Jul 212008
 

My parents were in the process of having a back porch built onto our house. This was a big deal for my brother Ryan and me, because stalking one of the workers became the sole reason we got out of bed each day. I mean really, who wants to swim and lay out in the sun when you can be violating someone’s privacy?

There was no real reason why we felt so intrinsically drawn to the sweaty laborer. He wasn’t good-looking, he didn’t sport a peg-leg, he wasn’t albino. He was just your average forty-something year old porch-builder with tinted eyeglasses, a farmer’s tan and a bushy moustache. I don’t even think he ever spoke to us. I mean, would you?

We would run from window to window, snapping pictures of him. Pictures from the kitchen, pictures from our parent’s bedroom, pictures bent around tree trunks. One day, Ryan even chased his truck up the street as he departed for home after a long grueling day of hammering nails and chugging Schlitz under the shade of a maple. I often wondered if our porch-builder had a good broad with a nice plump behind to nail, maybe cook him up a nice thick stew.

I’ll never forget the day we discovered his name was Gary. We ran into the house, erupting into shrieks and giggles. Our mom’s reaction was something akin to “Yeah, so?” accompanied by an eye brow raise. She always raised the eyebrow that bore a scar from when she was a baby and rolled off her bed, banging her face off the corner of the nightstand. I still can’t believe she never made up a better story, like how she was nicked by a gypsy’s butterfly knife the time she tried to steal cantaloupes off their wagon. When I was fourteen and viciously mauled by our psycho rabbit, you better believe I went back to school with a yarn about getting stabbed during gang initiation.

After a week of wasting film on this fine craftsman, we decided these clandestine snaps weren’t providing enough of a sociopathic rush. We needed more thrill, something that provided more of an instant gratification. When you’re young, you want souvenirs for everything you do: pocketed sugar packets from a truck stop diner, pebbles from the parking lot of the first sex shack your dad made you wait outside of, bloodied gauze from your first tooth extraction.

So the next obvious step clearly was to collect Gary’s cigarette butts and beer cans.

We waited until he’d go to his truck, then sprint out in the backyard like scavengers, picking through the grass in search of a butt or two. Once we accumulated enough to satiate our pursuant appetite, we brought our treasures in the house and stowed it underneath the couch in the family room. Like chipmunks storing acorns, crack heads hording rocks.

Stalking Gary consumed so much of our summer. So much that it infiltrated the summer of my friends, as well. My best friend Christy was out of town for some sort of academic camp. I wrote her a letter and enclosed one of Gary’s cigarettes butts for her to cherish as well. I just wanted her summer to be as rich as ours had become, thanks to Gary. I wrote letters to every one of my pen pals, detailing Gary’s every action and movement. Everyone clung to the Summer of Gary with bated breath.

Unfortunately, the fun and games ended when my dad unearthed our stash of purloined memorabilia under the couch. Now, any other dad would have rightfully accused us of smoking and drinking. Luckily for us, my dad recognized the extent of our weirdness long before this incident, so he believed our tale and we escaped punishment. The downside was that he forbade us to continue our game and pitched our pirated keepsake, muttering something about how we were embarrassing him or something.

I often wonder what Gary is doing these days, and if he knew he was being stalked. Was he flattered? I asked my mom: she said probably not.

Jun 102008
 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Morning

Today I was looking for Chooch’s juice cup and thought perhaps he left it on the window sill. When I pulled back the curtains, something small and grayish in color hit the floor with a plop. I screamed and jumped back. A few seconds later, I saw it jump underneath the TV stand. I called Henry immediately and reported to him that we had in the house what I assumed was a toad. “It’s definitely something that makes a plopping sound when it hits the ground, so whatever that is, that’s what’s in the house.” Happy birthday, Henry!

Chooch stood by the TV for awhile, lining up some of his cars on the shelf. Looking at his bare legs and feet, I figured it was probably not the best idea for him to standing so close to our house guest (whom I lost sight of). What if it wasn’t a toad at all? I entertained the idea of a brand new species hulking around back there in the corner, perhaps something with tentacles, venom, and red pubic hair. I pulled Chooch away from the TV and made him play somewhere safer, like near the basement steps, and continued flirting with that thought.

I kept my feet tucked underneath me on the couch for the rest of the morning.

Afternoon

Henry came home from work and pulled the TV back. “It’s a mouse, you retard.” Then he left to get sticky traps, because I was adamant about not killing it.

Evening

People at work have informed me that those sticky traps kill mice. “Sometimes a mouse will chew its own foot off to escape from those traps,” my boss said. I texted Henry: ABORT, ABORT. Henry says mouse removal is officially my responsibility.

“Tell me you’re not this worked up over a MOUSE,” Eleanore said disgustedly. I ate a good almond cookie.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Morning

Diary, it is 1:00 in the morning and the mouse is perched above the screen on the front window! He’s really cute; I’m talking to him and feeding him shredded cheese. I don’t know what his name is yet so I’m just calling him “Hey little buddy.”  It reminds me of when I was in elementary school and I taught a Praying Mantis how to count change. Henry said he’s a field mouse. “Like Secret of NIMH?” I asked. “Yeah, like Secret of NIMH,” he said, sounding a bit impatient. We’ve been watching it intently for fifteen minutes now. It just scratched himself and then stepped on the cheese I sprinkled. Every time Henry gets too close, the mouse tenses up and makes like he’s going to run — I’d get tense too if I saw a big bearded douchebag approaching me  — but when I approach, he is calm and we make casual eye contact.

I’m thinking of the cozy house I’m going to build for him, with a little chimney and fresh daisies in a tiny vase, but then Henry just tried to catch him with an empty iced tea canister, causing the mouse to attempt suicide by leaping to the floor. Look Diary, that mouse is cute and cuddly, sure, FROM AFAR. But I guarantee if that thing starts scampering around my feet, it’s going to get booted into the wall. Losing sight of it, I tug on Henry’s shirt and hug him from behind and I bet he wishes I was wearing a strap-on. Henry is mad now because he “could have had it” but he couldn’t bend down with me grabbing at him like that. He was all, “GO STAND OVER THERE,” and if he had it his way, “there” would be at the bottom of the ocean with a few cinder blocks and a chain.

The mouse ran back behind the TV.

Evening

Hey, I haven’t seen that mouse in awhile. I can only hope it’s off making hundreds of babies somewhere in my house.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Evening

A few minutes ago, I was treating my brain to some quality reality TV programming, as you do, when I heard a strangulated growl coming from the dining room. I looked up and saw Nicotina (aka Speck, Breakfast Nook, Pickles) with my little buddy IN HER MOUTH. At this point, I don’t know the mouse’s status (breathing, not breathing), but my rescue mode is activated and I start screaming bloody murder for Nicotina to release the damn mouse. Henry and Chooch are upstairs and probably think the house is on fire or there’s a hatchet lodged in my head with the way I’m flipping out. I yelled up to Henry what was going down and heard him mumble, “Jesus Christ.”

Cornering Nicotina on the back porch, I grabbed her just before Marcy came stalking through the kitchen to get a piece of the action. Marcy does NOT need to be involved in this. She scares me. Nicotina looked highly confused, her eyes said, “Is this not what I’m supposed to do?” I held my breath and snatched her, mouse and all, and keeping her at arm’s length, I ran with her to the front door. Before I had a chance to pull the door open, she spat the mouse out onto the couch and he scurried behind the pillows.

Henry and Chooch are downstairs at this point, and Chooch started crying; probably because he didn’t understand why Mommy was raving  with bugged-out eyes like a woman scorned. I ordered Henry to help and he reluctantly grabbed a diaper and held it open like a catcher’s mitt, muttering under his breath about how he should have just killed the fucker on Friday. I put aside my desire to donkey kick him and focus on making it through the night with no casualties. The mouse ran off the couch and fell into one of Chooch’s toy bins. “PICK IT UP AND TAKE IT OUTSIDE! WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE!” I screamed. Henry threw the bin on the front porch and said, “YOU go out there and YOU dump it out.”

So I did. And the mouse ran to freedom. Nicotina wouldn’t look at me for the rest of the night.

I was so amped up after that, that I couldn’t sit down. Fuck, Diary, I wish you could have seen it; it’s the most amazing feeling to save a life. I highly recommend it. I kept wanting to talk about it with Henry, but he was thoroughly unimpressed. “Normal people would have killed it, but not you. You have to turn it into a Thing.” He won’t admit that I deserve to be knighted. I called Christina and she said the whole time I was telling her about it, she kept envisioning me as Dog the Bounty Hunter.

I think I want to do this for a living, this saving mice thing. I want to be on Animal Planet.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Evening

I’ve been telling everyone about my rescue success, about how valiant I am. Kim and Collin said something about me needing therapy, but I know they’re really just trying to downplay their awe. I showed Kim the picture of Frederick (that’s the mouse) and she admitted he was really fucking cute.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 TODAY

Morning

Chooch just pointed to the floor in the living room and innocently asked, “Whassat?” A dead mouse, that’s what. Shit, isn’t this chapter closed yet? I’m trying not to panic, trying not to wonder if it’s Frederick. Maybe he came back for more shredded cheese. All I know is that he wasn’t there five minutes ago when I walked across the room to the couch. I asked Chooch who put it there and he said Speck. That bitch.

I called Henry and yelled SOMETHING TERRIBLE JUST HAPPENED. He told me to throw it outside, then hurried up and made sure I knew not to touch it with bare hands. So I wrapped it gingerly in a paper towel and placed it on the front porch.

Afternoon

THE MOUSE IS GONE. A FUCKING BIRD TOOK IT. I called Henry and, in quick-speak, relay to him the latest development. “….and so I had it on the porch so that you could bury it when you come home—” Henry interrupted me with genuine laughter. “–and now it’s GONE.” Henry gave me a talk about nature.

Evening

Bob told me there are probably a hundred more mice in my house.

I don’t want to do this for a living anymore.

May 192008
 

III: Pat’s Pizzeria

Corey and I had time to kill before the show started, which was a good thing because our breakfast and lunch consisted of sharing a bag of Munchos in the car. Driving down the main drag of whatever shit hole we were in, we passed strip clubs and adult video stores, liquor stores and dance studios (the exotic kind) on every block. Every couple of intersections, I would start to pull into a parking lot, and then say, “Oh, never mind, that’s just a bait shop” or “Oops, I thought that was an IHOP, but it’s just another whore house.” Holy shit, New Jersey is made with a crust of perversion, filled with a gooey center of booze and g-strings. No wonder Christina is so sleazy — she was BORN in the center of it all.

When the going gets tough, the tough call Henry.

“We need you to find us somewhere to eat, somewhere that’s not too far from our motel, and somewhere that has grilled cheese,” I ordered, skipping the salutations.

“I AM IN PITTSBURGH,” Henry growled. “Find your own damn restaurant, you’re capable. USE YOUR FUCKING BLACKBERRY.”

“Yeah, OK. So, we passed a sign for Camden, if that helps. Find us food establishments, thanks.”

Henry, probably realizing that I was just going to keep calling him until he fulfilled my wishes, found us some family restaurant back in Gloucester. I followed his directions part-way until I grew tired and nervous that he was leading us straight into a river or over a cliff with dynamite in our mouths, so when we came upon Pat’s Pizzeria, Corey and I both agreed that it’d do.

Despite the neon “Open” sign, Pat’s didn’t appear very inviting. There were no other cars in the lot and a large section of the entrance was cordoned off with yellow Caution tape. We were hungry and running out of time, so we dropped the spoiled siblings act and went inside. But I mean, we REALLY had our hearts set on grilled cheese, just so you know.

We must have missed Pat’s hey day by a few years. It looked like it could have been a decent establishment at some point, but then maybe the owners stopped caring because it’s probably just a drug front anyway. Who cares if the vinyl booths have switchblade slashes in  them and the floor hasn’t been mopped in weeks when you’re hustling kilos and illegal arms out the back of the storeroom.

A shifty guy named Yianni waited on us, never once making eye contact. He seemed surprised that we opted to dine in because apparently the locals eschew Pat’s disheveled dining room for their own. I ordered cheese ravioli and I won’t lie — I was excited to try the edible delights of Gloucester’s famed pizzeria (there’s an advertisement for it on the underpass leading into  town, so you know it’s good).

Somewhere in between spying a shirtless fat man sitting down with a beer in his house across the street and sending pictures of Corey looking scared and miserable to our mom, an older woman who appeared to be a few food stamps safe from vagabondism sat down behind me with a double stroller. Her frizzy red hair was streaked with gray and she was wearing a billowing man’s overcoat; her lips were unable to meet past her buck teeth. We paid no attention to her, and then halfway through our meal, she set her sights on us. She was undeterred by the fact that, moments earlier, Corey loudly postulated, “I feel like this town is swimming in AIDS” and proceeded to solicit us with small talk.

“What is tomorrow? I feel like tomorrow is something special,” she asked aloud, looking directly at our table. I turned slightly and told her it was Mother’s Day, but apparently the proper reaction would have been to box up our food and finish eating in the car, because once we took her bait, she refused to  throw us back to sea. There was a vibe about her, I can’t put my finger on it, but she seemed slightly unstable. Her eyes seemed unfocused, glazed; and I mean, I’ve been known to pick up hitchhikers without a second thought, so my feeling nervous about someone speaks volumes. Corey was unnerved by her too.

She asked Corey and I what we were getting our mothers, and I explained that we’re siblings and have the same mom, and that my present to our mom was getting Corey out of her hair for the weekend, that this was our first sibling road trip and we were there to see the Cure.

“The Cure?” she repeated, brows furrowed. “No, I ain’t heard of it.” Feigning incredulity, I told her that they weren’t a new band, they’ve been around since the late seventies.

“Oh, that’s before my time. I wasn’t around all that long ago.” I was hoping she was being facetious, but something told me she was a little off-kilter. This was around the point where Corey started kicking me under the table.

“Let’s get the fuck away from the crazy broad, plz.”

She began bragging about her older kids. One daughter, who is 21, is in charge of three WaWas. THREE WAWAS, you guys. I wasn’t aware that this was a huge accomplishment, but her face fell a little when I didn’t applaud, so I hurried up and said, “Oh wow! That’s great.”

“Oh yeah, I know! And she just graduated high school last year.” She smiled and shook her head proudly. “My other daughter is nineteen. She just graduated this year. You probably know her,” she said to Corey. “Crystal?”

Corey, who refused to engage her, continued staring in the other direction, so I reminded her that we weren’t townies. Every time I caught Corey’s eye, he widened them into angry and impatient saucers, imploring me to stop talking to her. He finally took matters into his own hands and went to the counter to get takeout boxes off of Yianni.

“Oh right!” she said, remembering. “You guys are musical. I forgot.” I don’t know what she meant by that, but Corey had returned to the table with takeout boxes, which we sloppily scraped the rest of our food in. Before I left, she pummeled me with sweet sentiments, asking God to bless me and urging me to take care of myself. “Please tell your mother I said Happy Mother’s Day!” she shouted as I shirked quickly through the door. Hey Mom, some crazy fisherwoman from New Jersey might die if you don’t have a blessed Mother’s Day.

I feel like if I had been any closer, she would have stuck me with a pin to have a drop of my blood to keep as a memento.

When we got out to the car, Corey breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. “What the fuck was wrong with her? She didn’t even order any food. She was just SITTING there the whole time, like she was lost.”

As we pulled back into the motel’s lot, I theorized that she was probably there to get her weekly fix. The guy who was fighting earlier with his girlfriend no longer was wearing a shirt, and was staring at us from the door of his room. As we got ready to leave for the show, we reminisced of past European vacations. “And look at us now!” I shouted cheerfully, waiting for the bathroom light to warm up.

Apr 142008
 

Chooch and I were sitting together on the couch this morning and I accidentally got too close to him, so he kicked me, yelled at me, and then finished me off with a smoldering glare that sent me straight into the Devil’s embrace.

Sometimes we’ll be sitting quietly and I swear I haven’t encroached upon his bubble of personal space, turned the channel, or breathed too heavily, yet he’ll still slug me. He’ll just haul off and sock me in the arm, never taking his eyes off the TV.

Also, I don’t think that flinching should be my natural instinct every time Chooch approaches me, but fuck, he can turn any household item into a weapon. If I take my eyes off him for a millisecond, there’s no telling what’s going to get chucked at my head. Hopefully not an anvil.

I was thinking about it this morning, wondering why he does shit like that, when I suddenly saw myself sitting next to Henry, punching his arm for no reason other than that he’s sitting next to me. I saw myself hurling pencils, candle sticks, cans of peaches, vampire porn DVDs at Henry, for no reason other than that he’s breathing. (And also — that it’s funny.)

Clearly I’m a great role model. I should be starting up a daycare or something, make a line of parenting DVDs.

Apr 032008
 

Southgate House

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."

Xiu Xiu

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.

Xiu XiuCaralee 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

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.

 

Mar 182008
 

“Your prescription hasn’t changed,” my eye doctor said, pushing the butterfly-shaped apparatus away from my face. I started to relax in the orange leather seat, thinking that I would get to leave sooner than I imagined.

He pulled out a pen light and some sort of magnifying glass and after blinding me while forcing me to stare at his ear, he started pressing down on my closed lids.

“Have you been in a car accident recently?” The question made me pause; I answered no.

“Any sort of trauma? Been hit with a basketball?” he suggested. I said no to both, but started wondering what Henry does to me in my sleep that would change the shape of my eye balls. Am I going to lose them now?

Then my doctor dropped the false concern from his voice, adopting instead a tone of mild irritation. “Oh never mind, it’s because you wear your contacts too much.” He wheeled his seat back behind his desk and began scribbling in my chart, shaking his head at my irresponsibility. He told me that my over-used contacts have caused an allergic reaction to my upper eye ball area in both eyes. The name he gave it sounds like an STD gone optical. The good news is that my medical insurance will cover it, because what was originally just a routine exam (back when the sun still shone and birds chirped my name) was now an appointment to treat a medical condition.

“I’m going to prescribe you some eye drops. Use it for ten days, then I’ll see you again to check the progress. Don’t wear any contacts for the next ten days! I’m serious. I’ll know if you’ve been wearing them.”

I’m certain this was the point during the exam where I gulped. I’d have rather been getting a pap smear right then.

The conflict lies in the fact that I don’t have any glasses. I broke my last pair in an Incredible Hulkulean fit of rage, instigated by my extreme agitation of viewing the world through lenses. But I couldn’t tell my doctor this because five breaths ago I was swearing that I alternate wearing contacts with wearing my glasses.

I’m sure he could smell the stench of bullshit seeping through my cheese-clothed lie. He’s an eye doctor, for Christ’s sake. But I’m stubborn, so I left his office armed with a prescription and no eye sight. I tripped a few times on my walk home, flopped down on the couch and proceeded to panic.

How would I drive to work? How would I see who’s walking past my area? How would I spy on the creepy cleaning guy? Oh yeah, and how would I work?

I cried to Henry about it, but received no consoling. “That’s what you get. You idiot. Just go back and tell them you need to order a pair of glasses.”

“No, I don’t want to pay for them! I just spent $150 on a contact supply,” I whined.

I slapped my old contacts in right before I left for work, so that I could at least see while driving. Except that the lenses have grown ornery in their old, abused age, and refuse to stay suctioned to the curve of my eye. I blink and they ride up, like my eyes are trying to reject them. Even my EYES aren’t as retarded as me. I had to drive with my head tilted back, peering down my nose. Christina, trying to find the bright side, pointed out that at least I’ve had a lot of practice with looking down my nose.

Work was long and arduous. I took my contacts out as soon as I got there, so I had to pull my monitor as far out as possible, without knocking the keyboard off the edge. I  couldn’t slouch in my seat like usual or I would be too far away to see the screen through my furious squints.

The worst part of the night was when I tried to pay my coffee bill. The lady in charge of the coffee club was gone for the day, so I was instructed to give it to her friend Sharon. I’d never been to see Sharon before, but the coffee lady told me in an email that Sharon sits near her.

I did my best to walk over to their area of the building without reaching with my arms, an inherent reflex when vision becomes obstructed, or so I’m learning. Convinced that Sharon had an office and not a cubicle, I began pressing my nose up to the first several closed doors I came upon, squinting to see the names. The third or fourth door (blindness renders me dyscalculate, apparently) was open. I know this because a bright haze emanated from within, like I had finally reached Heaven’s gates.

I could detect a blurry outline of a human situated behind what I assumed was a desk. “Sharon?” I called out hesitantly. I jumped a little at the sound of my voice, which I had raised the volume on to compensate for my lack of sight, I suppose.

“No, this isn’t Sharon’s office,” answered the voice of a man. I squinted and brought my hand above my brow, like I was trying to see into the sun. This did nothing to sharpen the man’s outline. I know, I was surprised, too.

He tried to point me in the direction of Sharon. “No, the other way,” he said, as I turned to leave. I couldn’t see where he was pointing, so I was trying to fake it. He had to correct me THREE TIMES before I finally pivoted to the right and walked right into Sharon’s cube. He probably thought I was autistic.

On my way back to my desk, I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t even know who I was acting like an asshole in front of, so when I get my sight back, I won’t even know to be embarrassed if I ever encounter him again.

Until I inadvertently found out from my friend Jenn, who works during the day, that this guy in her department just got his seat changed. His name is David and I had a brief crush on him during our Christmas party, wherein I spent a good twenty minutes taking clandestine pictures of him sitting alone and brooding. After she mentioned that, it occurred to me that the man in the office sounded like him. I tried to imagine David with a blurred face. Later, when all the dayshift people were gone, I groped my way back to that office, stood with my nose an inch from the door, and read a line of fuzzy letters that spelled out “David [Hopefully-Erin’s-Future-Surname-But-Certainly-Not-Now].”

Great.

Today, I had planned to go to Goodwill and see if maybe they have a box of unwanted eyeglasses that I can pick through, maybe find a nice old man pair or fabulously over-sized owl-frames, in the style of Brett Somers. But Henry argued that Goodwill doesn’t just collect a box of prescription glasses to re-sell. “They probably send them to old people homes,” he reasoned. But how will the poor people see?

“Here’s a thought,” Henry posed over the phone this morning. “Why don’t you just call your fucking eye doctor and tell them that you can’t fucking see?”

“Because I don’t want them to know I lied! Ooh, unless! What if I call them and say that I left my glasses on the bus yesterday and I need an emergency pair?”

“Or, why don’t you just tell them you’re a re-re who has never had glasses.” When he came home from work, I had the bean bag pulled two feet from the TV and I was lurched forward, squinting to make out the undulating forms of Danity Kane. “Is this where the blind people sit?” he asked, with a roll of his eyes.

Once I’ve woven a tangled web, the lies and deception just get deeper and deeper; there’s no turning back now. And it’s stupid things I lie about too. I mean look, I’ve been writing on the Internet since 2001. You would think that if I was so into knitting ridiculous afghans of aspersion with a distorted reality fringe, I would do a better job constructing a polished image of myself. Like, maybe I would lie and say that I went to an Ivy League, perhaps Oxford, Photoshop my pictures and pretend to be in porn. But no, instead I’m like, “Hey, I’m a fatso! And a high school drop out! I’m not even awesome enough to have a hot boyfriend!”

But glasses I’ll lie about.

Henry sad he might have his old glasses, a pair of 1980’s aviators. I really hope he finds them, because I bet they’d cover at least half of my face. Until then, Christina is sending me her glasses.

I’m starting to lose sight (ha-ha) of my initial point. Why am I doing this again? Oh right, because I’m an idiot.

Feb 262008
 

I wish I had listened to everyone when they said things like, "You’re not going to like it. You’re going to be bored" and "You’re going to be angry that you wasted your money. You won’t get anywhere near John Black" because those wise ones weren’t too far off the mark.

Henry had the good sense to park in a garage a few blocks away, where we’d only be robbed of $5 instead of the $10 that the Convention Center overlords would collect at the end of the weekend and probably use to buy a few thousand Ukrainian sex slaves, and I’m not sure I’d feel too comfortable having my cash play a part in that.

When we got inside and went upstairs to pay, I was relieved that it wasn’t as crowded as Henry warned. He always tries to play off my inherent hate for packs of humans when he’s trying to get out of stuff. Like concerts. We got in line, with only one family in front of us, to pay. I mocked dramatic sadness when I saw a sign that said Henry Winkler wasn’t going to appear due to illness, but the older man behind me was acting from the heart. "He’s not here? Then let’s go." I don’t think they ended up leaving, but the corners of his mustached lips were hanging flaccidly after that discovery.

A deep booming voice looped over the sound system, getting everyone pumped up for the Happy Days reunion (if Erin Moran and Cindy Williams constitutes a reunion), Mater from "Cars" (we made Chooch pump his fist, but he didn’t give a shit really) and Drake Hogestyn from Days of Our Lives. I was shocked to discover that I had been mispronouncing his last name for the past twenty years. Henry called me a re-re (his new name for me, thanks, I’m honored) but seriously, I’ve never heard his name spoken before; it’s not like Soap Opera Digest reads itself aloud to me.

$26 dollars later (RIPOFF) we were armed with our tickets and stumbled around blindly looking for the entrance. An older red haired lady stood next to the entrance and when she took our tickets, I pointed to the turnstile next to the large open entrance and asked, "Do we have to go through there?" She scoffed and said no, but I kind of wanted to. Turnstiles make me feel important, like my admission counts. Because it counts my admission.

Even when we crossed the testosterone-coated threshold, I still didn’t think it was all that crowded. I was somewhat amazed to see that there were regular-looking people there, but comforted when my expectations were met when I spied a steady flow of Nascar-jacketed indigents. Some of them wore bandannas on their heads and I think it tugged at Henry’s lower-class heartstrings. He used to wear bandannas, you know. There were also many men who appeared to have come there straight from huntin’.

Within the first minute, we found a small stage with a large banner that read Meet Drake Hogestyn, John Black from "Days of Our Lives" and the tugging of Henry’s arm began. There was a line of about fifty people waiting for his emergence. He was 45 minutes late. Henry took charge and said we should get the whole Mater thing out of the way.

After pushing past a bunch of orange-faced broads with hair so over-bleached it crackled and squeezing past acne-faced teenage boys looking at a table full of shiny car thingies (I think people in the know call them "car parts"), Mater loomed off to our left. Chooch was like, "Yay Cars!" but his face fell when he realized it was just Mater and not Lightning McQueen. Kind of like meeting the Cure but only Lol shows up and not Robert Smith. I wonder if Lol is excited that his name means ‘laugh out loud.’ I mean, the kid was still marginally happy and tried to crawl under the ropes while snot-faced creek-swimmers were getting photographed. We went to stand in line and soon found out that they wanted five fucking dollars for some gayblade to take a picture using a tiny point-and-shoot on a wobbly tripod. Henry, wanting to retain some semblance of the bread winner even though he makes me pay for everything because he blows his money on computer shit and truck porn, actually took it upon himself to go to an ATM and take cash out of his own account. What a fucking man.

While we were in line, a woman over at a near-by podium announced that a boy named Evan had lost his family. I looked at him, and I looked at Chooch who was desperate to break free of Henry’s clutch and visions of the next ten years polluted my once-happy thoughts. My child tried to get kidnapped about eighty times.

We ended up losing the crappy picture in the crappy cardboard frame that they gave us but it didn’t matter because we were allowed to take our pictures too, after we fed them their damn five bucks.

I love that there’s a gigantic can of Skoal hovering above Mater. Very subtle. Hey kids, love Mater? Now you can have teeth like his, too! Come get a free sample.

Around this time I took a good look around and realized that I was horribly overdressed and wasn’t showing any cleavage like all the other hotties and mulled over the idea of plopping out a boob. I hope someday my skin gets that beautiful sun-weathered crisp that they all proudly bare. I saw a lot of B.U.M. Equipment sweatshirts. It brought back memories of middle school.

I stalked this man while he cruised the entire circumference of this bad boy. (The truck, not the actual boy.) Henry caught on quickly to what I was up  to and said, "You’d make the worst spy. You look right at the person and laugh" and then he hurried up and walked away so he wouldn’t be seen carousing with me. After I took this picture, he looked at me, ducked, and said, "Oh ha-ha, I’m sorry!" I told him it was OK, and then under my breath I mumbled, "This is right where I want you, anyway. Snap."

In between all the car showcases were long tables over-stocked with various car products. My first thought was, "But it’s all car stuff." We walked past one table and I excitedly yelled, "Oh I need one of these!!" to Henry, which made the vendor look up. "You don’t even know what that does," Henry snapped. I laughed and said, "I know." Those were the days.

We made it back to the John Black stage right as he made his grand appearance. The crowd was going nuts. Kind of. Not really, but there was some applauding and few of the hardcore female fans swooned loudly. The line was much longer by this point, so instead of going to the end of it, I accepted that Chooch wouldn’t last that long standing in a line so we stood on right up front near the stage, but out of line. It was a decent trade off, because he took some time before signing autographs to field some questions. I wasn’t expecting him to be so personable and funny! Every once in awhile, I’d glance back at Henry, who was cheekily smiling like a gaybo. He tried to act like he couldn’t be bothered after that, but I know deep down he couldn’t wait to call his mommy.

It was cool seeing Drake "John Black" Hogestyn, but seriously, I’ll never go to another car show. It was dumb. Where was the nudity? Maybe at the Gun Show.

Jan 132008
 

2008 01 04 028 

I don’t know when my son’s obsession with cars began. Sometime in November, I think. He’d stand by the front door and yell, "Caw! Caw!" like a true Bostonian, any time anything with wheels drove past, bicycles and skateboards not excluded.

For Christmas, we told everyone to just get him cars. Cars and juice seemed to be all he had an interest in so why disappoint with airplanes, building blocks, or Backyardigan accessories? When we took him to see Santa, he could have given a shit that he was perched on Santa’s knee. All he had eyes for was the plastic car that the photographer was undulating and squeaking in an effort to eke a smile out of him. "Caw! Caw!" he yelled in a panic with outstretched arms.

Some people got him official Pixar Cars merch for Christmas, and he seemed genuinely appreciative, even though he had never seen the movie. It was on last weekend though, so Henry squeezed what little intelligence he has left in his brain cells and had the foresight to DVR it. Chooch’s first viewing lasted a few short minutes before he moved on to other things, like moving his armada of cars from the floor to the dining room table, standing back to appraise the new lineup, and then relocating them to his tent (which takes up two thirds of my living room).

That ambivalence didn’t last long. I made the mistake of placing him on the couch one morning last week, tucked his blanket and juice cup next to him, and put on "Cars" so I could sneak off into the kitchen and prepare his (frozen) waffles in peace. (And by peace, I mean without him standing on the other side of the baby gate and hurling objects at me.)

We haven’t been able to watch regular TV in his presence since. Even if it seems like he’s oblivious to the movie playing in the background, as soon as we hit ‘stop,’ he whips his head around and comes toddling over to us, chanting, "Caws? Caws? Caws?" Ad nauseum. He gets all cozy on the couch and then demands, "And car!" sending me on an egg hunt for certain cars around the house that he desperately needs to have in lap and I try to fulfill this desire as fast as possible, for fear that he might shrivel up and die. I give him his cars. "And juice!" Thus signals the start of the great juice cup hunt. "And bowl!" he commands, pointing to his bowl of pretzels with an angry finger. We do this every day, until he’s satisfied with the pile of goods burying him on the couch.

He won’t sleep with no less than four of his cars now. It’s a good thing my pajama pants are equipped with pockets, else I’d have had to make two trips getting him out of the crib this morning: one for him, one to retrieve his cars. Failure to do so will send him into a shrieking spell and real tears will flow freely. We have to stuff his backpack full of cars just to  get him to willingly leave the house with us now.

This morning, after the first viewing of "Cars," I lost it. I got all caught up in my pent up resentment to being a Pixar prisoner, and defiantly punched the buttons of the remote until something I wanted to watch filled the screen with a breath of fresh air. Then I promptly sat on the remote. He noticed. Oh boy did he notice. But I held my ground. Henry sat next to me and winced, waiting to see what Chooch’s move was going to be. He turned back and resumed play with his cars. I smirked, basking in the win.

But then something tragic happened: I got up from the couch, unearthing the remote. His eyes, full of car-lust, honed in on the site of the magical "Cars" stick, and he grabbed it. "Caws. Caws. Caws!!!" he droned on and on. Then he climbed up on the couch and sat between us on the pillows so he had a slight height advantage on us. He grabbed a fistful of Henry’s hair in one hand; I laughed too soon. He turned to me, glared, and took a fistful of my hair too, and angrily chanted, "Caws Caws Caws Caws."

He was still watching it when I left to go out to lunch with my friend Jess.