Aug 012008
 

So here I am, my last night at work, and I’m feeling alright. Everything has been pretty anti-climactic. When Eleanore left at 6, our big farewell-for-ever consisted of her tossing a "be a good girl" over her shoulder as she trudged away. Not even a hug. Really, Eleanore? We’ve sat together for a YEAR AND A HALF and not even a hug?

No really, I didn’t want one.

Joe left me with two peach Swisher Sweets, which made me happy. Thanks Joe! And Jenn, who used to work at night but has been on dayshift for the past year, left me a note in my mailbox and that made me smile. Thanks Jenn!

Tina decided she was leaving at 7:30 instead of toughing it out until midnight. This may be my last night here forever, but this is also the last night of evening shift (which is the main reason I resigned); you’d think we’d have had a party or something, the three of us. Maybe have a kegger in the parking lot, who the fuck knows. But apparently not.

As she walked past me, she paused and wished me luck and said that she wants me to send her occasional photos of Chooch. I said of course I would, and then as I heard the door shut behind her, something WEIRD happened. I mean, some crazy ass fucking shit — legitimate sadness happened. I even whispered, "Aw, Tina" quietly to my monitor. Then promptly slapped my hand over my mouth. It kind of felt like I had just been touched by an uncle AND LIKED IT.

I ran into Kim’s cube and blurted out, "I THINK I’M GOING TO MISS HER!" Kim laughed the word, "What?!" Then she got a good look at my sniveling face and exclaimed, "Oh my god, what’s wrong with you? You look like you’re going to cry!"

AND I FEEL LIKE IT, TOO. Tina, of all people. Tina and her gooey scabs. Tina and her codpiece. Tina and her man-stance. TINA I’LL MISS YOU.

Jul 282008
 

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.

 
Fuck you, assholes!

 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.

 
“This stuff is made in India. This ova’ here is from New Yorkkkkkkzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzsnore.”
Normally, I would try to be a little covert with my mean-spirited picture taking, but by this point I had adopted the “fuck a bitch, suck a dick” attitude and began walking RIGHT UP TO PEOPLE, stopping in the middle of the aisles, and holding my phone all the way out at arm’s length. Henry was not pleased. Especially when, afterward, I would justify my actions by shouting, “What? That person’s an asshole. They deserve this, and worse.”

 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.

 Apropos placement if you ask me.

 

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.

Jun 262008
 

 (Final version of a dumb essay I wrote for my Creative Non-Fiction class last fall, and never posted because I forgot.)

You might not know it, but North Versailles, a town once thriving during the height of the steel mill boom, is the home of a veritable Valhalla for thrifters, crafters, and peddlers. Residing in the old Loews Theater — forced into bankruptcy in June of 2001 by an over-zealous eruption in the multi-plex industry — Rossi’s Pop-Up Market Place is a glorified flea market for the twenty-first century. It’s a place where one could find an entire table lined with quilted purses, looking foreign outside of the Bingo hall; no less than two tables selling staplers amidst collectible spoons and cookbooks; cardboard boxes brimming with broken toys and stuffed animals; and racks of black-and-gold feathered boas. Situated on thirteen acres of paved land, vendors come from all over to set up booths and tables inside the vacated theater and all along the once-desolate back parking lot.

The weather was dreary on the day I visited, with showers bullying the outside vendors in sporadic episodes. Even with only a third of the back lot being utilized and the omnipresent threat of rain, the hardcore flea marketers were not deterred, as evidenced by the number of times my boyfriend was forced to circle the main lot in search of an empty parking space.

            It was still relatively early on a Sunday morning, yet the parking lot was already a-bustle with shoppers darting in and out of traffic on their way back to their vehicles, arms pregnant with loot. I was at once awash in a sea of fanny-packs and spandex-sausaged torsos, Steelers jerseys and trucker caps, high-waisted seersucker trousers and Hawaiian-printed shirts; they scurried in erratic patterns like locusts during a Biblical plague. Two of the locusts — a visored elderly couple, one of whom toted an old lamp in grotesque shades of the Seventies — crossed in front of a line of moving vehicles, with little regard. If this is any indication of the pedestrian carelessness in flea market land worldwide, I’m not surprised that a young boy was killed in the nineties when a truck backed into him when this market used to be located down the street at the now-demolished Eastland Mall. In its previous carnation, the flea market was called the Superflea and with the local mall now in ruins, the people of North Versailles basically had only Wal-Mart to rely on for their Olympic-shopping needs. But in 2005, the denizens of the defunct Superflea were invited to utilize the empty space of the Loews Theater by the building’s owner, Jim Aiello. What did the Superflea vendors do during the interim of Eastland’s demolition and Aiello’s metaphorical handing over of the golden key? Thank God for eBay, I guess.

The inside of the converted theater harbors the booths and tables for the more high-brow set: Racks of clothing that haven’t been worn before, handmade crafts, baked goods — generally nothing that has been previously worn or used. I decided to tackle the back grounds first, so we quickly bypassed the frustrating stop-and-go traffic flow of bargain hunters determined to scrutinize every last piece of price-tagged merchandise.

Posted to the back door was a typed and laminated sign that insisted “No heelies to be worn inside or outside.” My boyfriend obsessed over the meaning of “heelies” for most of our visit (wheeled shoes, you dumb ass), but I had more important issues vexing my mind: I needed to know who Rossi was.

Upon exiting the back doors, I was immediately barraged by a goulash of dueling aromas: teriyaki chicken and soul food duked it out to my right, while the best of Poland’s delicacies sparred to my left with the hot sausage sandwich heavy weight over at Mike’s Neighborhood Grill (also notable for his award-winning Philly cheese steak). Two food trailers competed with the controversial spelling of kielbasa. (Or is it kolbassa?) At nine o’clock in the morning, haluski and fried chicken were not the most nasally pleasing scents. If it was afternoon, and, you know – I ate meat, I’d have been in my glory.  Interspersed between so many savory selections were trailers shilling funnel cake, and the Slushie King was doling out sno-cones to children who displayed such a caricature of excitement that I wondered if they had never delighted in frozen sweets before. It was like Rossi’s very own carnival midway.

In spite of this festival of food, the rest of the parking lot gave off the vibe of a ghost town. If tumbleweed had blown past my ankles, it would have been suiting. There were tables lined up, but the hearts of the people manning them just weren’t in it. No one yelled things like, “Two dollars! Two for three!” or “Are you looking at that weed whacker?! It works! It really works! You can see for yourself, FOR TEN DOLLARS!” Walking past a table stacked with old issues of Woman’s World and a paltry selection of VHS dramas (Steel Magnolias was a steal of a deal for a buck), two middle-aged women sat slouched over in lawn chairs. Staring straight ahead with glazed-over eyes, the one whose mouth had yet to become mummified by boredom’s glue mumbled, “I can’t believe we have two more hours of this shit.” It never occurred to me before that these people are taking chances when they rent out lots. If the weather, so notoriously unpredictable, is sketchy that day, the vendors could potentially lose out on a lot of money, breaking even if they’re lucky.

The weather hadn’t managed to put a damper on everyone’s day, though. I walked past one woman, fresh from purchasing a VHS chockfull of show tunes. As she trotted back to her group of fellow flea marketers, I heard her squeal, “And it has ‘Luck Be a Lady’ on it too so we can all sing together tonight in the living room after dinner!” A small part of me hoped she was being facetious, but mostly I derived a perverse pleasure in imagining that some families do functional things like after dinner sing-alongs, maybe while wearing bonnets, and then I imagine myself watching from behind a bush, laughing and taking video to post on You Tube.

I was making my way down the third aisle of tables and still hadn’t found a single item that was worth parting ways with the crumpled dollar bill stuffed into the pocket of my jeans. In the past, a lone dollar bill had gained me a nudie mug, a chipped metal bangle bracelet that leaves a bruised band around my wrist, and a 1940’s 8×10 school portrait of one of the table vendors. That was my favorite flea market find, I think. I made up an elaborate back story about how he was my vampiric Uncle Otis who was haunted by chimeras of his ex-lover; I couldn’t imagine why my friends didn’t believe me.

Oh, I had seen such sights on this day though, like an entire table piled with hats of all styles and varying degrees of camouflage. Some of the hats went a step beyond and boasted embroidered John Deere patches and one had a real knee-slapper of a slogan draped across it: “Remington: Size Matters!” Had I been there alone, I’d have gladly set up camp and waited all day just on the off-chance that I’d get to spy the lucky person to score that gem.

Other tables are decorated with children’s books that look suspiciously five-fingered from the library, like “Why Am I Going to the Hospital?”,  and yellow-paged mystery novels by Dean Koontz and Nora Roberts and I know without getting too close that they come complete with the musty stench of a grandmother’s basement. Laid out on ratty and frayed bath towels are a downtrodden array of rusted shovels, hoes, hedge clippers and spades — a serial killer’s wet dream. Or a gardening fetisher’s. An entire table was devoted to glassware that must have looked really good when it was used on the set of “Mama’s Family.”

A woman hawked jewelry draped along the hood of her maroon Alero while next door, a burly man sporting a sleeveless American Legend shirt and a rustic beard stood cross-armed over his collection of tools and Harley Davidson bric-a-brac. I definitely wasn’t interested in any biker memorabilia.

Every few minutes, the oldies tunes – the elevator music of flea markets — blasting from outdoor speakers would cut out and a booming voice bubbling over with a showman’s enthusiasm would remind us shoppers to stop by Teresa’s Treasures, formerly known as Frick and Frack, for some fresh baked goods; or he would promote the aforementioned Mike’s Neighborhood Grill, who must have slipped the MC a Hamilton because there was a real urgency to his voice every time he would tap on the mic and remind us that hey, Mike’s still over there in the red and white trailer frying up some of that award-winning grub of his. OK, we get it: Mike rules.

Intrigued by this bodiless voice, I abandoned the garage sale fare of the outdoors for the more glamorous vendibles inside. Also, that’s where the bathroom was.

The main difference I observed inside was that each table has its own niche. Unlike the tables in the parking lot, the merchandise here was new and laid out in a neat and eye-catching array with glitter-painted signs that yelled, “Hey look Real Stillers shirts here! Tags still on!” and “Ninetento [sic] tapes $5-$8!” Above the storefronts of the indoor vendors hang wooden signs with their store’s name burned into it. Coincidentally, the maker of those very signs had his own booth set up, with a TV – squatting in the midst of charred wood signs — airing a running loop of his workshop. I paused to watch it, but became bored after three seconds. I’m sad to see that Eileen’s Crafts & Whatever: Home of the Special Angels is closed, because maybe I might have wanted to buy a special angel, or a ‘whatever.’

Later that day, after lamenting the fact that I couldn’t even find one single coral necklace or macramé pot holder amongst the knoll of orphaned junk to bring home, I dwelled once again on Rossi. At this point, I didn’t even care about meeting him. A tiny blurb on a website would have sufficed. Or perhaps a MySpace profile.

Google searches for Rossi’s identity only bring up individual websites of several of the vendors, such as Deanna’s Mountain T-Shirts. She is very excited to announce via her webpage that you can find her brand-new Betty Boop and race car shirts at Rossi’s every Saturday and Sunday! When she’s not slinging those and her new and gently worn jewelry, she designs websites. I hope they’re as visually pleasing as her website, with all of its seizure-inducing emoticons and gifs. I mean, if I’m paying for a professional website, I better get a blinding background and lots of waving American flags, and maybe a cheery midi file droning on as the page loads.

Determined to find answers, I revisited Rossi’s a week later. The sun was shining bright and the temperature was September’s signature crisp and clear; in other words, the venders were easily excitable and rearin’ to go.

Admittedly, I wanted to catch a glimpse of this elusive announcer, too. My boyfriend laughed and said, “Um, you walked right past him and his podium last week when you went to the bathroom.” I wasn’t sure if I completely believed my boyfriend that the MC’s voice was not really the product of a tape playing in a loop. I wished for a twist ending where I would tug back a heavy velvet curtain or at the very least a moth-eaten sheet of burlap, to find that Rossi and the announcer were one and the same.

I had to employ the Cardinal rule of flea markets: do not make eye contact with sellers if you’re not trying to waste money. They’re like puppies in a pound – you toss them the tiniest bone of a glance, and you’re taking their shit home with you.

Sometimes this doesn’t work, usually when you end up idling past a seller who is overly-anxious to be rid of his cache. A mustachioed man, noticing my small child in the stroller, spastically lunged into his pile of corroded tapes and waved a Barney video at me. “Barney video, one dollar!” he barked. I smiled and kept walking. I’m sure it was full of titillating moral tales, and my child will obviously grow up into a puppy-kicking plane hijacker without the guidance of a purple dinosaur in his life, but no thanks. He wouldn’t give up. “Barney tape, for free!”

Not one to pass up free swag, my internal dialogue was a’swirl.

                       It’s free!

                      But it’s Barney!

                      But it’s free!

“Oh, thank you, but I don’t have a VCR,” I quickly stuttered, shifting my eyes. He was still blurting out offers when I nervously jogged to another table, far away, that wasn’t shilling free children’s tapes. Why don’t the elderly ladies shilling fantastically kitschy costume jewelry make such offers? Further down, another man looking as though he were visiting from the mountains of Appalachia, caught me pointing to his luxurious collection of dented, rustic oil cans and asking the boyfriend what the hell they were.

 “Are you looking at my fan? Two dollars! And it works!” I recoiled slightly at the sight of his mouth rot.

No, I was looking at your shitty rust receptacles, but thanks.

As I was toeing the line between boredom and frustration, unable to give a shit about tattered cook books with coffee rings and cheap sunglasses framed in fluorescent shades, the sky parted, golden rays of second hand angel dust rained upon our heads, and the voice of the announcer reverberated through the lot.

 “Wayne and Ellie Jackson, there is a situation at your vehicle that requires immediate attention.”

Wayne and Ellie’s vehicle could have been taken over by pygmies playing horse shoes and on a normal day, I’d have been the first one on the scene to get the 411, but I could not shake my preoccupation with the MCs voice. So instead of rubber-necking out in the lot, I made my way past stacks of ugly abstract art, discount candy, and unripe produce, until I was inside the market place, boyfriend and baby trailing behind. I thought I heard my child whining, but my pace didn’t falter; sorry son, but Mama’s on a mission.

Once inside, it was all a blur. I hurried past the lady manning a table of bread and gloves (although I did slow down a bit to see if the gloves were the kinds with the rubber nubbies on them as I have a slight fetish); I bumped into a man looking at baseball cards and vaguely recall him grunting a reply to my rudeness; I paused briefly to demolish a sample of apricot pastry. Always pause for pastries.

As I rounded a corner, my boyfriend pointed. “There he is right there. MC Rich K.”

Standing behind a podium, all wrapped up in a snug leather jacket, loomed the body behind the voice. I had every intention of talking to him, asking him about this supposed Rossi character, but my voice was caught. I had built him up so much in my head, maybe as much as Rossi by that point, that he had become my own Wizard of Oz, and now he was standing there before me, yelling into his cell phone like some hot shot Wall Street power broker.

 “I just gave you an ad! Didn’t you hear it?” he shouted disgustedly.

This was the body of the voice coated with Santa-caliber merriment? If I were a vendor, I’d invest in a bullhorn and do my own publicity before relying on that asshole.

Intimidated, I instead grabbed a brochure from the information kiosk next to MC Rich K, playing it off like that was why I had come barreling toward him, and then I went home. I guess I wasn’t too determined after all.

The brochure ended up being a poorly edited odyssey down comic sans lane, and of course any information regarding the enigmatic Rossi, now fabled in my mind, was furtively omitted. Maybe Rossi isn’t even a person. Maybe Rossi is the dead childhood goldfish of property owner Jim Aiello and it’s a tribute in the same vein of Snickers, the candy bar named after a family horse. Food Network taught me that.

Or maybe I should just take a nap and wake up with a new futile obsession.

Regardless, even though my pressing questions about the flea market’s namesake went unanswered, I’ll be sure to go back the next time I’m in the market for a purse with sequins so big, it could solar power an entire house on its own.

 

Jun 112008
 

One of them there interview memes was going around on LiveJournal, so I got my friend Lauren to interrogate me. Because I really like talking about myself. Could do it all the livelong day.

1. Is there any one thing that you feel fostered your macabre-ness?

I think it’s inherent. My mom was majorly into Halloween when I was growing up and my family watched A LOT of horror movies. It’s still my favorite genre, so I guess that’s probably the main external influence that holds hands with my macabre gene.

Nightmares have plagued me for as long as I can remember, as well, so I probably subconsciously draw from that a lot.

2. Which serial killer would you love to kick back a few beers with and why?

If this a dead or alive question, then Dahmer. I bet he’d have some killer recipes that I might need someday (see #5).

No. Wait. I’m changing my answer. Ted Bundy. Beers lead to sex and Jesus Christ, Bundy is hot.

3. Are you planning to have more children?

NO.

4. If you had to choose only one CD (that wasn’t a mixed compilation) that you could listen to for an entire year, what would it be?

13 Ways to Bleed on Stage by Cold. That album reminds me of the beginning of my relationship with Henry. We road-tripped a lot that summer to see Cold, my favorite band at the time (and still in my Top 5 even though they’re now defunct). He knew how much they meant to me and I’ve always thought it was awesome of him to go out of his way to make sure I could see them as much as possible. So, if I had to be reminded of the same memories for an entire year, I’d want it to be those ones, and that album.

Plus, we were still getting to know each other and he hadn’t begun hating me yet. Oh haha. Good times.

5. Would you ever eat meat on a regular basis again? I mean, you’re not living with your Mom, so her pork chops aren’t part of the equation.

Not if the meat came from an animal. Though, I can see myself in a fit of rage, hacking off Henry’s weener and then engaging in some passion-eating. And if anything is a gateway into cannibilism, it’s got to be a nice boiled cock. In fact, I’m dining on a thick vegetarian sausage right now and pretending it’s a juicy wang. So yes, I could chow on a person. Possibly even on a regular basis.

May 232008
 

VI: The After Show

Corey and I couldn’t think of a better way to cap off such an amazing concert than by returning to our luxury motel. Pulling into the lot at 11:30, we were greeted by several shifty denizen who chose to congregate outside their rooms with beer and cigarettes. Corey wanted to get a picture of the Pennant Night Club next door, because it was country night and this amused him to no end, but he made me go with him. It was at this point that I realized I was probably more suspicious than anyone else in that lot, what with the way I stopped dead in my tracks, hunkered over to suppress giggles, to stare at a couple across the lot.

Corey gave me this look that screamed, “What the fuck, are you crazy? You can’t just stop and STARE at the crazy townies having sex around their clothes out front of their room!”

I snapped out of it and followed him to the street.

“This place has wi-fi?” Corey asked in amazement after we reached the front of the motel. “How does a place like this have wi-fi?”

“They probably steal it,” I said, shrugging, and then we both laughed and couldn’t stop because the Giddy Sibling Bug had bit us.

Back inside our room, I called Christina to tell her that the state she was born in sucks. She was really hurt by it, and Corey shouting things like, “New Jersey is gay!” in the background only wrenched the knife further, because she actually is gay. I mean, she has a tattoo of New Jersey on her leg, that’s how proud of it she is.

“Where exactly in New Jersey are you?” she asked. I couldn’t remember the name of the town, other than the fact we got lost and ate at Pat’s Pizzeria in Gloucester, and that we saw a lot of signs for Camden.

“Um, no wonder you hate it. Camden??” That’s when I learned that Camden had replaced Detroit as the most dangerous city in the nation. “You should be OK as long as you’re not in a gang, though,” she reassured.

Meanwhile, Corey was debating whether or not he wanted to take a shower. “I mean, did you see the shower curtain? It has burn holes in it,” he whined. But he finally manned up and conquered the shower stall. He came out of the bathroom a walking cautionary tale.

“I don’t even want to think about all the dirty New Jersey sex that was in that shower before me,” he spat with disgust. “And just so you know, the water smells like fish. Have fun with that in the morning.”

We got comfortable in our respective knife-slashed beds with the local Gloucester channel on TV. Backed with all the best soft rock hits were still-ads for the local cemetery, a middle school talent show, and a list of the honor roll students. It was a sweet surprise when the ads were pre-empted with some small-scale recording of a youth fishing competition. It was awesomely terrible and we couldn’t stop watching.

“This almost makes me want to live here,” I said. Then we laughed.

“I’m so afraid to close my eyes and sleep. This place scares me. Have you ever seen No Vacancy?” Thanks, Corey. Thanks for making that the last thought in my head before I fall asleep.

Around 1:30am, a nearby door slammed. “Oh goodie, our neighbor’s home!” Corey facetiously enthused. Then he got up and put his face up to the peep hole. I was paranoid he was going to get shot, so with the covers pulled up to my chin, I hissed for him to get away from the door.

I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking I heard a car alarm. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not, but I remember thinking I should probably check to see if my car was still in the lot but I was too afraid to go out there. (The window of our room overlooked the back of the property, not the lot.)

The next morning, we gladly turned in our key and Corey snatched a covert picture of the miserable desk clerk who hated us.

VII: Cereality

Aside from seeing the Cure (and eating at Pat’s Pizzeria), the only other thing I refused to leave before doing was getting breakfast at Cereality, located on U Penn’s campus in Philly. I was proud that I finally forwent using Henry as an atlas and tapped into my Blackberry’s resources to find the place, nary a wrong turn. But first, we filled up the gas tank in Gloucester. I tried to get it myself, thinking I could get away with it, but an older Mexican swooped in and grabbed the nozzle off me. Foiled.

As soon as we crossed the threshhold, I was in my happy place. “Rock Me Amadeus” was playing when we got there and Corey, who is in AP Euro and should maybe try acting like it, said, “Huh. We had to listen to this song in my history class.  I think it’s supposed to be about someone historical?”

Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Kiss Them For Me” came on just in time to aid me in tuning out the disgusting trucker-caliber sniffling and snot-suckering taking place behind me. Mmm, yummy — just what I want to hear while I’m trying to decide what I want to EAT. A nice bowl of bubbly snot? A mucous smoothie? There’s not enough froth on my coffee, would you mind blowing your nose in it?

Fucker.

At home, I have a healthy bowl of oatmeal every day, with a hearty handful of flax seed sprinkled in for good measure; so I decided to live large and ordered a bowl (it’s actually served in an over-sized Chinese take-out container) of The Devil Made Me Do It. Basically it was the most disgusting, stomach-turning house-blend on the menu and I was entirely too overwhelmed to come up with my own concoction without at least six months prior planning. Cereal is some serious shit.

One of the people working there was this awesome Goth chick with spiky blond hair and black lipstick. Corey and I simultaneously fanned ourselves.

“She’s like, so cool,” I enthused, and Corey concurred. It doesn’t take much to impress us. Evidently, just some bleach and a faceful of kohl.

After I paid for my container of diabetic shock, I went to the milk counter and, as if to apologize to my body for what I was about to funnel into it, I squirted skim milk onto the cavity-making mound.

Joining me at a small outside table, Corey blurted, “Guess what that Goth girl talked to me!”

“Oh my God, LUCKY! What did she say??” Sadly, I really was jealous.

“She said, ‘Did you pay for that already?'” We squealed over that for a few seconds, and then he added, “And her name is SIMONE!”

My cereal consisted of Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, malt balls, and chocolate syrup. I don’t even like malt balls, but goddamn all cereal should have them. It was the best ever, but after five spoonfuls, my belly tried to reject it. Of course I forced down almost the entire thing and got sick as soon as we hit the turnpike. Corey was smart (and boring) and got something healthy that was made of Life, strawberries and honey or some shit.

While we ate our cereal, “Just Like Heaven” played and we were like, “What the fuck, best breakfast ever.”

Five hours later, we were standing in my living room, blabbering on to Henry about our motel and the people we saw there, Pat’s Pizzeria, all the strip clubs, being lost, not understanding how to get gas.

“I feel like there should be a movie about this: When Well-To-Do Kids are Forced to Fend for Themselves.”

[Part 1][Part 2][Part 3]

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.

May 182008
 

I: Getting There

The night before we left, I had Henry look up lodging for Corey and me while I was at work, since I am helpless and had more important things to do. My only criteria was: close to venue and cheap.

He sent me info for Red Carpet Inn, which had rooms for $49+tax. It was located in New Jersey, and it was only 3.5 miles away from the Wachovia Spectrum, where the Cure was playing Saturday night.

I quickly emailed him and said I’d take it.

“You realize this place isn’t going to be nice,” Henry chided in his reply. The user ratings all said, “You get what you pay for,” and I was OK with that because the more money I saved, the more shit I could buy throughout the trip, like Slim Jims and crack.

“Don’t you dare even think about calling and complaining,” Henry said the next morning, as he armed me with directions and SoyJoy bars.

Corey arrived at my house at 10:00 and, between filling up the gas tank with liquid gold and taking out some cash for the turnpike, etc., I managed to spend $71 before we even left Brookline. 

For the 300+ miles on the Pennsylvania turnpike, Corey and I mainly reminisced about  past displays of family dysfunction, which included Corey’s favorite Father-Daughter fight in which I screamed in my step-dad’s face that I wish he’d get his head cut off by the log splitter we had in our backyard. Corey was laughing, and I was too but the whole time I was thinking, “Yeah, but this was a stepping stone in the rickety path of dropping out of high school.”

I forced Corey to listen to a special mixed CD I made just for the trip, and he sarcastically cheered every time Chiodos came on. However, he is now obsessed with Dance Gavin Dance, which is more than I could have hoped for. However, I ridiculed him every time he disagreed with my musical tastes, you know, like every other obnoxious music snob does.

My favorite moment was when Corey told me he was going through my step-dad’s cell phone and discovered naked pictures of my step-dad’s girlfriend all bent over the back of the couch. Ten minutes later and it was all, “Remember when you found naked pictures of Daddy’s girlfriend?” and then we laughed all over again.

I’m not used to being the responsible one in these trips. My role is usually to wedge my fat ass in the passenger seat, armed with my vacation journal, beverage and snacks, switching up the music like it’s my destiny. Also, flirting with truckers and being  Annoying: Road Trip Edition. But this time, I had to pay attention to shit, like how the car was doing on gas, if all the tires were intact, all while keeping a general sense of where the fuck we were. Oh, the pressure. Corey was in charge of the directions, but every time I would ask him where we were, he’d stare ambivalently at the map and kind of shrug. So then I would call Henry and ask, “Hey, how much farther do we have?” and he’d get all mad because I wouldn’t be able to tell him where we were since I can’t read a map and then he’d have to go and turn the computer on (he was letting it rest while I was away) and by that time I’d be all, “Oooh we’re going through a tunnel! Bubbye!”

Directions-wise, it was smooth sailing until we made it to the Philly exits and had to get off the turnpike. Corey would play with my emotions by saying things like, “We need this next exit, No wait, next one. No wait this one!!” leaving me mere seconds to swerve onto the ramp. I screamed the whole way across the Ben Franklin bridge and somehow managed to take the wrong exit, which dumped us blindly into some small town called Gloucester.

 

 

We stopped at Coastal to get gas and when I started to get out of the car, an elderly employee came over and started pumping it for me. I learned later that night that it’s like, some weird law that all New Jersey gas stations are full service, and you would think that with me being such a fucking princess, I’d have really embraced this small display of pampering, but instead I panicked because I didn’t  know the protocol — was I supposed to tip him? Cheer him on? Wait silently in the car and pretend it’s not making me feel like an entitled White Person to have a Mexican work for me? I kept asking Corey but he was all, “I don’t know, this is weird and I think he hates us and I want to go” so we sped away when he was through.

I had to call Henry once again so he could get us to our motel (at this point, I didn’t even know the name of it) and our conversation went something like this:

 

Henry: What are you near?

Me: A black lady in really high boots.

Henry, sighing angrily: What are you near?

Me: A chocolate covered pretzel store.

 While Henry was busy trying to find out where we were, I pulled over and Corey ran into the chocolate-covered pretzel place to ask a local for help. Henry kept asking me for street names, and I would answer him with very important information, like:

“Ew that guy just looked at me!” and “I hope Corey buys some delicious confections while he’s in there. The sign says they’re the best.”

Corey returned with directions at the same time Henry found us on a map. To keep Henry’s ego from deflating, I chose his directions and proceeded to doubt him the entire time, saying that I should have listened to the pretzel lady’s directions instead, which caused him to yell back and say things like, “I AM NOT THERE. I AM IN PITTSBURGH. I CANNOT SEE WHAT YOU ARE SEEING.” Then he was all, “Fuck you, find it yourself,” and hung up on me.

Both sets of directions ended up being right. The pretzel lady said we’d know we were there when we saw the Pennant night club and Weber’s burger stand, and by golly she was right.

II : Red (from blood stains) Carpet Inn

“It looks like a concentration camp,” Corey groaned as we pulled into the Red Carpet Inn. It was the kind of place that people retreated to after their slum lords evicted them; the kind of place where people crept off to have lunch break affairs; the kind of place that had mattresses broken enough for people to appropriately OD on. Corey and I just may have been the only legitimate travelers staying there.

If you can, try to remember back to the last time you emptied fifty-eight ash trays in the center of your living room and then steeped it with Pine-Sol and the musty stench of your Aunt Mary’s baby doll collection. Yeah, you remember? Well, that’s what it smelled like it in the closet-sized check-in office.

We  had to wait for a man in front of us to check in, which provided us with the idle time necessary for a complete giggle breakdown. It started with Corey, who had to bring a fist to his mouth to stifle the laughter. The old woman on the other side of the bullet-proof windows shot us dirty scowls and I tried to bury myself in a Chinese take-out menu that I lifted from the counter. Corey tried to hide his laughter by turning to look out the window, nearly knocking over the “Free Use for Guests” 1980’s-model microwave off it’s shaky stand.

After receiving no pleasantries from the clerk, not even a nicotine-ravaged “Welcome to New Jersey,” we had our key handed to us and  found that our room was the last one in the row, and luckily for us the door wasn’t visible from the lot. A small vestibule with a flickering overhead light had to be entered to find our door. It was the perfect setting for a late night mugging, stabbing, gang rape, tranny hooker wardrobe change.

 Once inside, I was relieved to find that the room itself wasn’t too bad. It seemed to be clean, as promised by the hand-written note left on the desk, declaring that some broad named Lillian cleaned it with her own bare hands. There were some stains on the towels and sheets, along with the standard array of cigarette burns dotting the shower curtain.

 The lone window in the room gave us a view of the lustrous grounds behind the motel. I looked out and, oh good, saw two shacks — just perfect for stowing murder victims, a troupe of Romanian sex slaves, and bricks of cocaine. Personally, I liked to hope that the Holy Grail was in there somewhere, shoved in the anus of a drug mule.

 The bathroom light seemed a little short-winded, so I walked back to the front desk to request a new bulb. On my way there, one of the residents — a young guy in a brown t-shirt — emerged and sat in front of the door, lighting up a cigarette and staring me down. Probably he was trying to gauge if I was a potential client, maybe trying to size me up for my preference — coke, pot, meth, grande-cocked Mexicans. Hopefully he was checking out my boobs, too.

Back in  the office, I had to ring the bell multiple times, praying that I wasn’t interrupting some underground cock fight or sex party, before the no-nonsense old desk clerk came out of the back room. When I told her the bathroom light wasn’t working very well, she impatiently shook her head and said, “No, it works. You gotta leave it on for about five minutes, let it warm up.” I started to thank her, but she had already turned her back on me.

“I don’t think that old lady in the office likes me,” I whined to Corey, chaining the door shut behind me.

“Well no shit. We were practically laughing in her face when you were checking in.”

A few minutes later, a domestic dispute broke out in the parking lot.

May 152008
 

When Henry and I arrived at Club Zoo last night, one of the doormen cracked a big smile and called out, “Hey! How ya doin’, buddy?” in Henry’s face. Henry has no friends, so of course I was a little suspicious. And amazed. I whispered, “How do you know him?” After puffing out his chest a little and grunting, Henry informed me that they became fast friends at the Chiodos show, when he was outside pouting because there was too much gutteral screaming emanating from within. I wonder what they talked about that night? Bandannas? Judas Priest? Sixteen-year-old girls in tight jeans?

The crowd at this show was a little older than what we’re used to, with only a handful of scene kids scattered in the mix. I pointed this out to Henry, hoping he would feel less sore-thumbish, but he countered with the fact that he still had a good twenty years on the majority of the fans. And he was right. And I laughed.

Henry and I hung out upstairs for awhile, pretending to like each other. Then I got upset because he wouldn’t look at me when I was talking to him. Because I’m ugly, that’s why!

Before long, the opening band, the post-hardcore Pelican, took the stage. I was curious to see them live after hearing some of their stuff over the years, and made sure to remind Henry that they don’t sing, so that I wouldn’t have to field his predictable questions once they started. For the next thirty minutes, the venue was blanketed with the intense droning that could easily be mistaken for murder’s soundtrack, or Armageddon’s dinner bell. It was loud, dramatic, powerful and I loved it. It made me feel a lot of hatred in my heart though. Henry complained at one point that they sounded like a slowed-down Black Sabbath, that he felt like he was on downers, that it all sounded the same.

But Henry is also a thousand years old and really lame.

We went down to the floor after their set to prepare for Circa Survive. “When they come on, can we at least go a little closer?” I begged Henry, who doesn’t like bumping bodies with people half his age. (Though that’s how Chooch was made, oh!)

“You’re going to throw me right into the middle of that crowd, aren’t you?” he grumbled, but obligingly followed me a little closer to the stage.

My view was gloriously unobstructed until halfway through the first Circa Survive song. First, a midget meandered over and stopped a few feet in front of me. Then, his tall female friend with a mushroom-shaped head of blond curls planted herself right in front of me. She looked old from the back, like she was his mother. I kept calling her Penelope Ann Miller, even after she turned around and I learned she was really just a teenager. Some other guy who was with them took her place obscuring my line of sight with his ultra-thick neck and proceeded to drink his water like it was a can of beer. I hated him, too. Times like this call for a sickle.

I was able to see enough to know that Anthony Green was definitely fucked up and I desperately wanted whatever it was he was on. It was like he was possessed up there, he was arching his back, undulating, and throwing up his arms; it was almost like watching someone have sex with air. It’s like his body is going to blow up with emotion. I don’t know how you could stand there and witness that, and still walk away not liking Circa Survive. It just scares me, because every time I’ve seen them, Anthony has seemed so wasted and unpredictable (not always in a good way); the first time I saw them, he spent the majority of the time singing from a supine position on the stage. I just worry that something terrible will inevitably happen. (I’m looking at you too, Jonny Craig.)

My throat closed up as soon as those first words left his mouth, my eyes burned with tears, and I thought I was going to die. I guess this is how fanatical God people feel when they’re doing that gospel shit.

They  mostly did material from their latest album, but when they treated us with songs from Juturna, everyone went crazy. They played two of my favorites, “Great Golden Baby” and “In Fear and Faith,” and my heart felt so battered. I used to hole up in the cemetery and listen to that song over and over back in 2005.

I’m sure Henry enjoyed standing behind me through their set. He still doesn’t like them, but at least he doesn’t hate them anymore. (He doesn’t like Anthony’s voice, at all, and he’s not alone. People either love it or hate it. Personally, it’s like a drug to me.)

When they left the stage, I momentarily yearned to kill myself, and then we hung out by the merch table and made fun of people. I caught Henry texting his work boyfriend, Dave, and I was all, “Ooooooh, Henry’s work boyfriend, Dave!” and it made him angry. I kept trying to see what he was texting, but he shrugged me off and took a few steps away. I’m sure whatever it was, it was spelled wrong.

I think Henry was hoping we could bail after Circa Survive, but I was really anticipating Thrice, too. I’ve liked them for a really long time and have managed to miss them every time they come through Pittsburgh. My kid is essentially named after their drummer, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t think Henry would mind Thrice too much, because their new material is on the mellow side, and even their old stuff is less screamo, more rock.

They started off quietly, softly; I’m sure Henry was thinking, “This isn’t too bad. It’s ok,” but then it was like BAM! Bright orange lights flashed on and the band just fucking exploded. It was INCREDIBLE. Their guitarist, Teppei, is one of the most talented and distinctive guitarists ever. They kept a good balance between new and old, mellow and heavy, but the highlights for me was definitely when they pummeled through material from their album The Artist In the Ambulance. That album helped me block out a lot of idiocy when I was working at Weiss Meats.

Toward the end of their set, a young boy ran up to me and very excitedly whispered in my face. He had his hood up over his head and I’m pretty sure he was high. It really freaked me out because:

  • I don’t like it when strangers talk to me
  • What if he had a bomb in his backpack?
  • I felt like he was going to stab me
  • Or OD at my feet
  • I’m pretty sure he was like, 12

Evidently, what he was saying was, “I’m hiding!” because before he had the chance to repeat it a third time, security swooped in and chased him out the door. I have no idea what he did, but I’m glad he didn’t get the chance to involve me further.

The show ended shortly after that potentially dangerous episode. We walked past Henry’s doorman friend on the way out, and he was all, “Hey! Have a good night, buddy!” and Henry smiled all big and goofily and stammered, “You too.” I allowed us to get a few feet out of earshot before I started teasing him.

“Stop it! This is why I don’t have friends, because you get so annoying.”

May 022008
 

Urgent. Will die without reading.

  • 13:19 Didn’t even realize I have a bloody knuckle. What’s up, adrenaline. #
  • 14:22 I think I’ve outgrown the Cure. #
  • 17:09 I think by the time I complete my tenure at MSA, I’ll be handing them one of my lungs. #
  • 17:27 Versus the Mirror dares Eleanore’s scissors to pierce their sonic wall. #
  • 18:27 Per Eleanore: If you can’t speak English you should just go back where you came from. #
  • 20:15 Just spent 10 minutes praising the merits of Blackberry Curve w/ one of the security guards. Hers is silver mine is red. #
  • 20:56 Trying to unlearn the need to sling "retarded" around so freely and derogatively. Hard mountain to climb. Help me. #
  • 23:07 Just remembered why I stopped watching hockey all those yrs ago. #
  • 01:56 Stereotypes make the world go ’round. #
  • 10:40 I forgot how much fun it is to play with cars. I want to buy some dolls to turn into crash victims. Henry will object I bet. #
  • 12:06 Need a constant loop of Chooch saying ‘girl’ so I’ll never be in a bad mood again. #
  • 12:17 I’m trading it all in to be a milk maid. Please call me Gertie. #

Automatically shipped by LoudTwitter Now you can rest easy, knowing my inner most thoughts and movements.


 

Now you too can poop in your hands.

May 012008
 

"I’ve never seen the line this long before," Henry exclaimed when he called me from Club Zoo. "And we’ve been to a lot of shows down here!" He and his kids had left earlier than Christina and me, so we decided we better hurry up and get down there.

When we arrived, I saw that the line of dual-toned shellacked hair, skinny jeans, and black eyeliner was sort of long, but not nearly as bad as Henry was wanking off about. As we walked toward the end of the line, I called to alert him of our arrival. He told me that he and his kids were on the ramp near the doors, and that we should just cut. I hung up on him and while I was bitching to Christina about how I hate when people cut in line and surely was not about to do that myself, a burly man in a security t-shirt called out to us before we even made it to the end of the line.

"You guys got tickets? Then come with me." He escorted us all the way to the front of the line, past all of the bristling scene kids and Henry.

Inside the club, I called Henry and told him since they had tickets, they evidently didn’t need to stand in line, but he said it didn’t matter. Not wanting me to feel special about the random escort, he quickly added, "He probably just chose to let in you two because you’re OLD."

Finally, we were all inside together. Henry’s oldest son, Robbie, introduced me to his girlfriend, Bree, but she didn’t seem to like me.

 

He picked her up later by her neck.

 

And Blake swore that the girl he was with wasn’t his girlfriend, but she should be because they were really cute together.

 

I want her to be Blake's gf!!

 

During the opening band, The Color Fred (featuring Fred from Taking Back Sunday), Christina took pictures of the scene kids around us, Blake and his non-girlfriend ran off to the arcade (Club Zoo is an 18 and under club on nights that bands aren’t playing), and Robbie and Bree never said where they were going. Meanwhile, Henry leaned against a railing with his arms crossed and bandanna too tight, looking surly and awkward. This was the first time in two years that he wore a bandanna and I was like DO NOT LIKE, DO NOT LIKE all night long. Why did he have to tie it so tight? Jesus, it made his face look near-explosion.

Scene kids abound

Me looking like a turtle in VIPIt had been about four years since I was at this particular club, so I wasn’t used to the balcony area being VIP only. "But why? That’s so lame," I whined to Henry. He shrugged and said that there was a bouncer sitting at the top of the steps behind a rope.

"Do you really want up there?" Christina asked. Of course I did, it was off limits. Some older man in a security shirt and a hat walked by, and Henry pointed to him.

"That’s the guy you want to talk to," he said. I don’t know how Henry finds this shit out. It must be old man code or something.

So Christina goes up to the guy and the first thing she does is accidentally knocks his hat off. He doesn’t help us get in, but then she sees the original security guy from outside, whispers something in his ear and he motions for me to follow them up the steps. He whispers to the VIP guy, who obediently marks our hands and unclasps the rope to grant us entrance. Henry, Blake and his friend Stephenie were standing on the steps, looking betrayed and left behind, like we just snatched the last safety raft on the Titanic. But our security friend had retreated by then and the VIP guy wouldn’t let them through. Later, we lied and said they had to be 21 anyway, even though we never bothered to ask.

Henry waved it off and told us to stay up there, it was OK. What he meant was, "You’re so selfish,  you little stuck up bitch, fuck you for making my favorite kid feel like shit!" So, I felt a little guilty. Not guilty enough to surrender my newly acquired VIP status though.

The VIP area was pretty boring. A couple of black couches scattered around and some slutty girls leaning against the balcony and pretending to give a shit about the band playing. We sat on a couch and acted like idiots for awhile, before deciding to go back down where the action was. "We’ll come back up for Chiodos," I said, and Christina agreed.

I failed to mention to Christina that I located Henry through the power of texting, so she somehow got left behind as I did my signature "I’m always in a hurry" march over to the doors. Apparently, she ran into Robbie (after MacGyvering a way for Blake’s friend that’s a girl to be able to see better) and asked him if he knew where his dad was. "Over there, looking like a creep," he answered. Possibly my favorite moment of the night, and I didn’t even witness it first hand.

Another favorite moment that I wasn’t present for was when Christina asked her security friend if she could leave to get her cigarettes from the car, so he marked her hand with a black "21" and sent her to the bar next door, where she felt obligated to order a $5 vodka and cranberry and drink it near a group of ten people who were all friends with each other and looking at her like she was an outcast. Only then was she able to retrieve her Camels from the car. I wondered why it was taking her so long. I mean, I know she’s Mexican, but I didn’t think she’d walk THAT slow.

The bandanna, and the fact that he's near Christina, renders Henry inable to smile.We hung out with Henry for awhile at the back of the club, just in time for Drop Dead Gorgeous to come on. Christina made friends with two mothers, completely out of the blue, because she practically wears a neon sign that flashes "TALK TO ME, I’M APPROACHABLE." It’s obnoxious, really. Every time I turned around that night, she had someone sidled up next to her, telling her about their recent $8,000 boob job, or the fact that they were presently spying on their daughter and have an affinity for harder music, like Pantera. I guess no one talks to me because I either look: angry, boring, or superior. I’m betting on superior.

Henry was completely in pain during Drop Dead Gorgeous’s set. "All they’re doing is screaming! They suck! It’s like they’ve been playing the same song eight times in a row!" I liked them, but I have a lot of aggression brewing inside of me, so screaming in music is something that appeals to me.

I made the eerie observation that there were at least twelve other boys there that looked like the spitting image of Robbie. I swore I kept seeing him with a different girl every time, and then I would realize that it was some other skinny kid with a pierced labret. There was one instance where I walked past one of his doppelgangers and slapped his shoulder, only to realize it wasn’t him. I shared this with Robbie, the authentic Robbie, at the end of the night, but in true teenaged ambivalence, he half-laughed and then shrugged, and I felt lame.

A sea of scene kids. Nice belt!

We ditched Henry for the VIP area during MxPx’s set. Leaning against the balcony and looking down at the kids below, I realized that I didn’t feel very VIP. Where was the champagne? Why were there no hotties in my lap? I wanted to be down where all the action was, otherwise I’d feel like a fairweathered fan. And that’s something that I definately wasn’t.  Fairweathered friend, maybe. I looked at Christina and said, "Let’s blow this joint." We flipped off the VIP area and went back down into the bowels of sceneville, where we found Henry outside socializing with security and parents. He tried to make me jealous by bragging that he saw Craigery of Chiodos, and I was kind of glad that I wasn’t there for that, because what would I have done? Cried and then felt shitty for the rest of the night, that’s what.

I want to be like THAT scene kid.

I decided that night that I want to do a photographical study on scene kids. That’ll be my next Craigslist ad.

Christina's Suicidal Moment.While we were waiting for Chiodos to come on, Mike from MxPx strolled past. A small handful of kids clung to him, begging for pictures to use as default MySpace pics, and I urged Christina to do the same. "You really like him," I reminded her. "Go ‘head!" I implored, shoving her forward. There she was, standing next to him, and both of their faces seemed to display the same pained, frustrated expressions. I had no idea what they were saying to each other, but I took the picture anyway.

"That was the most embarrassing moment of my life!" she yelled, stalking back to me and Henry. "I had no idea what to say to him since I WAS PUSHED INTO THE SITUATION, but I wanted to find something that we had in common. So, I was trying to tell him about how I saw them when they were on tour with my friends Dan and Chrissy but I couldn’t remember the name of their band back then, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so he just said, ‘It’s nice to see you again, though.’"

"Element 101," I said. "That was the name of their band." Christina slapped herself in the head and I was doubled over in laughter. "And they’re not even my friends!" I reminded her, furthering her pain. Look at her face in that picture! Whenever I’m feeling down, I just look at that, and feel so much happier.

Scene stylist.Just then, Fate dropped the perfect example of a scene girl down right in front of us. Christina was acting all shady, attempting to take her picture in secret, but I stepped forward and said, "Why don’t you just ask her, so you don’t look like a pedophiliac stalker?" Christina agreed that this was a great idea, and made up some story about how we thought her hair was really terrific and would like a picture for our cool hair scrapbook (the scrapbook part is what I would have said, because I’m better at lying than Christina is). The coon girl was all, "OMG I did it myself too so that really means a lot!" and vogued in the standard Internet profile pose before quickly retreating with her friends. It warmed my belly to know that we made her feel good about herself, because I know how nervous I was all the time back then about fitting in. No, seriously. I was all, "Are the bands of my braces the right color this time? Is it lame to drink 2 percent? Should I not be shaving lines into my eye brows? OMG suicide."

A tall man with long wavy hair walked past and Henry proudly boasted, "That’s my new friend. He likes Pantera." I guess Henry’s bandanna deluded that guy into thinking that Henry was worthy of chatting with outside the club. I told Henry that Christina had also befriended him earlier in the VIP area (seriously, I turned my back for five seconds to see if I could spy Henry down below, and next thing I know, my spot is lost to some tough-skinned man who surely owns a Harley, and Christina’s talking to him like he’s her favorite uncle). Christina tried to act like he was better friends with her, but seemed crushed that he only told Henry he has a prosthetic leg.

Seconds before Chiodos came on, Christina arranged for a photo-op with her favorite bouncer, who for some reason really took a liking to her. The spell she casts on people can be very annoying at times.

Christina and her security friend. Maybe he missed the signs that she's gay?

Chiodos. Oh, Chiodos. I don’t even know what to say, really. Of course Henry refused to follow us into the undulating wall of kids, choosing to keep his feet firmly planted at the back of the club by the red-haired merch girl who had shitty signs perched on her booth, making Christina decide to leave a comment on Chiodos’ MySpace, alerting them to the rudeness of their merch girl and that whoever’s dick she’s sucking, it’s not worth it.

I’m too old to be getting all up into the pit, too vain to be suffering a broken nose, and too aggressive to be warding off flailing limbs without landing myself in jail, so we opted for a spot with a great view and sufficient personal space. It was perfect.

Every time Craigery threw back his head and arched his back into a gutteral roar, I laughed, knowing that somewhere behind me, in the darkness of the club, Henry was grimacing and rubbing his temples. He’s admitted numerous times that he enjoys their music, but hates the screaming. I love it. I also harbor more aggression than Henry does though, as evidenced today by the bloody knuckle I left the house with.

The sound was so fucked up at the beginning that I couldn’t even tell what the first song was. They quickly got it straightened out and it was pure insanity from there on out. I had goosebumps up to my scalp and was on the verge of tears the entire time. Eventually, they played "Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek" and I lost it. Completely fucking lost it and I let the tears fall. It felt good. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child.

Toward the end of the show, a young kid who looked like Gerard Way pre-MTV exploitation decided to stand behind us and scream things like, "CHIODOS SUCKS! NEVERMIND, CHIODOS RULES!" and then he’d go on to chat with his friends like he was in a fucking coffee house about how he couldn’t believe he had to go to school the next day and all he wanted to do was go home and take a three hour bath. THEN GO DO THAT, ASSHOLE. Eventually, Christina turned around and said, "I paid $25 to hear this band play, so if you want to talk how about standing back there?" It was an awkward moment, the two of them staring at each other, before Christina finally turned back around. He stood there dumbly, with his mouth half-opened, like he really wanted to say something shitty but couldn’t think of anything. I figured at the very least, I’d wind up with some gum or a cigarette butt in my hair, but there was no backlash.

By the end of the set, I pretty much wanted to kill myself. I can’t explain what it is about those guys, but they make me feel so emotionally fragile. They make me want to simultaneously break a lamp over my head and hug a kitten. They make me wish I could run away instead of being a lowly data processor. They make me want to paint pictures with my own blood and then hold hands with someone I love. 

Today I realized, "I would give up my tickets to the Cure to see Chiodos again" and it was a monumental moment in my life.

 

[I know not everyone is a fan of screaming, and this was the only song of theirs sans screaming that I could find a video for. See how I cater?]

Apr 292008
 

 

 My crazy aunt Sharon offered up my grandma’s porch for Chooch’s birthday party. Of course, she was in charge of the guest list, which she was adamant about keeping short and sweet. I was afraid to invite Henry’s kids for fear of suffering her impatient huffs and sighs. In fact, I was afraid to even invite MYSELF. But I kept my cool because the whole point of having it there was so my grandma could attend.

However, Henry was so turned off by the whole thing that he just had his mom and sister come over our house Friday night for cupcakes. (And also because we segregate our families. Completely not normal.)

In the end, I demanded that Janna and Christina at least be able to come. They’re my best friends and it would have been weird without them.

 And of course, at the last minute, Sharon called me to see if Henry’s kids were coming.

"No, I didn’t think I was allowed to invite them," I said, slightly snottily. Christina was sitting next to me and her eyes kind of widened. She told me later that she was afraid I was about to ignite some sort of family warfare, moments before the start of Chooch’s party.

"Of course they’re invited!" Sharon said sweetly. "You guys will only be here for an hour, what do I care who comes?"

Oh did I mention that? The party was only allowed to be an hour long. I joked on the way there that probably we’d pull into the driveway and Sharon would hand us cake slices in to-go bags and send us on our way. But I wasn’t really joking.

 

 

In typical Sharon fashion, she gifted him with a bunch of stuff that no kid would ever want for his birthday: A cars wastebasket and shower curtain complete with cars shower rod hangers, and a bath mat with…blue daisies on it.

Oh.

"Does he like flowers?" she asked.

Don’t all two-year-old boys like flowers? Like any other kid, he demands no less than five Lalique vases in his room, filled with the most pungent bouquet of daffodils. In fact, we just had him at the hospital last week, having a bunch of lilacs extracted from his nose.

We all kind of glanced around the table at each other, slinging "WTF?" expressions every time Sharon would turn her back. I mean, for a two-year-old? Home decor?

My grandma ended up having a bad headache (or so Sharon says; I think she’s holding her hostage), so she was unable to leave her bedroom. Chooch went in to visit her, and I gave him a dandelion from the yard to give to her, which Sharon took credit for. Then after meeting her socialization quota for the month, my mom wandered off into the den  to watch the Pens game. (Yay, Pens, btw.)

 

In the end, all that mattered was that Chooch had fun, Sharon was actually personable and didn’t kick us out after one hour exactly, and there was good cake, of which I ate plenty (with the Pennsylvania Vanilla ice cream I bought all by myself and with my own money!)

 

 

Apr 142008
 

Holy shit, sad!Eleanore’s not here tonight, which is a blessing (it’s quiet!) and a curse (it’s quiet!) all at once. I’m not missing the way she tapdances upon my nerves, but now there’s NO ONE sitting near me so I can’t swivel in my seat and start talking.

Except to myself.

So I took a picture of myself which I’m going to print out and tape up in front of me to make the conversations more legit.

My friend Amelia sent me a surprise package today which completely made me squeal. It came at the best time, too — I was just leaving for work when the mail girl hurled it upon my porch. Asshole.

I dare you to pull out my crown, Gummi Heart.Hidden under a mound of that sparkly silver ribbon stuff that my cats love to eat then regurgitate was pretty much a mother lode of odds and ends; in other words: stuff that someone weird like me would covet. In addition to a black baby doll, a pair of doll arms, a roll of b&w 120 film (which I needed!) and two small handmade notebooks (scribbling has already commenced) was a giant gummi heart, the kind of delicious treat that I’ve always wanted a Valentine to place into my outstretched hands, perhaps with a pack of Garbage Pail Kids for that extra special touch.

The back of the package says:

THUMP THUMP BEAT BEAT

MY HEART FOR YOU

THAT’S OH SO SWEET.

Who doesn’t want that?? Skinheads, animal sacrificers, and Kathie Lee, that’s who.

So now instead of doing actual work, I’ll be overdosing on candy organs and sticking doll parts in things, which is much better than Thursday night, when I listened to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge* for six hours straight and dreamt of slowly draining the blood from my veins. Thanks, Amelia!

(*I know, what the fuck, right? More proof that I’m secretly sixteen.)

Apr 112008
 

Last night I needed a short break from my loneliness, so I went outside and called Christina. While on the phone, a car crept into the lot. The headlights were suspiciously out. It only took me .3 seconds to yell, "Oh my god, DRIVE BY!" into the phone before taking off like a cartoon blur. It could have been gang initiation or something. I could have died so some asshole could become a Crip.

Once inside, I lingered in the hallway by the guard station. The loading dock door was open, and I saw the shady car pull into a spot up front. The lesbian security guard saw me huffing and holding my hand over my chest and she laughed at me because it was just one of the cleaning people.

But like that’s any better! There’s a new person on the cleaning staff and he appears to be straight out of the Pen. Last night, as he emptied my garbage can, as he lifted that garbage can with the same hands that maybe have garroted a hooker or stabbed a dealer, I politely thanked him. He grunted at me. GRUNTED at me. You know I whimpered audibly. 

Bob replied to my frantic email today and said the new cleaning guy is probably going to abduct me Buffalo Bill-style and now I’m full of fear and paranoia. Thank you, Bobby!

I guess it won’t matter that I’m all alone here at night once I’m DEAD. Because I doubt Eleanore will hear my screams over top of her coupon-cutting frenzy. Where’s Tina when you need her, you know?

Apr 072008
 

Henry and I took Chooch to Round Hill Park yesterday since the sky took a day off from blanketing us with seasonal depression. We let Janna come too, because sometimes we try to make her feel included. Plus, I knew she’d keep an eye on Chooch so I could take stupid pictures with my Holga. Probably, everyone there thought she was the mother, and that’s OK. Probably embarrassing for Chooch though.

On the way out there, I sat in the back with Chooch (he freaks out if anyone else does) and played Backseat DJ. Then, forgetting that Henry had just adhered one of those lame pull-down sun shades on both backseat windows, I put the window down and the bottom suction cup is now lost inside the car door and the window got stuck in the down position, causing Henry to pull over and manually yank it up and seethe, "Do not touch the window!!!" because now the window is broken. I denied that it was my fault. I’m still denying it. It wasn’t my fault.

Continuing our slow cruise around the winding park roads, I told Henry to pick a sublime pavilion. Leaning forward between the seats, I asked, "Do you know what sublime means, Henry?" and he scoffed to show that I had really insulted him. Passing by well-maintained picnic plots with sparkling swingsets and bright yellow slides, we stopped at a really sad pavilion with splintered picnic tables and a depressed swing set, proving that Henry really doesn’t know what sublime means. We then tried to accomplish one of those picnic things that normal people are wont to do, but we usually fail and wind up eating bitter words and break-up threats instead. Then I made the mistake of complaining that Henry put yucky stuff on my sandwich, so now he claims I’m going to have to start doing everything for myself, but he was just trying to look tough in front of Janna. Chooch threw most of his food over his shoulder, and I flicked the unfavorable portions of my sandwich underneath the table (except for the cookies which Chooch and I were enthusiastic about) and then we proceeded to the petting farm portion of the park.

I don’t know why I get so excited to come here. Maybe I’m secretly hoping that one of the hens will lay a golden egg full of crack cocaine while I’m visiting, or that I’ll get to see a kid get its hand bitten off by a dragon, but it’s always the same thing: bitchy hens, a feral cat, petrified duck shit, stinky hogs, and lots of shitty mothers with organic cookies and condescending sticks up their mom-jeaned asses.

While Janna held my son’s hand and taught him things like, "The sheeps go BAAA" (which is probably good to balance out my serial killer teachings), me and some other kids took pictures with our plastic cameras. Mine will probably be much better than theirs, because kids suck and I rule.

Chooch liked the pigs best, probably because their snorting and grunting reminded him of his oft-slumbering father. They smelled like him too. Janna made sure Chooch bathed in Purell on the way out of the pig pen.

While checking out the cows, I left Henry’s side for a SECOND to take a picture. In that short amount of time, some whorish mother with a nasally voice and ugly kids sidled up next to Henry. Her stupid kid was like, "MOMMY IS THAT COW A BOY OR A GIRL???" and she was all, "Oh I don’t know. It has horns. Do girl cows have horns?" She looked at Henry innocently, crinkling her slutty nose and punctuating her flighty inquiry with sex-glazed giggles.

Henry was all, "Oh my God, a real life broad is talking to me," to himself, and after flexing his muscles and rippling his poorly executed tattoos, he disguised his voice to sound like a real man and said, "Why I don’t know, let’s ask my dickie, he has the answers to everything," and then he pulled out his dick and wagged it around like a limp pinkie and the two of them giggled together like two fucking assholes and I want to murder that dumb douche now (both of them).

Really, Henry said nothing at all because he went into shock at the idea of another woman acknowledging him, and I took that as my cue to attach myself to Henry’s side and shout, "HEY, HOW’S IT GOING WITH THE AIDS?" so that she would fuck off and die. Then after she left I said, "Ew" and quickly took five giant steps away from Henry.

Meanwhile, Chooch — who thought that the other kids there were part of the attraction — kept trying to poke some little girl in the butt and then got all excited because her jacket was pink satin with a glittery Barbie patch on it and the girl’s parents were laughing and I kind of died a little and started whispering things about King Kong, tits, and machine guns in his ear because I might kill myself if he develops a Barbie fetish. And not even because of that whole "Boys should like trucks and blood and shooting and killing!!" bullshit, but because Barbie is really fucking stupid.

Over by the duck pond, some frizzy-haired douche-mom scolded me for letting Chooch come close to touching baked duck poop that was coating one of the benches and it was totally Henry’s fault because when I saw it, I asked, "Is that duck poop?" and Henry sounded very positive when he assured me it was a very sanitary natural bench cushion made of nature’s love and children’s giggles, and then he immersed himself in fiddling with the camera because he thinks he’s a professional photographer or something.

Then I realized that Round Hill is really fucking gay and we left.

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.