beams me back to that porch, sitting at the glass table, playing Monopoly and listening to the Bruce Willis version of that song over and over while my grandma babysat me and my brother Ryan in the late 80s. AND THAT WAS MY FUCKING JAM.

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Here we have my grandma holding me in the kitchen, and you can just barely see a stereo system on a shelf to the left. This is how I grew to love Phil Collins, Kenny Rogers, and Gino Vanelli and also grilled cheese sandwiches. SOFT ROCK 4 LYFE. NO SHAME.

(I made my Pappap order me the Time Life “Body Talk” CD collection, and literally every song reminds me of either sitting in that kitchen or my favorite childhood restaurant–the Blue Flame.)

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This is my aunt Susie and me in the clown room. Inside the desk behind us was a record player, and this is how I heard Frank Zappa for the first time ever.

There was always music playing in that house back then. And today, there is always music playing in my house. Sometimes different music is playing in multiple rooms at once (soft rock radio in the bedroom, Spotify on the computer downstairs, music videos on TV); this drives Henry nuts. Especially if we’re watching something on TV and then I scream something unintelligible and clamber up the steps because some cherished song is playing on the bedroom radio and I want to pretend like this is a serendipitous moment, like I can’t just queue it up on my phone, and so I’ll flip down on the bed and listen to “In the Air Tonight” or “Eye in the Sky” like I haven’t heard it in 20 years, while Henry is downstairs mumbling, “How did you even HEAR that from down here?”

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some soft rock to Spotify.

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Jan 192015
 

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I met up with Kara on Saturday for lunch at one of our favorite joints in Pittsburgh, The Zenith. We’ve been lunching there since 2008 and I honestly can’t think of a single bad visit. Between the never disappointing all-vegetarian menu, the crazy tea list, the eccentric owner and waitstaff, and the collection of (definitely haunted) antiques and weird shit to peruse after you eat, it’s definitely an adventure every time.

This is where I bought my beautiful, institutional wheelchair and one of the sexiest pictures of Jesus of all time.

Needless to say, Henry positively cringes when I tell him I’m going there.

On this particularly prosperous visit, we sat at a table across from the most handsome clown painting hanging on the brick wall.

“That’s really horrifying,” Kara critiqued, fanning herself with her invisible art history degree.

“I want it,” I said dreamily, flagging down Elaine, the owner. She wasn’t sure offhand how much it was selling for, and said she was going to call her daughter to find out. In the meantime, some dumb hipster couple came slowly skulking through the dining room, presumably in search of vintage mason jars. I didn’t like how long they lingered near my clown, so I started to grip the sides of the table in the anger, preparing to use the Chinese stars I keep tucked into my Tom wedges at all times.

Kara, god bless her, just sat there and laughed but I know what she was thinking: No one else wants that nightmare in a frame, don’t worry.

Elaine came back and said it was $25, which was a lot less than I expected for that prime slab of circus hunk. I had the cash whipped out of my wallet with a swiftness, thanks to my gospel aerobics-spawned flexibility.

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And this is how Abaddon (of course I named him!) wound up joining us for lunch. I had the Seitan Burgandy and Kara had a Malkin Melt, which she gushed about being the best sandwich she’s ever had in her life, and now I regret not ordering that myself. It was my back-up choice! We both got a pot of tea, of course (mocha double chocolate for Kara; mocha orange for myself) and vegan cake, which Paul Eugene and a brisk walk around Brookline helped me burn off later, DON’T WORRY LAW FIRM BIGGEST LOSER TEAM.

Meanwhile, Kara posted a picture of Abaddon on Facebook, which got Henry’s attention:

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Henry came to pick me up and was leaving that comment right as Abaddon and I were walking down the sidewalk toward him. The exhausted smirk on his face when I opened the car door was priceless. And it got even better when I said, “We’re done eating, but not shopping. BRB.” Chooch wanted to come back in with me and I let him, but the whole way back down the sidewalk I kept Army-chanting, “WHAT AREN’T WE GOING TO DO??” to which he would respond, “Touch anything.”

He spotted about 278476 cat things that he wanted, right away. Then he found some old tin yo-yo that Elaine let him have for free, probably because it’s cursed.

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I tried SO HARD to get Kara to buy this dress. She promised that if I set up a photo shoot, she will come back and buy it.

FINE.

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I feel like the one thing my house is missing is a rusty saw collection.

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I was happy that they still had some Christmas decorations up, especially this army of Nutcrackers, which I immediately took a picture of for my friend Kristy, who is terrified of Nutcrackers. That’s just me, being a good friend, is all.

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One of my favorite pictures I have ever taken happened in the owl bathroom back in 2008. I must have 100 pictures of that room, but no selfies! Until NOW. Bam.

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I wish the walls were still blue, but this is still one of the best bathrooms ever, no matter what.

 

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Fake-pooping with cursed yo-yo in hand.

 

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I want everything on this wall so much that it hurts.

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Chooch’s first ever Zenith purchase:

 

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On the walk back to the car, Chooch dragged the yo-yo along the sidewalk, which made a terrible scraping sound.

That was probably some kid’s only toy during the Great Depression, and now look at it.

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Kara vehemently suggested that Abaddon should be hung in the basement, but I made Henry hang him on a wall adjacent to the basement door. Close enough.

In other majestic clown acquisitions, I purchased this hand-drawn plate on Etsy a few weeks ago, which made Henry sigh because he told me to wait to buy it but I was like, “Oops, too late.” I didn’t want some other asshole to get to it first, OK?!

I showed Kara a picture of it when we were still at lunch and she was like, “OMG NO! I’m on Team Poor Henry with this one. That’s just terrifying.” So then I sent her this picture that night, which she mistakenly looked at right before she went to sleep:

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Next on my list is a holy water font for the bathroom. I haven’t found one that speaks to me yet. OK, that’s not true. There was one…but it was $600. IT WAS ITALIAN, OK?!

 

 

 

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Jan 132015
 

It was approximately -87 degrees last Thursday morning, which found me working from home and Chooch staying home from school.

God made this happen.

Because God wanted me to discover the greatest thing in the whole entire world: Gospel aerobics.

Let me tell you how it happened: It was approximately 3PM last Thursday and I was about to take my lunch break. (I was working late shift that day.) I had already exercised that morning, but it was bothering me that Chooch has basically been lounging around all day watching videos on his phone. So I put YouTube on the TV and announced that it was time for him to exercise. I typed in “kids exercise workouts” or something equally as generic, and one of the first ones that came up was some kids dance workout.

It looked like it was from the 90s, and it was hosted by a black man with a huge smile who definitely seemed to be having more fun than the kids behind him. Chooch and I became instantly obsessed and were falling all over each other in our feeble, giddy attempt to follow along with the routine. By the end, we were straight exhausted just from all the laughing. The host likes to make lots of thrusting motions while grunting “Uh! Uh!” and it’s just too much for assholes like us to handle.

Later that night, I looked at Chooch and asked, “Do you want to do another one?” And that is how our lust for birthday party videos on YouTube was replaced by HIP HOP WORKOUTS FOR KIDS FROM THE 90s!

We found one and Henry was not amused. Not even the sight of us lumbering through the Running Man made Henry crack a smile.

The next day at work, I was excited to talk about my new obsession.

“What makes a person purposely look for hip hop workouts from the 90s?” Glenn asked, because he is stupid and just doesn’t get it. But then I decided to Google the host of the first routine Chooch and I did to see if he has other videos out there, and what I found was something I like to call THE MOTHERFUCKING JACKPOT.

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Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Gospel aerobics! Paul Eugene is my hero! I excitedly shared this with several co-workers and said, “Well, I know what I’m doing all weekend!”

“Poor Henry” was the general response to that.

Then I signed Glenn up for the newsletter (Paul uses MAIL CHIMP! All of my fellow Serial fanatics will appreciate that), but then a few minutes later I heard him mumble, “I’m not confirming this.”

Foiled.

A few hours later, I broke the Friday afternoon silence to giddily shout, “AND he danced on Soul Train!”

“You’re still on that guy’s website?” Glenn asked incredulously, and then almost immediately realized what a dumb question that was. I have a very low threshold for obsession resistance.

I absolutely could not wait to get home work and put on some gospel aerobics.

***********

After dinner, Chooch and I chose a workout from Paul’s YouTube channel and Henry mumbled, “Goodbye.” He was off the couch and upstairs before the CHECK WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN warning had left the screen.

And then it was just complete mayhem. Chooch puked at one point from laughing so hard (at least he cleans it up himself now) and then I accidentally stepped on his foot when we were trying to shuffle to the left. I can only imagine what it sounded like to outsiders, because we were laughing so hard, we were SCREAMING, like two drunk, mentally challenged cartoon characters who just had a piano and anvil dropped on their respective heads. Basically, we are the Toon Patrol and Henry is Eddie Valiant.

And apparently, all of these videos are from 2004-present; they only LOOK like they’re from the 90s.

Afterward, Chooch ran upstairs to weigh himself and claims that he lost a pound. Yeah, because he PUKED.

Later that night, Henry was horrified when he found out that there was a strength-training segment and that Chooch and I were unsupervised, having violent laughing attacks with weights in our hands.  Then after Chooch went to bed, I made Henry sit there while I fell down the gospel aerobics rabbit hole. I found one called Faithful Fitness but it was just a bunch of prudish white people who quite possibly had less rhythm than me and did very little to inspire me to get off my fat ass.

So I went back to PEugene. And then I made him my profile picture on Facebook.

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“Do you think Kristy will do gospel aerobics when she comes over tomorrow night?” I asked Henry.

“I hope not,” he mumbled. BUT SHE DID! And by “do gospel aerobics” I mean that we sat on the couch, drinking alcohol and watching the best of Paul Eugene.

“Why does it look like he’s in Hell?” Kristy asked.

Because he’s dancing away the demons!

(This song is pretty much in my head all of the fucking time now.)

******

While Henry was making dinner on Sunday, Chooch and I mutually agreed that it was Paul Eugene time. Chooch doesn’t like the gospel ones as much as I do though (he said they scare him), so we put on several of the lame kid workouts and by the time we made it to the part where Paul forgets how to count during jumping jacks, Chooch and I simultaneously peed our pants. (Sometimes Paul holds up the wrong number of fingers when he’s counting down, too.)

These workouts make us scream with laughter….oh my god, almost like we are being EXORCISED how haven’t I made this connection before!? It’s like, literally a douche for our douchiness. The only thing missing is Paul hosing us down with Holy water at the end, making us smoke and sizzle like a Gremlin in a Jersey Shore hot tub.

Our levels of hysteria rose so high that night that Henry stormed over and turned the TV down in a huff. And when that wasn’t enough, he came back from the bedroom with HEADPHONES FOR HIS PHONE. Obviously this just made us laugh even harder.

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*******

Last night, I did two more PE workouts and before I knew it, my heart rate was up like a cross-carrying Simon of Cyrene. One had a move that Chooch insisted was called “Strangle the devil” (it really did sound like that’s what Paul was saying through his gritted smile) and the second one was a riveting routine called the Victory Dance, set to an uplifting jam about a new day, and even though I tripped over my right foot and felt something snap in my back, Paul told me that I’m a winner no matter what and it occurred to me that while I started working out to gospel aerobics ironically, I THINK I HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY ALL OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL CALISTHENICS. Paul’s positivism and exuberance for evangelical exercise has made me religious. I’m going to make a shirt this weekend that says Paul Eugene is my Co-Pilot and there is nothing that Henry can do about it, except for maybe not show me how to make a shirt that says Paul Eugene is my Co-Pilot.

Paul’s workouts are soundtracked by holy house music to give some rhythm to his churchy chacha. Somewhere during the routine, Paul will interject some liturgy while sweat drips from his temples and I have found myself actually paying attention to what he’s saying. It’s not uncommon for Paul to interrupt his own two-step preaching in order to sing, “I see the Kingdom!” in time with whatever uplifting worship tune has him toe-tapping and then remind us that it is A NEW DAY. Fuck all that bullshit that happened yesterday. It’s time to do the Sanctified Line.

The grapevine has never felt more pious, jumping jacks so Jesus-y, squats so sacrosanct. You guys. This totally started out as a joke, but now I think I RESPECT PAUL*. He makes me happy. Even today, when the trolley was late and then I sat near someone who smelled like a bagful of curly fry seasoning, I felt totally OK with life.

Oh Christ. I think I need to procure me some Pontius Pilates.

*And maybe even God.

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Jan 062015
 

On the way home from Chooch’s piano lesson on Saturday, some Queen song came on the radio (it was probably “Another One Bites the Dust,” but I can’t remember exactly right now). Chooch is oddly interested in Queen. Not in a “LET’S BUY THEIR WHOLE DISCOGRAPHY!” sense. But, he does like to ask questions about them. Once, I played him the “Radio Gaga” video, because I was OBSESSED with that song when I was around his age (there’s even a video of me dancing to with curlers in my hair years later—I think jerk Lisa filmed it in my mom’s family room when I wasn’t paying attention) and he was fascinated.

This time, he started asking us questions about Queen’s popularity and seemed kind of surprised when Henry and I told him that they had lots of big radio hits. We started naming some of them and I had a quick audio flashback of senior year of high school. I had never been a super big Queen fan, so I never really sunk into their deep cuts. But then I started dating Psycho Mike, and the one good quality about Psycho Mike among the layers of shitty attitude, rage disorders, and fiery jealousy was that he really loved music. None of my prior boyfriends really seemed to give a shit about music, let alone that all-important relationship token: The Mixtape. I would make them for people all the time: friends, penpals, unworthy boyfriends—but it wasn’t until I started dating Mike that I ever got one back from a boy.

And it was fucking legit.

It was through Mike that I learned about Billy Bragg (whom I finally got to see live at Riot Fest last September!), Neutral Milk Hotel, Syd Barrett, and Radiohead (Mike was going to see them back when they were opening for bands at tiny Pittsburgh clubs like Metropol), some of which were included on the mixtape he made for me during the winter of 1997. I spent so many nights laying on the beanbag in my bedroom, lit only by a ridiculous collection of neon water sculptures and Christmas lights bouncing off of my foiled wallpaper…it was just a few nudie posters short of being a home-version of Spencer’s, a headshop without the bongs and nose-pinching stench of patchouli. And this is how Mike’s mixtape was best experienced: half-devoured by a giant bag of beans, awash in psychedelic lights, absolutely nothing distracting from the words and music seeping into the system like some supreme cocktail of opiates.

During our Queen conversation on Saturday, I pulled up “You Don’t Fool Me” on my phone and, before it started playing, I explained that it was my favorite Queen song of all time. “It was on this mixtape that Psycho Mike made me,” I mumbled.

I hadn’t listened to this song in at least 15 years, and as soon as I heard those opening notes, I was back in my old bedroom again, and I felt so calm and peaceful, even with Chooch’s mouth chattering away in the backseat of the car. Over the weekend, I listened to some more songs that I remembered from that tape, “Marooned” by Pink Floyd, “Bad As They Seem” by Hayden, even Pachelbel’s “Canon” was on there. Side B ended with a 10-second recording of one of our phone calls, unbeknownst to me at the time; I thought was incredibly adorable and romantic back then, me sounding all sleepy and him teasing me with a deranged lilt to his voice.

Listening to these songs made me feel warm, safe, comfortable: none of the things Psycho Mike ever made me feel.

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Dec 302014
 

I think out of everything under the Christmas tree, the gift that elicited the most reaction from Chooch was the framed picture of Creepy Basement Grandma/#CookiePizza. He was like, “WHERE DID YOU GET THIS!?” and then I was all “I WENT THERE” and then we were both all, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAA” and basically puking into our hands, because we are that obsessed with this stupid thing. Henry just sat there and tried to fit in but we were like, “Shut up, you don’t know.” DON’T ACT LIKE IT’S FUNNY NOW WHEN YOU REFUSED TO GET OUT OF BED TO WATCH THIS WITH US WHEN WE FIRST FOUND IT LAST MONTH.

God, can you imagine being in that house with all that weird doll reviewing going on?

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This gift cost $1. It’s the simple things in life, you guys:

We had some people over on Friday and the fact that we have a framed picture of some random grandma just chilling on an end table for no reason made for a great conversation starter. And then over the weekend, I got the best text ever from my brother:

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#CookiePizza never gets old. Never. I might get it tattooed inside my lip. But for now, I’ll just keep it as my Facebook profile picture a little longer.

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Dec 252014
 

There were numerous reasons why I HAD to go to Philly to see Circa Survive:

  • They just released a new album
  • This was the first tour they were doing in support of that album, and it wasn’t coming to Pittsburgh
  • The guys in Circa Survive are from Philly (or nearby), so this would a hometown show and everyone knows hometown shows are the best shows
  • It’s Circa fucking Survive
  • I would get to go with Terri and  Christian!

So I did that thing that I do when I really want something, which is tell Henry that it’s all I want for “x holiday.” This time, Christmas was the next holiday coming up, which is good because Christmas works better than Flag Day. So I was like, “OH PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE, HENRY CLAUS, I’LL DO ANYTHING!” I think he liked the idea that all he had to do was get me to Philly, and not have to go to the show.

Plus, we all got to hang out beforehand and the next morning, so it just made sense for us to all go and make a weekend of it. At least, that’s how I tried to sell my case. “We can have group hangs! Then you and Chooch can dick around town doing fuck all while I go to the show with Christian and Terri!” I cried excitedly, and Henry didn’t really say anything, which is better than when he gets all huffy and starts yelling at me about money. Not that that happens a lot.

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The show was at Union Transfer, and it was a fantastic venue even before the show started. The line to get in was super quick, the staff was friendly, and there were numerous ciders to choose from at the bar. This is really all I ask for. Terri and I each got some cider and hung out at a table near the window,  and I know this is cheesy, but we text pretty much every day so it was super nice to actually talk like real people. Eventually, we could hear the opening notes of Pianos Become the Teeth so we ditched the bar and made our way to the stage. Christian was already in there with one of his friends, but I needed to be closer for Pianos so we were like, “Peace out” and wormed our way through the crowd.

Meanwhile, Henry and Chooch were going to hit up some diner down the street from the hotel and then go get ice cream.

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Pianos Become the Teeth is a hard band for me to describe, for some reason. I had a moderate affinity for them for awhile, but when I saw United Nations last summer, my appreciation for them grew (two of them are in United Nations: the drummer and bassist) and I knew I had to see Pianos live sooner rather than later. Luckily, they were at Riot Fest and their short set in the rain on one of the smallest stages in Humboldt Park turned out to be one of the highlights for me, which probably doesn’t mean much since that entire weekend was one big, obese highlight.

Their music is akin to post-rock, think Mogwai. But with anguished vocals that aren’t quite a scream so you can’t call this screamo, but more like a cry: a gravel-throated anguished cry over top of beautiful music that ebbs and flows with intensity.

Henry dislikes them because he’s a moron.

But OK, OK, this isn’t a music blog. So I’ll just say that when they played “Repine,” my eyeballs burned with tears. Jesus, that song.

Next up was Title Fight, which was exciting because the first time I ever saw them was the first time I met Terri and Christian at the AP Show in Cleveland almost exactly three years ago! We were all there as guests of our mutual friend Jason from Alternative Press, and spent the whole day together, record shopping, grilled cheese eating, and AP back issue rummaging. Jason had to do some obligatory networking during the after party that night and was so afraid to leave us alone together, for fear of one of us instigating a fistfight (we are hockey fan rivals—Pens vs. Flyers). I had a feeling that night that we were going to stay in touch and likely become good friends. You can just sometimes tell these things! It didn’t feel awkward hanging out with them and we had a lot to talk about, too.

Title Fight is one of those bands that I am a casual fan of, but seeing them live is a whole new ballgame. Terri has definitely gotten me way more into this genre, and I’m so thankful for that because I need all the help I can get to keep me away from stupid Jonny Craig and his stupid music. Ugh.

And then finally, it was time for Circa Survive. This time, Terri and I secured a prime spot near the side of the stage and, with the exception of the couple behind us who talked the whole time (GO STAND IN THE BACK IF ALL YOU’RE GOING TO DO IS TALK), it was a nearly flawless show, crowd-wise. Although Terri had some weird experience with some guy’s butt that I might try and talk her into guest-posting about.

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Over the weekend, I went back in my blog and read about other Circa Survive shows I’ve gone to and really….what more can I say other than they are really something special. Even Henry, who doesn’t necessarily like their music, has admitted that they are entertaining. I’ve seen them in several different cities now: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati….but I have to say that this Philly show was hands down the best Circa show I’ve seen to date. There was so much energy in the room that it was impossible to stand still, especially during “Child of the Desert,” when Anthony ordered everyone to stand as still as they could, holding all their wiggles in. “I’ll let you know when it’s time to let the wiggles out,” he promised. And when that time came, I grabbed Terri’s arm and we started jumping around like idiots because WHO CARES, WE’RE AT A CIRCA SHOW!? No offense to Henry, but it was like, next level amazingness. You have to understand that I don’t often go to shows with other people who love it as much as me! With Terri, it was like, “Fuck yes, let’s sing, high five our neighbors, and let our fucking wiggles out!”

THANK YOU, ANTHONY GREEN.

They played The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is the Dose, which ends with Anthony yelling, “Did you ever wish you were somebody else?!” After which, Anthony said to the crowd, “I used to wish I was somebody else. You know who I wished I was? James Brown! James motherfucking Brown!” and we all screamed of course because, James Brown. But the girl I hated behind me yelled to her boyfriend, “WHO’S JAMES BROWN?”

Kids!

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Later, I would find out that while we were having religious experiences at Union Transfer, Henry and Chooch ended up just going to McDonald’s (Chooch’s choice) and Chooch spilled his drink in the car (“Daddy was pissed off,” Chooch wants me to  tell you) and then they went back to the hotel because the ice cream place apparently sells Christmas trees in December instead of frozen treats. So essentially, a pretty typical Henry and Chooch evening.

I’ve said this before, but there is something about Anthony Green that reminds me of Chooch. I honestly think that if Chooch was the frontman of a band, he’d have that same cult-like charisma and charm, and I was really excited when, after the show, Christian said that he was thinking the same thing. And again, I just know that Chooch is going to grow up and become something stupid just to spite me. Something stupid like a doctor. Ugh!

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I bought this sick limited edition show poster (only 100 were made for this show!!) and treated it like a fucking Faberge egg until I finally got it home the next night. Still waiting for dumb Henry to frame it.

After we left the venue, I chimed in from the backseat to point out how happy I was to leave a show and have friends with me to completely analyze and dissect the night. I love Henry and I appreciated that he accompanies me to pretty much every single show I want to go to, but he doesn’t give a shit. And I wouldn’t want him to change. It’s our thing: I’m all hyper and wistful at once, and he’s just….”deep sigh.” It was just really fun and game-changing to be at this one, of all shows, with two people who are just as passionate about Circa Survive and music in general. It was such a great night and you know I don’t ever take these experiences for granted, but this one really made me extra appreciative.

Before taking me back to the hotel, Christian drove around the city for a little bit while we talked excitedly about the show and how on point all three bands were, and Terri pointed out noteworthy things and we saw a sick fight that briefly spilled out into the street. And, and, and! Even two weeks later, my mind is churning with minutiae that I don’t want to let go of.  I’ve watched YouTube videos of this show countless times since that night and Henry is like, “HOW MANY TIMES CAN YOU WATCH THESE.”

*****

Chooch was wide awake when I got back to the hotel after midnight, watching trashy TV and filling out MadLibs, but Henry was mostly asleep.  I shook him violently and, in my teenager vocal cadence, rapidly recounted all of the highlights for him and then shoved my phone in his face so he could see my Instagram videos.

“I know what Anthony looks like,” he mumbled, rolling over in bed and going back to sleep.

Ugh, shows like these make me feel better than a day at the spa.

We listened to Circa Survive for a good portion of the drive back to Pittsburgh the next day, and I cried a little while revisiting old memories and talking for the thousandth time about the first time we saw them at the Grog Shop over the summer of 2005, mostly because I like to tell that story. Henry of course knows that story well because he was there with me, so he just sighed a lot.


From: First Feet Productions

*If you’ve stumbled across this blog and aren’t familiar with Circa Survive, please please please do yourself a favor and check them out. They’re really something special.*

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Dec 232014
 

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Something is wrong with me, I think. I’m EXCITED about Christmas. This rarely happens! Usually I’m ambivalent at best, or downright bitter and suicidal at worst. But today, the weather is really mild, almost early spring-ish, so I went for a walk on my break and stopped to pretend to care about that manger thing and then I even half-smiled at a kid. (OK, it was a grimace, but still.)

So fucking weird.

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I think putting up a tree helped shoot a zephyr of Yuletide joy up my grinchy ass. We wound up snagging a surprisingly beautiful artificial at Target for 50% on Saturday, and I feel a lot better about that than pouring money into a live tree that’s only going to wind up on the curb after Christmas. Tree murder! I’m still hoping to find what I need to have my perfect Christmas tree before next Christmas, but this one will be nice to have on standby.

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I think Willie (RIP) peed on our tree skirt last year, so I threw down my old Cure wall hanging. It’s better than a regular tree skirt, IMHO.

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The extent of our decorations.

But I think what I’m most excited about this year is the fact that I’ve been incorporating some of Chooch’s and my inside jokes into the gifts. If you have ever had the (mis)fortune of hanging out with us, you know that we will take the smallest thing and turn it into a Kelly-Robbins Family Legend. (Please see: The Napkin Dispenser or Dawn from Eat n Park.) Two Octobers ago, we ate a diner and heard the cook call out, “FISH DINNNNNEEERRR!” and I designed an entire Valentine for Chooch out of that because we were so obsessed with mocking the poor Yankee Kitchen cook. (I have Henry, who was not impressed with our antics, on video barking, “And next time, you two can go by yourselves!”)

Our latest obsession that Henry just doesn’t understand is watching birthday party videos on YouTube (yes, still). One of our favorites is from the mother/daughter duo who review dolls and have really grating New Jersey-trash personalities. Actually, the mom is kind of Kate Gosselin-esque, which just makes the whole thing even worse. Chooch and I didn’t know it at first, but these bitches are evidently YouTube-famous somehow, and toy companies just send them shit for free. God, I hate this country sometimes.

So in this video, the annoying girl gets to have a cookie pizza for her birthday; basically just a large chocolate chip cookie baked on a pizza pan. The mom is so fucking excited about this, that she makes #cookiepizza appear on the video. This in itself makes Chooch and I cry every time we see it, but THEN the best part of the video happens: the camera pans over to the left just so, and out pops GRANDMA FROM THE BASEMENT DOOR! Oh holy fuck, our insides crumble EVERY TIME we see this, it is so fucking hilarious to us. Chooch has literally puked over this, and I usually wind up with mascara rivulets running down my cheeks. Henry gets really annoyed and leaves the room.

Sunday night, I was the last one to come up to bed. Henry asked if I turned everything off, because he knows I’m wont to leave the TV, heating pad, iron, and stove on. You know me and my penchant for nighttime chores! Anyway, I was like, “Yes, goddammit, everything is off” but then a few minutes later, Chooch came out of his room and asked, “Do you hear that?” Then he got down on all fours and placed his ear to our bedroom floor. “It sounds like the TV is on…”

“Ugh, ERIN!” Henry growled, rolling out of bed and going downstairs to shut it off. When he came back up, he said, “That fucking Mommy and Gracie show was on.” Chooch lost his shit, almost started crying, and yelled, “I PUT IT ON! I TROLLED YOU SO HARD!” I guess Chooch was controlling it from his phone, and this is just the funniest fucking thing in the world to me, knowing that Henry had to get out of bed to turn off the TV, only to see that it was on the MOMMY AND GRACIE SHOW.

Last night, after Chooch went to bed, I screenshot the moment where Creepy Basement Grandma (CBG for short) emerges from the basement (and #cookiepizza is still on the screen—best of both worlds!) and then I printed it, framed it, and wrapped it. Chooch is going to die laughing. Henry’s face became a marquee for disappointment and annoyance as he muttered, “It’s really not that funny.” BUT IT IS.

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Since Chooch knows that Santa is really Erin and Henry, I’ve been having fun labeling the “from” part of his gift tags with ridiculous things, like Daddy’s Amish Beard and Summit Diner Choking Hazard.

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Chase’s Slutty Grandma is from a different birthday video, you guys. Try to keep up. We call her “CSG” for short, and the really scary thing is that I referred to Creepy Basement Grandma as “CBG” last night and it only took Chooch a few seconds to figure out what it stood for.

“Creepy…Basement Grandma?!” he screamed, and then we were doubled over, in utter hysterics, while Henry sighed miserably.

And this was before we ever referred to her as Creepy Basement Grandma. We are on the same fucked up wavelength and Henry is so fucking jealous.

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I can’t express enough how thankful I am to have spawned a child who finds humor in ordinary, mundane things. Being able to have inside jokes with him has made our relationship so ridiculous and I love it. AHHH, I’M SO EXCITED FOR CHRISTMAS!

***

While I was on my break today, I called Henry and said, “Remember when Chooch put the Mommy & Gracie Show on and trolled you so hard?”

“He didn’t troll me ‘so hard’,” Henry sighed.

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Dec 052014
 

Today as I was getting ready for work, I had a craving for Howard Jones so I put on his YouTube channel. I loved this man so much as a kid growing up in the 80s and he has been on my concert bucket list forever. I decided to check his upcoming tour dates and he’s coming to Cleveland in March! Usually, I find out about these things way after they happen, like when I’m scrolling through Instagram and I see one of my friends posting pictures of a Howard Jones show in Cleveland last year, so I’m taking this as a sign that I have to go. Plus, it’s on a Saturday, which makes the 2 hour drive there from Pittsburgh so much easier.

Howard must really like Cleveland if he was just there and is coming back less than a year later and it’s one of only 4 US cities listed on his tour. Thank god Cleveland is practically my neighbor.

I was about to call Henry 87 times in a row and then text him “911!!!! 187!!!!” but then Janna said she would go with me so Henry is like THANK GOD! I’m going to be in a good mood today, so everyone can thank Howard Jones, Cleveland, and Janna.

(Mike + the Mechanics is playing here in March too and if Henry doesn’t buy me tickets for Christmas, he is fucking dead to me.)

Who’s on YOUR concert bucket list? Tell me!

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Dec 042014
 

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Throwback to that time in 2006 when I tortured Chooch with clowns at my grandma’s house on his first Christmas. MEMORIES! (Also: DROOL! He was teething pretty badly.)

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Dec 022014
 

I was adamant on not making a big to-do over Thanksgiving, because it seemed stupid to have Henry slave away in the kitchen, cooking what would essentially be three separate meals since none of us eat the same things. (Chooch mostly just eats bread, cereal, and ice cream, anyway.) But, ever since we ate at this Lebanese restaurant last week and the waitress broke my heart by telling me that they no longer serve vegetarian moussaka, having that for Thanksgiving was absolutely all I could think about. Moussaka brings back such beautiful memories of this one time I was in Greece and my Aunt Sharon was like, “You’re not going to like that” and I was like, “Bitch please” and then to be honest I can’t remember if I liked it.

So, Henry slaved away in the kitchen making my motherfucking vegetarian moussaka while I painted cat heads on the wall and then took copious Call of Duty breaks (I’m obsessed, you guys; I’m even dreaming about it now). Also, Chooch and I spent a large portion of the day watching our new obsession on YouTube: birthday party videos.

Let me back up. Earlier in the week, Chooch was watching YouTube videos on TV, which normally I hate when he does that because who wants to sit there and be forced to watch the dumb shit he likes? (Mostly stupid videos with people screaming about Minecraft.) I was reading a book, so at first I wasn’t paying attention. But then something made me look up and I asked, my question plump with disgust, “Are you watching some kid’s BIRTHDAY PARTY?!”

“Yeah,” Chooch answered mindlessly, and I proceeded to tell him how dumb he is for watching stupid shit like this, but before I knew it, I was shouting, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?!” and then after three more birthday party videos from the same family, I fucking knew all of their kids’ names and found myself tweeting things like, “Chase’s grandma is such a slut” and “Mike’s birthday cookies are lame as fuck.” And then I was sitting on the edge of the couch, mocking this family with such robust zest, that Chooch threw up from laughing so hard and I was yanking the Xbox controller from him so that I could find more birthday party videos, like this one of some awful girl and her awful mom who review dolls on YouTube and are both just awful human beings altogether (and of course, also YouTube famous). I was so pissed because the girl got to have her birthday party at a roller rink that was 8374028347 cooler than any of the rinks around here. Fucking YouTubers.

We even watched a birthday party video that was in some other language. French or something. Who has time to tell? And some bitch’s pool party where Diego totally had the hots for Momo. (Every time we reference these videos, Henry gives us really mad looks.)

Then Chooch found a “Taylor Swift-themed birthday party” video. And that is how we became obsessed, in all of the negative ways, with a family that goes by the SHAYTARDS.

And they’re Internet famous too, apparently, but I can’t figure out why because they’re boring as fuck. But…they’re loud. And I guess that’s all that matters? The PAY ATTENTION TO ME volume of our voices?

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“The ShayTARDS!?” I cried in disbelief. “Is this really what they call themselves?!”

Chooch, still hiccuping from his puke-laughter, nodded his head. “They’re like, famous on YouTube,” he explained. “But NOT as famous as Pewdiepie.” (Pewdiepie is his ultimate mancrush.)

So then I spent the day before Thanksgiving reading about these a-holes at work and trying to drag Mean Amber down into my hateful abyss.

“WALT DISNEY BOUGHT DADDYTARD’S COMPANY FOR 500 MILLION DOLLARS, AMBER. WHY, AMBER, WHY!?”

“You’re still reading about them?!” she asked, because this was approximately three hours later.

“Yes,” I admitted. “And apparently, the leader of this stupid family is obsessed with unitards, so that’s where their awful names come from.”

Seriously, Babytard? Brotard? Princesstard?

Chooch was calling me Mommytard as a joke at the store last weekend and it was so embarrassing! And this family SHOUTS these names at each other?!

Um, anyway. Back to Thanksgiving. One of the videos we found as we fell deeper and deeper into the birthday party video rabbit hole was a BIRTHDAY PARTY MAKEOVER with two horrible brats who somehow have like 7000 subscribers and I’m like, “STOP JUST STOP.”  We decided to watch this one again on Thanksgiving and tried to get Henry involved but after 30 seconds, all he had to say was, “What is wrong with you two? You’re both idiots” and then he went upstairs to take a nap or find a new family on Craigslist, whatever he does when he finds himself with 6 minutes of solitude.

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Five minutes of this video was spent dotting 7 different kind of concealer under their eyes. They’re 12…how dark could their circles possibly be? Last night, I said to Chooch, “Can you imagine if daddy had his own YouTube channel? It would be so boring. Like, ‘Hi guys, sup. Today we’re going to watch NCIS together. But first, let’s take a nap.'” And then Chooch laughed so hard that he threw up all over the floor but at least he’s finally been mopping up his own puke-laughter now so I don’t really care. Puke away, young man. Puke away.

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The holiday season is a really weird time for me. I’m obviously pretty nontraditional, so the fact that we didn’t have some elaborate family dinner to attend didn’t necessarily cut me deep. Sometimes I really miss my mom and having a big dinner to look forward to, but if I think back at the collective Thanksgivings I’ve endured over the years, it’s probably a blessing to my sanity and emotional foundation that this marks the fourth year of our Mexican standoff. Still, I want Chooch to have SOME semblance of a holiday, so we stopped over my dad’s later in the evening. (Also, I wanted my SHOOFLY PIE!!)

As soon as we got there, Chooch ran off with Corey. When I went to Corey’s room a few minutes later to see what they were doing, I found them watching a Shaytards birthday party on Corey’s laptop.

“They’re seriously called the SHAYTARDS?!” Corey cried in concern when I walked in. But then he quickly became obsessed with them too.

They were also ghost-hunting and taking weird selfies:

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Meanwhile, I spent some time firing off questions at my other brother Ryan. I don’t get to see him too often so I don’t know much about his life. Then we talked about the summer we hosted a French foreign exchange student, which was probably the best summer of my childhood and it comes up at least once at every holiday. MEMORIES. Then my dad served up some traditional T-giving staples: turkey, stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. I filled a plate full of all of the carbs and then hounded my dad for shoofly pie. If you were following along the saga of the shoofly, you know that my dad made a special pilgrimage to Amish Country a few days before Thanksgiving to load up on cheese, licorice, and other fine foods, including THE PIES. Apparently, my dad’s go-to bakery is called Miller’s and he gets real weird talking about it. I asked him where it is and he paused for a just a beat too long and muttered something about “back roads” and “hard to find” which is why I’m 110% certain that “Miller” is my dad’s Amish mistress.

Anyway. He cut me a slice of Miller’s shoofly pie and I took a huge, inaugural bite because I had been waiting my whole life for this (read: two years; it has literally been less than two years since I last had shoofly pie but it was in Pennsylvania Amish Country). And my first thought was, “Holy motherfucking molasses.” Seriously, it was so forceful, like someone had shoved a molasses-soaked ball gag in my mouth.

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Thick, gooey, molasses. It was like a big, hearty, blackstrappy FUCK YOU to the face of all the assholes who tromp on into Ohio, sniffing around for a pie that is native to the Pennsylvania Dutch. I mean, if you’re hard pressed to understand without the guidance of a sports analogy, I guess you could say it would be like knocking on doors in Cleveland looking for Steelers fans to hug.

I felt my dad watching me expectantly as my lips instinctively curled back into a mouth-flinch.

“Wow,” I coughed through the gooey treacle. “That molasses really hits you.” But I kept forking tiny morsels into my mouth because I didn’t want my dad to think I was being an unappreciative bitch on Thanksgiving, of all days.

“Here,” he said, sliding another slice onto my plate. “Try the shoofly pie I bought from Der Dutchman.”

Yes, my dad bought two different shoofly pies because he is goddamn thorough.

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The Der Dutchman version was way less gooey, less molasses-y, and had a harder crust on top. At first I thought I was going to prefer it, but then I quickly found myself yearning the tongue-numbing brutality of the Miller’s pie. It appears I had acquired a taste for it.

At first I thought it was terrible, but then…well, I still thought it was kind of terrible but I didn’t want to stop eating it. So I gladly took the extra shoofly pie home with me and struggled to swallow a slice every day over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I think I will forever associate Thanksgiving 2014 with YouTube birthday party videos, shoofly pie, and, inexplicably, this Europop hit was the soundtrack to it all:

I feel like all we did was laugh until our faces hurt. (Or, in Chooch’s case: puked.) I was totally thankful for good humor, Henry’s delicious rendition of moussaka (the bechamel sauce, can I just face plant in a pot of it right this second?), time with my family, The Law Firm giving us two days off, and having a kid who doesn’t give a fuck about “Frozen.”

If you’re reading this, I hope that Thanksgiving was everything you wanted and that you got to stuff yourself silly with all your favorite November foods!

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Nov 282014
 

After coming up empty on our quest for shoo fly pie in Sugarcreek, it was getting late so we decided that it was time to head out of Amish country and heed the final Post-It note on our dad’s itinerary: The “Hardware” store.

First though, Corey’s GPS took us down what I referred to as the Las Vegas Strip for craft fanatics. Literally just one long sprawling road of shop after shop boasting rustic Amish wares. There were people and cars everywhere and it took an ungodly amount of time to crawl through the traffic lights. Looking out the window at all of the window fluttering from shop to shop like locusts with too much money, I felt eternally grateful that I was there with Corey and not some middle-aged broad with a hankering for quilts and Christmas wreaths. It brought back flashbacks of the time we went to Lancaster in 2010 with Tommy and Jessy. Jessy insisted on going inside every last shopfull of overpriced, commercialized pieces of “Americana” while Chooch, Henry, Tommy and I stood outside shooting ourselves in the face with finger-guns.

Finally, we made it back onto a peaceful, country road, drove past Heini’s and waved goodbye, and then felt scared when we witnessed the second Amish person that day staring vacantly at a burning pile of leaves.

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The sun was setting when we pulled into the Lehman’s parking lot. I still don’t know why our dad calls it the hardware store, maybe it used to be one? When we walked in, I noticed that it did have kind of an industrial, saw-dusty smell. And then, right away: BIRDHOUSES!

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Honestly, I have no idea what about me gives my dad the impression that I’m an avid looker at birdhouses, but there you have it. The wall of birdhouses that my dad was sure would please my eyeballs. I wonder if he’s confusing birdhouses with the frog hotels I used to build when I was a kid? And by build, I literally mean I would tape a bunch of boxes together and cut doorways in them and then fill them with Barbie furniture and, obviously, frogs. Way cooler than birdhouses, dad!

We rounded a corner and it suddenly became very clear to me way our dad loves the hardware store so much: novelty beverage. He is what you’d call a soda savant. A pundit of pop. A carbonation connoisseur. He has numerous vintage Pepsi machines around his house, and I’m not sure what the contents are like now, but when I was a kid, you could go out to the garage, skirt past one of his vintage cars, and grab an ice-cold glass bottle of Barq’s Root Beer out of one. It’s one of the quirks that make him who he is: he loves old shit.

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My dad was kind of leery of Henry at first because of the age difference and the whole IMPREGNATING ME OUT OF WEDLOCK situation, god forbid. But then one year, Henry brought him an entire case of Faygo root beer in vintage-looking glass bottles and my dad, holding one up to the kitchen light, breathlessly said, “Oh man. Oh my god. You can’t find these anymore!” They’ve been beverage-buddies ever since.

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Corey got the Bacon Soda just because, why not? He said the reviews online were like, “This is the best thing ever!” but that it was literally the most disgusting thing he’s ever drank and that it didn’t even taste anything like bacon. There was a PB&J soda that I was tempted to buy, but I ended up buying Chooch some kind of zombie drink that he actually drank so I guess it wasn’t too vile.

A Lehman’s worker walked by, pushing a cart of shopping baskets. I followed her and asked if I could take one. “Oh!” she cried cheerfully, handing me one. “Please do! It would make me so happy!”

Uh…FRIENDLY PEOPLE MAKE ME NERVOUS!

Then some man kept trying to talk to us because this is what happens in Amish Country: everyone forgets that it’s 2014 and wants to start talking to their neighbors. It ‘s uncomfortable for people like me who assume that they’re only being spoken to as a decoy while a pick-pocketing is taking place.

Anyway, the rest of the store was full of housewares, food mixes like split pea soup, and then an entire showroom of vintage stoves and furnaces, which my dad probably kneels before and prays.

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And then we saw an Amish person! I felt like an asshole after I took this because I had literally gone the whole day without violating one of the basic rights of the Amish, but at least this picture is blurry, so maybe it doesn’t count? It was interesting to  note that Lehman’s was the only place we ventured all day that had Amish shoppers. Right before we left, I noticed that he was looking at a rack of Amish Country postcards.

“Do you think he’s looking to see if he’s on any of them?!” I whispered to Corey. And then I started to wonder if I’m accidentally on any Pittsburgh postcards. That would be horrible/awesome.

By the time we checked out, it was 6:00 and we still had something like a two and a half hour drive home, so we said goodbye to Amish Country. BUT NOT GOODBYE FOREVER.

****

We stopped over my dad’s last night for Thanksgiving (and so I could claim one of the shoo fly pies he special ordered!) and I got him to talk about Amish things for nearly 3 hours. He mentioned the Amish roofers and I had to pretend like I hadn’t seen 54548 pictures of them, courtesy of Corey. And then he was like, “Do you guys like apple cider?” And then, taking two frosted mugs out of the freezer, he said, “Well, you’ve never had apple cider like this!” and then handed us two ice-cold mugs of glorious Amish nectar.

“Did you guys go to the hardware store?” he asked me excitedly, and I know he knows that we did because Corey showed him the novelty beverage he bought, but I figured he just really wanted to hear about it again. While I was telling him about our experience there, he got this faraway look in his eyes, like he was trying to mentally trace our footsteps through the blueprint of Lehman’s.

You guys. Not only did my dad get shoofly pies, but he got THREE of them from TWO different bakeries! The one bakery, he’s still being pretty vague about it so Corey and I are convinced that this supposed bakery is actually the kitchen of his Amish mistress’s farmhouse. But the third pie came from goddamn DER DUTCHMAN are you kidding me!? We ate there that day! When I mentioned that to my dad, he was like, “Yeah, Corey told me he had a CHEESEBURGER. Who goes to an Amish-style restaurant and eats a CHEESEBURGER?!” he asked in rhetorical disappointment.

“I had a grilled cheese,” I laughed, and my dad just sighed. We are clearly not doing a good job filling those Amish boots. He was also disappointed that we went to Heini’s Cheese Chalet and not Walnut Creek Cheese House, because Heini’s is a disgraceful tourist trap.

Then, after offering Henry thirds of Amish beef sticks and licorice, he told me about this annual Amish auction he goes to in June, where the local Amish fill a schoolhouse with all of their wares and you bid on all of their meticulously handcrafted goods which immediately depreciate once you bring it back to your house of whores and inverted crucifixes.

Apparently, they set up tents and serve homecooked meals all goddamn day while all of their horses and buggies are parked on a giant hillside and everyone acts civilized and peacefully.

“You never hear anyone yelling at their kids!” my dad exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief. “They are SO WELL-TRAINED” as I’m standing there repeating, “Turn the flashlight off. Turn the flashlight off. Stop shining the flashlight in our eyes. Put the flashlight down. Put it down. Give me the FUCKING flashlight. Get your shoes. Put your shoes on. Put your shoes on. Put your FUCKING SHOES ON” to my disobedient spawn.

“I’ll give you the information for that auction when I get it in the mail,” my dad said, walking us to the door.

Great. Hopefully that have Amish Kid Prison where I can send Chooch while I’m mocking people fighting over quilts.

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Nov 252014
 

I have some kind of terrible restless brain syndrome, where if I’m not already doing something, then I’m thinking of 87 different things that I want to be doing / could be doing / should be doing. Usually it’s just small tasks, like “ATTEMPT TO MAKE SHIT WITH SCULPEY AND CRY!” or “TRANSCRIBE THAT CLEVELAND TRIP FROM ’04 ONTO THE BLOG*!” or “TAKE CHOOCH TO EXORCIST.”

*(I think I really am going to do this though because there are some choice Henry anecdotes up in that piece. EVEN A SERVICE STORY.)

But then last Thursday, I was sitting here at work and texted Henry, “LET’S PAINT THAT ONE WALL IN THE LIVING ROOM GRAY!” which turned into “AND ALSO LET’S PAINT THE INSIDE OF THE ARCHWAY AND SHELVING UNIT YELLOW!” and then by the time Friday rolled around, it had morphed into “FUCK IT LET’S KNOCK DOWN THE ENTIRE HOUSE AND REBUILD!!”

It is imperative that I stay busy during this time of the year. It’s my top survival tactic.

I worked from home on Friday while Henry diligently moved all of the furniture into the center of the room and then when I was on my break, I helped him take everything out of that shelving unit, which is super cute and built into the wall, but it admittedly is like a catch-all for shit that we shouldn’t even be keeping and by we I mean me and my ridiculous bottle collection.

“Really?” Henry asked, holding up a dusty, unopened Fiji water bottle.

“I didn’t know they were going to become so readily available!” I cried in defense, chucking it into the “GOODBYE CRAP” pile. Ugh. He tried to pitch a dusty, plastic bottle of Coke but I screeched, “THAT’S FROM GREECE, YOU ASSHOLE!” I’ll probably dust it off here at some point.

I also found one of my journals and the first page I flipped to was from June of 2006 where I was writing about a fight (pick one) that Henry and I were having and he stopped and said, “ANSWER THIS FOR ME: DO YOU EVEN STILL WANT TO BE IN THIS RELATIONSHIP” and I wrote all this self-absorbed shit about how I didn’t really care either way but how would I be able to pay my bills if we broke up?

(For the record, my answer today would be OMG HENRY DON’T LEAVE ME.)

And then Henry found a bunch of my old address labels from when I was HEAVY into penpalling.

“‘Ace‘?” Henry asked, holding them up for me to see.

“Yeah, that’s when I was a tennis player. Duh Henry.”

“‘No preps or posers‘?” he continued, ending with a mumbled “Oh my god.”

He’s just upset that he didn’t know me then, that’s all. And then he found a picture of a couple and read the back. “Oksana and Bob? Who are they?” And before he even showed me the picture, I knew that it was my much-older pen pal Bob  (a 40-something-year-old man writing to a 13-year-old girl, nothing to see here) and his Russian mail order bride, Oksana. Bob was kind of dull so we didn’t write to each for very long. (He was no Eddy, that’s for sure.)

********

On Sunday, I was sitting on the couch pretending to rest because I was sick, when I started staring at one of the smaller walls that has always, almost for as long as I have lived here (since 1999, omg), held a large portrait of Robert Smith. It’s always bothered me because it’s so plain, but I didn’t want to paint it another color, because it’s adjacent to the gray accent wall that Henry just slaved over.

I chose gray because there are approximately 702374028375489023456 different colors in our living room alone. Sometimes Henry will mutter about all of the colors and  Have you been to my house? Someone once said it looked like a Crayola box had exploded in it. Thanks for the compliment, friend.

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This is me in my bedroom in 1996. I have always loved to be surrounded by color! That room was like sleeping inside of a Spencer’s. I had strands of novelty lights and lava lamps everywhere, and my wallpaper was foiled. FOILED! 

Then it hit me: lyrics. I would paint lyrics to a Cure song on the wall and then hang Robert up like the God that he is, so his words would surround him.

“I’m going to paint lyrics on the wall,” I said casually to Henry.

“OK,” he hesitantly answered. “Which ones?”

“Same Deep Water As You,” I said in my DUH voice. Because DUH, Henry. That’s only like my favorite Cure song ever.

He shrugged and said OK and then went back to what he was doing. I forget what it was, other than it was something I told him to do.

“Well, you have to draw the lines for me!” I cried. Because I need lines. Otherwise, those words are going to slant right on up to the ceiling.

I guess he thought I meant, “Take your time, we don’t need to do this right now” but then he saw me standing there, tapping my foot and holding a pencil, so he sighed and came over with his level.

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I wrote the lyrics, freehand, with a pencil and then went over with black paint and a brush. My hand felt AMAZING the next day, you guys. Like the hand of someone who just learned how to masturbate, ugh.

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The lyrics start right below the ceiling and run all the way down to the floor. It’s all finished except for the last two lines, which I plan on doing tonight after work. (My right hand just spasmed as I typed that.) I will post

After that’s finished, we have approximately 58 other things to tackle and did I mention that I started all of these projects one week before people are coming over for a post-Thanksgiving game night? We are literally stepping over piles of furniture, paint cans and stuff. I DO LOVE A GOOD HUSTLE.

*******

Here is the song that’s on my wall, IN CASE YOU ARE INTERESTED.

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Nov 212014
 

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After our life-changing trip to Heini’s Cheese Chalet, Corey and I decided it was time to get a substantial meal that didn’t consist of cheese cubes on toothpicks and (the best) butter (in the world) on Wheat Thins. We opted for Der Dutchman because it boasted Amish Kitchen Cooking, so of course we went and ordered the two most American meals on the menu: a cheeseburger and grilled cheese. And we forgot to use our dinner rolls the way they were intended: as vehicles for Der Dutchman’s peanut butter spread. Corey wanted to ask our waitress for more rolls so that he could have a do-over, but then he kept chickening out. Also, we had to stand in line just to get inside the restaurant, which normally would be a huge HELL NO for me, but when in Amish Country, I guess. Some hag in front of us kept trying to make conversation because we clearly have such avuncular faces? I’ve always been told that I’m stand-offish, so I guess that doesn’t translate in Ohio.

Before we were seated, there was a brief moment of panic when Corey and I thought that this was a family-style restaurant and that we might have to sit at a table with some horrible family, asking us to pass the biscuits, and I almost fled. When I was a kid, this might have been pre-Corey, our family went to Lancaster, PA, which is essentially the Amish capital of America.  We ate at some restaurant that had an attached petting zoo and we sat a long wooden table with other families and I was crying internally because I didn’t want to eat with people I didn’t know but our dad was like FUCK YES THIS IS REAL COUNTRY-LIVING! He was all about it. But what I remember most about that meal was the shoo-fly pie. Because of that experience, it has always been the first thing my mind goes to when I think of Amish (OK fine, right after I think about them copulating through a hole in a sheet).

This is all to say that I was really looking forward to piggybacking  my grilled cheese with a slice of that sticky molasses Dutch pie.

(Oh dear god, my tongue is having vivid flashbacks of my last shoo-fly pie experience.)

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I was really excited about the creamed corn.

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Halfway through lunch, I noticed that Bitch-Broad from Heini’s, the one who had the nerve to yell at our beloved Father Cheese, was also dining at Der Dutchman! (That’s her in the green shirt and stupid poufy hair behind Corey.) Corey said she was also at the bakery we stopped at across from Heini’s and that even in there, she was bitching about how she couldn’t believe the price of whatever bakery item she was glaring at. Then we saw her after we left Der Dutchman as she and her horde of less-bitchy broads walked into a chocolate shop. She still looked mad! How are you going to be mad walking into a CHOCOLATE SHOP? Maybe she should have just stayed home and watched her DVR collection of The View.

But as usual, my train of thought is getting derailed once again. She has literally nothing to do with shoo fly pie.

When our waitress asked us if we wanted dessert, Corey and I declined because we hadn’t seen shoo fly pie on the menu and we were obviously saving room for that down the road.

Before we left the Der Dutchman parking lot, Corey decided that we should call our dad and ask him where to get the dessert of Amish gods.

Corey put him on speaker, and it was one of the  most painful laugh-stifling moments of my life, possibly even moreso than the one at Heini’s, because I felt actual kidney pain. Like the angel on my shoulder had hopped off and started punching me in the side for being the type of asshole who laughs at a dad who is genuinely trying to help his kids have the best Amish experience possible.

“Oh, I doubt you’re going to find shoofly pie,” our dad said gravely. “In fact, I had to pre-order one the last time I was there because I knew the bakeries wouldn’t have any otherwise.”

We were suffering at this point from what I can only describe as “The Wet Laughs.” Tears were streaming down our faces and I was even starting to break a sweat from the exertion of laugh-containment.  Corey wheezed, “I can’t!” and flat out hung up on our dad. I can only imagine how ugly I looked in that moment, with my face wet, red and twisted in a mixture of pain and hilarity. I FELT ugly. It was an ugly laugh. Hearing our dad speaking so seriously about shoofly pie was just too much.

Finally, we calmed down enough for Corey to call our dad back, who answered immediately by saying, “The reception is really bad out there, I know.” And then proceeded to sound disappointed when we mentioned that we chose Heini’s over Walnut Creek Cheese, and then asked, “Did you guys go to the hardware store yet?”

That fucking hardware store!

“It’s not like a Home Depot, you know,” he earnestly advised. “It’s TWO FLOORS and it has a lot of things that Erin would like to look at. Like birdhouses.”

BIRDHOUSES?!

We promised that we would stop and check it out after we visited Sugarcreek, but first we had important business to tend to at Swiss Heritage Winery, which was essentially like your Aunt Rhoda’s house, full of sparkly trinkets, Betty Boop memorabilia, and clashing floral patterns, with a small wine bar thrown in almost as an afterthought.

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Corey and I each chose 5 wine samples from a cheerful lady in a supposedly traditional Swiss dress and then plucked some complimentary chips and cheese cubes from a platter and took our wine samples over to a tall table where we recalled what we learned from Roberto at Narcisi Winery last year, and proceeded to stick out like sore thumbs. I liked all  the wines just fine, but wasn’t really in the mood to purchase any bottles until I noticed that he cherry cranberry variety was called “Han’s Favorite Wine” and featured a picture of Hans himself, in a Swiss cap and lederhosen. Swiss Heritage, you got yourself a sale.

While Corey and I were paying for our wine, I used it as an opportunity to ask the older women behind the counter if they had the shoofly pie 411.

I’m not even exaggerating when I say that the expression on the one woman’s face actually darkened, like we were suddenly in I had audaciously screamed “Voldemort.”

“I wouldn’t even know,” she said curtly. “That’s something you don’t see very often around here anymore.”

“You might want to try Der Dutchman,” the other woman offered, with a slight shrug, but I told them we had just come from there and it was a no-go. (Although we never actually ASKED the waitress. Now I’m kind of glad we hadn’t. We might have been told to get the fuck out.)

“Sorry, I just don’t know,” the first woman said without even a HINT of apology as she handed over our gaudy gift-wrapped wine purchases.

As we shirked out of the door, I could hear the two of them still talking about shoo fly pie, like they had just been reminded of something that they were told to forget.

“I think I might have a recipe for that somewhere….” the nicer of the two was saying as the door closed behind us.

****

“What the fuck, Corey!?” I laughed as we set off for Sugarcreek to finally gawk at the world’s largest cuckoo clock. “Why did t hey act so weird about shoofly pie!?” We spouted off some theories, like maybe there was some feud between the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish community and the Ohio Amish, and the PA peeps won the rights to the pie.

After checking out the clock, we stopped in some novelty shop called Finder’s Keepers, where we quickly learned that a movie was recently filmed there called “Love Finds You In Sugarcreek.” Almost every shop along the main street had signs and DVD displays in  their windows. Even the Gospel Shop! We stopped in the Decanter and Stein “Museum,” which was basically just a small,  musty room full of steins and decanters for sale. I found pretty  much the only one that wasn’t $500 dollars and decided that I needed to buy it because I refused to leave Sugarcreek without a stein. I’m suddenly hot for steins, I don’t know.

The proprietor was a really old man who took his grand old time wrapping my stein in newspaper and taping it with 87 pieces of Scotch tape while I was having a coughing fit. My allergies had been flaring all week and basically as soon as we set foot in that shop, I knew I didn’t have much time. This was he only low point of the day for me, and as sweet as that old man was, I had strong urges to snatch the half-wrapped stein from him and yell, “I’LL JUST DO IT MYSELF THANKS” except that I couldn’t even speak since I was coughing so hard.

Once we stepped out into fresh air, I felt fine, so we went to Esther’s Home Baked Goods which was right next store. The inside of the bakery was very brown and austere. But Esther’s friendliness and bonneted-head compensated for the lack of paper lanterns and pastel palette.

“Oh, I see you looking at my chocolate pie!” she enthused, and I had porn flashbacks. “It’s on sale because I messed it up. It still tastes good, though!”

Way to sell it, Esther!

“You don’t happen to have any shoofly pie?” Corey asked.

“No,” Esther said, seemingly bemused by this question. “But it’s funny you ask, because several people have asked me that lately! Maybe I should try to make it again….” she added, mostly to herself.

I ended up getting some weird date cake thing and Corey got pumpkin ice cream and peanut butter fudge.

“Tell me if the fudge is OK!” she begged Corey. “It just didn’t seem right when I made it.”

This lady and me would make a great business team. Esther and her “Dessert Messes” and me and my “Fake Art.” Our confidence will bowl you over.

My date cake thing was actually pretty good though. Corey said the fudge was way too soft but he liked it. He left out the “too soft” part when he gave her his review before we left to set off for the infamous “hardware store.” If I didn’t know any better, I’d think we were being sent off for slaughter.

****

I don’t know why I didn’t bother doing this while we were there, but a quick google of “shoofly pie” explains that it really is mostly just a Pennsylvania Dutch thing. No wonder those broads seemed so weird about it. They clearly hate Pennsylvania.

If there is one takeaway from our day in Ohio Amish Country, it’s that I really need to spend more time with my dad. He has inadvertently given Corey and me a day that we will probably talk about (and laugh about!) for the rest of our lives. And THAT is better than shoofly pie.

****

THIS JUST IN!!!

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Nov 192014
 

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You might know this about me, but I am a hoe for Swiss/Bavarian/German culture, especially when it involves American tourist traps. So it’s really no surprise that one of the biggest draws for me when it comes to Ohio Amish Country is definitely the small town of Sugarcreek. Henry, Chooch and I had briefly stopped there in 2010 after I insisted we take a detour on our way home from Michigan so that I could see the world’s largest cuckoo clock. Henry was PISSED because when we finally found it, it wasn’t even assembled; it had apparently been dismantled after the restaurant it was once attached to had closed, and now it was just sitting in an empty lot.

I had heard that it had finally been bought and moved to the center of town, so I had been begging Henry to take me back for the last two years now and he always has some stupid excuse like, “I don’t want to spend money” or “That place is dumb.”

So when Corey suggested we take a sibling trip to look at Amish people in Ohio and I found out that he was actually talking about THIS SAME AREA, it was on.

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We arrived in Sugarcreek sometime after lunch at Der Dutchman but before visiting our dad’s beloved “hardware store.” The clock puts on its show every 30 minutes, so since we had about 15 minutes to kill, we asked some local jogger to take our picture. She was pretty much slowing her roll before we even asked because I’m sure we looked like idiots trying to take a selfie while capturing the entire clock in the background. The struggle was real.

People in Sugarcreek are super nice. Obviously. IT’S OHIO’S LITTLE SWITZERLAND!

Sitting on the bench (which Corey discovered flips over into a picnic table!), waiting for the 3:00PM edition of Swiss folk music to blare out of the barely-hidden speakers, I was revisited by all of my past lives where I was better known as Swiss Miss, Heidi, and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

(Whoever said this waste of Internet space wasn’t occasionally educational?)

I felt so excited and in touch with my inner Alps-frolicking, Ricola-sucking self at that moment, it was like someone stuffed a bouquet of edelweiss up my ass.

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Very kitsch. Such creep. You just know those lederhosen-clad band members sneak off in the middle of the night and drag stray cats and severed human limbs back into the dark penetralia of the cuckoo clock.

Another family joined us for the highly anticipated 3pm viewing, and somehow Corey and I were able to act like civilized human beings through its entirety. We managed to get our fill of the cuckoo clock’s 2 minute presentation of robust Swiss folk music**, right before a tour bus, probably full of those impatient cheese-grubbing fuck lords at Heini’s, rolled up to clog the area with a coterie of obstructed bowels.

**(Seriously, click that link to watch exactly 15 seconds of the clock in action. It’ll take you to Instagram, because I just found out the hard way that I apparently can’t embed my Instagram videos here now.)

After sufficiently making fun of the tour bus, we decided that our next sibling adventure will definitely need to involve us booking one of those weekender tours.

“It’ll be us and old people,” Corey said dreamily. “They’ll love us!”

And they really will, too, because somehow old people are incapable of sniffing out our douchiness.

Next up: the shoo fly pie saga.

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Nov 102014
 

 

 

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As far as November weather goes, we were having a pretty beautiful Sunday here in Pittsburgh. We had nothing planned for the day, and even though I was fighting an annoying cold/allergy attack, I decided it was too perfect of a day not to go out and take pictures. Nothing major, I said. Let’s just, I don’t know…go to the grocery store first and buy a birthday cake. For no reason.

Oh just a simple, cheap cake, I said, giving the false impression that this was going to be a breezy, casual, in-and-out trip to the grocery store. Except that we got there and I threw a fit because NONE OF THESE CAKES LOOK RIGHT! NONE OF THEM MATCH MY VISION! THIS IS FUCKING BULLSHIT! I HOPE GIANT EAGLE GOES OUT OF BUSINESS!

And then from there it was JUST FORGET IT LET’S GO HOME FUCK THIS DAY RIGHT IN THE EYE.

I know this game, Henry said out loud, and instead of going home, he drove down the street to a different grocery store, smartly left Chooch and me in the car, and came back with the gaudiest birthday cake, complete with plastic clown head whose icing body was splayed across the top in a hideous, prostrate fashion.

It was fucking perf.

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We took the cake, and a “just-in-case” rabbit mask, to Henry’s workplace which has always treated me well as far as photo shoot locales go. Henry was happy because my attitude had adjusted slightly with the purchase of the cake. (Although there was a brief argument in the over birthday cake candles, or lack thereof.)

Thank god we happened to have a random paper mache clown figure in the trunk of the car, too. (Our trunk is like the Mary Poppin’s Tapestry Bag of Animal Masks, Hats, and Other Assorted Oddities. We are always prepared for impromptu costume parties or induction into the witness protection program.)

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My only direction for Chooch was “pretend like it’s your birthday party and no one came.”

I can do that, he said with a shrug.

He was very accommodating and easy to work with because I promised that I would play 10 (ten!!) rounds of Call of Duty when we went home. (Mostly because I am really beginning to like playing even though my skill level is not improving.)

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The stages of being blown off on your unbirthday.

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Now pretend like you don’t give a fuck and just eat the everloving SHIT out of that cake, I said to Chooch, always ready to provide direction.

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And then I got to smash cake in Henry’s face because who knows if I’ll ever have a WEDDING DAY. Henry wasn’t very pleased about this, but Chooch and I were laughing so hard that he eventually cracked the tiniest smile while muttering, “You just wait, little bitch.”

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It’s been awhile since Chooch and I got along during a photo shoot. I think it was because I mostly let him do whatever he wanted. Plus, the cake. He got to eat cake.

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I don’t always go into these things with some high-brow, art student intentions or subtle nuances suggesting a deeper message. But while I was editing these last night, my brother texted me something along the lines of how it makes him happy that even though we were dealt a pretty crappy hand as far as families go, we were still able to have a strong sibling relationship where we can go off on random adventures and laugh to the point of an ugly-cry.

So, I guess this photo series has a cheesy moral to it after all. Um….: When things don’t go the way you intended, try to make the best of what you’re given, eat some cake, etc etc.

Or just go and cut someone. Whatever makes you feel better.

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