Apr 292008
 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Oh.

"Does he like flowers?" she asked.

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Apr 232008
 

 

The thought of the zoo usually brings to mind smiling families, ice cream stands, fluffy animals, and tasty pizza; but then I get there and remember that really it’s full of screaming kids, air that’s heavy with fecal fumes, asshole mothers carting around wagonfuls of screaming kids, exhibits blocked by screaming kids, screaming kids in buses, screaming kids wearing  matching school district t-shirts, restroom entrances flanked by screaming kids, moms in ill-fitted jeans screaming at the screaming kids, balding dads blocking out the screaming kids by fantasizing of beer and slutty babysitters. Oh, and old people. Old people on foot; old people on tram, old people in motorized wheelchairs running over screaming kids and old people on foot.

Let me break down my zoo jaunt for you:

Car ride: Are we there yet, are we there yet.

<20 minutes: Oh my god animals look at the tigers oh my god ice cream oooh Dippin’ Dots!

<30 minutes: I’m bored. I’m hungry. I’m bored. I’m hungry. Ew, it smells.

<45 minutes:  When are we leaving?

The worst thing for me is how predictable it is. I know that around that bend is the monkey house. I know the kimodo dragon won’t be out. I know I will hate everyone there. I know I will have to restrain myself from punting kids over fences. I know I’ll be disappointed by the food at the cafeteria and I know that Henry will act shocked at how expensive everything is.

Maybe the zoo can change some shit up, create a theme. Like, maybe The Zoo Takes Harlem. So instead of feigning astonishment and adoping a face full of wonder when I witness the requisite elephant-takes-a-dump scene, perhaps my reaction would be genuine if I stumbled upon the elephants warming themselves in a front of a garbage can fire with a cluster of hobos. Perhaps the zebras could throw some dice in an alley with some inner city kids, maybe the monkeys could smoke some crack under a bridge. I’d love to see the bears and the ostriches in a gang war.

Maybe schedule some human sacrifices. I volunteer the albinos. Who would really miss a few hundred albinos per season anyway, am I right Pittsburgh Zoo?

Chooch was mainly interested in the other children. "Yeah, but look at the LION," I would say, but he would laugh and point at the kids around him, thinking they were there for his amusement. Wait, I guess he really is a lot like me.

 

 

At the polar bear exhibit, some little mother fucker squeezed out the last bit of juice from a juice box and then tossed it onto the ground. I was appalled. I vocalized my disgust by scraping sound off my throat and scowled at him and his asshole mother as they walked away. I wanted to say something, shove my fist through their faces, make a citizens arrest.

"He’s like, six years old," Henry pointed out, concerned that I was considering physical punishment.  I didn’t care! Littering is littering and his vagina-faced mother is allowing him to ruin MY WORLD.

 

 

We ran into them again before we left, in the reptile house, where I noticed that his t-shirt said, "Make pizza, not war." Making sure the little littering asshole was within earshot, I said smugly to Henry, "I want to make him a shirt that says ‘Empty juice boxes go in the garbage can, not on the ground.’" Henry rolled his eyes and continued along with Chooch.

The next thing I knew, the asshole’s equally assholey mother came barrelling around a corner, shouting, "Bram! Bram!" Her miniature litterer broke through a crowd of kids, tears streaming down his face — and in those tears my vindication manifested — and he ran into his mother’s arms.

"That’s what happens to kids who litter," I said loudly to Henry. "They get LOST." Henry told me to drop it, but I wasn’t done gloating. And it figures his name is Bram. Bram. Ha! I scoff at you, Bram.

Our last stop was the Dippin’ Dots stand, where we shared a dish of banana split freeze-dried balls of ice cream that cost FOUR DOLLARS PLUS TAX. Fuck you, zoo. It’s freezer-burnt ice cream crumbs, for Christ’s sake. As we were finishing, a partially-crippled woman sat down at the other end of our picnic table. We got up to leave and I said to Henry, "I hope she doesn’t think we left because she’s degenerate." I was actually concerned about someone’s feelings for once!

"I would never leave just because someone sat down beside me. Unless it was you," Henry said. And then we left.

 

Apr 092008
 

When I was growing up, my mom would tell me stories about Green Man’s Tunnel. According to her, the Green Man lived in an abandoned train tunnel in a suburban town south of Pittsburgh called South Park. He was green because he had the horrible misfortune of getting struck by lightning. Electrocuted by a toaster while bathing.  Stuck his dick in Gumby’s light socket. He was green, OK?

I would argue with people for years, spitting in their faces that it wasn’t an urban legend, that the Green Man was real, that my mom went to school with the Green Man, that her best friend went to the prom with the Green Man, that I SAW HIM WITH MY OWN EYES.

(I never really saw him.)

Then there were the people who believed in the legend (hello, it’s TRUTH, not legend) but insisted that the tunnel was located in other wooded areas, next to a creek in another town, on a pot-holed rural lane in a different county. My friend Keri insisted it was in a town called Dravosburg. "Remember when me, you, and Dan went to Green Man’s Tunnel to set off firecrackers?" she’d start. I would shrug. "Yeah you do. Dan got hit in the face with one of them, remember? He had that big welt on his cheek?" I would stubbornly say, "Well Keri, I remember the time we went to a tunnel in Dravosburg, but not Green Man’s Tunnel. THAT tunnel is in South Park." For years, I wouldn’t acknowedge the memory of that day until she quit calling it Green Man’s Tunnel.

My mom would drive us out there, my brother Ryan and me, repeating the story in case we forgot how tragic and green the Green Man really was. "He was so nice, really good looking too, until he got turned green." Before we’d reach the part of the road where his rusted, graffiti’d, abandoned train tunnel could be seen, we’d have to first drive through a long underpass; a creek flowed along one side. Some people’s version of the story claim that when you’re in this tunnel at night, your headlights go out. Your car just shuts off, completely dies. The Green Man comes and steals your electricity and then I don’t know what. Fucks you with it? Shoots down planes with it?

Sometimes, in the tunnel, my mom would slow to a halt, the headlights would go out. My brother Ryan would cry, but I knew that the lights were out because my mom turned them off to scare us. My chest would tighten, palms would moisten, even though I knew that part of the story wasn’t real, that the Green Man was sad and just wanted some friends. Just wanted some friends to bring him some Hustler and maybe a forty of Miller Lite.

I couldn’t provide him those things, the booze and the porn, but I was determined to give him companionship, friendship, a membership to the Erin Rulz 4 Lyfe club. So one night I prepared a small sandwich bag of assorted candies. Tootsie rolls and Lifesavers and some mini Snickers, and in that bag, among all the candy, I tucked in a note that I wrote on a piece of blue paper. My mom drove me out to his tunnel. I had intended on taking the bag right up to his tunnel, right up to entrance, where I would then knock on the steel door and he would take me in and we’d sit down and drink some cans of Coke and talk about how tough it is, not fitting in, and then I’d give him half of a best friend pendant and we’d keep in touch and twenty years later he’d be my son’s Godfather.

Instead, I completely flipped my shit when I got close to the ominous tunnel, saw the "condemned" sign on the gate, heard fluttering noises in the patch of woods above the unused tracks, and I chugged my ass back down to the road where my mom idled in the car. Tossed the baggie of treats into the small gravel lot across the street and ended up back in the passenger seat, eyes closed and fighting to catch my breath.

"I thought you weren’t scared of him," my mom said as the tunnel became smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. And then she did what she did best when I was in distress: laugh at me.

I always wondered if he got the care package, my carefully prepared snack pack of love and frienship. I wondered if he ate the candy before a woodland creature scampered over from the other side of the creek and devoured it. I wondered if the Tootsie Rolls got stuck in his teeth and if he used his tongue to pry it from his molars and I wondered, was his tongue green too?

Today, while I was getting my hair done, my stylist Lucia was talking about her boyfriend’s sister.

"She lives out by Green Man’s Tunnel." She paused, waiting for a sign of recognition. I didn’t say anything, but my body stiffened, hoping she’d give the right answer.

When she added, "Out in South Park," I lit up.

"OK, I know exactly where that is," I smiled.

Just another reason I love Lucia — she knows the right story.

Apr 082008
 

Chooch and I took a walk around the neighborhood this morning. There were some pine cones scattered along the sidewalk in front of a house up on the corner and Chooch was inspired to collect five of his favorites to join us on our stroll. He carried two and I was stuck carrying the other three[1], which were prickly and sharp and I really wanted to chuck them into a sewer grate, but Chooch kept checking my fist to make sure they were still in there. He knows me too well.

On the way back, he recognized the pine cone-strewn corner immediately and climbed up a slight slope in the yard and plopped himself down under the pine tree, which he soon realized was a cone treasure trove. While he was maniacally harvesting pine cones like they were organs he couldn’t live without, I took a seat next to him.

And then I screamed. Screamed like I was being filleted by a native in the jungle. Screamed like I was seeing Michael Jackson’s penis darting in and out of a hole in the wall. This is the part where I screamed like an asshole, in case you couldn’t tell. Perhaps you heard me.

"Why are there tiny swords slashing my flesh!?!" That’s what I screamed, in case you were wondering. Probably someone else’s child would have looked at me in fear, possibly soiled themselves too, but Chooch is immune to my overreactions and continued piling dirt and moss into tiny mounds.

So it turns out Satan hadn’t sent an army of horned elves to siphon my blood like I originally thought, but that I had sat on a blanket of sharp pine needles. I mean, these fuckers were lethal, like I could probably give Henry a surprise sex change with one, or finally re-pierce my ears like I’ve been talking about for the past two years. I had to pluck some of them from my palms and brush the rest from my ass. Where is my tuffet when I need it? I glared at Chooch who was protected from pain by his diaper padding. Must be nice. Except for the wallowing in piss and shit part.

Nature Time was over for me at that point, so I dragged Chooch back home against his will[2]. Not before turning around to retrieve the five original pine cones at Chooch’s (very loud) insistence. Back at home, I panicked because the sites of the needle-pricks began to burn and sear. I was about to Google "pine tree poison" to see what grisly demise was in store for me, but then Chooch and I became distracted by "Bringing Home Baby" and I forgot — UNTIL NOW — all about the fact that I’m probably dying a slow death from nature-venom.


 

[1]: Being a mom means carrying shit. I learned that really quick.

[2]: Being a mom means lugging a bucking and wailing child back home while trying to avoid his big hard head from slamming into your nose.

Apr 042008
 

My brother Corey is ten years younger than me. When he was little, he was very close to me, preferring to hang out with me and my friends rather than kids his own age. Even once I moved out into my own place, I’d invite him to all of my parties and he’d dress up in my boots and skirts and twirl around for all of my friends to either laugh uproariously or gawk in horror.

He came to my twenty-fifth birthday party, which was really just a small gathering around a platter of Jello shots. Unbeknownst to me, Corey was slipping shots up his sleeve and sneaking off to have his own private spiked gelatin feast. He ended up crashing at my place and when my mom picked him up the next morning, she called me and yelled, "Corey threw up in the car on the way home. It must be all that vegetarian shit you feed him!"

Corey and I had the kind of symbiotic relationship that make us choose the same obscure answers during riveting rounds of Scattergories.

But then in high school he became too popular with the girls to bother with his big sister and her stupid life. He has his own friends, his own parties to attend, his own car to drive.

Having Chooch pulled us even further apart. It took Corey a long time to warm up to him. He used to hold him like he was a ticking bomb and he didn’t come to his first birthday party.

A few months ago, Corey started texting me regularly. He attended my last two game nights (and even brought a girl to the last one!) and admitted to developing a taste for the Cure.

Initially, Christina was supposed to go see the Cure with me next month in Philadelphia, but Corey expressed interest. Christina was understanding when I asked her if Corey could go in her place, and Corey was thrilled. I’m going to tell my mom we’re sleeping in the car at a truck stop, maybe scare her into securing us a hotel room.

Corey and I have never road-tripped together. In fact, we haven’t spent more than a few hours together at a time since I moved out ten years ago. I’m really hoping it will be one of those bonding experiences that people make movies about (hopefully no one will die though) and that he won’t be too embarrassed when I act like an asshole, because it’s like Tourette’s: I just can’t help it. I haven’t told him yet about the car-jackings and kidney-thieving I have lined up for that weekend, though.

Then last night, he texted me and asked me to help him decorate for his graduation party and that I can invite some of my friends, too. To me, this means: Even though I still think you’re a crazy assed weirdo, I am not as embarrassed of you as I once was; besides, I really need help draping streamers.

Apr 032008
 

Southgate House

The night before I left Pittsburgh, I started to lose my voice at work. I had been sick all week with some kind of throat thing and general congestion, but nothing was stopping me from seeing Xiu Xiu. By the time we left Huddle’s Café, I possessed the vocal prowess of a dying frog and began coughing my lungs up all over the grimy streets of Newport. My gift to ye, Kentucky.

Christina and I jaywalked back to the Southgate House at 9:00pm. The ticket person wasn’t there yet, so we loitered in the hallway with several other people who were all staring listlessly at the wide array of concert posters plastered along the walls. I took clandestine pictures of the people in front of us because at the time, it offered more enjoyment than conversing with Christina.

It wasn’t until around 9:45pm that the ticket people finally filled their seats behind the table and we got to enter the ballroom area of the building. Small round tables were scattered around the room, and we grabbed the last empty one near the stage. If I had any foresight into how much time we were about to spend at that table, I’d have lugged in a La-Z Boy on Christina’s back.

I’m not really offended by indie/hipster types, the dominant populace of the venue that night, but Christina developed an immediate disdain for the girls with Pocahontas-style headbands and messy half-ponytails. "I was just thinking that some of these girls are cute, but the fact that I know they’re assholes ruins it for me."

Xiu Xiu

It’s people like Christina who keep our nation from kicking prejudice. Okay, and me, too.

It wasn’t until 10:30 that Thao with The Get Down Stay Down took the stage with their inoffensive brand of indie-folk. In other words, it was pleasing to the ear, but boring. It made me feel really hungry though because I couldn’t stop thinking about how they would have sounded so much better if they were the house band at a restaurant and my back was toward them while I shoved spaghetti-wrapped forkfuls into my gaping maw.

Then I started to think about how I hadn’t eaten in five billion hours and my nose was starting to run and I couldn’t stop coughing and I really wanted to die. Plus, my aging body isn’t used to attending 21+ shows that don’t start until after 10:30 at night and so I kept yawning and resting my cold-stuffed head on my hands and basically illustrating how NOT to act if you don’t want everyone to know you’re the token square at the show.

Also, probably you shouldn’t use words like "square," either.

During Thao’s set, a Super Tall Guy meandered over to the throng of people that had slowly collected at the front of the stage, obstructing our view completely. I didn’t care, because I was only there to see Xiu Xiu, but we still got pissy about it because that’s what we do at shows, us old people — we bitch and complain about those goddamn kids with their long fucking torsos and mop-topped heads that make better doors than windows. When the second tallest guy in the room sauntered up behind him, we lost it.

Then the two most annoying girls in Kentucky wandered over and stopped, naturally, directly in front of our table. I’m not sure exactly why they chose that particular spot, but there was feet upon feet of empty floor separating them from the stage. I thought that maybe they were deliberating where to go, but no. No, they planted their feet down, staked the floor with a flag bearing their name, and stayed there during the entire set. They even gradually migrated further back until the one girl’s asscheeks were nearly resting on the edge of our table. Christina suggested using the threat of rape to get them to stand elsewhere and then tried to slip one of my Moo cards in their back pockets. The one girl wore an ugly tweed blazer and seemed to be confused with where to place her feet; she kept shuffling them like a deck of cards, but then I noticed she was also swaying and slightly moving her arms, and that’s when it occurred to me she might be dancing. A male friend joined them later and he danced as though he was listening to Yacht rock.

I’ve never been more embarrassed to be white.

The next band to play was Why?, short for Why Are They Still on the Stage Oh My God Kill Me Want To Die Please End It All Now WTF Do They Think This Stage Is Their Summer Time Share? Turns out Why? is originally from Cincinnati and 75% of the people there that night were there to support them specifically. We’re talking everyone they knew from college. People from their sixth grade study hall. Bus boys who may have once refilled their water at Olive Garden in 1997. Their parents. 

Before the inaugural note even had a chance to resonate in the atmosphere of the room, the crowd went fucking apeshit. People were clotheslined against the balcony, frantically waving in the air, lips moving along with the lyrics. The crowd in front of the stage amassed a head count that quadrupled what it was for Thao.

It sounded like they said they were only playing three songs from their new album, but after ninety minutes of relentless xylophone malleting, I realized what they meant was, "We’re going to play three songs from our new album, ten songs from other albums, some B-sides, I’m going to try and sing the Star Spangled Banner and then give up when I forget the lyrics after the second line [this really happened], and then if we start running out of material, I’ll sing a song I wrote when I was four about how dogs sniff butts and girls have vaginas and I think I might too."

They would tease us, Christina and me. They would say things like, "We’re going to play one more song," and we’d exchange looks of utter relief, thinking there was a God after all, Christina would kiss her imaginary rosary, but then after that one last song they’d start playing another song that sounded like the song two songs before the last song that was supposed to be their last song and why did they have to have so many songs? I was getting sicker, coughing harder, speaking less. I even fell asleep a few times because it was after midnight by this point and I was TIRED.

During one song, the singer stopped and said, "That got messed up, so we’re going to start that verse over again," and the crowd went wild. "YES PLAY IT AGAIN! WE LOVE YOU! WHY? FOREVER!" Clearly, Why? is a band of local heroes. Then to our horror, someone would shout, "PLAY ONE MORE SONG!" and dozens of people would follow and Christina would shout, "NO DON’T!" loud enough for both of us since my voice was completely gone by then and no one actually retaliated against Christina’s protests but I wasn’t ruling out a potential beating with orange-stuffed socks after the show. She kept shouting, "XIU XIU! WE WANT XIU XIU!" to counter the pleas for more songs, and I was relieved that I taught her how to pronounce their name. (Shoo-Shoo, not Zyoo-Zyoo.)

Look, they were a decent band. Probably I’d have written a glowing review if they kept their set down to a thirty minute maximum. You know, since they weren’t HEADLINING.

What I’ll always remember about Why? is that the world’s most huggingest couple stood in front of our table and used their music as the soundtrack for all the hugging and lower back-caressing they shamelessly engaged in. I’ve seriously never seen two people spontaneously embrace with such nauseating passion and urgency. The man was about to leave to get a beer and they hugged as though he was never coming back.

By the time Why? left the stage, it was nearly 1:00am. I looked at Christina with sad eyes and croaked, "I don’t think I’m going to make it." But then Xiu Xiu came out and started setting up, reminding me that I had driven five hours to see them. Even though I was so sick, probably had a fever, may have been hemorrhaging from all the forceful coughing, I still marched my ass up to the front of the stage because I’d be damned if any fucking hugger or tall Indian-sweatered douche was going to block  my view. Christina stood behind me, just in case I succumbed to the sickness and fell to the floor, I guess, and we watched curiously as Xiu Xiu dragged their carnival of instruments onto the stage. They had a gong, a hand-pumped piano, some weird Casio-looking keyboard that was played like a clarinet, a flute, whistles.

Xiu XiuCaralee of Xiu Xiu gave her synth one last fiddle and then they started playing. As soon as the singer, Jamie Stewart, opened his mouth to utter the first string of lyrics, wrapped with dramatics and dipped in pain, I turned to look at Christina. I’ve never before seen so much of the whites of her eyes and her lip was slightly curled back, exposing her teeth. She looked fearful, like she had just walked in on her mom fucking a dwarf. The room buzzed with dulcet tones of chimes and electronic beeps while Jamie’s voice would fluctuate between anguished whispers and short phrases spoken in a staccato’d monotone before launching into soaring crescendos that socked the breath out of my lungs and made my heart ache. The mood would go melancholy again, lyrics murmured with delicacy, mellow strumming of a guitar, only to jar the crowd with unexpected crashes and stangulated shrieks.

Jamie had a tower of cymbals in front of him and he would occasionally grab a fat drumstick and sweetly tap at them. He would start to walk away, only to turn back and lunge at the cymbals, violating them with frantic beatings while shouting, "Oh my God oh my God oh my God" into the mic. His face would contort into the primal twisting of a killer, sweat dripping down his temples in rivulets. I forgot about being sick. Though I was still using the edge of the stage to keep myself from folding.

Xiu Xiu

Xiu Xiu’s music is dark, bleak, unsettling. I admit that if I’m driving alone at night and one of their songs comes on, I’ll usually skip it because it makes me shiver and instinctively toss furtive glances over my shoulder.

During one song, Jamie fell to his knees and continuously screamed into the mic while scraping a metal washboard, his tortured soul was vomiting angst and passion all over the stage, and it was one of the most satisfyingly horrifying things I have ever seen. I was telling this to Collin and he looked confused, having heard one of Xiu Xiu’s songs before. "But they don’t sound like a heavy band," he argued. A band doesn’t have to be playing Viking metal to earn the right to belch out blood-curling cries. Don’t let Xiu Xiu fool you into thinking they’re some cute little indie art band, because they made me want to hold my mommy’s hand.

In 2004, I wrote this in my LiveJournal:

When I listen to Xiu Xiu, I drift off into a different realm that’s occupied by talking antique dolls that reside in a pastel village surrounded by millions of miles of open pastures and no neighboring towns. I’m dressed like a ballerina with a thick ribbon tied around my neck, only it’s tied too tight and I run around scratching my neck, trying in vain to remove it, while people roam around me with vacant smiles and backward limbs. And even though the sun is shining, the sky is dark.

Then I come upon a tiny steeple and the singer from Xiu Xiu speeds out on a unicycle and starts singing "Clown Towne" in my face while throwing over sized lollipops at me. His smile is so wide and then I notice that it’s because the sides of his mouth are ripped. Then he starts stabbing me while albino midgets stand around giggling and throwing confetti.

And then I’m raped by a mannequin.

But I still listen to Xiu Xiu. I kind of like feeling disjointed.

Four years later and I still feel the same way. By the time their set ended at 2:00am, I was wide awake and wanted to rehash every single moment of it the whole way back to Christina’s house. Of course, as we walked out, I overheard people complaining about not getting what they wanted. "They didn’t play ‘Fabulous Muscles!’" some people griped to each other. I scowled at the complainers as I walked out. They could have played the same song over and over for the entire set and I still would have been grateful at the opportunity to see them. It easily secured a slot in my Top Ten Best Shows.

 

Feb 252008
 

There’s something you need to know about me: I’m still the fifteen-year-old girl who turns to music when a boy breaks her heart. I’m still the sixteen-year-old girl who locks herself in her room and blares the stereo after fighting with her parents. I’m still the nineteen-year-old who sobs into cherry wine while listening to The Cure. I’m still the seventeen-year-old girl who thinks every emo song was written for her.

I’m the twenty-eight-year-old girl who gets in a fight with Henry and runs off to the cemetery to scream along to the lyrics that your little brothers and sisters are cutting themselves to.

Not too long ago, someone asked, "Aren’t you a little old to be getting excited about this kind of music?" If I ever stop getting excited about it, stop feeling it in my heart, then I’ll know I’m dead. Exactly what kind of music is someone elderly like me supposed to be listening to, anyway? Should I be donning loafers and sitting back with some John Mayer?

Last summer, when Henry and I were going through a rough patch, Chiodos was there to keep me alive. Their music inspired me to paint again and their lyrics inspired me to keep writing when I really wanted to give up. When I missed their set at Warped Tour, I didn’t care that I was essentially the mama amid a churning sea of other surly fans who missed them due to an unusually early start time.

Yesterday was going to be my first time meeting them. For me, it was worth the three hour drive to Columbus. I wanted to thank them for doing what they do, for making music that means so much to me. But by the time we arrived at Magnolia Thunderpussy for the in-store signing, my heart felt weak and my legs were spaghetti. (Marinara sauce, please.) Very few people were there; I anticipated a line full of unwashed hair and star tattoos serpentining out and around the store, but there were only a handful of messy haired kids loitering quietly among the racks of CDs.

I sat outside for awhile. I was thirty minutes early and Chooch was unable to be contained within the tiny record store. Henry let him play in snow while I tried to make idle chatty with two young people who sat on a retaining wall.  I admitted to being freaked out, hoping to bond with the girl of the pair. She laughed, but it wasn’t the encouraging kind. I think she was suspicious that some old broad was trying to make convo. Later, she asked me if I had come by myself, and I took that as her way of including me. She kind of looked like Rachel Bilson. Then I started thinking about The O.C. and realized, "Holy shit, I really am young……Oh well."

Inside the store, I was mindlessly flipping through used CDs when I looked up and saw three of the band members slipping behind the counter. There was no grand announcement or applause — they managed to slink by unnoticed by most of the kids. A short trucker-capped employee with a voice too husky for a girl came out and determined where the start of the line would be. I had the good fortune of being close by, so only fifteen or so people managed to be ahead of me. Henry and Chooch were still at the front of the store; the growing covey of fans made a barricade that he wasn’t trying to attempt to break through.

I turned around and wheezed, "I think I’m going to die!" to the girl behind me. She laughed. I liked her. She had nice glasses and she let me cut in front of her when I got caught up in the mad scurry to get in line. But I wasn’t kidding — my palms were getting sweaty and I was seeing double.

A trio of tiny girls wearing varying shades of grey and black and olive green huddled in front of me, giggling about what they were going to say to the band. One of the girls never removed her oversized black sunglasses from her pale face. Another had braces. The third looked around and disgustedly observed that there were so many scene kids there. "Oh wait, I am one," she added with a laugh. I wanted to punch her. I wanted to punch her and say that I liked Chiodos more. Then I wanted to steal her purse. Not because I liked it all that much, but because maybe it seemed like the right way to end things.

It was my turn way too quickly. I was barely prepared and my hands shook a little (a lot) as I unrolled my poster and slapped it down on the counter. The first person in line was Derrick, the drummer. He gave me a friendly smile and I felt slightly brave enough to speak. I started to tell him that I had come from Pittsburgh, but the girl in front of me had made it to the end of the line and wanted a picture of all of them. He held up his finger to me and moved in close to the rest of the band. But by the time he turned his attention back to me, I had lost my nerve and started to slide my poster down to the guitarist, Jason. I could have told him that I used a magazine clipping of his eyeball for one of the paintings I made last summer. I could have told him that there used to be a bar outside of Pittsburgh called Chiodos and my mom beat the shit out of the Chiodos daughter because of a guy. I could have told him these things but I didn’t because it probably would have come out sounding like something articulated by Corky.

Henry was standing off to my right, behind a wall of posters. I silently hoped that he wouldn’t embarrass me, because if those guys thought I was old….

Henry chose that moment to release Chooch who in turn came running toward me. Derrick shouted, "Aw, look how cute he is!" When Chooch reached me, I used him to my advantage and picked him up so they knew he was with me; it suddenly didn’t matter that I was "too old" to be there or that I couldn’t find meaningful words to say to them.

The band collectively said things like, "He’s adorable!" and "I like your shirt, little man!" Derrick looked at me and said, "You know, we need a mascot…" Everyone laughed and then he gave Chooch a high five. Even the scene kids in line broke down their steeled pretensions long enough to say "Aw."

Henry doesn’t like Chiodos at all. I mean, he wasn’t glaring at them and flashing Crip signs from behind the protective cover of a rack of Ramones t-shirts — he just doesn’t like their music. I thought that maybe after meeting them he would change his mind. Maybe their boyish charm and ruffled hair would inspire him to give their music another change.

"Do you like them now?" I asked, once we left the record store. (I’m kind of like the Verizon Wireless Guy — I re-ask him with every disc rotation.)

"No! They didn’t do anything but stand there." His standards are too high.

Thank you Chooch, for revitalizing some of my maternal courage and giving me another reason to add to the "no" column of "Was Having a Kid a Mistake?"

Then we went back to the hotel where Henry started snoring and I made him sleep in the car.

Sorry for getting all serious. I promise to resume my regular asshole-y writing style in time for the next entry.

Feb 222008
 

 

I don’t know why I was so intent on finding contacts for my Blackberry messenger. I mean, I never even use AIM. I sign on once a month, maybe three times for the hell of it, but then I walk away and people send me messages saying things like "omg ur on??!?!!?!?!!" and "hi" with no punctuation and when something doesn’t have punctuation, I’m unsure how to read it. At least cap it off with an emoticon so I know what I’m dealing with.

If I sign on, my mom sends me YouTube links and spells lots of words wrong.

People have already taken me off their Blackberry contact list. For being a bad contact, I guess. A fair-weathered contact. I had this one guy, Brackett. He asked for a pic. "Got a pic?" he asked. I sent him one. He said I was hottt. Three t’s is flattering. That means he’s hoping I’ll ask about his cock-size. Or that he’s fifteen. I know these things lead to cybering, so I choose my words wisely. My cybering verve is rusty. He said he would send me a picture when he got home. He didn’t, not ever. We chatted semi-consistently for a week. Maybe two. The morning after game night, he hit me up and said, "Hey, how was the party?" A nice personal touch, I felt.

He has a friend who lives a few towns over from me. Said he felt like he should visit her sometime soon, she just had a baby. Maybe he could visit me too. I giggled and sent him a smiley, then laughed about it with my co-workers.

But then the week I was sick, I didn’t meet his needs, I suppose. Didn’t respond to his salutations with suitable speed and before I knew it, I was off his list. Blacklisted. Defriended. Banned.

Another one of my contacts goes by Renegade. He sends me daily jokes. I LOL so he knows I read them. They’re not funny though. I mean, I don’t even smile when I read them. Lately, Renegade has been trying to converse with me. "Mornin’ beautiful" he’ll say and I snicker because he doesn’t know what I look like. Mostly it takes me a day to reply.

Today he told me he’s a trucker and my thoughts on Renegade changed. He went from being That Lame Joke Guy to Awww, A Trucker. I like truckers. (Real ones, not posers like Henry.) Maybe it’s because my biological father was one. Maybe I like their hats and their rugged flannels flanked by padded vests. Maybe I like that whole sleazy stereotype of  truckers with pork rind crumbs in their beards getting sucked off in the shadows of highway rest stops. They’re like warriors. Wheeled warriors trekking through an American wasteland, bandanna flapping in their wake, pile of Slim-Jims on the dash.

My grandparents had this Cadillac when I was a kid. It came attached with a CB. Mostly, none of the truckers would ever respond to me on it, but this one night,  this one promising night on the way home from dinner at Blue Flame, I sat in the passenger seat, bogged down with frustration. I repeated all the things my Pappap told me to say that supposedly bait truckers, things that would make them think I was one of them. Lots of things like "10-4" and "I got your back door" and "plain wrapper up ahead" and other things I don’t remember because I was only five so back the fuck off. But on that night, someone finally took my bait. He was an old trucker named Sloppy Joe. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I bragged about it for days. OK, years.

When I’m on the road, on big scary highways, I panic when tractor trailers sandwich me. I panic when their large bulk forces my tiny car to sway and rock. But as I pass them, I look up into their window and with skilled determination I pull down on m invisible chain and then smile and squeal when they reward me with an air horn symphony.

I like flirting them when I’m in the passenger seat. It’s the creamy center of road trips. You know who doesn’t like it when I flirt with truckers? Henry. Oh Lord, it pisses him off. He wised up after our first road trip and now tries to maintain a constant spot in the far right lane, so the only thing for me to flash my boobs at is the guard rail. Not that I partake in much flashing now that I have that kid. That might be kind of sick. Maybe in France it would be OK.

My friend Sergio once told me that if you treat truckers with respect, maybe you might let them slide on over into your lane when all the other four-wheelers are pointedly ignoring the turn signal, then that trucker will have your back and he might radio ahead to his other trucker friends sharing your stretch of the big road. They might just sandwich you when the bears are around. This has happened to me before, I’ve been taken under the wings of a convoy and it’s a proud feeling. Me, my Eagle Talon, and a fleet of 18-wheelers. Almost makes me want to bite off a hunk of jerky just thinking about it.

When we’re on our way to Columbus tomorrow, I’ll wave to all of the truckers, maybe offer them warm compresses at the Pickle Park[1], and then I’ll salute my friend Renegade, who just now told me that it’s OK that I don’t reply him to him right away, to take my time and that he’ll be there. Just like a true trucker.

[1]: Pickle Park: – an interstate rest area frequented by prostitutes, for those not up with the trucker lexicon.

Feb 142008
 

Happy Valentine’s Day! So far, Henry hasn’t made me want to kill myself. I finally got to present him with the Vietnam Veteran belt buckle I bought him from etsy. It’s flooding with gold-plated hokeyness. When it fell out of the bag and into his palms, he kind of stared at it with that amazing brand of disbelief that you hope every gift recipient is addled with, and then he looked at me, his mustache creeping into a confused smile, and he said, "But I wasn’t in Vietnam….?"

"But you were in THE SERVICE! Same thing." I was still standing there, waiting for him to attach it to his belt.

"No, if this said Air Force, that would make sense. Then it would be the Service…" He flipped it over to look at the lavishly coated back.

"Well, just wear it. No one will know you’re not a Vietnam Vet." I was getting annoyed, and I really wanted MY present.

"Yes they will! I’m like, twenty years too young!" And then I couldn’t stop laughing, imagining Henry being "too young" for something.

"Like I said," I repeated, "no one will notice!"

And then he realized he doesn’t have the right kind of belt for a buckle, but I think he was trying to just get out of wearing it. I knew I should have bought the rainbow one that had "JESUS" emblazoned on it.

Then UPS hurled my present against the front door. Henry, further enabling my wanton lust for living in the past, gifted me with a bottle of Versace Red Jeans, one of my favorite scents as a young slut. The gift box was adorned with an elastic red ribbon, which is now being worn as a headband, so I’m pretty content right now.

And we’re going to Columbus next weekend! This sure beats the time he bought me a Fossil watch for Valentine’s Day, using a gift card my mom got me for Christmas.

Nov 272007
 

Thursday, 11-15 and Friday, 11-16:

I had slight twinging on my left side. I was fairly certain it could be my kidney, but also considered a strained muscle. The pain was just a dull ache that fades into the background of my day, so I didn’t concern myself too much.

Saturday, 11-17:

When I came home from school, I started to get body aches so I sprawled out on the couch under a blanket and had Henry serve me Tylenol. Henry bitched that I was 5% sick, 95% dramatic, but by that night, I was nearly convulsing and couldn’t get warm no matter what I did. My teeth were chattering so hard that I was afraid they would chip. Henry bitched for me to call my doctor, but I just got new insurance last month and hadn’t had a chance to choose a doctor yet, so his bitching was for naught. Henry is MEAN when I’m sick.

Sunday, 11-18:

I had a fever of 103. I wanted to go to the ER, but Henry bitched again about calling my doctor (which I still didn’t have).

That night, the music wafting from Chooch’s monitor started talking to me. Maynard James Keenan was telling me to pull out my intestines and tie them in bows (A Perfect Circle will never sound the same to me again).

The CD in Chooch’s room also has a Club Ibiza remix of Bush’s “Letting the Cables Sleep,” a song that used to be quite capable of soothing me but under the spell of my fever had suddenly sounded like if vinegar and garlic and bile, straight from Satan’s saliva, solidified into a thorny-armored army of musical notes and began its cavalcade down my temporal lobe. I wanted to reach out and shut off the monitor but I couldn’t muster the energy.

Monday, 11-19:

I was sick. Sick, sick, sick. Fever. Henry bitched. My only meal was a small cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream which made me nauseated. That night, I hallucinated that I retrieved my imaginary $15 flea market shot gun from under my pillow and Frenched the barrel while finger-jobbing its trigger.

Tuesday, 11-20:

In the early AM, I called Henry and begged him to come home and take me to the hospital. He came home alright, but instead of taking me to the hospital, he found me a stupid doctor on Brookline Boulevard because it would only cost $10 instead of the $100 ER fee, but my appointment wasn’t for another 6 hours. I didn’t care about the extra money it would cost to go to the ER. I just wanted to get better and go back to work. Time is money and either way I was losing out on it.

The doctor’s office was next to a laundromat, and as soon as I walked in, I was barraged by a stench of Beef-a-Roni and vitamins. Some poop, too I think. There were watermarks on the ceiling, wallpaper was ripped from the walls near the floorboards, and the magazines catered only to the elderly patient bracket. The receptionist had a brassy hair helmet with fringed bangs and close-set, beady eyes. I didn’t like how forcefully she grabbed the clipboard from me.

A male nurse came and took my vitals. He had a creepy white handlebar moustache with blonde highlights and wore beige scrubs which made me uncomfortable. The bathroom where I gave my urine sample had tile ripped up from around the commode. I felt like I was in a Nicaraguan clinic and became afraid that Angelina Jolie would come in and try to adopt me.

My doctor was in his forties and very personable. He put me at ease and didn’t patronize me when I told him I was sure I had a kidney infection. He wholeheartedly agreed and, as he took my pulse, said that I was “very sick.” No shit, I felt like I was dying. I told him so, too. He laughed when I said I expected to be able to return  to work the next day.

Later on, I was home alone with Chooch while Henry went to pick up my prescriptions. Chooch kept beating on me and I was so sick and exhausted that I lost it and started wailing. It was a pitiful moment. Not really one to share with Kodak.

Wednesday, 11-21:

I couldn’t find any relief during Tuesday night. I was so tired and wanted to sleep but I had a searing pain in my head and my fever kept spiking. I called Henry into the bedroom (he had been banished to the couch for snoring) and gasped, “Look, I surrender. I cannot manage this pain. I’m dehydrated. I want to go to the fucking hospital.”

He was all, “Well, I don’t know how you’re going to get there….” and I growled, “Work it out!” He of course sat there stupidly, so I yelled at him  to call Janna, who arrived shortly around midnight and took me to St. Clair Hospital, where there was an apparent gnat outbreak.

After I registered (the nurse loudly asked my weight, but then whispered, “And when was your last period?”), Janna, my knotted hair, and I sat in the dingy waiting room on hard teal chairs. Some bitch we went to high school with walked by with her butch-gait and I scowled. Then I panicked that she would fuck with my chart and I would wind up getting chemo or a mastectomy.

When I finally got a room, a nurse came in and asked me what was causing me the most pain. “My head!” I whined. “You have a kidney infection, but your HEAD is giving you the most pain?” she asked in disbelief. Oh lady, if you only knew. It felt like an irate Roman god had stuck tuning rods in hellfire and then pierced both of my temples with them until the formed crosses behind my eyes, at which point seventy-three bolts of lightning were summoned to strike while a Molotov cocktail made from bleach, John Candy’s stomach acid, Black widow venom, BTK’s semen and Flava Flav’s athletes foot exploded in the back of my head, the after effect of which was like being persistently bitten all over my brain by a swarm of fire ants. This would happen over and over, like Groundhog Day. Except it was every hour. So Groundhog Hour, I guess.

It also didn’t help that I was lying on a headful of knots on top of more knots, sucking the dicks of other knots. Janna chose our hospital quiet time to request a story. I’m sorry Janna, but this IV in my arm is kind of distracting me from spinning yarns. Why don’t you pull out that book in your purse? I hear those book thingies have lots of stories.

I was released at 5am, but not before the ER doctor said, “You know, generally when people have kidney infections like yours, they’re admitted.” Tell  that to my boyfriend, doctor. I tried to sleep when I got home, but my headache was still there. In fact, by late morning it was at its peak. Henry called the doctor and had my prescription switched from Cipro, because as it turns out, we’re just not meant to be friends. He also called in a prescription for a pain reliever, so I was ready to get stuffed by dinner time.

My mom never called to see how I was doing.