If you left a comment on my blog Monday night and it’s since been deleted, it’s because Henry was fucking around with the database.
Not because I’m a bitch or a whore. Well, I am both of those things, but you know what I mean.
If you left a comment on my blog Monday night and it’s since been deleted, it’s because Henry was fucking around with the database.
Not because I’m a bitch or a whore. Well, I am both of those things, but you know what I mean.
It was nearly noon by the time we managed to park the car. Blake didn’t have a ticket yet so he and I stood around idly outside the entrance to Post Gazette Pavilion while Henry went and bought his ticket. We were approached by the singer and guitarist of Uh-Oh Explosion, who were toting around a box of their CDs. Making small talk, the singer asked if Blake and I were “together.” Instinctively, we both took a step apart and emphatically answered “NO.” Trying to figure it out, he squinted his eyes and guessed, “Brother and sister?” We shook our heads. I saw Henry lingering a few yards away, knowing better than to walk over and lame-up the convo. I pointed to Henry and said, “OK, see that guy? That’s his dad, and my boyfriend.”
This kid (he was only 17) thought this was so fucking fantastico for some reason. “That’s so awesome! Like, talk about closeness. And you guys all came to Warped together!” He paused for a second, before sending my stomach to the meat grinder. “So do you guys have threesomes too?”
I was ready to whistle for the cement mixer to come and seal up my sex organs for real. So disturbing and awkward. I still bought their CD though, because what I heard sounded good and proceeds went to the animals. And what’s a little quasi-incest discourse in the name of stray cats, am I right.
Once we got inside, I was like a kid on Christmas. My eyes had a veritable scene kid feast as we weaved our way to the main stage, where Sky Eats Airplane was playing. Blake and I have the same taste in music — the more scream-y the better. Henry, however, shits himself when he hears hateful bellows, so he took this as an opportunity to go and find a set schedule and then conveniently lose us. Sky Eats Airplane was a good way to start the day.
In between bands, I got to ogle more scene kids. I was wondering why I was so fascinated with them when it dawned on me: If that scene was around when I was a teen, I’d totally have been the first on board. I used to make fun of them, but now I want to like, write a book about them or something. I’ll start with Blake.
Averting the Hare Krishnas, we went to the Highway 1 Stage to catch From First To Last. Henry was all, “I’m perfectly fine standing all the way back here” and sent Blake and I into the crowd to get pummeled without adult supervision. Anyway, FFTL’s singer Sonny left two years ago and it was a little strange watching them perform without him. Their new material is a little too easy-to-digest and mainstream for my liking, but they ended the set with “Ride the Wings of Pestilence” which always makes me want to sacrifice a shack of Mexican prostitutes. And drink some of Henry’s blood.
Not interested in any bands playing right after FFTL, we walked around and looked at t-shirts and other merch for awhile. Henry, who had bragged on the way there that he NEVER gets sunburned, started complaining about his nose getting burnt. He kept trying to sneak away and pose under trees in his signature old man-stance. Blake and I would pause and hunker down over the schedule, trying to determine which bands were must-sees and which ones we could skip without losing sleep that night. I kept trying to include Henry, but he would grumble, “I don’t know, does that band actually SING? Then NO, I don’t want to see them.” Perhaps Henry should have just went to that twanged-out Jamboree with Tina instead. Fuck.
After the Human Abstract, it was nearly time for Pierce the Veil. They were the main reason I was there and all day it felt like butterflies were fornicating in my belly. It was either Pierce the Veil anticipation or the residual side effects of being asked if my vagina is friendly with both generations of Robbins. Henry once again stood in the sidelines, but I weaved my way as close to the stage as I could get. Which was fairly close since they were still sound-checking.
To show his unwavering adoration, Vic vowed to wear his Jaws shirt every day for the duration of Shark Week. He kept going on and on about sharks and I know this is going to make me look bad but I’m going to be honest: all I could think about was Tina’s vagina, gnashing against flailing legs. Thank God they started playing right after thhat because fuck — my mind disgusts me sometimes. And holy shit, their set was fucking fantastic. It was so good, that I didn’t even mind the heat or having two bitches dropped on me (thank God for Blake, else they’d have hit the pavement). They basically just play a blend of alternative rock, with some screamo-lite thrown in for scene cred, but what makes them stand apart for me is their lyrics. They’re smart, morbid, sad, and just overall clever. At the end of one of their songs, they segued right into a thirty second cover of “Bleeding Love” which was a million times better than the original we’re guaranteed to hear every time we walk into a grocery store. They also threw in a cover “Beat It” which was energenic and really fun to watch, and they ended the set with “Party Like a Rock Star” gone metal.
I did NOT want that set to end. Even Blake admitted that he was surprised how good they were live, and Henry was like, “Yes, fine, I liked what I heard all the back there in Parent Alley.” It was one of those moments where you want to call everyone you know and give them a hyper review in a shrill voice, but you know no one will give a shit. So then you’re just depressed.
We had a lot of time to kill after Pierce the Veil, so I bought a five dollar soft pretzel while wishing for once I ate meat so I could get a corn dog for $3.50 — the cheapest foodstuff there. Henry got nachos which looked like slop. Henry’s demeanor seemed to uncurdle a bit while he was coating his ‘stache with cheese sauce. He even smiled a few times and I think he laughed once.
While we were chilling out at the picnic table, Blake proposed that he move in with us. Maybe it was just the contact high of being with someone who actually gave a shit about music, but I declared that this was the best idea I had ever heard in all of my life, even better than my idea to direct porn, so now he might be moving in with us. It would make my scene kid research easier, for sure.
Blake was so sad that we missed Katy Perry while we were foraging for discounted sustenance. He even pulled his hat down low to hide the tears. But maybe it was because he saw kids he knew and was embarrassed of Henry.
The day was coming to an end by this point, and Blake had re-joined us in time for Dr. Manhattan. I was torn, because they were playing at the same time as Norma Jean, side-by-side. And I love Norma Jean. Norma Jean blocked out Eleanore’s nerve-prickling coupon-cutting many a night for me. But I chose Dr. Manhattan, along with fifteen other people. It was sad! But you know a band is good when there are OTHER bands in the crowd watching them. And they were good — they were quirky and fun and energenic and they made me laugh out loud a few times. Unfortunately, Norma Jean was one stage over, luring people into their crowd. They had gigantic black beach balls and I won’t lie — I’m a sucker for a beach ball. At one point, I yelled to Henry, “Hey, do you want to go over and watch Norma Jean for the rest of their set?” but right then, two people left Dr. Manhattan’s crowd and the singer — in the middle of a song — stopped and yelled, “Hey! Where are you guys going??” It was so sad/cute/scary that I looked at Henry and said, “Never mind!”
At the end of their show, some of the bands in the crowd started chanting, “One more song!” but they weren’t allowed because of time constraints. So the singer started chanting back, “One more crowd!”, the retardedness of which made me laugh. I was also dehydrated, though. Overall, I was glad I stayed loyal to Dr. Manhattan, because their set was rewarding.
And that was it. We walked back to the car and already I started to feel the body-dragging effects of post-show depression. Then I thought about how all day long I had been talking about all the bands I wanted to see, but by the end of the night, all I wanted to see was Chooch.
Henry wanted to get his son Blake out of the house on Sunday, so we decided what better way to be all familial for free than to go to the fucking flea market.
I had no coffee in my system; my head was thumping and a sour scowl was perma-etched on my face. Henry was all, “OK, this shit ain’t gon’ fly” so he went to one of the snack bars for a remedy, commanding Blake, Chooch, and myself to stay put where we were. As soon as he turned his back, we did what any other miscreants would and wandered off into the abyss of redneck unwantables.
“Who the fuck would buy this shit?” Blake mumbled as we pushed Chooch’s stroller past a table of romance novels and metal scraps.
“That guy,” I answered, as some loser handed over a fan of bills.
We continued strolling along, taking turns complaining about how gay everything was. Then we talked about Chiodos for awhile, which briefly lighted both of our faces, until it occured to me that we had been led too far astray and Henry was probably walking in circles, crying into a Styrofoam cup of coffee. So we hurried back to where Henry left us, but he wasn’t there. We then made the mistake of leaving the Abandoned Child Depot in order to find Henry, which was fruitless since he was doggy-paddling in the sea of beer tee’d bargain hunters, hoping to find us.
We made it back to our spot right as Henry called Blake’s cell phone. When he finally made his way back to us, we were all, “What the fuck, we were here the whole time, asshole!” Henry looked dumbfounded.
“I walked right past here and didn’t see you. Didn’t you see me?” he asked, eyes squinted with confusion.
“Probably, but everyone here looks like you,” I said. I don’t think he heard me, but Blake did, and as soon as Henry turned his back, we laughed like children.
We walked past one table weighted down with incredibly worthless junk, just as a very manly woman with the roughest smoker’s voice barked, “How much you want for that bottle of Eternity?” It seriously sounded like a knife-fight was happening in her throat. Her interest in a bottle of perfume tickled me so greatly that I was falling into Henry’s back from laughing so hard. She was with some social reject who had a lipstick print tattooed to his neck. God, what an asshole.
Just when I didn’t think anything could top those two, some broad petrified in makeup from 1975 began advertising loudly for the shitty cat nip mats she was shilling. “They make extraordinary gifts!” she called out jovially and I lost my shit all over again.
“Oh, they’re fucking extraodinary alright. I hope I get fifteen of them for my birthday. Motherfucker.” Then I thought about how much hate I had boiling in my belly, and I smiled.
Around the bend, some dumb ass colostomy bag of a broad was selling CDs and at the very top of one of the stacks was The Cure’s “Disintegration”. Henry pointed this out, probably thinking I’d go all Pollyanna and realize that the flea market really was a place for extraodinary gifts, but instead I grew angry. I mean, I was practically roiling.
“You don’t re-sell a Cure CD!” I bitched loudly. “WHO DOES THAT? An asshole, that’s who.” And I know that shitty old lady heard me too. SUCK IT, bitch.
It wasn’t until we fell upon some old dude slinging the mother lode of incense and natural soap that my edges began to soften a bit. I wasn’t too interested at first, until he stood up from the perch he had on his van and started teaching us of the miraculous healing properties of some shitty soap that sounded like “doo-doo” but was really something else that I just didn’t give a shit about. That was when I realized he was awesome. At first, it was because I thought he had a British accent, but then I think he was just slurring really bad from prolonged use of psychedelics. How nice of him to come to Trader Jack’s flea market straight from Woodstock.
“Buy some of this shit,” I hissed at Henry.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because that is one cool asshole.”
And so Henry bought some shit, that scared little bitch. He bought a whole heap of incense and found out later it makes him sneeze.
Yeah, you count that cash, you cock sucker. Bet it’s going straight into some yeasty g-strings, you sex addict. SUCK A DICK.”
Speaking of sex addiction (a very serious plight not to be taken lightly), there seemed to be a LOT of porn there this time. Large cardboard boxes marked ADULT DVDS XXX in thick black marker were nestled smack in the middle of baby clothes and Care Bears. I desperately felt the urge to rummage and pilfer, but felt strange doing so with Blake with us. I’d like him to not speculate upon my sex life with his father.
I saw a produce-hawker go apeshit on a pile of empty banana boxes. I don’t know what got all up inside his puckered sphincter, but he was hurling the boxes out of the back of his truck and plowdriving them into the gravel. His face was red and his fat lips were a’quake with obscenities. I stopped to gawk for awhile, savoring the terror that was arresting my heart. Violence makes me wet.
More flea market assholes, plus Chooch and Blake.
There was some girl there who was clinging onto her youth even more desperately than me. Quite possibly the oldest scene kid ever, and ridiculously so. As she pushed a stroller past us, she giggled and very coquettishly said, “I like your piercings!” to Blake. After she walked away, Blake mumbled, “Dumb bitch.” It was high-five worthy.
The only cool people there. Aside from Blake and me.
Sometimes, for no reason, I would growl. Say, for instance, someone in a Kenny Chesney shirt would push past me, in a huge fucking hurry to look at fake designer sunglasses, my arms would get all stiff and I’d just fucking growl. Ew, grr.
Henry wouldn’t buy me this awesome Jesus Loves Me hat. Now I’ll have to find something else to wear to the church fair. My garter belt and a Cannibal Corpse shirt, I guess.
Later that day, Henry was telling me that his mom asked him to take her to the flea market next weekend.
I laughed, it was an angry laugh, and said, “I think I’ll sit that one out.”
“You ain’t kidding,” he said. Supposedly I’m banned for life or something.
I don’t think I’ve missed hitting up the Three Rivers Arts Festival once in the past twelve years, so I dragged Henry, Chooch and Blake downtown to spend a leisurely Saturday evening perusing overpriced beaded jewelry and hopefully tripping over some knife-wielding homeless assholes. The arts festival is kind of like the summer kick-off here in Pittsburgh and I usually wind up spending exorbitant amounts of money on a piece of art that likely only cost $20 to make. Sure looks good on my walls though.
Blake has a pet rat tail now that he keeps tucked under his hat; it’s earned him about 146 scene points. 54 more and he can cash them in for a new white studded belt.*
It was slim-pickins this year though. Cheesy windchimes and generic photography (Pittsburgh in the morning, Pittsburgh at night, Pittsburgh under a cloak of fog, Pittsburgh who-the-fuck-cares) seemed to be the most prevalent wares on display in the rows of tents. Look, if I’m going to buy a photograph of the fucking shit hole I live in, it better depict faux-nuclear warfare and slutty clowns sucking dick atop the Mellon Arena.
There was one artisan that was peddling these amazing pieces of metal eye candy, which I could imagine making a cameo as a murder weapon in a Dario Argento film. Blake and I drooled over the aluminum display for like, three seconds (ADD, holla), but alas — neither of us brought our platinum AmEx cards to bloat with $2,000 purchases.
Blake bought a soft pretzel, though.
My stalking skillz were on the fritz that day. Every time I would covertly snap a shot of someone, the person next to them would send WTF rays right through my skull. I eventually gave up and reluctantly settled on shots of skylines and clouds. You know, like the shit that was being shilled inside all of those tents. But then Blake stepped up as a subject and I was happy again. I tried to get him to stab a cop for the sake of photography, but finally I settled on having him stand casually in front of things.
Like a wall of graffiti in a damp alley.
Seeing us slip suspiciously into an alley probably made the Dad Alarm sound inside Henry’s head. He backtracked a few paces, squinted into the alley, and asked, “What are you doing?” Don’t worry, Henry! We’re just freebasing, brb.
“Can I be done soon? It’s really hot over here,” Blake asked through gritted teeth.
“That’s because it’s STEAM,” Henry shouted, making me hurry up. I bet Blake’s mom loves it when he’s out with us. I have him loitering in seedy alleys in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, climbing trains, enjoying natural steam baths: All things that Chooch has to look forward to.
There were two cops standing nearby and I was set off immediately by the fact that they were just STANDING THERE DRINKING GATORADE AND BEING LAZY ASSHOLES. Some ho was probably getting raped in a nearby alley, but at least these assholes are replenishing their flab with ELECTROLYTES.
Fuck, I hate cops.
Of course Henry tripped all over himself to defend them. “THEY’RE HELPING PEOPLE CROSS THE STREET!” he shouted desperately. Helping my ASS. They had their backs to the street-crossing pedestrians!
I kind of feel inspired to take senior portraits. Alternative ones, you know? “Listen here, high school cheerleader– I’m going to fashion a murder scene and you’re going to pretend to picnic off the bodies.” WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT FOR THEIR SENIOR PICTURE?!
Back in the vicinity of the festival, I spied a set of stairs descending into the bowels of the city. I think it was some kind of utility thing that I know nothing about but I’m sure Henry does. It looked really desolate and cinder-blocky at the botton of the landing, so I urged Blake to walk down so I could take a picture. As soon as his foot left that final step, an ear-splitting siren went off, interspersed with a male computerized voice alerting the world of terrorists. Seriously, it sounded like BWAKBWAK WARNINGDANGERDEATHALERT BWAK BWAK and I almost shit myself.
Blake and I ran like hell and when we caught up with Henry, we tried to play it cool, but he saw right through our scared, blanched faces.
“Congratulations, you’re probably on video,” was all he said.
After leaving a trail of suspicious behavior through the streets of town, we hit up Point Park and made the mistake of giving Crazy Ass Chooch some freedom. Once he was out of his stroller, there was no catching him. I was grateful that we had Blake with us, because he chased after him while I continued to be a lazy ass and complained about how badly my feet hurt. Cry for me.
Blake and I were walking ahead of Henry and Chooch and apparently some punkass skater bitch looked at Blake and said, “If that was my kid, I’d kick his ass.” Unfortunately for that kid, Henry was close enough behind us to hear that comment and proceeded to flex his muscles and spit poison-tipped darts into that fucker’s neck.
I mean, I suppose that’s what he would have done if his balls weren’t made of cotton candy and butterfly wings. Instead, he whimpered and kept on walking.
We lazed around the wall of the fountain at the Point and ogled a couple whose lips were scandelously fused together. Blake wanted me to take their picture, but the boyfriend busted me and let’s just say it wasn’t the first time in my life that I felt like a sexual deviant.
*I seriously, honest to God-ly love scene kids. Like, I want to hug them all and be their big sister and film a couple After School Specials about those rainbow sex bracelets.
The weather forecast for Saturday was rain, rain and more rain. I asked Henry, “Do you still want to go on that fantastically awesome scenic train ride, even in the rain?” and he said yes. At this point, my memory forbade me to remember all the other scenic train rides I had been on in my life time, and how extremely boring they truly are. (Unless, you know, you’re into that scenery shit.)
Schenely, PA is about an hour away and I was sulking for the majority of the ride. Just part of my nature. But then Henry stopped at a Sunoco and returned with a bag of mint M&Ms. I acted all ambivalent about it, but still drank down half the bag. Mood instantly lifted.
As soon as we boarded the train, it began pouring. Like any other sensible person, I chose the open-sided car so we could be treated to a natural shower and then simultaneously bitch about it for the hour long ride. There were about twenty other people who had the same idea.
While we were waiting for the 2:00 departure time to roll around, someone pointed out that one of the cars in the lot had an open window. It was the car right next to us, so Henry shouted out to the woman who owned it and then was thanked profusely by her and her husband. He sat there with a smug grin on his face, like he was some kind of fucking hero. I bet he did heroic shit like that all the time when he was in The Service, helping hookers climb out of vats of penii.
Imagine how tickled I was when the train kicked into motion and a woman’s voice filled the car from a speaker. Wow, a scenic railroad excursion paired with a guide enlightening us with local flavored fun facts? What a treat. Unfortunately, there was so much commotion on the train that her commentary came off sounding like the teacher from Peanuts. Every time I asked Henry what she said, it was always the same: “Something about the river. I don’t know.”
Chooch was really great for most of the first leg of the trip. He sat on my lap to avoid the torrential downfall that was attacking us from the sides. But then he had the itch to roam, and it all unraveled from there. Once he had his feet on the floor, it was like an open invitation for the other children on the train to come out and play. Chooch procured the four cars he brought in his backpack, and suddenly I had a horde of small children surrounding me: a one-year-old, another two-year-old (Sioux, like the tribe!!!!) and her six-year-old sister (Cheyenne, like the tribe!!!!), whose grandma was wearing a Kermit t-shirt and would not stop chatting with me the entire time and I was so nervous that I was physically clenching. And you know, with kids come parents. I really hate socializing with parents. Chooch was doling out his cars, only to confiscate them at his will. He seemed to take an immediate liking to the six-year-old, and was adament on giving her all the cars.
The one-year-old’s dad was wearing a Penguins hat, and I couldn’t help but notice Henry didn’t scoff, “Hockey season’s over” to him, like he does to me anytime I mention them.
At this point, I was unable to take in any of the trees and shit that we were passing, because I had to fulfill Mom duty and make sure that my son didn’t come to blows with anyone over a couple of fucking plastic cars. I hate this part of parenting. And you know what else I hate? Having to acknowledge other people’s kids. That Cheyenne chick kept standing in front of me and flapping her arms like a bird. “Oh. Uh, pretty,” I would try to placate her, instead of shoving her off on another parent like I really wanted. Another mother, though, she heartily exclaimed, “WOW! What are you, a bird?? OH COOL! You are so COOL! I LOVE KIDS! HAHAHAHA ZOLOFT!” Who the fuck gives a shit? Not me. Flap all you want, little girl. I’ll continue looking through you like you’re invisible to me. Because you are.
Chooch made me especially nervous around the one-year-old boy. I kept praying he wouldn’t push him off the train or choke him. (I had just taught Chooch that morning how to pretend-choke himself and quickly started to realize that I might wind up seeing repercussions to that act real quick.)
This guy told me what his purpose was when we first sat down. Something about doing something with the brakes? Who the hell really cares what his purpose is when he’s wearing some hot-assed overalls, though? Basically, he mopped us all off with towels and repeatedly noted that, “There are a lot of kids playing on this car!” and thank God for that play-by-play, because I really hadn’t noticed that my crazy kid was dominating over a trio of weaker-willed children.
After about an hour, I was stoked to see the station looming ahead. My hope was dashed as we turned around though, and headed in another direction. Apparently, you just can’t visit Schenely and not teeter precariously on a railroad bridge for fifty thousand minutes while a guide gives you muffled commentary about trout. And who would want to miss out on that?
It all looks so pretty, but on closer inspection below and to the left, I noticed that the camp site was dotted with Deliverance cast offs, who brought their laundry lines, rusted out pick up trucks, and large jugs to use as yard ornamentation; I’m pretty sure I smelled some hot incest from behind the jagger bushes, too. I can only hope Henry takes me there one day on our honeymoon.
Finally we got to leave and now I’m determined to remind myself every day that train rides are boring as fuck. I’m just glad Chooch didn’t call anyone an asshole.
If there was one moment in my life I’d love to be able to re-watch with a bowl of popcorn, it would be that day in fifth grade when Mike Harrison called Mrs. Glumac — the obligatory meanest, nastiest, wartiest, tan-quilted-parka-in-the-winter wearingest lunch lady at our school — a bitch in the middle of a high stakes game of kickball, after she called him out unfairly. Before she even had a chance to threaten him with a paddle, he took that rubber ball and hurled it at her face with the might of a thousand scorned bipolar women, smashing and breaking her glasses against her face. He smashed them for every kid holding their piss on that playground, every kid that Mrs. Glumac brought to tears in the cafeteria and every kid whose peaceful sleep was ever jarred into a fitful nightmare of hair nets and deadened eyes and Glumacian orders to line against the wall.
I remember how everyone just got really quiet, and Mrs. Glumac and Mike just stood there at a standstill, both in shock, we were all in shock. Mike was legendary in our eyes after that, having done what every kid thinks of doing, dreams of doing, wishes someone else would do to the cruel lunch lady who makes penises worldwide cower when she walks into a room. It was fucking awesome. I had a crush on him for real after that.
He totally got in so much trouble.
I used to keep a little log of daily happenings back then, just a little miniature spiral-topped notebook that I would write things like, “Spring is wearing a ponytail today — she’s going to be mean!” and “Oops, I have to sharpen my pencil!” It wasn’t a private diary, it was pine green, and everyone knew about it; so when we came back in from recess, everyone was all, “Erin, did you write about it yet, let us read what you wrote about it!” I believe all it said was a very succint “Mike H. called Mrs. Glumac a bitch then broke her glasses!” and everyone cheered when they saw the word “bitch” in actual penciled handwriting.
The night before I left Pittsburgh, I started to lose my voice at work. I had been sick all week with some kind of throat thing and general congestion, but nothing was stopping me from seeing Xiu Xiu. By the time we left Huddle’s Café, I possessed the vocal prowess of a dying frog and began coughing my lungs up all over the grimy streets of Newport. My gift to ye, Kentucky.
Christina and I jaywalked back to the Southgate House at 9:00pm. The ticket person wasn’t there yet, so we loitered in the hallway with several other people who were all staring listlessly at the wide array of concert posters plastered along the walls. I took clandestine pictures of the people in front of us because at the time, it offered more enjoyment than conversing with Christina.
It wasn’t until around 9:45pm that the ticket people finally filled their seats behind the table and we got to enter the ballroom area of the building. Small round tables were scattered around the room, and we grabbed the last empty one near the stage. If I had any foresight into how much time we were about to spend at that table, I’d have lugged in a La-Z Boy on Christina’s back.
I’m not really offended by indie/hipster types, the dominant populace of the venue that night, but Christina developed an immediate disdain for the girls with Pocahontas-style headbands and messy half-ponytails. "I was just thinking that some of these girls are cute, but the fact that I know they’re assholes ruins it for me."
It’s people like Christina who keep our nation from kicking prejudice. Okay, and me, too.
It wasn’t until 10:30 that Thao with The Get Down Stay Down took the stage with their inoffensive brand of indie-folk. In other words, it was pleasing to the ear, but boring. It made me feel really hungry though because I couldn’t stop thinking about how they would have sounded so much better if they were the house band at a restaurant and my back was toward them while I shoved spaghetti-wrapped forkfuls into my gaping maw.
Then I started to think about how I hadn’t eaten in five billion hours and my nose was starting to run and I couldn’t stop coughing and I really wanted to die. Plus, my aging body isn’t used to attending 21+ shows that don’t start until after 10:30 at night and so I kept yawning and resting my cold-stuffed head on my hands and basically illustrating how NOT to act if you don’t want everyone to know you’re the token square at the show.
Also, probably you shouldn’t use words like "square," either.
During Thao’s set, a Super Tall Guy meandered over to the throng of people that had slowly collected at the front of the stage, obstructing our view completely. I didn’t care, because I was only there to see Xiu Xiu, but we still got pissy about it because that’s what we do at shows, us old people — we bitch and complain about those goddamn kids with their long fucking torsos and mop-topped heads that make better doors than windows. When the second tallest guy in the room sauntered up behind him, we lost it.
Then the two most annoying girls in Kentucky wandered over and stopped, naturally, directly in front of our table. I’m not sure exactly why they chose that particular spot, but there was feet upon feet of empty floor separating them from the stage. I thought that maybe they were deliberating where to go, but no. No, they planted their feet down, staked the floor with a flag bearing their name, and stayed there during the entire set. They even gradually migrated further back until the one girl’s asscheeks were nearly resting on the edge of our table. Christina suggested using the threat of rape to get them to stand elsewhere and then tried to slip one of my Moo cards in their back pockets. The one girl wore an ugly tweed blazer and seemed to be confused with where to place her feet; she kept shuffling them like a deck of cards, but then I noticed she was also swaying and slightly moving her arms, and that’s when it occurred to me she might be dancing. A male friend joined them later and he danced as though he was listening to Yacht rock.
I’ve never been more embarrassed to be white.
The next band to play was Why?, short for Why Are They Still on the Stage Oh My God Kill Me Want To Die Please End It All Now WTF Do They Think This Stage Is Their Summer Time Share? Turns out Why? is originally from Cincinnati and 75% of the people there that night were there to support them specifically. We’re talking everyone they knew from college. People from their sixth grade study hall. Bus boys who may have once refilled their water at Olive Garden in 1997. Their parents.
Before the inaugural note even had a chance to resonate in the atmosphere of the room, the crowd went fucking apeshit. People were clotheslined against the balcony, frantically waving in the air, lips moving along with the lyrics. The crowd in front of the stage amassed a head count that quadrupled what it was for Thao.
It sounded like they said they were only playing three songs from their new album, but after ninety minutes of relentless xylophone malleting, I realized what they meant was, "We’re going to play three songs from our new album, ten songs from other albums, some B-sides, I’m going to try and sing the Star Spangled Banner and then give up when I forget the lyrics after the second line [this really happened], and then if we start running out of material, I’ll sing a song I wrote when I was four about how dogs sniff butts and girls have vaginas and I think I might too."
They would tease us, Christina and me. They would say things like, "We’re going to play one more song," and we’d exchange looks of utter relief, thinking there was a God after all, Christina would kiss her imaginary rosary, but then after that one last song they’d start playing another song that sounded like the song two songs before the last song that was supposed to be their last song and why did they have to have so many songs? I was getting sicker, coughing harder, speaking less. I even fell asleep a few times because it was after midnight by this point and I was TIRED.
During one song, the singer stopped and said, "That got messed up, so we’re going to start that verse over again," and the crowd went wild. "YES PLAY IT AGAIN! WE LOVE YOU! WHY? FOREVER!" Clearly, Why? is a band of local heroes. Then to our horror, someone would shout, "PLAY ONE MORE SONG!" and dozens of people would follow and Christina would shout, "NO DON’T!" loud enough for both of us since my voice was completely gone by then and no one actually retaliated against Christina’s protests but I wasn’t ruling out a potential beating with orange-stuffed socks after the show. She kept shouting, "XIU XIU! WE WANT XIU XIU!" to counter the pleas for more songs, and I was relieved that I taught her how to pronounce their name. (Shoo-Shoo, not Zyoo-Zyoo.)
Look, they were a decent band. Probably I’d have written a glowing review if they kept their set down to a thirty minute maximum. You know, since they weren’t HEADLINING.
What I’ll always remember about Why? is that the world’s most huggingest couple stood in front of our table and used their music as the soundtrack for all the hugging and lower back-caressing they shamelessly engaged in. I’ve seriously never seen two people spontaneously embrace with such nauseating passion and urgency. The man was about to leave to get a beer and they hugged as though he was never coming back.
By the time Why? left the stage, it was nearly 1:00am. I looked at Christina with sad eyes and croaked, "I don’t think I’m going to make it." But then Xiu Xiu came out and started setting up, reminding me that I had driven five hours to see them. Even though I was so sick, probably had a fever, may have been hemorrhaging from all the forceful coughing, I still marched my ass up to the front of the stage because I’d be damned if any fucking hugger or tall Indian-sweatered douche was going to block my view. Christina stood behind me, just in case I succumbed to the sickness and fell to the floor, I guess, and we watched curiously as Xiu Xiu dragged their carnival of instruments onto the stage. They had a gong, a hand-pumped piano, some weird Casio-looking keyboard that was played like a clarinet, a flute, whistles.
Caralee of Xiu Xiu gave her synth one last fiddle and then they started playing. As soon as the singer, Jamie Stewart, opened his mouth to utter the first string of lyrics, wrapped with dramatics and dipped in pain, I turned to look at Christina. I’ve never before seen so much of the whites of her eyes and her lip was slightly curled back, exposing her teeth. She looked fearful, like she had just walked in on her mom fucking a dwarf. The room buzzed with dulcet tones of chimes and electronic beeps while Jamie’s voice would fluctuate between anguished whispers and short phrases spoken in a staccato’d monotone before launching into soaring crescendos that socked the breath out of my lungs and made my heart ache. The mood would go melancholy again, lyrics murmured with delicacy, mellow strumming of a guitar, only to jar the crowd with unexpected crashes and stangulated shrieks.
Jamie had a tower of cymbals in front of him and he would occasionally grab a fat drumstick and sweetly tap at them. He would start to walk away, only to turn back and lunge at the cymbals, violating them with frantic beatings while shouting, "Oh my God oh my God oh my God" into the mic. His face would contort into the primal twisting of a killer, sweat dripping down his temples in rivulets. I forgot about being sick. Though I was still using the edge of the stage to keep myself from folding.
Xiu Xiu’s music is dark, bleak, unsettling. I admit that if I’m driving alone at night and one of their songs comes on, I’ll usually skip it because it makes me shiver and instinctively toss furtive glances over my shoulder.
During one song, Jamie fell to his knees and continuously screamed into the mic while scraping a metal washboard, his tortured soul was vomiting angst and passion all over the stage, and it was one of the most satisfyingly horrifying things I have ever seen. I was telling this to Collin and he looked confused, having heard one of Xiu Xiu’s songs before. "But they don’t sound like a heavy band," he argued. A band doesn’t have to be playing Viking metal to earn the right to belch out blood-curling cries. Don’t let Xiu Xiu fool you into thinking they’re some cute little indie art band, because they made me want to hold my mommy’s hand.
In 2004, I wrote this in my LiveJournal:
When I listen to Xiu Xiu, I drift off into a different realm that’s occupied by talking antique dolls that reside in a pastel village surrounded by millions of miles of open pastures and no neighboring towns. I’m dressed like a ballerina with a thick ribbon tied around my neck, only it’s tied too tight and I run around scratching my neck, trying in vain to remove it, while people roam around me with vacant smiles and backward limbs. And even though the sun is shining, the sky is dark.
Then I come upon a tiny steeple and the singer from Xiu Xiu speeds out on a unicycle and starts singing "Clown Towne" in my face while throwing over sized lollipops at me. His smile is so wide and then I notice that it’s because the sides of his mouth are ripped. Then he starts stabbing me while albino midgets stand around giggling and throwing confetti.
And then I’m raped by a mannequin.
But I still listen to Xiu Xiu. I kind of like feeling disjointed.
Four years later and I still feel the same way. By the time their set ended at 2:00am, I was wide awake and wanted to rehash every single moment of it the whole way back to Christina’s house. Of course, as we walked out, I overheard people complaining about not getting what they wanted. "They didn’t play ‘Fabulous Muscles!’" some people griped to each other. I scowled at the complainers as I walked out. They could have played the same song over and over for the entire set and I still would have been grateful at the opportunity to see them. It easily secured a slot in my Top Ten Best Shows.
Xiu Xiu was playing at the Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky on Saturday. Doors opened at 9:00 and even though it’s only about a thirty minute drive from Christina’s house, she insisted on leaving early; so early that we wound up arriving at 6:30pm. Our time-killing options consisted of:
walking aimlessly around Newport on the Levy with all the trendy lacquered-nail fuckers
extracting teeth to finance the overpriced beverages at the piano bar (featuring the most annoying female lounge singer I’ve heard this side of Jessica Simpson — I know this because her pulverized rearrangement of "Hotel California" polluted the sidewalk through speakers)
jumping off one of the bevy of bridges.
My tooth was bugging me from my recent crown procedure, and I implored Christina to get me drunk. It was the only way I was going to survive the night. "Surely there’s some sleazy dive bars around the corner?" I asked out loud. The next thing I knew, Christina was asking one of the valets, "Hey, you know of any sleazy bars around here? We don’t want to drink anywhere inside there," she said, cocking her head toward the carnival of flashing neon lights and people with fake laughs. Immediately he suggests somewhere inside the mall, the place she emphatically said we didn’t want to go. A lot of the bars there were chains that we have in Pittsburgh too. It’s like going on vacation and eating at Denny’s. I wanted to kickback in a local bar. Maybe take in a knife fight or two.
I stepped up and explained this to the valet. He gave us directions to a street a few blocks away and told us there was a "real dive bar that just opened up on the corner down there." When we walked away, I hit her.
"What’d you have to go and say ‘sleazy’ for?" I yelled.
"Well, that’s what you said!" she retorted, all up in arms. She’s all up in them arms a lot.
Apparently the valet’s definition of "sleazy" is: brand new sports bar with an old-fashioned wooden facade, brass door handles, and men in white collared shirts limp-wristing their chicken wings while watching the basketball game. Survey says they had gold money clips, too.
Christina was about to walk in but I was all, "Don’t be stupid. That place already has me yawning." We kept walking. And by walking, I mean jay-walking. Christina was so mad at me for it, but let me tell you something, this bitch don’t wait for no light to change, okay?
A homeless man with frizzy gray hair and a mouth full of rot stopped us and asked for spare change. I wanted to tell him to not be so cliché, ask for something different like a bottle of benzos or Soap Opera Digest, but instead I gave him the cliché answer of "Sorry, no cash" complete with the obligatory downward tug of the mouth corners. After we crossed the street, I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had stopped a few feet away on t he sidewalk and was presently boring holes through our non-homeless skulls with his vacant eyes.
"He’s staring at us," I hissed at Christina.
"Well, no shit. His friend in Pittsburgh told him you give homeless people twenty dollar bills."
Just then, the flickering of a neon light captured my attention.
"That’s it, that’s the place where we’re getting drunk." I pointed across the street to a shabby bar called Brass Lounge.
I especially liked the twinkling gold star that looked out of place without a Christmas tree lodged up its ass and the neon pink animal of an indistinguishable species. Oh, and also the cocktail with floaters in it really made me lick my lips.
Christina looked unsure, but followed me, for I am her shepherd. My hand was on the door knob, I was about to tug it open, but I caught a glimpse of the gigantic sign in the window that said DANCERS WANTED. I took one big step backward and looked up at the front of the building, where it said "Girls girls girls" along the bottom in a cute little train of blue neon.
Now, I have no qualms about slapping down bills in a strip club, but something told me that this was not the establishment I wanted to be entering that night. And that the dancers were probably the human equivalent to a stable of horses that needed to be put down. I was afraid that if we walked in, we might not be walking back out in time to make the show. And not because we’d be having so much fun.
We may have been able to catch a knife fight in there though, and undoubtedly glimpsed various incarnations of Henry, leaning forward with wagging tongues and jostling beer bellies.
Next to the Brass Lounge was a dancer’s apparel store. The mannequin in the window modeled a delicate Y-shaped band of spandex which strategically crossed over the nipples and crotch. It was in the most gentle hue of violet a stripper ever did wear.
We crossed back to the side of the street where flesh wasn’t being flashed and came close to colliding with two older men who were about to walk into Huddle’s Cafe. The older of the two wore a billowing flannel shirt and seemed like he would be at home on the floor of a garage with a car jacked up above his body. He was laughing loudly at the exchange he just had with his friend and, noticing us on the sidewalk, shared with us why he was laughing, which wasn’t funny enough for me to remember, but we politely laughed along with him and then he gallantly held the door to the bar open for us. Christina whispered, "When we’re together, everyone is so nice to us" and I agreed, unaware that she was jinxing us for later, when people around us would morph into jiggling bags of douche syrup.
I think at first he had hope, but then he probably thought we were lesbians (which is 50% true, in our case), so he and his buddy left almost as soon as they sat down, to the dismay of the bartenders.
Huddle’s Cafe was clean, dark, and had the requisite sad guy sitting alone at the bar with his heavy head hung over a bottle of beer. Aside from the two female bartenders, the joint was deserted. Christina and I made ourselves at home, taking up enough space along the bar for four people. I have a lot of stuff that I like to set out in front of me. Like my phone, my camera, makeup, prosthetic phelange. My jacket got slung across the stool next to me and my brick of cocaine didn’t drop out of the pocket, which is a miracle.
If I lived in Newport, I would definitely be a regular. The younger of the two bartenders was easy on the eyes (kind of stupid though), the jukebox had an amazing selection (not so amazing that it would include Xiu Xiu, though), there was a pool table in the back, and the bathroom had vanilla brown sugar hand soap.
We killed the next hour and a half knocking back amaretto sours (OK, that was just me), having jukebox wars with some stodgy middle aged man sitting on the other side of the bar, spilling drinks (OK, that was just me), pretending to care when the bartender talked shit on the owner, and talking about world issues (as long as those issues somehow involved me, I mean).
I was kind of drunk and it was getting close to eight o’clock, so Christina tipped the bartender a hundred million dollars for having a nice rack, and we split. I felt like peeing in the corner first, to stake my claim; maybe lacerate Christina’s arm and use her tawdry blood to scrawl "ERIN WUZ HIZERE" on the wall. I miss that place now.
I know, I know — you’d think I’d never been to a bar before.
Outside the bar, I ducked in between two buildings in order to take a picture of the sky, which looked especially moody and foreboding behind the a-framed roof of an American Legion building. A Mexican man walked by and asked what we were doing. I started to panic, maybe the cops were cracking down on camera-usage in alleyways, until I realized that he was smiling. I told him I was taking a picture of the sky, to which he laughingly responded, "Oh, I thought maybe there was a dead body back there!"
And we all laughed. Then I was sad that there wasn’t really a dead body, because that would have been way better than a stupid sky at twilight.
Usually, when scouting the field for some good subjects, I employ the ‘shoot & run’ tactic, an effective choice if you don’t mind angry cries and blurred images.
But today, when I was skulking around Brookline in the spring-like weather, taking my new Diana+ camera out for a test drive, I saw a photographic opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up; to walk away would have plagued me with nightmares of regret. A man was leaning against the brick wall of Kribel’s Bakery, smoking a cigarette. He looked middle age with sandy hair — styled loosely in a rockabilly coif — and tattoos and he sported tube socks that would have made Christina swoon; he looked like he was trying to grasp on to the last few strands of punk mentality that life had alotted him, like maybe he had gotten married and his wife was trying to force him to "grow up" but they compromised on a few accessories.
As I approached, I recognized him as the baker from Kribel’s; I had seen him just a few weeks ago when I stopped in to buy a cake for Kim’s birthday and I remember promptly calling Henry to inform him of my new crush. I knew I needed his picture. But I didn’t hide behind a car or garbage can. I didn’t act like I was trying to "fix" something on the camera as I strolled past, looking skyward and murmuring "Tweedle dee dee." I didn’t pretend like I was taking a picture of the awesome brick wall next to him. I didn’t distract him by baring my breasts.
No, I walked up to him, caught his eye, and asked, "Do you mind if I take a picture of you?" I wanted a real photo of him; not streaks of his blue shirt, or the ground, or the sky, as I tried unsuccesfully to be covert.
His hand froze, cigarette midway to his mouth, and he repeated my request. "Can you take MY picture?" He looked around to see if anyone had heard. I didn’t make up a story about being a photography student. I didn’t pretend to be a tourist. I told the truth.
"I just got this toy camera, and I would really like to take your picture." OK, maybe I slipped in something about a fake portfolio. And that I wanted to fill it with faces of Brookline, a community that’s so dear to my heart. But for the most part, there was no nose-growing. He said yes, and two old men sitting nearby on a bench scurried away into a store, probably afraid they were next on my hit list.
Jesus Christ: enjoying Pixar movies, mending charred bridges, and now asking for permission to photograph someone in lieu of flat out stalking? What’s next — helping old bitches across the street? Don’t worry — I was terrorizing unsuspecting pedestrians with my Holga in another part of Pittsburgh earlier today, so it’s balanced.
The Secret Santa gift exchange at work is this Friday and I’m proud to say that I’m 100% ready. Since yesterday. Five whole days early. This is unlike me.
The girl I shopped for is 18 and cool like me; she likes music that I like, and nautical things and her favorite colors are red, yellow, orange, and brown. I bought her a bunch of little things, and then I decided to try and be an ultra-sweetheart with a center of pure delight and honeyed raindrops. So I painted her a picture of an anchor garden.
Lookie, the flowers are all blooming in her FAVORITE COLORS. See how I did that, combined two things on her list? See that?
I’m a bit intimidated though, because she’s a real artist (according to my boss) and not a fake poseur ass ho-bitch artist like me.
Dying to know who got me. Sneaking suspicion says Tina.
Thursday, 11-15 and Friday, 11-16:
I had slight twinging on my left side. I was fairly certain it could be my kidney, but also considered a strained muscle. The pain was just a dull ache that fades into the background of my day, so I didn’t concern myself too much.
When I came home from school, I started to get body aches so I sprawled out on the couch under a blanket and had Henry serve me Tylenol. Henry bitched that I was 5% sick, 95% dramatic, but by that night, I was nearly convulsing and couldn’t get warm no matter what I did. My teeth were chattering so hard that I was afraid they would chip. Henry bitched for me to call my doctor, but I just got new insurance last month and hadn’t had a chance to choose a doctor yet, so his bitching was for naught. Henry is MEAN when I’m sick.
I had a fever of 103. I wanted to go to the ER, but Henry bitched again about calling my doctor (which I still didn’t have).
That night, the music wafting from Chooch’s monitor started talking to me. Maynard James Keenan was telling me to pull out my intestines and tie them in bows (A Perfect Circle will never sound the same to me again).
The CD in Chooch’s room also has a Club Ibiza remix of Bush’s “Letting the Cables Sleep,” a song that used to be quite capable of soothing me but under the spell of my fever had suddenly sounded like if vinegar and garlic and bile, straight from Satan’s saliva, solidified into a thorny-armored army of musical notes and began its cavalcade down my temporal lobe. I wanted to reach out and shut off the monitor but I couldn’t muster the energy.
I was sick. Sick, sick, sick. Fever. Henry bitched. My only meal was a small cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream which made me nauseated. That night, I hallucinated that I retrieved my imaginary $15 flea market shot gun from under my pillow and Frenched the barrel while finger-jobbing its trigger.
In the early AM, I called Henry and begged him to come home and take me to the hospital. He came home alright, but instead of taking me to the hospital, he found me a stupid doctor on Brookline Boulevard because it would only cost $10 instead of the $100 ER fee, but my appointment wasn’t for another 6 hours. I didn’t care about the extra money it would cost to go to the ER. I just wanted to get better and go back to work. Time is money and either way I was losing out on it.
The doctor’s office was next to a laundromat, and as soon as I walked in, I was barraged by a stench of Beef-a-Roni and vitamins. Some poop, too I think. There were watermarks on the ceiling, wallpaper was ripped from the walls near the floorboards, and the magazines catered only to the elderly patient bracket. The receptionist had a brassy hair helmet with fringed bangs and close-set, beady eyes. I didn’t like how forcefully she grabbed the clipboard from me.
A male nurse came and took my vitals. He had a creepy white handlebar moustache with blonde highlights and wore beige scrubs which made me uncomfortable. The bathroom where I gave my urine sample had tile ripped up from around the commode. I felt like I was in a Nicaraguan clinic and became afraid that Angelina Jolie would come in and try to adopt me.
My doctor was in his forties and very personable. He put me at ease and didn’t patronize me when I told him I was sure I had a kidney infection. He wholeheartedly agreed and, as he took my pulse, said that I was “very sick.” No shit, I felt like I was dying. I told him so, too. He laughed when I said I expected to be able to return to work the next day.
Later on, I was home alone with Chooch while Henry went to pick up my prescriptions. Chooch kept beating on me and I was so sick and exhausted that I lost it and started wailing. It was a pitiful moment. Not really one to share with Kodak.
I couldn’t find any relief during Tuesday night. I was so tired and wanted to sleep but I had a searing pain in my head and my fever kept spiking. I called Henry into the bedroom (he had been banished to the couch for snoring) and gasped, “Look, I surrender. I cannot manage this pain. I’m dehydrated. I want to go to the fucking hospital.”
He was all, “Well, I don’t know how you’re going to get there….” and I growled, “Work it out!” He of course sat there stupidly, so I yelled at him to call Janna, who arrived shortly around midnight and took me to St. Clair Hospital, where there was an apparent gnat outbreak.
After I registered (the nurse loudly asked my weight, but then whispered, “And when was your last period?”), Janna, my knotted hair, and I sat in the dingy waiting room on hard teal chairs. Some bitch we went to high school with walked by with her butch-gait and I scowled. Then I panicked that she would fuck with my chart and I would wind up getting chemo or a mastectomy.
When I finally got a room, a nurse came in and asked me what was causing me the most pain. “My head!” I whined. “You have a kidney infection, but your HEAD is giving you the most pain?” she asked in disbelief. Oh lady, if you only knew. It felt like an irate Roman god had stuck tuning rods in hellfire and then pierced both of my temples with them until the formed crosses behind my eyes, at which point seventy-three bolts of lightning were summoned to strike while a Molotov cocktail made from bleach, John Candy’s stomach acid, Black widow venom, BTK’s semen and Flava Flav’s athletes foot exploded in the back of my head, the after effect of which was like being persistently bitten all over my brain by a swarm of fire ants. This would happen over and over, like Groundhog Day. Except it was every hour. So Groundhog Hour, I guess.
It also didn’t help that I was lying on a headful of knots on top of more knots, sucking the dicks of other knots. Janna chose our hospital quiet time to request a story. I’m sorry Janna, but this IV in my arm is kind of distracting me from spinning yarns. Why don’t you pull out that book in your purse? I hear those book thingies have lots of stories.
I was released at 5am, but not before the ER doctor said, “You know, generally when people have kidney infections like yours, they’re admitted.” Tell that to my boyfriend, doctor. I tried to sleep when I got home, but my headache was still there. In fact, by late morning it was at its peak. Henry called the doctor and had my prescription switched from Cipro, because as it turns out, we’re just not meant to be friends. He also called in a prescription for a pain reliever, so I was ready to get stuffed by dinner time.
My mom never called to see how I was doing.