Sep 272010
 

If this looks more like something you’d want to motorboat and less like something that’s sucker-punching your gag reflex, then read on.

I love pie. For years, I’ve wanted to have a pie party but usually complacency sets in and I put it on the backburner.

But then Henry made an avocado pie for my mom’s Labor Day cookout and it was smooth as silk, tangy, rich and to be honest, I just closed my eyes and smiled while thinking about it. He even made a citrus-tinged whipped cream which he plans to slather on the next avocado pie he makes. Which hopefully will be on October 10, 2010 for my first annual to nothing PIE PARTY.

It’s going to be held at a pavilion in South Park, and the invitation is open to any local person reading this who has a propensity for pies (or anyone who likes pies enough to travel to Pittsburgh!). I’m trying to convince Henry that we really need to pay extra to be able to have alcohol at the park because I can’t imagine spending an autumn day outside, eating pie, with NO MULLED WINE to wash it down.

Actually, I’ve never had mulled wine, but Alisha always talks about it like it’s her own invention, and has subconsciously convinced me that I must have a big steaming vat of this. I think she should make it in a cauldron. Alisha – we will discuss this soon. Look out for my telegram. Bring your decoder ring.

If we’re not friends on Facebook, here is the official event notice:

A Pretentiously Perplexing Pie Party

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2:00PM – 6:00PM

A Pavilion in South Park, TBD

Please pop a squat with me beneath a pavilion on a (hopefully) pleasant autumn day, plunging plastic ware into a plethora of piquant pies.

Please present one (1) pie for passage; a paltry price to pay for a party pinioned by prestigious proclivity.

Pursuing pies of all persuasions! Palatable produce, pungent pasty, puzzling pot pies.

Leave all picky palates at the plantation and come get your piper pied!
———————
In other words: let’s eat the crap out of some pies.

I’m having my mom make her amazing butterscotch pie, you guys. It could anally rape you and you wouldn’t even notice it, it is THAT good. And I might be cajoled into baking the only pie I’ve ever baked in my life (not including the raw pumpkin pie that left my ex-boyfriend with a persnickety duodenum): a succulent pear pie.

If you would like to attend, please let me know! Even if we’ve never met before, what better way to say hello and swap saliva than with chunks of cherry pie falling from our mouths like the remnants of that Civil War reenactor we cannibalized last Arbor Day?

Aug 102010
 

It was an awkward encounter at the beer distributor he owned; I had stopped there to grab some beer for an upcoming game night and there he was, behind the counter, waiting to check my ID. Of course he wouldn’t recognize me; it wasn’t like we had regular visits.

That was the last time I saw my Grandpa Kelly.

He’s my dad’s dad, and that in itself is awkward, because my dad is really my step-dad, and actually he’s not even that anymore because my mom divorced him something like ten years ago. But my biological dad died when I was three, and a few years after my mom married Kelly, he legally adopted me. Since fourth grade, he’s been “daddy.” But we had a volatile relationship, I’ll go as far as to say we hated each other for much of my teenage years, so I always opted out when my family would go to his parent’s house for holidays or visits.

When I would go, Grandpa Kelly didn’t often come out from his room. He was a germ-phobe, had OCD, and oftentimes was pretty uncomfortable to be around. While I always really liked my Grandma Kelly, I didn’t have much of a relationship with her husband. I don’t think my younger brothers did, either. One of the last times I was over there, it was probably in 2002, my dad met me on the front porch, waiting to give me a refresher.

“Don’t mention you have cats. Don’t mention you smoke! Oh god, don’t mention that. Just, you know what? Just don’t talk.”

Because every little thing freaked Grandpa Kelly out. If he knew I had cats, he’d go into cardiac just imagining the trail of feline nastiness I was tracking into his house. This is a man who couldn’t eat from the same peanut jar as his wife.

My dad and I have gotten along fine ever since I’ve lived on my own. When I was 18, he even swallowed his pride and apologized for the nasty things he’d done to me. And I apologized too, because it’s not like I sat around taking that shit. We fought violently at times. Slung some really razor-sharp words at each other. I nearly caused the demise of my parents marriage on more than one occasion. (That would come later, and it was long over due.)

My dad was the only one who didn’t shut me out during my pregnancy. He’s never made me feel  unwelcome in his home. His name is on my birth certificate. He’s the only father I ever really had.

So I felt it was only right to go to the funeral home on Sunday, where my Grandpa Kelly was laid out.

I met my brother Corey in the parking lot.

“I’m probably only going to stay for a half hour or so,” I said, figuring that would be enough time for the black sheep. Aside from my dad, I hadn’t seen any of his family in almost ten years. In fact, his younger brother has three children that I know nothing about. The youngest I’ve never even met. And he’s like, fifteen.

The director of Debor’s directed Corey and I to the Rose Room, where we saw our dad immediately. He came over and hugged me, but we were completely out of sync without each. It became a dance of him lifting one arm and me leaning the wrong direction until we finally shot the routine like a lame horse after I smacked my chin off his right shoulder.

I come from a long-line of uncoordinated huggers.

My dad looked tired. His eyes were red-rimmed. But his voice was strong and his stance was sturdy.

“I cried every day he was in the hospital,” he started in his standard matter-of-act way of speech. “At this point, I’m just relieved he’s not in pain anymore.”

Meanwhile, I felt eyes boring through me as people began to wonder who I was. I could read my Aunt Joyce’s lips as she murmured, “I think that’s Erin?”

I felt confident that I would be OK being there. Though I didn’t have a relationship with this man, I was still very sorry that he passed, that the rest of the family lost their patriach. But I was sure I wouldn’t cry. I was just there for moral support for Corey, and out of respect for my dad. I was going to be fine.

And then I saw my Grandma Kelly and I fucking lost it. I didn’t downright sob, but my eyes filled up before I had a chance to fight it. And that was before I even had to talk to her.

“Why don’t you guys go say a prayer?” my dad suggested, gesturing to the two mauve-velveted pews next to the casket.

I knew he was going to do that. Goddammit.

So I reluctantly knelt next to Corey, fumbled my way through the sign of the cross with a heavy hand, and then squinted my eyes shut.

Then I would feel a presence near me, so my eyes would flutter open. I would force them shut again so it would appear I was genuinely praying.

Things that went through my mind:

“How do you pray?”

“The flowers smell nice.”

“I’m supposed to keep my eyes shut, right?”

“Hi God.”

“Is Corey still doing this prayer thing?” as I’d sneak a sideways glance

“I kind of want a Zebra Cake.”

“This sucks.”

“I hope no one’s watching me.”

“It would suck if my period started right now.”

“OK, I’m done with this now.”

I waited a few seconds after I sensed Corey leave before rising myself. I turned around and found myself face-t0-face with my Grandma Kelly.

In her sweet, sing-song voice, she cried out, “Oh Erin honey! You came!” She looked the same to me. Tiny, energetic. The only thing that was different was the sadness tugging on her eyes. She kept three of my fingers clasped inside her small little hand while she turned her attention on some priest who came to pay his respect. I stood there awkwardly, in this painful limbo right smack in front of the coffin, feeling so uncomfortable with this lingering affection yet not wanting to wrench my hand away either. Finally, someone for her to hug approached and she released my sweaty hand in favor of wrapping her arms around someone’s neck.

“That’s my mom’s biological sister,” my dad pointed to a nun standing across the room.

“What do you mean by that?” Corey asked, but I knew damn well if he had just said, “That’s my mom’s sister,” we all probably would have assumed he was calling a nun a nun.

Having familial obligations to fulfill, my dad left us to go and greet some new arrivals. Corey and I sat in two white padded folding chairs along the wall. Of course we would choose the ones closest to the coffin, because we’re idiots. I kept finding my eyes drawn to it, to the waxy Rosary-wrapped hands; to the pasty nose,  slightly rouged cheeks, and pale parted lips. I could not stop staring. I’d try to fixate on the yellow roses strewn about his body, but my eyes unfailingly went back to his face.

It made me think about my Pappap, how I avoided looking at him in the casket until that last moment of the viewing, when the funeral home director was trying to shoo us all out for the night and I was pulled into the small room that held his body, everyone around me saying it was time to say goodbye, and I remember dragging my feet, shaking my head, until there I was, standing over that fucking coffin at my Pappap’s lifeless body and I don’t know what I thought. That if I didn’t look, it wasn’t real? But I looked, and I wish I could rewind time and go back that night in late February of ’96, stand behind myself and place a hand over my eyes.

It was so hard for me that I can’t allow myself to remember what I saw when I looked down that night.

To my left, I heard sobbing. I looked over and saw our cousin Katie, Kevin and Joyce’s 18-year-old daughter. And then I started crying, as I sat there guiltily watching her bury her face in a Kleenex, and I hated so bad that she had to lose her Pappap. These grandparents are probably to her what my mom’s parents were to me; I would not wish that heart-shattering pain on anyone.

“It must have been tough finding the best Hawaiian shirt to wear today,” Corey said, nodding in the direction of a total Captain Casual who, along with his wife and two young daughters,  was talking to our dad. The older of the two girls was crying into her mom’s dress. We figured they were cousins we didn’t know about, until they eventually made their way over to Corey and me. Since we were sitting right near the casket, I guess we looked like people needing sympathy, so a lot of visitors swung by us with apologies before hitting the casket.

The man in the Hawaiian shirt ended up being some guy who worked at the beer distributor for years. His whole family seemed distraught.

“Me and your dad had some wild nights down there,” he joked, and it was nice to have a reason to laugh. I liked that guy, Hawaiian shirt and all.

Corey was summoned by someone and no sooner than 2 seconds after his ass left the seat, some older man sat down next to me. Just as I was going to make a break for the door.

I didn’t catch his name, but I think I heard somewhere that he’s my Grandma Kelly’s neighbor. I’m not into small talk in any setting, let alone  a funeral parlor. What more is there really to say other than, “This really sucks.” No one feels good being there. No one’s going to wake up the next day and remember talking to Ed Kelly’s sorta-kinda granddaughter about what college she went to. I just don’t have the energy for that bullshit, especially when I’m surrounded by sniffling, sobbing, and a choral round of “I’m so sorry”s. Let’s just sit in peace.

Corey came back and sat next to the neighbor, who eventually rose in a bumbling manner and scanned the room for a more worthy parlor pal.

“What the fuck?” Corey mouthed to me, and I just shook my head in defeat. There went my half hour.

“Don’t leave me again!” I whispered.

More huddles of black-garbed respect-payers. More drafts of ice cold air from the vent. More inhalations of opulent funerary bouquets. More subconscious attempts to cloak the forearm tattoo from the more pious types.

I leaned in to Corey and said, “I even left my phone in the car so I wouldn’t feel the urge to tweet.”

Corey tried to suppress a laugh. “First rule of Twitter: never tweet with a dead relative in the room.”

One of the last viewings I went to was senior year of high school. Lisa’s grandfather had died, and while I didn’t even know him, I started crying uncontrollably as soon as I walked into the funeral home. And then I saw Lisa and her parents and the tears began flowing at a fire hydrant’s speed;  my friends Brian and Angie had to actually take me out of there because I was upsetting people. It was her grandfather. People around me just can’t go about losing grandfathers and expect me to be cool with that. Brian took me to Olive Garden and bought me raspberry cheesecake.

Now I associate raspberry cheesecake with death. It’s a good thing I’m morbid.

“Those are the flowers from Mom,” Corey pointed to the head of the casket, where a large arrangement of red and white flowers sat on the floor. The story is that my mom, whom I knew wouldn’t come even though I thought she should have, decided to send flowers in her name, Sharon’s, and their younger sister, Susie’s. Apparently, the florist forgot to put Susie’s name on it and Sharon, whom after spending the last twenty years (if not longer) of her life wishing murder upon Susie, is now suddenly a HUGE Susie advocate, freaked the fuck out on my mom. Then my mom in turn got angry at Susie, because she should have been the one buying the flowers in the first place, since she’s the only employed one of the three.

This was what I was able to decipher from the hysterical phone call from my mom, anyway.

Sharon wanted one of us to write Susie’s name on the card at the funeral home. She’s out of her goddamn mind if she thinks I’m going to mosey up to the casket, whip out a Sharpie and go to town on the card from a squatting position. Considering my sordid history with my dad, I can only imagine what his family would think when they saw me crouched down next to the casket. “She’s lighting candles for Satan!”

So no, I wasn’t about to write Susie’s name on the card. Go to fucking Hell with that shit.

I was going to try and leave again, but my dad walked over with his old friend Darrell. It was a total blast from the past. Darrell and his wife Brenda used to bring their son Clayton over all the time when my brother Ryan was in elementary school. Clayton wasn’t allowed to watch anything “violent,” like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so that was always interesting watching my brother play with him.

Darrell sat with Corey and me while my dad wandered off to meet an old couple I didn’t recognize. Darrell got Corey and I up to date with the college careers of his kids and when he asked me what I’m doing, I had the awesome answer of, “Well, I have a kid now. So I guess I’m doing that.” In the distance, we could hear Grandma Kelly crying again, and Darrell asked us about her.

“Sadly, this is the first time I’ve seen her in years. I feel really guilty about that,” I admitted, eyes welling up again.

“Well,” Darrell started that expressionless way he has of speaking, “maybe now’s the time to change that.”

Maybe it is time. Being the asshole black sheep of the family, all families, every family, is starting to get old. Maybe it is time to change that.

Darrell rejoined my dad after a few minutes and Corey and I talked about how awkward that was. Everything is awkward with Corey and me. We do awkward right.

Grandma Kelly wove her way back to us and sat down next to Corey. “Honey girl,” she said to me, she’s always called me that, “I heard you have a baby now!”

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

It’s weird talking about stuff like that with a woman whose dead husband is sprawled out three feet from me.

“Would you like to meet him?” I asked.

“Oh yes! Would I!” she exclaimed. And I felt a little better about being there.

I was going to use that as my out, since I had her right there and could easily say goodbye, but a Deacon strode briskly across the room and chose that exact moment to stand in front of the coffin and call for everyone’s attention. Meanwhile, old women were passing out prayer books. Oh motherfuck. I was sitting right there in the front of the room, against the wall, where EVERYONE could see me, so I was stuck. Members of the bereavement group led us through page after page of prayers, and there were parts where the rest of us had to say things out like “Praise be to God” and remember, I haven’t been in church in many, many years, so it was chilling to me. One of the women in the bereavement group sounded like Blanche Deveroux. So that was a high point.

Grandma Kelly, who was still sitting with Corey and me, had sobbed her way through the prayer session. This made Corey cry, which in turn made me cry. Crying is fucking contagious.

“Hey, on a lighter note,” I said to Corey afterward, “I somehow remembered all the words to the Our Father.” And he laughed a little through his tears, so I was glad.

By the time all that praying was done, I had been there for over an hour. I might as well just stay for the home stretch at this point, I thought.

Our cousin Kristen came over. I hadn’t seen her since she was probably 3 or 4, and she’s at least 22 now. Just graduated college. Looks like a complete bitch. My Grandma Kelly clearly favored her when we were all younger. Every time my dad would take us to her house, it was always, “Baby Kristen this” and “Baby Kristen that.” It became a joke for my family. Even now, when my dad mentions her, he twists up his mouth and says, “You know, Baby Kristen,” in the old-womanly voice of Grandma Kelly.

“So, where do you live?” Kristen asked me in exactly the type of snobby voice I expected to come out of that tight-lipped mouth. She was standing above me, making it slightly intimidating. “I like, know nothing about you.” The way she said it? I interpreted it to mean, “What are you even doing here?”

I told her where I live, smiled and said, “I haven’t seen you since you were really young.”

“Yeah, I like, have no memory of you.” And she gave me a quick, tight-lipped smile. The kind that doesn’t make it up to the eyes. I really don’t like her. Apparently, Corey doesn’t either.

Her boyfriend seemed nice though.

Finally, the director of the funeral home came over to my Grandma Kelly and advised everyone to leave now, to take advantage of the break before the 6:00-8:00 viewing.

As my Grandma Kelly hugged me goodbye, she said, “Tell your mom I said hello!” Then, with a hand shielding the side of her mouth so my dad wouldn’t see, she added, “I love her! He doesn’t know that, but I love her!” My dad just smirked and rolled his eyes.

This time, my dad’s hug wasn’t as awkward, and he thanked me again for coming. It made me feel bad that he felt the need to thank me at all.

“Well, so much for only staying a half an hour,” I laughed to Corey as we left at the same time as the rest of the immediate family. I got home and was telling Henry about it all, and said, “I didn’t think it would hurt so much being there, but it did. I feel really terrible. Really depressed.” For the rest of the night, I kept, against my will, playing back those images of my Grandma Kelly and Katie crying, of my dad’s tired eyes, of Corey getting emotional when asked to be a pall bearer. It was just too much.

I was telling Barb about it yesterday at work, and she goes, “Oh, you didn’t take Riley?”

“Oh God no!” I laughed. “Can you imagine? ‘Mommy, is he a zombie now?’ as he’s poking my Grandpa’s face with rose stems.”

Last night, as I was tossing the black shirt I wore to the funeral home into the laundry basket, I caught a whiff of my Grandma Kelly’s perfume and my heart fell a little.

Aug 062010
 

Most kids my age would be planning clandestine keggers while their parents were away, but me? I was ironing out the final details for my first real dinner party, and a vegetarian one at that.

It was going to be so perfect.

I was a senior in high school that September in 1996, and opted out of my family’s weekend trip to Tennessee. If you want to get technical, I think it was more that I just wasn’t invited because my step-dad and I hated each other. My mom didn’t really have a problem with me staying home, especially since her sister Sharon lived two houses up the street and we all knew that Sharon would be popping over in regular intervals of excess.

My dinner party was scheduled for that Friday night. I stayed home from school in order to get a head start on preparations, and by that I mean I was trying frantically to learn to cook.  I had a few recipes torn out from Vegetarian Times and, aside from all the ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, it seemed like it was going to be a breeze.

Apparently, in the mid-90’s, being a vegetarian wasn’t the cool thing to do yet; I had a horribly difficult time finding nori flakes and tempeh, and truth be told, I didn’t even know what those things were. Most of my day was spent calling around to various markets, trying to not only locate these ingredients, but explain to the confused employees what it even was that I was asking for, and setting the dining room table with my mom’s good dishes. I was stressed. Harried. Frazzled. A good bit of the pumpkin puree for my soup was splayed across the backsplash like the arterial spray of a grisly gourd murder/suicide.

By the time Lisa arrived at  my house after school to take me on a wild nori flake chase, I was down-right furious with a tinge of self-pity, and on the verge of calling the whole thing off.

“It’s going to be a disaster,” I wailed to Lisa, slouched down in the passenger seat of her Jeep. “No one’s even going to eat this shit!”

But then we found the nori flakes and tempeh at some frou frou health food market in one of the yuppier parts of town, so I started to have hope again.

Lisa dropped me off and left to get ready. She was bringing a date with her to my dinner party. His name was Jon and he went to a local Catholic school. A mutual friend of ours had hooked them up and it was going to be their first date. Even more pressure for me to make a perfect dinner and tone down the crazy.

By 8:45, everyone had arrived. The guest list included: Janna, Keri and her boyfriend Dan, Sarah, Angie, Lisa and Jon.

Everyone sat around in the family room for social hour while I put the finishing touches on the pumpkin soup. I was still in panic-mode and unable to properly entertain everyone like I had wanted with trays of hors d’oeuvres, clove cigarettes and scantily-clad virgins performing parlor tricks. I felt bad that Jon, a perfect stranger, had found himself sitting in a rocking chair in some maniac girl’s house in the suburbs, waiting to eat a crap dinner made of pretentious faux-meat ingredients and inadequacy.

The entree, something called a Layered Tofu Supreme which I’m sure was actually just a glorified meatless lasagna, had finally been slid and slammed into the oven, and I was ready to start serving the soup. Everyone took their places around my family’s barely-used dining room table and stared at their small glass bowls with upturned lips and scrunched noses.

That looks disgusting,” Keri scowled, creating persimmon peaks with her spoon.

“It’s just soup!” I yelled. “Made with pumpkin! It’s not disgusting, it’s fabulous.” I stamped around the table, firing my homemade croutons into everyone’s bowl, like angry torpedoes.

And the pumpkin soup was fabulous, much to my surprise. I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be. But it was thick and rich and full of hayride-memories and cornstalk mazes, and well, pumpkin patches. It was the perfect starter for an autumn dinner.

Dan liked it so much, he ate Keri’s too. Her palate was clearly too pedestrian to handle such an elegant waltz with flavor.

It happened during the salad course.

While everyone picked around the tempeh strips and nori flakes in the “sea-sar” salad (which I actually really happened to enjoy, thank you), the phone rang.

It was  Sharon, and in true Sharon fashion, she sounded frantic.

“Did you see that car that just pulled into your driveway?” she asked, her voice strained with concern. I had in fact noticed headlights, but saw that the car had turned around just as quickly. “So, that wasn’t someone coming to your dinner?”

“No, it was probably just someone turning around,” my reply was packed with teenaged attitude. I was trying to host a dinner party, not talk to my aunt. Plus, every time the phone rang, I had hoped it was my true (and verboten) love Justin, and my heart would soar.

I hung up and returned to the table in hopes of coaxing  my guests to give my salad a chance. I found it to be quite delightful and couldn’t imagine why they were rejecting it..

“What exactly is tempeh?” Jon asked, spearing a strip with the tines of his fork and holding it up to the chandelier.

“You want a jeweler’s loupe for that?” I asked scornfully. Really, I had no idea what tempeh was, other than it was a bitch to procure and these ungrateful fuckers were going to eat it and like it.


The stacked tofu extravaganza was still baking in the oven, so I filled the gap between courses by breaking out a bottle of 1986 Sutter Home White Zinfandel I had been hoarding since I was seven. It was a Christmas gift from my cousin/godfather Chris, who had attached a tag that read, “For the girl who has everything.” And it was true. When I tell people about this, they usually say, “What a stupid gift.” But to me, that bottle represented my future. I kept it on my desk for years, and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to open it.

That late September night of 1996 seemed like the perfect occasion. It was my first taste at being an adult, having a real dinner with my friends that wasn’t served by a waitress at Denny’s. It was a glimpse at living on my own, away from parental supervision. It felt good. I felt proud, mature and sophisticated.

But then came the ensuing fuckarow of trying to open the wine bottle, which sent my feel-good coming-of-age moment straight down to Hell in a shit-and-tempeh-coated pipe. Jon was ready to break out the samurai sword until Dan finally ripped the cork from the neck of the bottle in eighteen crumbly pieces. We had just toasted and were about to enjoy (or pretend to enjoy, considering the unrefined palates that usually come with teenagers) the Zinfandel from my mom’s wedding glasses when the phone rang again.

“That car was on the lane again!” Sharon shouted. “I stopped them this time.” (What was she doing, sitting on the street with night goggles? Probably.) She went on to say that she asked them what they were doing and they said they were looking for me. “I told them they don’t need to be going to your house, then I think I saw one of them in a bush!” Sharon added, filling me with a dread that I desperately did not need right then.

My family lives on a private lane. A little ways past my house were two more houses, and then a dead end.  People didn’t usually just drive up and down this street, and any time this happened it was alarming because there are some big houses on that street.

My house was surrounded by woods on two sides. It didn’t take much more than a creepy car casing my house to put me on edge.

I hung up and was explaining to everyone what Sharon had said, when the phone rang again. Everyone jumped, and then laughed. A male voice was on the other end.

“Hello, Erin,” he said. I still had hopes of hearing from Justin that night, but this wasn’t Justin.

“Who is this?” I asked, calmly at first.

“A friend,” he answered in a deep monotone that implied the absolute opposite of camaraderie.

“Who the fuck is this?!” I screamed, because there is no keeping calm and carrying on with Erin R. Kelly. And then, from the living room window, I saw headlights. A car was idling at the end of my driveway.

Phone still to my ear, camcorder dutifully recording in my other hand, I ran out of the house, shouting, “Who are you? What do you want?” while everyone else was trying to get me to come back inside and STFU.

“They could be dangerous!” Angie cried, tugging me back inside. Meanwhile, it turned out to just be one of my neighbors, pausing at their mailbox before continuing on down the lane. (They were previously privy to my crazy rep, so I’m sure they thought nothing of this latest public outburst at 120 Gillcrest.)

Still, the phone calls had been enough to encourage Jon to retrieve a tire iron from his car, and Dan was pacing around the house with a knife.

We all crowded back in the dining room. In all the commotion, I hadn’t heard the oven buzzer and the tofu crap souffle had all but burnt down the house. And then a dish towel went up in flames on the stove that I forgot to turn off. It was all too much, and I ran up to my room to pout, after hurling my camcorder into a corner. I mean, I’m naturally dramatic on regular nights, but throw in some mildly threatening phone calls and a failed salad course, and the crocodile tears and butt-hurting are out of control. Dan followed me to my room and took this as an opportunity to put the moves on me, which he was always trying to do every time Keri had her back turned. Yes Dan, there’s a maniac casing my house and prank-calling me, please fuck my fears away. I won’t tell Keri.

That only angered me more.

“My entree is ruined! No one liked the salad! My vanilla rice milk tastes like shit and Justin obviously isn’t going to come tonight!” I sobbed into my pillow.

And then the phone rang again.

“It’s them again!” Keri called up the steps.  I rejoined everyone in the dining room, with the plates of wilted salad and flutes of warm wine, and snatched the phone from Keri.

“Nice little dinner you’re having there,” the voice. “Is the wine any good?”

“Whoever it is can see us!” I hissed, hand covering the receiver. Dan and Jon picked up their weapons and went into the backyard. “What do you want?” I asked again, trying to think of who I had pissed off lately at school. This guy Damien had been acting weird toward me, and he knew about my dinner. I added him to my mental shit list.

“Your dog’s not really all that tough, you know,” the voice went on. “All I had to do was feed him some of my fries and we’re best buds now.”

I ran to the front porch to find my German Shepherd, Rama, smacking his lips next to an empty bag of McDonald’s fries. Great watchdog.

While I was on the phone with him, Sharon came screeching to a halt in my driveway. “Those fuckers drove past again,” she said, marching up to the house.

I waved the phone at her and whispered, “They’re on the phone right now.”

Yanking it from me, she started screaming into the receiver some spiel about this being private property. Then she paused and asked, “Are you threatening me?” Meanwhile, Jon and Dan were walking along the perimeter of the property, like they expected to see the culprits perched on a tree bough.

“I’m calling the police. This is ridiculous,” Keri muttered after Sharon hung up. So Keri was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher while Sharon told us that whoever she was talking to was somewhere watching us, because he knew we were all standing out in the driveway, and apparently at one point, he threatened to kill my sheep. (My family had pet sheep. Don’t judge.)

I went back in the house and stood in the kitchen next to Keri, who was still on the phone with the police. My private line rang and at this point, I was ready to murder a fool. In lieu of standard telephone salutations, I yelled “WHAT?” into the receiver.

“Mrs. Kelly? This is Sergeant Hanson from Pleasant Hills,” the man on the other end said. I felt like an asshole for yelling and quickly put on my sweet little girl voice.

“This is her daughter,” I said politely.

“I just wanted to inform you that we’ve been receiving reports from other residents on your street of potential burglars in the area. Whoever it is could be armed and dangerous, so you should remain inside and keep all the doors locked.”

I was just starting to explain to the officer that we had been receiving threats when it dawned on me that he had called my personal, unlisted phone number. Why would the cops call that number and not the main house line. BECAUSE IT WASN’T THE COPS AND I WAS A FUCKING IDIOT.

Just as I started to say, “Hey—wait!” the fake cop disconnected the call.  I was less creeped out and just really fucking pissed off at this point. Because the real police were on their way thanks to Keri, I had to pour all of my wine into the sink since I wasn’t sure if they would be coming inside the house, and if they would even take note that a bunch of underage kids were imbibing alcohol.

All that wine. All those years of dreaming of the moment I’d finally get to savor this gift from my cool godfather.

All down the fucking drain.

This was the impetus; this is what set me over the edge. I grabbed a cleaver and ran into the backyard, with Angie and Lisa trying to stop me. Everyone knew that if this was a real life horror movie, I’d be the first bitch to bite it.

And while I was out there, cutting the night sky with a cleaver, screaming threats to my hidden harassers, the real cops arrived. Sharon spoke with them first, out in the driveway, while I waited impatiently for my turn to speak.

They said they would search the area, that they would report back in a few hours.

That was pretty much the ultimate party foul, so everyone left after that, except for Keri, Dan and Janna, who decided to stay the night with me so I wouldn’t have to be alone.

I cried about it for awhile that night. The fact that my tofu entree had turned into an inedible brick of charred vegetarianism. That I never had the chance to prepare my baked apples for dessert. That I hadn’t succeeded in converting anyone to the meatless side of life.

“Hey, that pumpkin soup was really good,” Dan reminded me. It was really good. Somewhere in between the harassing phone calls, flaming dish towels and threats to slaughter my sheep, I had forgotten all about that damn soup.

And what a great first impression for Jon, this poor unsuspecting guy who was just being introduced to me. Somehow, he stuck around for the next five years. Every once in awhile he liked to remind me that I still had his tire iron.

“Oh look, Halloween 6 is on,” I said. And that’s how we ended that scary, Scream-esque night. Watching a goddamn movie where people get stabbed to death by a psychopathic stalker.

Big surprise, the cops never did follow up.

***

About a week later, the truth came out. It was Janna’s boyfriend Matt and one of his friends. Matt despised me back then, certain that I was getting Janna to do drugs and have recreational sex with bait shop owners. So he did all of that to scare Janna into leaving, because god forbid she was spending a night doing something without her crazy-possessive boyfriend.

And how did that work out for you, Matt?

He did eventually apologize, and asked how he could make it up to me. But all the wine in the world could have never replaced that one special bottle.

(l to r) Janna, Dan, Lisa, Sarah, Jon, Angie and dumb old me in the front.

Mar 072010
 

the jim yoshii pile up – reckless driving


Fuck that Mariah Carey shit. This is honestly the best song ever about obsessive love. I used to listen to it a lot the summer I got knocked up. I was really into Momus back then too and Henry hated him. He hates this song too. Probably because it makes him feel uncomfortable.

In fact, I usually picture Henry singing it when I listen to it. BECAUSE HE IS SO GODDAMN OBSESSED WITH ME.

Now if only the Jim Yoshii Pile Up would get back together so they can play a house show in my mom’s basement and I’ll pass out cocktail wieners and have the band sign my cast. (In my fantasy of this, this house show takes place a week and three days after I fall from a sorority house window and through the splintery roof of a gazebo while fleeing from the Salem Slasher.)

Oct 162008
 

My brother Corey was home from college over the weekend and we had hi-falutin’ plans to get crunk, slap some bare asses, prance under a shower of Benjamins. In other words, we had tentative plans to go to a haunted house.

I met him at our mom’s house Sunday night, and he informed me that his friend Dave was on his way. In waiting, we stood in the doorway of the garage while my mom blabbered on about BlogTV, MySpace, tarot card readings and her spiritual advisors. “They want to have tea parties!” she giggled, joy-riding on the crazy train like she so often does. And then, “Oh, my favorite knife!” as she plucked a paring knife from the garage wall. True story. (Listen, I grew up in this house so a random wall-wedged knife isn’t too shocking.)

Ignoring her attention-deficient outburst, Corey chose that moment to tell me that he wasn’t driving. This did not make me a happy muffin. I whined things like, I have a car seat in there!, and But I always have to drive!, and But I’m really fucking drunk from huffing formaldehyde! Corey shrugged and stood his ground.

Dave arrived and Corey began walking over to my car. “I was serious about the car seat, dude. I don’t know how to take it out,” I called after him. (This is not a lie. I fail at motherhood.) Corey, remaining undeterred, jutted his lower lip and made his eyes have the pleading look of an orphan begging for more crust. So I batted at the damn car seat two or four times, and Corey and Dave both made feeble attempts, but even Henry blathering instructions via speaker phone proved to be about as helpful as a retard reciting the Kama Sutra in Swahili to a eunuch. Meanwhile, my mom just stood around and laughed, hiccuping on her psychosis.

“Dave, it’s not so bad, right? You can sit next to it, right?” The car seat is smack dab in the middle of the backseat, so no matter which side you sit on, you’re getting a hard plastic hug to your ribs. Dave was all, “Whatever, it’s ok. Let’s just go.”

So then we picked up their friend K.C., who sweetly lied and said she was so cozy back there, like it was an arm rest made from cotton candy and clouds. Dave chimed in that he had even forgotten it was there. I have sat back there before. Granted, it’s much worse and way more painful when the seat’s keeper is strapped in, but even when Chooch is being docile (yeah, that’s never), it is not a comfortable traveling condition.

Anyway, I tried to let it go and have a good time when we arrived at Demon House. Since it was a Sunday, there was hardly any wait at all and we ended up being the last group to go through. There were some legitimate scares, K.C. accidentally smacked my boob and then talked about it for a full five minutes, and I coveted all the Satanic art work. Some dude with a hooded face kept droning, “Igor wants your soulllll!” all up in my thang but I just laughed and said, “Yeah good one. The devil already has my soul.” Stupid ass.

But still, I feel like I would have had more fun if Corey had driven!

Of course I refused to let it go. I was intoxicated off annoyance. I’m Erin Appledale (Corey ridiculed my name choice, by the way, during the drive to Demon House. The drive in which he did not drive, but rode comfortably in the passenger seat. It reminded me of another bonus of the name change: lengthening the distance from my family.) and everyone knows that Appledales like to drunk rollerskate, fellate exotic things, and dwell on every small bump in the road. Sometimes we go hog wild and drunk rollerskate over those bumps while doing the fellating.

After I came home that night, I was recounting the horror of the car seat to Henry. “I can’t believe he made them ride like that, he’s so mean to his friends,” I scoffed.

Henry laughed. I mean he LAUGHED, and then said, “Wow, sounds like someone else I know.”

Sep 052008
 

       (Written 10-07 for Creative Non-Fiction, it was the most fun I ever had in a church. Well, besides the time I did lines of coke off a crucifix with an altar boy.)


 

 

 

 

        “It smells so good! Doesn’t it smell so good? I can’t wait for tonight. I’m so hungry!”  She closes her eyes and takes another long drag of the aroma wafting toward her from the adjacent kitchen, where caterers are bustling around in preparation for the Women’s Conference being held in the gymnasium later that evening. The lobby of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints church where we sit is small, but cozy.  Sister McRae casually leans forward across from me on a mauve-cushioned chair. “People just don’t understand what we’re here for; they don’t understand what we’re coming to share because they think we’re selling something, but anything we do is completely for free – videos about Jesus Christ and free videos about families – and people just don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense to them that we would come out here and be so happy and have something to share; they say they have enough and don’t want anymore. I don’t even have enough!” Sister McRae gestures a lot with her hands when she speaks, throwing them up in the air and curving her fingers into air quotes; the sunlight streaming in from the front doors makes the two chunky silver rings on her fingers sparkle and the highlights in her long brown hair glow.   

                  Her companion Sister Mordue and I share the cushy tapestry couch. I try not to be too distracted by the larger-than-life portrait of Jesus emerging from his tomb, which adorns the wall to the right of Sister McRae while she tells me that Sister Mordue was just assigned four days prior as her new companion. I’m slightly surprised, what with the way she playfully slaps Sister Mordue’s thigh every time she ends a sentence with, “am I right?” I assumed they had known each other for awhile. Sister Mordue is the perfect portrait of what a stereotypical missionary should look like: frumpy, quiet, and squeezed into a celery-colored button-down blouse.

                 But Sister McRae only looks like this from the waist down. She has little need for makeup, close-set eyes (but not freakishly so) and a narrow chin with a slight cleft; she’s the kind of girl you expect to hate in high school – upbeat, popular, and pretty without trying — but then they shock you by offering you the seat next to them in the cafeteria. Her long brown hair has a bit of wave to it, and is equipped with just the right amount of scrunch. A small front section is clipped back, creating a cute bouffant. Her speech is peppered with “like” and “you know.” She’s wearing a wide-striped navy blue and green fitted polo shirt with sleeves that stop just below her elbows. But below the waist, her attire becomes more pious. Her legs are swathed in what appears to be an entire bolster of wool, stopping just short enough to skim her ankles, and her black thick-heeled clodhoppers look more suited for a femme Frankenstein. Other girls her age might still be home, sleeping off Friday night benders and recharging for another night of whirlwind barhopping and random hook-ups, but Sister McRae doesn’t let bars and current fashion tempt her. When she turned twenty-one last November, it was a no-brainer for her to trade in her life in Highland, Utah in favor of becoming a Mormon missionary.

              “My dad wasn’t a Mormon and you know, in Utah there’s a ton of members, but my mom didn’t want to nag him and tell him to go to church. She was like, ‘Let’s just be a good example.’ So after being a good example, well, my parents were married for twenty-five years and then he knew that it was true and he decided to join the church. Twenty-five years later! Watching that happen, it was so amazing to see and I wanted to go out and share that with other people, and be able to show that families can be together forever.”

              I want to not like her. She’s one of these people who cement themselves to my front porch, waving Christ pamphlets at me through the screen door. They catch me when I’m in the middle of changing my baby’s diaper and they catch my boyfriend lounging in his boxers. You say “I love Satan” and they say they say “I love you.” You call them names and they still come back. But Sister McRae’s sweet and has a slight naiveté about her that makes her charming. She likes Magic Eight Balls and Hershey Kisses and she takes pride in the fact that she’s never wrecked her car; she complains of Pittsburgh’s signature humid summers and she grew up watching the same television shows as I did: “Family Matters,” “Full House,” and “Step-By-Step.” I start to think that she’s an awful lot like the girls I used to be friends with — in middle school.

               She carries a tan messenger bag with her, bounteous with copies of the Book of Mormons and pamphlets on Tithing and Chastity. Her voice – peppy, confident and sweet – becomes just the slightest bit robotic and artificial when she talks of the Church. At first I think this might be an opportunity to expose her as a fair-weathered Mormon, to corrupt her with my atheist influences, but then I realize that she still believes in what she’s preaching; she’s just so used to saying it over and over that it’s essentially been turned into that loathed spiel that gets front doors slammed in faces.

                 Mormons pay for their missions on their own, and Sister McRae is no exception. Back in Utah, she went to cosmetology school and got a good job as a hair stylist in order to save up the money to come to Pittsburgh for an eighteen-month long mission. (I’m always glad to see a hair stylist with nice hair. It reassures me.) Once here, Sister McRae relinquished all contact with her family back home, save for a phone call on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

                  After piling a mound of pamphlets and a Jesus DVD on my lap, Sister McRae asks, “You are coming back for dinner, I hope?” After sitting with the food’s personal street team for thirty minutes, how could I say no? She has me convinced that it really does smell like the spread of Utopian delicacies.

                  When I return to the church two hours later for the Women’s Conference, Sister McRae is sitting at a yellow clothed table in the back of the gym, and she’s still referencing how delicious the yet-to-be-served food smells. Branches, dried flowers and a ceramic bird candle holder serve as the centerpiece of each table, with cherry cordial Hershey Kisses strewn about. Since many of the women don’t know each other, everyone is assigned to “birthday tables.” This separates Sister Mordue from us, but she’s close enough for Sister McRae to tap on the back repeatedly – her signal that she wants all of the candy Sister Mordue can wrangle from her own table. “I just love candy. I could eat it for breakfast,” she chirps as she concentrates on disrobing a Kiss. “I’m healthy like that.”

                      There are only fourteen female missionaries in the Pittsburgh area, and most of the women here tonight are just regular parishioners so the room isn’t suffocating under yards of wool like I had expected. Non-missionaries are dressed casually in pants and blouses, and I’m shocked to see one woman wearing a denim skirt which put a lot of exposed leg on display. However, one woman in a black jumper stands up at about 6’5” and looks out of place without a plow to follow and another is the spitting image of Chloe Sevigny from “Big Love,” so much so that I give her a good triple-take. She has long blonde hair, the sides of which are pulled back tautly and secured with a metal clip; an ankle-length denim skirt keeps her legs hidden from Satan’s eyes, and the rest of her body is kept chaste and pure by a white, high-collared blouse with short and puffy sleeves. I’m satisfied that at least two women confirm my preconceived notions of what I’d find at this Mormon dinner fest. (I consistently confuse Mormons with Amish, and expected to walk into an oil lamp-lighted corn husking circle.)

                     Before dinner, one of the church women queues up a video for everyone to watch. It’s a Pixar short, something to do with birds, but the TV is small and positioned at an angle that make my eyes throw up their hands in defeat. The rest of the room is enrapt, though; they laugh and sigh in unison and at all the right moments. Sister McRae, however, is not one to forgo conversation for television, so she continues to hold court at our table, speaking in hushed tones.  Mostly, she reminds us all of how hungry she is, and snatches more Kisses from the center of the table. She pops one in her mouth and her lips curve into a devilish smile. Glancing down at her stockpile of sweets, she reconsiders and slams down two next to me.

                        The video lasts only a few minutes, after which we’re given the green light to rush the buffet. Sister McRae gives her hands a childlike clap when the woman in charge suggests that the tables in the back go first. As we rise together, I’m enveloped in the familiar notes of Sister McRae’s perfume. I don’t know what she wears, but I distinctly remember it from the time I first met her last spring, when the sight of my child in the doorway lured her from the sidewalk to my porch – she said seeing his face was a sign that she had to come talk to me. The aroma reminds me of youth and Sunday school and scented plastic baby dolls. My inquiry is on the tip of my tongue, but I stop myself. I prefer to retain my blissful ignorance by thinking that it’s the scent of some divine marriage between the skin of baby angels and a bouquet plucked from the Garden of Eden, not something that the likes of Lindsay Lohan can walk into a store and purchase.

                       Even though she’s carried on for hours about the severity of her hunger, Sister McRae pauses and lets the occupants of Sister Mordue’s table and our own go ahead of her. I watch from further up in the buffet line as she socializes and doles out hugs to the women she knows. And if she sees someone she doesn’t know? She stops to meet them. I feel like she’s the Prom Queen of the congregation; or at the very least, student body president.

                        I’ve already begun eating by the time she weaves and winds her way back to the table. “Did everyone get something to drink?” she calls out to the two back tables, waving a bottle of water in the air. Not everyone did, so she sets down her food and returns to the buffet table. When she returns for the second time, she makes it as far as sitting down and forking in a few small bites of her salad before finding herself on a new quest after a harried middle-aged woman at our table makes the mistake of trying to share her own plate with her two-year-old son and muses aloud that she should have gotten him his own. Without needing to be asked, Sister McRae and her long wool skirt swish their way back up the buffet table. She comes back with a plate and a married missionary in her sixties. “Look who I just met!” she exclaims, before introducing Sister Mortenson to our table. She’s not from the area and doesn’t know anyone; I’m not surprised that Sister McRae took her under her wing.

                      Throughout the meal, Sister McRae pauses with her fork mid-air to act as the self-appointed go-fer girl and facilitate conversation (I have a sneaking suspicion that the soundtrack of our table would have been the song of needling crickets if it wasn’t for Sister McRae and her melodious voice). When she asks everyone around us if they’re enjoying their meals, it’s as though she cooked it herself from her very own recipe – she really needs the answer to be positive. She’s able to polish off most of her chicken, but the salad in the small Styrofoam bowl has gone limp under the weight of the dressing, and her potatoes have drowned in a sebaceous pool of congealed butter. But there’s still dessert for her to anticipate.

                        I keep waiting for the women I’m sitting amongst to converge upon my blackened soul with their Books of Mormon and Joseph Smith sound bites, but they mainly talk about normal things, like computers and Halloween costumes. I tell everyone of the pageantry-level abuse I endured  as a child from my mom, who insisted on crafting elaborate costumes for me from cardboard boxes, such as a Monopoly game board and a Hamburger Helper box. Sister McRae erupts in giggles and leans forward against the table. “That’s hilarious!” She says this genuinely, and often, to everyone, even when the punch line is only marginally funny; but they believe her, I believe her. She tells us she was always girly things, like princesses. I’m glad, because I can’t imagine her as a hooker or vampire.  

                          She doesn’t know what a blog is, so I, along with several other diners at our table, explain the concept. She shakes her head and her eyes are wide. “I just can’t imagine doing something like that, for any one in the world to see!” But she is current with burning CDs, enough to teach her mother how to do it, also. “Now my mom burns me copies of CDs, which is just so nice. I really appreciate it.” She goes on to explain that as a missionary, secular music is out of the question. “I can only listen to church music,” she says as her nose crinkles.

                       Sister McRae has a plan for life after her missionary work: get a job at a salon and go back to college for Spanish and maybe to brush up on her sign language skills. She’s never seen the show “Big Love,” and doesn’t even flinch while reapplying her lip gloss when I ask her about it. I imagine she has to deflect that question a lot while soliciting. “That’s a different branch of Mormonism,” she calmly explains. “We don’t believe in polygamy. It’s illegal.” I think to myself that I wish it wasn’t.

                        In the center of the room, she spots her friend Sister Tsunoda and rushes to greet her, nearly tackling her with a hug. They talk animatedly to each other and I feel like I’m watching two Sorority sisters, not Mormon sisters. A few minutes later, Sister McRae smuggles Sister Tsunoda back to our table and another of their friends, Sister Davis, gravitates over too.

                      The room gets quiet as the Mormon with the dangerously short skirt announces that they’re going to be scrap-booking before it’s time to watch the national broadcast of the Prophet. Sisters McRae and Davis pantomime exaggerated and over-the-top motions to each other from across the table while the woman is speaking. They roll their eyes and throw back their heads in a silent show of theatrical laughter.  It was an entertaining display, but if this was a high school cafeteria, I’d worry that they were talking about me. And they were, but only because Sister Davis was trying to ask her who the hell the sinner was.

                       “I’m really goofy, I know,” Sister McRae says to me through laughter when we are able to talk again. She has just finished showing Sister Davis the sign for ‘bored,’ which involves her grinding a finger into the side of her nose. Sister Davis opens her mouth and simulates an expression of incredulity, reminding me of a mother interacting with a baby. “That is not the sign for ‘bored’!” she screams. “You’re so making that up!” But Sister McRae insists that it really is the sign, and Sister Davis cracks up and says, “I can’t believe that’s real! It’s so you!”

                      “You sure picked the liveliest one of us to write a paper on,” Sister Davis later laughs. “Did she even tell you her name?” I toss Sister McRae a sidelong glance and admit that I wasn’t sure I was allowed to know. All of the missionaries refer to each other as ‘sister’ without falter, as though it’s a credo bestowed unto them by Jesus himself.

                      “Well, we’re really not supposed to use our real names,” Sister McRae stalls. But as I gather my purse to leave (the broadcast is about to begin, and that’s my cue to bolt), she stops me and says, “It’s Hayley.” Maybe she felt she owed it to me for warning her of the unhinged man who lives down the street from me (“Don’t knock on 3017’s door. I’m pretty sure the man inside is featured in several Psychology text books.”), but in my own little way, I feel accepted.

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.

Jul 212008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 092008
 

I went through a short (five year) spell where I compulsively answered and posted personal ads for the sheer thrill of probable disaster. In the winter of 1999, a delightful man named Pete responded to one of my ads. After exchanging several cordial emails, I decided there was a fair chance he wasn’t keen on brandishing machetes, so I offered up my phone number.

He called me one night when my boyfriend Jeff was over. Jeff — yes, my boyfriend — was no stranger to my need to spread my wings of infidelity, so he busied himself with an episode of "Felicity" (the one where Brian Crackhouse raped the pink Power Ranger) while I carried on a merry conversation with Pete about all the various cereals we liked and how it was so hard to choose just one variety each morning.

Pete and I made plans to meet up one fine evening, and to be safe, I invited Janna over too. Because if he were to arrive wielding a chainsaw, at least I’d have a decoy. Minutes before Pete’s arrival, Janna called. "My mom won’t let me have the car because of the snow. I’m so sorry!" she whined, probably inwardly relieved that now she could stay home and watch PBS.

I tried to call Pete to cancel, but he had already left. I wondered about the possibility of him leaving the piano wire at home, on the kitchen counter, miles away from my vulnerable neck.

But he likes cereal so much, I pep-talked myself. It’s hard to imagine a serial killer enjoying a bowl of Apple Jacks, I assured myself, because that’s clearly grade A logic to apply.

When I opened the door for Pete, I was taken aback by his unexpected redneck visage. But once we got the handshaking out of the way, he settled down in a chair and conversation flowed freely. I was slightly irritated by his constant abbreviation for cigarette. "Let me light another ciggie," he’d announce, feeling the need to include me in his smoking schedule.

Then he pulled out a joint. I knew not to smoke it with him, because even when I’m with someone I’m supremely close to, my paranoia gets way out of control and of course every person in the tri-state area is vying to rape me. I want to sear my skin with a hot iron, leap from speeding vehicles, watch Olsen Twins videos.

So I did the rational thing in Erin’s World and joined him.

On TV, the news reports gave constant updates on the severe weather condition unraveling outside. I kept urging him to leave, and he would respond with obvious insinuations that he wanted to spend the night, which my marijuana-clouded mind translated as, "Imma treat ya like a pig, stuff an apple in yer mouth, and fuck ya silly from the bee-hind, you slutty broad. Who’s the cereal king now, ho?"

Oblivious to the pandemonium tap-dancing through my nervous system, he’d jiggle a cigarette between his fingers and say, "Just one more ciggie!" I sat on the couch, hunkered down among the pillows, arms protectively covering my boobs, legs bouncing with the verve and RPM of a bridge-dwelling paranoiac. I had cotton mouth and I wanted to go to bed. Maybe eat a PB&J.

He finally left after I completely closed off and started answering his questions with irate outbursts. I never heard from him again, which is a shame because we could have maybe made beautiful cereal together.

Jun 232008
 

I don’t think I’ve missed hitting up the Three Rivers Arts Festival once in the past twelve years, so I dragged Henry, Chooch and Blake downtown to spend a leisurely Saturday evening perusing overpriced beaded jewelry and hopefully tripping over some knife-wielding homeless assholes. The arts festival is kind of like the summer kick-off here in Pittsburgh and I usually wind up spending exorbitant amounts of money on a piece of art that likely only cost $20 to make. Sure looks good on my walls though.

Blake has a pet rat tail now that he keeps tucked under his hat; it’s earned him about 146 scene points. 54 more and he can cash them in for a new white studded belt.*

It was slim-pickins this year though. Cheesy windchimes and generic photography (Pittsburgh in the morning, Pittsburgh at night, Pittsburgh under a cloak of fog, Pittsburgh who-the-fuck-cares) seemed to be the most prevalent wares on display in the rows of tents. Look, if I’m going to buy a photograph of the fucking shit hole I live in, it better depict faux-nuclear warfare and slutty clowns sucking dick atop the Mellon Arena.

There was one artisan that was peddling these amazing pieces of metal eye candy, which I could imagine making a cameo as a murder weapon in a Dario Argento film. Blake and I drooled over the aluminum display for like, three seconds (ADD, holla), but alas — neither of us brought our platinum AmEx cards to bloat with $2,000 purchases.

Blake bought a soft pretzel, though.

My stalking skillz were on the fritz that day. Every time I would covertly snap a shot of someone, the person next to them would send WTF rays right through my skull. I eventually gave up and reluctantly settled on shots of skylines and clouds. You know, like the shit that was being shilled inside all of those tents. But then Blake stepped up as a subject and I was happy again. I tried to get him to stab a cop for the sake of photography, but finally I settled on having him stand casually in front of things.

Like a wall of graffiti in a damp alley.

Seeing us slip suspiciously into an alley probably made the Dad Alarm sound inside Henry’s head. He backtracked a few paces, squinted into the alley, and asked, “What are you doing?” Don’t worry, Henry! We’re just freebasing, brb.

“Can I be done soon? It’s really hot over here,” Blake asked through gritted teeth.

“That’s because it’s STEAM,” Henry shouted, making me hurry up. I bet Blake’s mom loves it when he’s out with us. I have him loitering in seedy alleys in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, climbing trains, enjoying natural steam baths: All things that Chooch has to look forward to.

There were two cops standing nearby and I was set off immediately by the fact that they were just STANDING THERE DRINKING GATORADE AND BEING LAZY ASSHOLES. Some ho was probably getting raped in a nearby alley, but at least these assholes are replenishing their flab with ELECTROLYTES.

Fuck, I hate cops.

Of course Henry tripped all over himself to defend them. “THEY’RE HELPING PEOPLE CROSS THE STREET!” he shouted desperately. Helping my ASS. They had their backs to the street-crossing pedestrians!

I kind of feel inspired to take senior portraits. Alternative ones, you know? “Listen here, high school cheerleader– I’m going to fashion a murder scene and you’re going to pretend to picnic off the bodies.” WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT FOR THEIR SENIOR PICTURE?!

Back in the vicinity of the festival, I spied a set of stairs descending into the bowels of the city. I think it was some kind of utility thing that I know nothing about but I’m sure Henry does. It looked really desolate and cinder-blocky at the botton of the landing, so I urged Blake to walk down so I could take a picture. As soon as his foot left that final step, an ear-splitting siren went off, interspersed with a male computerized voice alerting the world of terrorists. Seriously, it sounded like BWAKBWAK WARNINGDANGERDEATHALERT BWAK BWAK and I almost shit myself.

Blake and I ran like hell and when we caught up with Henry, we tried to play it cool, but he saw right through our scared, blanched faces.

“Congratulations, you’re probably on video,” was all he said.

After leaving a trail of suspicious behavior through the streets of town, we hit up Point Park and made the mistake of giving Crazy Ass Chooch some freedom. Once he was out of his stroller, there was no catching him. I was grateful that we had Blake with us, because he chased after him while I continued to be a lazy ass and complained about how badly my feet hurt. Cry for me.

Blake and I were walking ahead of Henry and Chooch and apparently some punkass skater bitch looked at Blake and said, “If that was my kid, I’d kick his ass.” Unfortunately for that kid, Henry was close enough behind us to hear that comment and proceeded to flex his muscles and spit poison-tipped darts into that fucker’s neck.

I mean, I suppose that’s what he would have done if his balls weren’t made of cotton candy and butterfly wings. Instead, he whimpered and kept on walking.

We lazed around the wall of the fountain at the Point and ogled a couple whose lips were scandelously fused together. Blake wanted me to take their picture, but the boyfriend busted me and let’s just say it wasn’t the first time in my life that I felt like a sexual deviant.

*I seriously, honest to God-ly love scene kids. Like, I want to hug them all and be their big sister and film a couple After School Specials about those rainbow sex bracelets.

Jun 162008
 

 

 

 

The weather forecast for Saturday was rain, rain and more rain. I asked Henry, “Do you still want to go on that fantastically awesome scenic train ride, even in the rain?” and he said yes. At this point, my memory forbade me to remember all the other scenic train rides I had been on in my life time, and how extremely boring they truly are. (Unless, you know, you’re into that scenery shit.)

Schenely, PA is about an hour away and I was sulking for the majority of the ride. Just part of my nature. But then Henry stopped at a Sunoco and returned with a bag of mint M&Ms. I acted all ambivalent about it, but still drank down half the bag. Mood instantly lifted.

As soon as we boarded the train, it began pouring. Like any other sensible person, I chose the open-sided car so we could be treated to a natural shower and then simultaneously bitch about it for the hour long ride. There were about twenty other people who had the same idea.

While we were waiting for the 2:00 departure time to roll around, someone pointed out that one of the cars in the lot had an open window. It was the car right next to us, so Henry shouted out to the woman who owned it and then was thanked profusely by her and her husband. He sat there with a smug grin on his face, like he was some kind of fucking hero. I bet he did heroic shit like that all the time when he was in The Service, helping hookers climb out of vats of penii.

Imagine how tickled I was when the train kicked into motion and a woman’s voice filled the car from a speaker. Wow, a scenic railroad excursion paired with a guide enlightening us with local flavored fun facts? What a treat. Unfortunately, there was so much commotion on the train that her commentary came off sounding like the teacher from Peanuts. Every time I asked Henry what she said, it was always the same: “Something about the river. I don’t know.”

Chooch was really great for most of the first leg of the trip. He sat on my lap to avoid the torrential downfall that was attacking us from the sides. But then he had the itch to roam, and it all unraveled from there. Once he had his feet on the floor, it was like an open invitation for the other children on the train to come out and play. Chooch procured the four cars he brought in his backpack, and suddenly I had a horde of small children surrounding me: a one-year-old, another two-year-old (Sioux, like the tribe!!!!) and her six-year-old sister (Cheyenne, like the tribe!!!!), whose grandma was wearing a Kermit t-shirt and would not stop chatting with me the entire time and I was so nervous that I was physically clenching. And you know, with kids come parents. I really hate socializing with parents. Chooch was doling out his cars, only to confiscate them at his will. He seemed to take an immediate liking to the six-year-old, and was adament on giving her all the cars.

The one-year-old’s dad was wearing a Penguins hat, and I couldn’t help but notice Henry didn’t scoff, “Hockey season’s over” to him, like he does to me anytime I mention them.

At this point, I was unable to take in any of the trees and shit that we were passing, because I had to fulfill Mom duty and make sure that my son didn’t come to blows with anyone over a couple of fucking plastic cars. I hate this part of parenting. And you know what else I hate? Having to acknowledge other people’s kids. That Cheyenne chick kept standing in front of me and flapping her arms like a bird. “Oh. Uh, pretty,” I would try to placate her, instead of shoving her off on another parent like I really wanted. Another mother, though, she heartily exclaimed, “WOW! What are you, a bird?? OH COOL! You are so COOL! I LOVE KIDS! HAHAHAHA ZOLOFT!” Who the fuck gives a shit? Not me. Flap all you want, little girl. I’ll continue looking through you like you’re invisible to me. Because you are.

 

 

Chooch made me especially nervous around the one-year-old boy. I kept praying he wouldn’t push him off the train or choke him. (I had just taught Chooch that morning how to pretend-choke himself and quickly started to realize that I might wind up seeing repercussions to that act real quick.)

 

 

This guy told me what his purpose was when we first sat down. Something about doing something with the brakes? Who the hell really cares what his purpose is when he’s wearing some hot-assed overalls, though? Basically, he mopped us all off with towels and repeatedly noted that, “There are a lot of kids playing on this car!” and thank God for that play-by-play, because I really hadn’t noticed that my crazy kid was dominating over a trio of weaker-willed children.

After about an hour, I was stoked to see the station looming ahead. My hope was dashed as we turned around though, and headed in another direction. Apparently, you just can’t visit Schenely and not teeter precariously on a railroad bridge for fifty thousand minutes while a guide gives you muffled commentary about trout. And who would want to miss out on that?

 

 

It all looks so pretty, but on closer inspection below and to the left, I noticed that the camp site was dotted with Deliverance cast offs, who brought their laundry lines, rusted out pick up trucks, and large jugs to use as yard ornamentation; I’m pretty sure I smelled some hot incest from behind the jagger bushes, too. I can only hope Henry takes me there one day on our honeymoon.

Finally we got to leave and now I’m determined to remind myself every day that train rides are boring as fuck. I’m just glad Chooch didn’t call anyone an asshole.

Jun 122008
 

Today, Chooch and I went to lunch with Janna and my brother Corey. We walked several blocks to Tom’s Diner, which was fine until the way back when Chooch was too tired to walk so I had to carry him in 179 degree weather and he stunk of sweat and curdled milk. Anyway, at Tom’s, he made a fist and held it out to everyone who walked past, and said, "Punch. Punch." Most people ignored him, but a fat old man wearing a big mother-whompin’ ring made a fist on his way out of the diner and shouted, "Gimme some knuckle, kid" and Chooch had this expression of "Fucking finally!" 

Chooch and I both had grilled cheese and fries, but he was more interested in stealing potato chips and pickles from Janna’s plate.

A woman came in with approximately 18 children (fine, four) and as soon as they sat down behind us, a really old should-be-fucking-dead-by-now man hobbled over with a hunched back and passed out saftey suckers to each one. "I just really love kids," he exclaimed to their mom, and then he went back to his table.

Now, this lewd display of favortism went down behind my back, so I sat there and funneled my disgusted sighs and angry scowls at Janna and Corey. "So what, Chooch doesn’t qualify? Why didn’t that elderly douche balloon give my son a fucking poison treat?" I swear to God it made me so angry that I could feel my adrenaline rushing, blood crashing like cymbals in my ears, and I wanted to approach him in the worst way. Me, approaching an octogenarian over a sucker. And then what? Cause a scene over candy that would wind up dirt-encrusted and dropped on the floor after three licks? I have a really ridiculously skewed sense of entitlement.

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 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 122008
 

Today, I took Chooch over my friend Jess’s. Usually I don’t have a car during the day, so whenever I go out with Chooch, Henry is with us too. But today was the day of Independence, so I loaded Chooch and all his shit in the car and after fifteen minutes of struggling with the car seat straps and retrieving all the shit I forgot in the house, we were finally ready to go.

We had to stop at CVS first to pick up some stuff for Jess. Apparently, Chooch is perfect when Henry takes him to the store. But with me, it’s always game time, so he was trying to get me to spin in circles and then wanted me to sit on the floor with him and he was pulling me in a trillion directions so I ended up having to hold him while we were in line and some old man was causing a ruckus over toilet paper and I was like, "Just pay for it, asshole, can’t you see I’m holding a eighty thousand pound toddler?"

After we left, I called Henry to tell him I appreciate him, because I can’t imagine being a single mom and having to do this shit on my own all the time. I get frazzled easily so I was nearly in tears, after struggling with the car seat again, and I think I ended the phone call by whimpering, "And I’m pretty sure his shoes aren’t on right." Pretty much the jokiest mother ever. Seriously, I’m useless. Unless it involves running around, screaming, and making up monster voices.

I even texted a heartfelt  "I<3u" to Henry again, out of desperation, and I think it had an effect on him because he bought me a new camera. Yes Henry, I’m keeping you. A proposal might be nice, too, though. Just a suggestion.

Jess just had a baby a week ago and named him Gavin. It was Chooch’s first time around a baby.  He was enrapt, confused, suspicious, annoyed, enamored all at once; his head was probably very near-explosion. Naturally, the first thing he did was go straight for the soft spot with his fist. He kept saying, "Baby!" and doing the sign for it. Then he was trying to tickle him, I think? I don’t know, but he was stabbing the baby with his finger and saying "diddle diddle" and it was weird. Usually, he puts up a good struggle when it comes time to have his diaper changed, but when he saw Jess changing Gavin’s diaper, he pulled me off the couch and said, "Uh-oh, pee" and patted his diaper. Then he layed down, willingly, on the floor, and remained calm and still while I changed him. If only it was always like that.

He started to get annoyed at the lack of attention, though. His remedy for that was standing on his head, slamming into walls, and performing a small sign language show for us. Then he would fall on purpose and say, "SOWWY!" Yes Chooch, we’re watching you. Yes Chooch, you’re amazing. I think it was his way of saying, "That baby is ok, but let’s not bring one home." Chooch, I just got my fat ass down to a size medium, so don’t worry: there are no babies in my future.