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.

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May 022008
 

Awhile back, I had the moronic idea of slapping together a photo shoot because I apparently really like torturing myself with projects that don’t amount to anything in the long run.

I placed an ad on Craigslist and several girls responded. I emailed back and forth with some of them and they seemed very cool and eager to do  this. They understood that it wasn’t for some glamour magazine spread, but perhaps they’d walk away with new pics for their MySpaces, who knew.

Then something happened. Something by the name of Chuck. He responded with great zeal and boasted that he’s been known to slip into a dress on ocassion and he’d gladly slap on some lipstick too if I wanted. I was like, sure whatever dude, just please show up.

Chuck began emailing me every day, like the cyberspace version of my Aunt Sharon, offering little suggestions here and there. There would always be a sentence starting with "What if…." Some of his ideas were cool, but then he was starting to get too alt porn on me.
 
I ended up canceling the shoot because the weather was shitty, but Chuck asked if we could meet at the location and go over some ideas, get to know each other, etc. Of course, I made Henry come too. Chuck showed up wearing a Steelers pullover and ballet flats on his sixty-year-old man feet. Dude, Chuck was OLD.
 
He was nice, though. We tossed around some ideas, yet they all seemed to veer into the direction HE wanted to take it. "We can make the girls wear mustaches. Let’s dress like fairies. Let’s be naked." <—Chuck’s ideas.
 
Then he told me I was weird and I was like, "Wow, I’ve officially hit rock bottom."
 
Afterward, he began emailing me about this nineteen year old model he knows named Jeanne. Jeanne is into alt porn and lingerie. I kept reminding Chuck that I wasn’t trying to get all Suicide Girls with this. I didn’t even need a real model, just a BODY willing to put an animal mask over their face. Bottom line. He kept trying to get me to call Jeanne and I kept saying, "Yo Chuck, bro, listen up — I don’t even call my FRIENDS. No way am I calling some stranger to talk about some dumb ass pitchure takin’ idea I had."
 
So Chuck played the middle man and tells me, "Jeanne is concerned there are too many girls that will be there. Would you be willing to stay after and just shoot Jeanne and me?" Oh, I’d love to. LOVE TO. Because that’s what would truly make my world turn, taking racy pics of you, Chuck. Of YOU.
 
Finally, last week, I sent out an email to him, one of my fake addresses, and two of Christina’s, stating that straits are so dire that I was forced to get a second job, leaving me with NO FREE TIME. No photo shoot, sorries.
 
He replied immediately and said that’s too bad, but he’s also free on Fridays and Mondays.
 
I ignored him.
 
He emailed again and asked if he could email the other "models" to see if they want to work with him on his bizarre genderbending assignment.
 
I ignored him, so he emailed my fake address and Christina’s two addresses anyway.
 
I was one of the people who was going to work with Erin at the photo shoot this Sunday that was cancelled.  If any of you would be interested in possibly working with me in the future please send a reply to this email.  I’ve basically been into gender identification stuff.  anything weird and pulls ones focus as to how gender is socially viewed.  Sometimes it involves full crossdressing , 50% crossdressing , or maybe just 33 1/3 % crossdressing or poking fun at how gender is usually viewed. I love the 40’s fashion look so i get involved with that a little.

Erin is a great girl with a lot of talent and I wanted to work with her but being that this was just for fun she was unable to commit.  From time to time photographers contact me with an interest in doing a shoot with me and I was just contacted by a professional photographer yesterday who is interested.  If any of you are interested in doing some professional work for your portfolio and also helping me out with some of my stuff just let me know.
 

if i don’t hear back from you i promise i won’t bother you any more.
 
Then he emailed me asking to borrow my sacred tutu that Merry made me.
 
I ignored him.
 
Finally today he emailed me again:
Hi Erin,
Needless to say I’m a little disappointed about the cancellation of the shoot but I understand and under the same circumstances I would have done the same thing.

I was just thinking, your photo projects seem like a lot of fun and you have not only the photographic skills and talent but you seem to be responsible and a pretty good organizer.  You should try to pull some girls together for a shoot but charge them for you time and a cd.  If you got three girls and charged them $20 for your time plus $5 for the cd that’s $25 a piece and if you got 3 girls together for the shoot that would be a total of $75.  That’s still not a lot of money but I think anyone who was looking for a free shoot can fork out $25.

The other thing is, I ran across this article a while back about this female photographer who photographs nude men. These’s nothing illegeal or immoral going on.  She’s been doing it for 25 years and she’s married.  I’m sure there is a market for that in Pittsburgh.  Men are  basically exhibitionists. Maybe it sounds sleazy but I think it’s pretty cool.  You could probably make some pretty good money doing that. Judge for yourself from the article.
 

I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER, nor do I have the credentials to pretend to be even close to one. This was supposed to be for fun. I would feel like an asshole making people pay me when I can’t guarantee that anything is even going to turn out! I’m using toy cameras for Christ’s sake. And why does he keep trying to lure me into the world of nudity?
 
Unable to ignore him any longer, I replied and told him of these concerns, and also reminded him that my tutu was not storebought, but something that is very precious to me, so no he cannot borrow it. I also told him that unfortunately, my desire to follow through with this project in the future has been diminished because what started out as a fun thing has been weighed down by too much stress and too many details that have veered away from my original concept and vision.
 
I got an email back saying that it’s OK, he understands and that he’s buying a yellow baby doll dress today and if he paid me $50 would I photograph him in it?
 
THIS ISN’T FUCKING GLAMOUR SHOTS, BITCH.
 
Bob brought up the horrifying possibilty that Chuck might still show up on Sunday, since he lives so close. "What if he brings his own people and tries to steal your idea, and then sees you and everyone else there? You’ll have to tell him the truth then."
 
I considered this for a moment. "No, I’d still lie." It’s like sit-com in me, I’m telling you. Even when I want to tell the truth in these ridiculous situations, I find myself weaving alternate truths. It’s what happens when I panic. I’d make a great President.
 
I don’t have a problem with cross dressers or nudity or old people who are into both of those things, but I DO have a problem with pushy people trying to take my reins from me. Back the fuck off, asshole. This is mama’s gig, go sit down.
 
Big Bob at work told me that the problem with being harmlessly weird like me is that it’s like a gateway for sickos. I’m not sure what he meant, and I don’t particularly think Chuck is a sicko, but I think the lesson I learned is to not post on Craigslist. Maybe stick with MySpace.
 
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May 012008
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

He picked her up later by her neck.

 

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

 

I want her to be Blake's gf!!

 

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

Scene kids abound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sea of scene kids. Nice belt!

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

I want to be like THAT scene kid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Apr 212008
 

Kara was in town over the weekend and invited me to lunch at Zenith. It was really her friend Valerie’s idea, whom I was excited to finally get to meet after knowing her on LiveJournal for a few years. However, Kara made the mistake of telling me that her fiancé Chris commented that Valerie and I have really different personalities and he wondered how well we would get along. This of course turned into the Telephone Game and by the time I told Henry what Chris had said, it went something like, "Chris said Valerie is a crazy asshole and she’s secretly hated me for twenty years and is going to be waiting for me in an alley with barbed wire, a chainsaw and a turkey baster and OHMYGOD!"

Turns out, Valerie was really nice and I didn’t hate her and she didn’t seem to hate me either. People usually like me for the first three months, so we’ll check back with her over the summer.

Zenith is half vegetarian restaurant with an amazing tea menu and half antique shop with a mother lode of religious icons and musty racks of polyester muumuus; I saw at least eight dresses that I desperately want to purchase for the animal mask photo shoot, Kara found a new wedding dress, and Valerie found a very Blanche Deveroux bathing suit. It’s a good thing she didn’t buy it, because she totally wouldn’t have looked right in it unless she built a lanai off the back of her house and furnished it with white wicker, which she should actually do and then invite me over every weekend so I can lay out and read some Danielle Steele. Maybe also she can brew up some mint tea and serve me some of that shit.

And even though Zenith has quite possibly the best collection of wall-mounted owl tsotchkes to ogle while taking a piss, my favorite part was our server, Keith. (I’m pretty sure he was Kara and Valerie’s favorite part, too, but I could be wrong. No, wait, I’m always right.) Even in his sleepy state, he was personable and helpful and super cute; he would make lazy laps around the empty restaurant, butting into our conversation now and then. When I asked to take his picture, he initially declined, maybe in fear that I would Photoshop it and he’d find himself on some raunchy, nude waitstaff website — I have that shady, no-good look to me, I guess.  I eventually talked him into it and for someone who, minutes earlier, was so opposed to the prospect of being photographed, he began busting out an arsonal of GQ poses with no hesitation.

This picture does no justice to his awesomeness! I keep wanting to call him Ben, though. He really looks like a Ben to me.

Keith brought us out our side salads, the largest salads I’ve ever seen stuffed into really small bowls; it was like the vegetation version of clown cars. As soon as he set the bowls down in front of us, leaves of lettuce the size of elephant ears began unfolding and springing forth. It was the most difficult, not to mention aggressive, salad my fork tines have ever speared.

After feeling like I had just slashed my way through a jungle in ‘Nam, Keith delivered my black bean burger which was capped with another lettuce leaf the size of a yarmulke. "Oh good, more lettuce," I said before casting it to the side.

Meanwhile, Valerie and Kara talked about cheese and condom-wrapped plunger sticks, but I was too busy trying to keep my mind from detonating over all the photographical ideas that place was feeding me. I want to go back there every day until I exhaust every vision I have, or drink every tea on their menu, whichever comes first.

Valerie's feet in the bathroom!

(More photos here.)

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Mar 222008
 
  • We had some time to kill before the first band came on, so I was telling Henry about this guy Chuck who answered my ad for the photo shoot, and how he has his own project that he invited me to work on with him because he needs a photographer. His project revolves around people doing every day activities like taking groceries from the car, except that they’re nude. How could I say no to a project involving nakedness? One of sets he wanted to use is a seedy motel. Henry looked horrified and asked, "You didn’t say yes, did you?" My hesitation was his answer. He looked out into the crowd and murmured, "Well, that’s one way to get rid of you."
  • My Blackberry never left my side the whole night. In between bands, I even posted to my blog. I mused that one of the merits was that it enabled me to fit in better with the kids because I can stand around lifelessly and text all the livelong night. After briefly scanning the crowd, Henry said, "No. You’re the only one doing that."
  • I was relieved to discover that I didn’t know anyone there. Henry miserably grumbled, "The only way I’d know anyone here would be if they were friends with my kids." I laughed.
  • The first band was International Giant or International Drive or Internationoonegivesa Fuck. I found myself creating a wish list during their set:
    • I wished the singer would stop doing that thing with his voice.
      • I think that thing is called "singing" in some parts.
    • I wished the singer’s t-shirt would stop v-necking all the way past his nipples.
    • I wished the drummer had not been wearing a head band and a 1970s inspired spandex wrestling tank in aquamarine stripes.
    • I wished they weren’t singing so many songs.
    • I wished I was there with someone cooler.
    • I wished the singer would stop wagging his tongue and thrusting his balls at us.
    • I wished I had a pony. With wings. A unicorn pony with a skull and crossbones tattoo on its ass that would gallop across the stage and spear the singer’s nads with its serrated horn made of steak knives bound together with barbed wire.
  • At one point, two really fucking annoying teenage girls stood in front of me and the one with teased black hair leaned over and shouted, "I made out with a girl last weekend!" into the other girl’s ear and I really wanted to punch her.
  •  I’m glad that my contacts arrived yesterday afternoon, else I wouldn’t have been able to see that the singer of Automatic Loveletter looked just like Kira from the Dark Crystal.
  • Automatic Loveletter was better than I thought they would be, because I usually find affliction with female-fronted bands.
  • During their set, Henry nudged me and very seriously whisper-yelled into my ear that the singer from Armor For Sleep (Ben) was standing next to him. He acted like it was no big thang, but I know that his inner fan girl was squealing and wetting herself. I noticed Henry stood up a little straighter after seeing him, crossing his arm menacingly, probably hoping all the little girls would think Henry was Ben’s bodyguard. I bet he was kicking himself for not wearing his bandannas anymore.
  • When Automatic Loveletter was over, all the guys in the audience rushed the merch table to have their pictures taken with the singer, Juliet. Henry scoffed at that, but I could tell he was longing to have a memento of his own.
  • The third band was A Cursive Memory and I was very bored during their set. The one singer had the most obnoxious front teeth, like he had just stepped out of a comic strip. About beavers. I couldn’t bear to look at him because they made me feel so nervous. I just wanted him to close his mouth.
  • Right before their last song, Teeth shouted, "This song is about bread in spheres!" and I was like, "Wow, that’s pretty cool" but then Henry was all, "They said Britney Spears, you dumb ass."
  • I pretty much wanted to kill myself all throughout Armor For Sleep’s set. Which is to say: They were really fucking fantastic.
  • Henry and I got along THE ENTIRE NIGHT. He wouldn’t put his arm around me when I requested it, though.
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Feb 262008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 272008
 

 

IMG00039

 

On the way to Image Box Studios for the pinhole camera making class, Janna swept away some of the cobwebs in her mind, stepped over some discarded drug needles littering her memory, and recounted a time in fourth grade when her class got to make their own pinhole cameras.

"And then Melissa Urbanek got really pissed off at me because my foot ended up being in her picture, so the teacher had to give her a new piece of film."

Why did this story not shock me?

We were the first people to arrive at the gallery, another thing that did not shock me. I have an inherent need to be early. While photographer Brian Krummel, his wife, and the gallery owner pushed tables together and slapped a CD in the stereo, I made idle conversation with the guy who arrived shortly after us. His name was Luis, he appeared to be in his twenties, and was eager to get started. Eager, but not over-the-top. I liked him.

Janna stood in the corner blowing her nose.

The gallery owner told us to sign in, pay and take a name tag. When I took a seat next to Luis, I noticed that there was a glaring absence of a sticky name-informant on his sweater. I asked him, Aren’t we supposed to wear a name tag, or is this to put on our camera? He shrugged so I tore my tag off my shirt and let it hang pathetically off my finger tip. Name tags are gay if you’re the only one wearing it. Janna put hers on, but that did about as much to temper my insecurities as seating me next to a spot light and airing my discomfort in HD.

More people arrived after we had signed in and paid. Basically, the rest of the class consisted of a group of older yuppie-ish types who were all friends and spoke loudly of people who weren’t there ("Martin is the funniest guy ever") and essentially dominated the room’s energy. A quiet couple sat across from Janna. I liked them because they had inoffensive personalities, gentle voices, and basically didn’t do anything stupid to make me hate them. Across from me was Craig.

Oh, Craig. He was in his forties, had a bald head and rectangular-framed glasses. He wore a fitted black shirt and his name tag clung mischievously to his left shoulder. His left broad shoulder. His left masculine broad shoulder.

It was then that I confidently slapped the name tag back across my breast. Turning to Luis, I whispered that he better go back and get his name tag after all. And so he did. I took care of Luis. I had big plans to make him the Ricky to my Angela Chase. Being seated at the end of the table made it difficult for him to procure certain tools that we needed, like hammers, magnifying glasses, and the bowl of sugar for our complimentary coffee, served in tiny Styrofoam cups. The kind of cups they give you at car dealerships, like that’s supposed to make you feel better for forking over a down payment of five grand, a down payment that involved cashing in a CD that you’ve been hoarding for years at the bank. Oh thanks! Thanks for giving me a cup that I can’t even keep as a souvenir. Thanks!

I like Styrofoam cups better than Dixie Cups though. I don’t know why. Maybe because I associate Dixie Cups with urine samples.

There was a brief moment when my world stopped spinning and I thought that I had fucked up my tin. I showed it to Brian, fully anxious and expecting him to kick me out. Brian soothed my panic by slapping a piece of electrical tape over a tiny hole I had accidentally made in one side of my tin. "So, I don’t fail?" I asked, and Craig laughed heartily across the table. Then he held out his roll of electrical tape for me to cut for him, a service I was happy to fulfill. I started to forget about Luis, because I’m a fickle woman.

In the darkroom — really just the tiny gallery bathroom with a red light and a shut door — Brian had groups of four come in to load the b&w photo paper into their newly transformed red tins. In the darkroom, Craig laughed at one of my quips and touched my arm. He said "Nice." A lot. Like it was his catch phrase. I could have stood there all day, in that tiny bathroom darkroom, having him touch my arm and saying Nice! Maybe a generous handful of jelly beans would be nice, too.

Every one got to take two photos with their pinholes. Janna and I nearly came to blows over rights to photograph a wooden cow propped up in someone’s front yard, a short walk down the block from the gallery. I won, so Janna settled for a different angle of the house. An old black man ambled past. He looked at our tins. He stopped. He looked at me expectantly.

I explained what we were doing.

"That? THAT is a CAMERA?" He shook his head as though to say, "What they won’t think of." Instead of being a smarty pants and reminding him that pinholes are like, ancient, I laughed and said, "Oh I know, right?" He wished us both blessed days, and I was kind of mad, because Janna didn’t even bother to say hello to him, so why would he wish that she has a blessed day? Janna is clearly too good to speak to old black men. Just wait until the day she decides she wants one of them to play the harmonica at her wedding. She’ll get hers.

Everyone’s first attempts were drastically under-exposed so we set off to re-take the shots. While I was waiting for Luis to finish (because we were clearly born to be each other’s besties, we had both chosen the same spot to photograph, unbeknownst to each other), I stumbled upon Craig’s name tag, slightly curled and orphaned on the sidewalk. I somberly took a picture of it with my phone. Janna didn’t seem to give a shit. Maybe if it belonged to the love of HER life, she’d have fashioned a coffin for it out of a cigar box and given it a proper burial.

We were supposed to time our shot for one minute this time. I volunteered the services of my phone’s clock, but then quickly became distracted and immersed in an urgent texting storm with my friend Amelia. Three minutes later, I thought to myself, "Now, wasn’t I supposed to be doing something? Oh. Shit." But my flightiness was rewarded in this case, because when we entered the gallery, several people emerged from the darkroom and said, "A minute wasn’t long enough either."

My first shot came out pretty good.

cow

Janna’s did not. Her entire block of photo paper was white except for a small triangular spot of image in the center. She seemed dismayed, but undeterred since we had a second shot to do. I chose a chain-link fence that had eerie parade of stuffed animals strung along it. The stuffed animals were gray and tattered and I imagined they reeked like mold on a homeless person’s flannel shirt and car exhaust.

dolls

Janna’s second attempt provided the same results. She was really upset so I did what any good friend should: I made fun of her mercilessly.

If all cameras were pinholes, what would the paparazzi do?

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Jan 132008
 

2008 01 04 028 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jan 082008
 

Usually, when scouting the field for some good subjects, I employ the ‘shoot & run’ tactic, an effective choice if you don’t mind angry cries and blurred images.

But today, when I was skulking around Brookline in the spring-like weather, taking my new Diana+ camera out for a test drive, I saw a photographic opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up; to walk away would have plagued me with nightmares of regret. A man was leaning against the brick wall of Kribel’s Bakery, smoking a cigarette. He looked middle age with sandy hair — styled loosely in a rockabilly coif — and tattoos and he sported tube socks that would have made Christina swoon; he looked like he was trying to grasp on to the last few strands of punk mentality that life had alotted him, like maybe he had gotten married and his wife was trying to force him to "grow up" but they compromised on a few accessories.  

As I approached, I recognized him as the baker from Kribel’s; I had seen him just a few weeks ago when I stopped in to buy a cake for Kim’s birthday and I remember promptly calling Henry to inform him of my new crush. I knew I needed his picture. But I didn’t hide behind a car or garbage can. I didn’t act like I was trying to "fix" something on the camera as I strolled past, looking skyward and murmuring "Tweedle dee dee." I didn’t pretend like I was taking a picture of the awesome brick wall next to him. I didn’t distract him by baring my breasts.

No, I walked up to him, caught his eye, and asked, "Do you mind if I take a picture of you?" I wanted a real photo of him; not streaks of his blue shirt, or the ground, or the sky, as I tried unsuccesfully to be covert.

His hand froze, cigarette midway to his mouth, and he repeated my request. "Can you take MY picture?" He looked around to see if anyone had heard. I didn’t make up a story about being a photography student. I didn’t pretend to be a tourist. I told the truth.

"I just got this toy camera, and I would really like to take your picture." OK, maybe I slipped in something about a fake portfolio. And that I wanted to fill it with faces of Brookline, a community that’s so dear to my heart. But for the most part, there was no nose-growing. He said yes, and two old men sitting nearby on a bench scurried away into a store, probably afraid they were next on my hit list.

Jesus Christ: enjoying Pixar movies, mending charred bridges, and now asking for permission to photograph someone in lieu of flat out stalking? What’s next — helping old bitches across the street? Don’t worry — I was terrorizing unsuspecting pedestrians with my Holga in another part of Pittsburgh earlier today, so it’s balanced.

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