Mar 142014
 

OMG, it’s Friday and I have some shit to get off my chest. TGFB (thank God for blogging?).

FIVE:

My friend Alex is hosting another Pittsburgh Guest Blogging thingie on April 1st and I stupidly signed up for it and now I’m all stressed out because I have no idea what to write, as usual. What should I write about!? My hopes and dreams? Places in Brookline where you MIGHT not find a discarded hypodermic needle? That time I robbed graves? Who even knows. I looked at the list of participants and naturally I only know 1% of the list because I’m a blogging recluse, and that gives me this weird Internet stage fright. Part of me is saying, “Try to be a normal person, Erin. Write something without swearing, Erin. MAKE SENSE FOR ONCE, ERIN.”

So, I’m going to leave it up to you: what should I ramble on about for my guest post on some poor man’s blog? Please, someone tell me before I ask Craigslist or call a party line.

FOUR:

ANDREA had to go and get me all worked up the other night by instigating my hatred for Alaska. She might be the worst BFF I’ve ever had! Now I’m all stressed out again. I feel like the climax of my life is going to be where Henry drugs me and when I wake up, he finally proposes to me then and in the same breath he’s all like, “SURPRISE YOU’RE IN ALASKA!” and then I fall off some disgusting Alaskan cliff into a sea of sickening glaciers because, why wouldn’t I?  That’s my life.

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THREE:

Something happened to Chooch’s finger at some point yesterday. I know this because as soon as I got in the car last night after work, Chooch was basically passed out on the backseat from loss of imaginary blood, whining, “OW MY FINGER” every time the car hit a pot hole. (Which is a lot. This is Pittsburgh.) I didn’t bother to ask what happened because HI I HAVE MY OWN PROBLEMS.

He came downstairs at 11:00PM while Henry and I were watching The Returned (which is a FRENCH TV show so there could be nudity at any given moment) and started whining about needing another Bandaid and I ignored him because Henry was there so…get the fuck up and bandage your son, motherfucker.

This morning, it was apparently still an issue? WTF happened to my kid’s finger?! Apparently not all that much. According to Henry, it’s only a hangnail wound. But you would have thought the entire thing had been blown off by a grenade the way he was carrying on every time his finger touched the water this morning! And then the whole way to school, he was making this anguished face and dry-crying, which is so annoying to me because obviously I’m the only person who can pull that off, and I kept begging him to stop looking like that in case god forbid someone sitting in traffic mistook it as abuse. So I kept trying to put my arm around him to comfort him (OVER A FUCKING HANG NAIL) and he was all, “OW! GET OFF ME! OW!” So I snapped and said, “For Christ’s sake, there is no way that hurts that bad! I get paper cuts almost everyday and I don’t run around acting like that….oh. Never mind.”

I gave him an extra maternal hug when we got to the school, making sure the principal saw, too, because I didn’t maim my kid’s fingertip, OK?!

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A short reprieve from incessant bitching. Thank god for teeth to brush.

TWO:

My friend Wendy is a Stella & Dot…consultant? Stylist? She sells jewelry. It’s a pretty fun line—if not severely lacking in rings with teeth and Jonny Craig’s face beneath resin—and I’ve been promising her that I would host a party, so I’m finally doing that in two weeks. Today at work, we sat down in her office to create the Facebook event thing, which she wrote and I kept saying, “Please don’t write that…everyone is going to know I didn’t write this….”‘redefine her style sessions’? What does that even mean!?” At least the event name is “Henry’s Stella and Dot Trunk Show” and she listened to me when, after she typed the line “my friend Wendy,” I told her to put quotes around the word “friend.”

It was really hard for me to sit there and watch Wendy create this event on my behalf because I’m such a control freak (only over weird things though; nothing important). My style is just a little more biting and derisive than hers; the way she wrote it made it sound like I was actually being nice to my friends and excited to see them, like “come on by and share some laughs!” WTF. I don’t want to share my laughs. Those are mine. Get your own. I kept thinking, “OK, here’s where I would have said something terrible about Janna. And right here is where I would have used some outdated LOLspeak and an obscure pop culture reference. OK, she emasculated Henry at least.”

I kind of wanted to write the party info as a free-style gangsta rap about how there are 99 ways to wear a scarf and around a dead man’s dick might be one.

I’m afraid this could be the gateway into harder hostess parties, like I might wake up one day and crave crudités and Tupperware towers. And you know what comes next. Reading cookbooks. Gross.

ONE:

CARROT CAKE M&M’S. Big ups to my friends Monica and Chris for the hook-up. Henry and I couldn’t find them anywhere but then Monica was all, “They’re on my dining room table, duh.” She bought an extra bag and gave it to Chris to bring to work for me and I ate almost half the bag right away. IT TASTES JUST LIKE CARROT CAKE. The M&Ms. Not the bag. So now I’m desperate to buy all of the bags before they go away since they’re just an Easter novelty, waiting to go back to heaven with Jesus. :(

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do when they’re gone, that’s how empty my life is right now.

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Apologies for the capslock abuse, my people. I’m losing my mind. You know how I know for sure? I ALMOST TYPED “LOOSING.”

Feb 032009
 

Sunday afternoon, we decided to try a semi-new cupcake specialty shop called CoCo’s. Now, keeping in mind that I reside in Pittsburgh (which, for those of you who are unaware, is not exactly a mecca for cupcake couture), I did not hold my hopes so high and loose that they’d soar away through the atmosphere, taking with them a little part of my heart and childlike wonder. Rather, I kept them ground level, tied to a fire hydrant. Because again, this is Pittsburgh. We have tried our illustrious city’s  other OMG-Look-We-Bake-Gourmet-Cups-Of-Cake called Dozen two or three times, and while their selection of frosting is creative and worth the inflation, the cake part is always dry and reminiscent of a school cafeteria dessert tray at 3pm. The last time Henry brought some home, one went missing; I later found it moonlighting as a saliva sucker at a dentist’s office. But their cupcakes are well-portioned. Dry, but bigger than your dominatrix’s fist!

“Maybe CoCo’s will be better,” I hoped, urging Henry not to give up after he made the twenty-eighth wrong turn (Professional Driver, who now?). When Henry frowned beneath his bristing ‘stache, I added, “The website says that they use FINE INGREDIENTS.” But really, I knew deep down that this here CoCo would have had to swim across to the Amazon and pluck vanilla beans from the one and only Jack’s stalk and then have Jesus Christ bleed out in her sack of cocoa for it to mean much to Henry.

After road raging upon a poor old man from Wisconsin (you’d be a bad driver too if you had a cheese curd trampoline sealing your anus), Henry found a parking spot. I stayed in the car with Chooch, who chanted, “Cupcake. Cupcake. Cupcake. Pee asshole cupcake? Mommy asshole cupcake? What song is this?” over and over. Several minutes later, Henry was plopping a non-descript paper bag in my lap and growled, “There’s $10 worth of cupcakes.”

I peered inside the bag and at first saw nothing. Then, after some efficient maneuvering of tissue paper, I saw them. Four tiny pucks of ganache. I pulled one out. It felt dense and I was angry that the ganache ran over the paper cup. Mama doesn’t like messes. Immediately, my fingers were attacked by melting chocolate and I began sweating.

Chooch and I took a bite simultaneously. Now, Chooch’s barely three-years-old palate is about as refined as that of an ass-licking dog; he eats food off the floor.  So when he breathed, “Oh, it’s so good!” and, in tandem, I said, “Um, ew,” Henry took my word over Chooch’s. And then Chooch promptly started choking because these sons of bitches were drier than a nun’s snatch. You know how sometimes you’re eating corn bread, maybe it’s a day old, maybe you got it out of the dumpster behind that Mexican restaurant, because look, the economy is affecting us all, OK??? And now say you’re eating this cornbread like it’s fucking Manna from heaven and you just survived the motherfucking Apocalypse. You are eating the FUCK out of this shitty, rock-hard, stale as shit corn bread and then, uh-oh, you’re choking like the first time you drank up that trannie’s bitter sex jam.

Then now you know what it’s like to eat a CoCo’s cupcake. And believe me, you would be begging for a Dixie cup of that sex jam to wash it down.

NOW! To be fair, because I always like  to be fair, perhaps they were getting ready to close and Henry bought the last four cupcakes that would generally be used as pigeon chow, hobo deterrent, mother-in-law killing devices. Maybe they were too caught up in their collective “Holy Shit, Superbowl!!” fingerbanging session that they left the cupcakes in the oven too long. I do not know. But I can tell you that there was no difference in my very scientific moisture-reading in the vanilla as opposed to the chocolate.

The ganache? It was decent. The little fondant shape thingie that was plopped atop each crown like a Crayola-happy turd? Probably that was meant to be a sweet touch. It made me think of Play-Doh.

Here is Henry’s review:

“What the hell? It’s like, sucking all the saliva out of my mouth. Oh fuck, is Chooch choking? Oh shit, I’M choking! This chocolate one tastes like the other ones — yucky.” [I just included that because I don’t thnk Henry has ever said “yucky” before.] “Wait, I know what these taste like. Stale Tasty Cakes! These are nothing more than overpriced, out of date Tasty Cakes.” But without all the fluffy white, processed guts. You know, the best part.

And from there, he was on a warpath, a warpath lined with delicate cups of cake and dollops of fluffy frosting made by angel kisses and vintage porn. “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe this place is succeeding. You know what? I’m going to bake my own cupcakes and I’ll only charge $2.00 for them. $2.50 for these dry-ass cupcakes…” and he mumbled like that the whole way home, in that strange recipe-speak that I never did quite understand but I imagine it’s how Alton Brown and Bobby Flay talk during poker games.

I want him to call his cupcake shack Hank’s Dirty ManCakes. We’ll make it look like a miniature truck stop, and each cupcake will have bushy moustaches and be named after ’70s porn stars. And then on Sundays he will serve soup as well, so I can finally have my fucking souperie.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue my search for the best cupcake in the universe. If I was iCarly, I would give a shout out on my webcast and all my little teenage viewers would fucking trip over themselves to send me boxes of their local favorites. And then perhaps someone would even send me a smorgasbord of those famous Sprinkles cupcakes, at which point I will understand how Katie Holmes finds the will to stay married to Tom Cruise.  But I am not a Nickelodeon teen sensation, so I must seek other means. Such as, bundling Janna in a parka and sending her off through the tundra to bring me samples herself. I will even give her a little water bottle.

Oh boy, what should I review next.

Jan 252009
 

Henry and I don’t get out very often, but we had tickets to the Where’s the Band? show on Saturday night and I was really looking forward to it. The tour showcases the solo efforts of Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids, New Amsterdam, et al) and Dustin Kensrue (Thrice) and if you know me at all, you can guess that I was spittling all over myself when I heard it was coming to town.

We ditched Chooch with Henry’s mom and left for Mr. Small’s. I kept insinuating that it was a date, and I think it made Henry nervous, like he was worried he’d have to put out later or, God forbid, hold a door open for me. He at least knew he wouldn’t be expected to hold my hand during the show, because, you know, ew.

Arriving thirty minutes before the show was set to start, Henry pointed out that the marquee said the show was sold out. “I fucking told you it would sell out, you idiot!” I spat. I started getting really heated, tugging at my collar like a coal miner about to whale on his wife for not having dinner ready at 6:05pm, until Henry reminded me that we already had our tickets. “Yeah, thanks to me!” I yelled. And then I realized that it was ok to calm down and savor yet another moment of righteousness.

Inside, I was pleased to see that it was an older crowd. We stood behind a couple and when the guy put his arm around the girl’s back, I motioned to his wedding band and quipped, “You don’t see that very often at the shows we’re accustomed to, ha-ha” (and that’s how I laughed too–a staccato “ha” followed by another staccato “ha”), but Henry didn’t get it. “You know, because the people at  most shows we go to aren’t legal for marriage” I explained, but he wasn’t paying attention to me ON OUR DATE so I don’t give a fuck if he ever gets another joke in his life.

We’re waiting for the show to start, and it’s a little delayed. So Henry, he tries to make small talk and suggests that he show probably sold out because the tickets were cheap. “Oh right, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the lineup” I sassed. But he had the audacity to laugh and say, “Yeah, it’s the cheap tickets” which made me rant about how these guys that were about to bleed their hearts on stage are likely going to be legends by the time they die.

That only made Henry laugh even harder. But Henry, he’s old; he quit understanding music sometime right after the arrival of Quiet Riot.

The show finally started around 7:30, and I loved it because there was no frilly, flouncy bullshit. There was no waiting twenty to thirty minutes between sets, waiting for the next one to come out. One left, the next walked on.  Just each dude and his guitar, so fucking vulnerable, but at the same time it made them look even bigger. I also liked how, sans band, their individual stage personalities were showcased alongside of their songwriting brilliance. It was interesting to see how they varied from each other, and while I was musing about this, and also the fact that I bet their mommies are so proud of them, I realized, “Yes, I’m officially old. I’m analyzing their showmanship and not wondering how big their weeners are.”

  • First up was Anthony Raneri. I’m not the biggest Bayside fan, so he was the act I was least looking forward to. Well, from the first pluck at his guitar, he had me eating out of his. I bought a ticket primarily for Dustin Kensrue, but Anthony Raneri may have won my heart that night. Besides Dustin, he’d the only one who made me weep openly, and that was when sang the Bayside song “Don’t Call Me Peanut.”

This isn’t from the Pittsburgh show, but it’s the best quality video I could find on YouTube. When the song was over, I hoarsely whispered to Henry, “I want to kill myself. I want to fucking kill myself,” and he was like, “Yay! Please do!” While Anthony engaged in light banter now and then — like when he informed up that the next song he was going to play was political and that it’s such an exciting time in the country which predictably led to some heavy grumbling over in Henry’s corner– his set was fairly straightforward. He played the songs he came to play, and left. With my heart. There, I said it.

  • Chris Conley was next and brought with him a set that was heavy in crowd participation. He took requests for each song, which turned into a screaming free-for-all. Henry’s musical memory sucks, and he kept asking me a million questions about Chris (I think he thought he was hot, I don’t know) and I kept saying, “He’s the guy from Saves the Day, you idiot. I have all their albums. You’re not going to like him.” And predictably, as soon as Chris sung the first estrogen-laced note, Henry’s balls were sucked up into his bowels.

Again, not from the Pittsburgh show.

Chris told us a story about some crazy guy they saw that day, pushing a broken down car, who got angry when Chris and the rest of the guys asked if he needed help. “Yeah, you can get the fuck out of the way” and then apologized, saying it had been a rough day. So Chris goes, “I guess you’re just naturally sweet, right?” which apparently greatly offended the dude, because you just don’t go around telling guys in Cleveland that they’re sweet unless you want to get shot. It wasn’t that funny of a story really, but the fact that it was Chris Conley telling it made it so. It was right around that time that Henry got a call from his mom, saying that Chooch wouldn’t stop screaming and had apparently wedged himself in a corner and she wasn’t sure if maybe he was dying or what, so Henry took that as his cue to leave. “I’ll come back for you later,” were the parting words that drifted back to me in his anxious wake. Honestly, he booked out of there so fast, it was like a fucking echo. You lucked out this time, Henry J. Robbins, but next time you won’t be so lucky.

Chris ended his set by bringing out Matt Pryor to sing “At Your Funeral” with him. It was beautiful.

  • I really like the Get Up Kids, but never had the opportunity to see them live when they were still together, so Matt Pryor is kind of this mythical character to me. Out of all four performers, he lit up the stage most of all. In fact, I admit to being more entertained by his rapport with the crowd than by his actual songs (most of which were super short. He summoned Chris from the wings to play the tambourine during one song. “Do you even know how to play the tambourine?” he dourly asked Chris, who turned toward us and pumped his arms in an exasperated “Are you fucking kidding me?” motion. Afterward, when Chris left the stage, Matt goes, “Chris Conley makes me so happy. Did you see him, all blissed out, playing the tambourine with his eyes closed? That dude is so weird.”

Pittsburgh people, put  your fucking videos on YouTube already, shit.

Matt was wearing a newsboy cap at the Pittsburgh show, and he complained that it was his first time wearing a hat while on stage and he kept bumping it off the mic. “But I’ve been wearing it all day, and you know, once you commit to wearing a hat, you have to follow through.” Then he paused and realized, “Wow, I’ve been such a whiny bitch up here. They’re going to have to change the name of this t our to Diva Camp.” And I laughed so hard, you’d have thought it was my first time finding out about motherfucking Dave Chapelle or some shit; like if Matt had been closer, I’d have slapped him and maniacally shouted “OH MATT YOU CARD HAHAHAHA.”

Then he goes, and this is where I get all somber again, he goes, “Anyone here on a date? Well, these last two songs are LOVE SONGS. Just think of me as your BALLADEER for the evening.” But of course, what I heard was, “Erin Appledale is a loser and here by herself because she’s not awesome enough to go out on dates” and then a bucket of pig’s blood overturned and painted me pathetic.

Thank you, Matt Pryor.

  • DUSTIN KENSRUE DUSTIN KENSRUE DUSTIN KENSRUE!!! Fucking Dustin Kensrue!!! I do not have enough superlatives in my pea-sized, fan-girl vocabulary for him. His presence is very god-like. He picks up his guitar and you hold your breath. That’s just how it is, unless you just don’t love music. His main gig is with Thrice and while they’re a powerful, unmistakably intelligent post-hardcore outfit, he is just as big and powerful and intelligent on his own. His solo style is alt-country and he even brings out his harmonica, complete with the around-the-head contraption, and I’m not like some raging harmonihomo, but good goddamn that man amazes me.

I was super pleased when he christened his set with an acoustic version of the title track from “The Artist In the Ambulance.” Stripped down, it just takes on a brand new meaning; it’s so raw and moving.  That album is so personal to me because I associate it with Henry, when our relationship was still new and we were learning about each other. I remember driving around one Sunday, ending up in West Virginia with no destination in sight, and listening to that album. It was one of the first times Henry admitted to sharing somewhat of a partiality to a band I liked.  So Thrice always makes me feel bonded to him, in some intrinsic way, because music is the biggest way I bond with people. I never told Henry this, so he’ll probably read this and be all “awww gosh darnit” but then he will act like it didn’t faze him. You know, the Henry Way.

So I’m standing there, by myself, next to a girl with her boyfriend who slurs, “Oh wow, [Dustin Kensrue] is so hot” and then proceeds to  spend the entire set texting. And down a few heads from her is this gaggle of peacoated sorority whores who never stopped loudly conversing in their twatty faux-Valley Girl cadence . I mean, it was a goddamn ACOUSTIC SHOW, how loud do you really need to shout? That is when I realized that perhaps I prefer shows with a younger crowd, because those kids are there for the music. They show respect for the artists that have sacrificed so much just to be able  to get up on a stage and play for us. Those kids, they don’t go to shows and stand with their backs to the stage, giggling with their tactless posse.

And that is also when I realized I didn’t mind the guy standing slightly behind me, who had taken on the role of Dustin’s backup singer and LOUDLY sang along to each and every song, even the covers, and in between pauses, he would shout little pieces of trivia about Dustin and Thrice to his very tall and curly-haired friend who evidently didn’t know much. Anyway, Dustin the Second and I were the only two people in our area who screamed loudly and applauded furiously after each song.

It’s fucking Dustin Kensrue, ya’ll. His drummer is my fucking son’s namesake.

Out of all the guys that night, Dustin was the one who meant serious business. Instead of telling us stories about crazy tweakin’ men pushing cars or trying to egg the crowd into heckling him (seriously, someone said, “screw you” to Matt Pryor after he begged to be heckled, prompting Matt to take a swig of beer and dryly retort, “Ooooh, screw you. Good one.”), Dustin went off on fucking brilliant tangents about faith and spirituality and accepting the fact that he will never know everything there is to know, and it was so articulate that I won’t even try to paraphrase it, because we all know I’m practically illiterate. But here is the profound statement that Obsessive Texter’s boyfriend made about it: “He is like, so smart.” Word.

And then he played this song about his wife, wherein I lost my shit and gave myself Tammy Faye Bakker eyes.

Dustin ended his set, devoid of any bells and whistles, with the  most heart-wrenching cover of “Round Here.” Now, I like the Counting Crows; I won’t try and act like I’m too elite to appreciate radio-friendly alternative. (Plus Jennifer Aniston dated Adam Durwitz and hello, she’s my fucking homegirl, whut.) But there was something very moving about Dustin’s rendition of it, that my heart felt constricted in my ribcage and I sobbed the whole way through it.

  • Encore: Dustin and Matt re-staged and attempted to do a duet of Ryan Adams’ “Sweet Carolina,” but  Matt was having tuning problems and had to run off stage to grab a new guitar, shouting, “I’m so fucking prepared for this” as he disappeared. When he came back, he mentioned that someone had told him he looked like a ’30s gangster in that hat, so he proceeded to talk out of one side of his mouth in this creepy Dick Tracy-esque drawl. It was nice, much-needed moment of levity after Dustin’s amazingly sovereign set. And when they finally sang the song, it was sweeping and gorgeous and gave me chills up my spine.
  • Afterward, Chris and Anthony joined them for aJawbreaker cover, and thenNOFX’s “Linoleum” which I felt was a perfect note to end on.

I’m very grateful that I got to be there for such a wonderfully gut-wrenching night of music from some of the most revered men in today’s scene. I just wish I had been able to share it with someone, because the only thing worse than post-show depression is not having anyone to ruminate with. (Not that Henry is wildly known for his post-show ruminations, but you know what I mean.)

Fucking music, man.

[Note: Chooch was fine, just being a drama king because mommy and daddy left him with his grandmother, oh the horror. And for the record? If Chooch had been hurt, and not just overreacting to the fact that we weren’t home, I totally would not have stayed at that show. I’m not THAT terrible of a mother, no matter what you’ve heard.]

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.

May 182008
 

I: Getting There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

Henry: What are you near?

Me: A black lady in really high boots.

Henry, sighing angrily: What are you near?

Me: A chocolate covered pretzel store.

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

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

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

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

II : Red (from blood stains) Carpet Inn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 152008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

 

Apr 012008
 

Xiu Xiu was playing at the Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky on Saturday. Doors opened at 9:00 and even though it’s only about a thirty minute drive from Christina’s house, she insisted on leaving early; so early that we wound up arriving at 6:30pm. Our time-killing options consisted of:

  • walking aimlessly around Newport on the Levy with all the trendy lacquered-nail fuckers

  • extracting teeth to finance the overpriced beverages at the piano bar (featuring the most annoying female lounge singer I’ve heard this side of Jessica Simpson — I know this because her pulverized rearrangement of "Hotel California" polluted the sidewalk through speakers)

  • perusing Claire’s Boutique for pink clip-on hair extensions
  • jumping off one of the bevy of bridges.

My tooth was bugging me from my recent crown procedure, and I implored Christina  to get me drunk. It was the only way I was going to survive the night. "Surely there’s some sleazy dive bars around the corner?" I asked out loud. The next thing I knew, Christina was asking one of the valets, "Hey, you know of any sleazy bars around here? We don’t want to drink anywhere inside there," she said, cocking her head toward the carnival of flashing neon lights and people with fake laughs. Immediately he suggests somewhere inside the mall, the place she emphatically said we didn’t want to go. A lot of the bars there were chains that we have in Pittsburgh too. It’s like going on vacation and eating at Denny’s. I wanted to kickback in a local bar. Maybe take in a knife fight or two.

I stepped up and explained this to the valet. He gave us directions to a street a few blocks away and told us there was a "real dive bar that just opened up on the corner down there." When we walked away, I hit her.

"What’d you have to go and say ‘sleazy’ for?" I yelled.

"Well, that’s what you said!" she retorted, all up in arms. She’s all up in them arms a lot.

Apparently the valet’s definition of "sleazy" is: brand new sports bar with an old-fashioned wooden facade, brass door handles, and men in white collared shirts limp-wristing their chicken wings while watching the basketball game. Survey says they had gold money clips, too.

Christina was about to walk in but I was all, "Don’t be stupid. That place already has me yawning." We kept walking. And by walking, I mean jay-walking. Christina was so mad at me for it, but let me tell you something, this bitch don’t wait for no light to change, okay? 

A homeless man with frizzy gray hair and a mouth full of rot stopped us and asked for spare change. I wanted to tell him to not be so cliché, ask for something different like a bottle of benzos or Soap Opera Digest, but instead I gave him the cliché answer of "Sorry, no cash" complete with the obligatory downward tug of the mouth corners. After we crossed the street, I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had stopped a few feet away on t he sidewalk and was presently boring holes through our non-homeless skulls with his vacant eyes.

"He’s staring at us," I hissed at Christina.

"Well, no shit. His friend in Pittsburgh told him you give homeless people twenty dollar bills."

Just then, the flickering of a neon light captured my attention. 

"That’s it, that’s the place where we’re getting drunk." I pointed across the street to a shabby bar called Brass Lounge.  

I especially liked the twinkling gold star that looked out of place without a Christmas tree lodged up its ass and the neon pink animal of an indistinguishable species. Oh, and also the cocktail with floaters in it really made me lick my lips.

Christina looked unsure, but followed me, for I am her shepherd. My hand was on the door knob, I was about to tug it open, but I caught a glimpse of the gigantic sign in the window that said DANCERS WANTED. I took one big step backward and looked up at the front of the building, where it said "Girls girls girls" along the bottom in a cute little train of blue neon.

Now, I have no qualms about slapping down bills in a strip club, but something told me that this was not the establishment I wanted to be entering that night. And that the dancers were probably the human equivalent to a stable of horses that needed to be put down. I was afraid that if we walked in, we might not be walking back out in time to make the show. And not because we’d be having so much fun.

We may have been able to catch a knife fight in there though, and undoubtedly glimpsed various incarnations of Henry, leaning forward with wagging tongues and jostling beer bellies.

Next to the Brass Lounge was a dancer’s apparel store. The mannequin in the window modeled a delicate Y-shaped band of spandex  which strategically crossed over the nipples and crotch. It was in the most gentle hue of violet a stripper ever did wear.

We crossed back to the side of the street where flesh wasn’t being flashed and came close to colliding with two older men who were about to walk into Huddle’s Cafe. The older of the two wore a billowing flannel shirt and seemed like he would be at home on the floor of a garage with a car jacked up above his body. He was laughing loudly at the exchange he just had with his friend and, noticing us on the sidewalk, shared with us why he was laughing, which wasn’t funny enough for me to remember, but we politely laughed along with him and then he gallantly held the door to the bar open for us. Christina whispered, "When we’re together, everyone is so nice to us" and I agreed, unaware that she was jinxing us for later, when people around us would morph into jiggling bags of douche syrup.

I think at first he had hope, but then he probably thought we were lesbians (which is 50% true, in our case), so he and his buddy left almost as soon as they sat down, to the dismay of the bartenders.

Huddle’s Cafe was clean, dark, and had the requisite sad guy sitting alone at the bar with his heavy head hung over a bottle of beer. Aside from the two female bartenders, the joint was deserted. Christina and I made ourselves at home, taking up enough space along the bar for four people. I have a lot of stuff that I like to set out in front of me. Like my phone, my camera, makeup, prosthetic phelange. My jacket got slung across the stool next to me and my brick of cocaine didn’t drop out of the pocket, which is a miracle.

If I lived in Newport, I would definitely be a regular. The younger of the two bartenders was easy on the eyes (kind of stupid though), the jukebox had an amazing selection (not so amazing that it would include Xiu Xiu, though), there was a pool table in the back, and the bathroom had vanilla brown sugar hand soap.

We killed the next hour and a half knocking back amaretto sours (OK, that was just me), having jukebox wars with some stodgy middle aged man sitting on the other side of the bar, spilling drinks (OK, that was just me), pretending to care when the bartender talked shit on the owner, and talking about world issues (as long as those issues somehow involved me, I mean).

I was kind of drunk and it was getting close to eight o’clock, so Christina tipped the bartender a hundred million dollars for having a nice rack, and we split. I felt like peeing in the corner first, to stake my claim; maybe lacerate Christina’s arm and use her tawdry blood to scrawl "ERIN WUZ HIZERE" on the wall. I miss that place now.

I know, I know — you’d think I’d never been to a bar before.

Outside the bar, I ducked in between two buildings in order to take a picture of the sky, which looked especially moody and foreboding behind the a-framed roof of an American Legion building. A Mexican man walked by and asked what we were doing. I started to panic, maybe the cops were cracking down on camera-usage in alleyways, until I realized that he was smiling. I told him I was taking a picture of the sky, to which he laughingly responded, "Oh, I thought maybe there was a dead body back there!"

And we all laughed. Then I was sad that there wasn’t really a dead body, because that would have been way better than a stupid sky at twilight.

Mar 052008
 

The first time I was there was the summer of 2000.

“There’s this Quaker cemetery out in Perryopolis. Supposed to be haunted or some shit. We should go.” It was one of those glimmering moments of spontaneity that, on a boring summer’s night, sounded a lot more interesting that the usual routine of getting drunk on my porch. I was a little wary that the person hatching this plan was my friend Justin, who had a bad track record of insisting he knew the exact coordinates of various haunted hot spots, and then like a bad repeating record, we’d inevitably wind up lost  with the gas tank on E and a few empty bags of Corn Nuts.

Our friend Keri wanted to accompany us, so I felt a little better because she was always the responsible one. If you were going to get lost, break down, get a condom lodged inside of you, Keri was the girl you’d want with you. She also didn’t scare easily, so I quietly planned to wedge myself between the two of them once (if) we arrived.

Perryopolis is around 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, but the trip didn’t take long in my Eagle Talon, considering my propensity for driving it like a dragster. As we approached the town of Perryopolis, I silently hoped that we would be unable to find the cemetery in the dark, of that it didn’t exist, or that the Earth opened up to engulf it every night after midnight. Maybe there would be a fence too dangerous to scale, Hounds of Hell snarling and tied to posts at the entrance, an after hours admission fee implemented by Satan.

The area was rural. We coasted past a few farms and even fewer houses. The uneven asphalt was littered with loose pebbles and sticks, which  clinked and snapped under the tires. The streetlights did little to alleviate my uneasiness. Unfortunately, Justin must have polished his navigational bearings, because after having me make a few turns, he told me to pull over.

“This is it,” he said, leaning in between the front seats and looking out my window. We kind of just sat there, real still, not speaking, until Keri finally went for the door handle. We all filed out and crossed the dark, quiet street. It was too dark to see the cemetery from where we stood, and after hesitating to see who would step up to lead us, we finally took the plunge in tandem and began climbing the slight hill before us.

Halfway up, we could make out a wrought iron fence, the kind you would expect to wreathe an old, small town cemetery. My eyes searched for the tombstones, the meat of the graveyard. That’s when I saw it, my first glimpse of the old stone house in the middle of the small plot of land. Suddenly, it wasn’t what lay beneath the ground that frightened me.

“I don’t like the looks of that place,” I whispered hoarsely to Keri and Justin.

“What the fuck is it, a church?” Justin asked no one in particular, squinting his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

“I’m not climbing no fucking fence,” Keri spat, arms crossed. She was always the kill joy of the group. Me, I’d go along with just about anything, no matter how terrified I was, mainly because my adrenaline would overtake my common sense every single time. But Keri, she’d get so far and then stop. Or conveniently conjure up a head ache. That girl has headaches more often than Seattle has rain.

Just then, the dull roar of an engine resounded from further down the road. We all turned to look. Headlights eventually appeared over the crest in the curving road, and the car began to decelerate. We continued to watch as it approached the base of the hill and slowed to a complete stop several yards away from my car, parked along the shoulder.

“Is it a cop?” Keri whispered.

The driver flashed the head lights. We were stapled to the soft ground under our feet. The driver blew the horn. We jumped. The driver laid on the horn, sending an atmosphere-rippling siren through the once-quiet night. All three of us screamed and turned to run back to my car. We shoved each other ruthlessly, none of us daring to be in the back.

My car was parked directly across the base of the hill. The rogue car still idled in the same position a few yards away on the opposite side of the road, continuing to blare the chilling horn. We made it to my car, slamming into the side of it. I fumbled for my keys. I dropped them on the road as I tried frantically to sort through the menagerie of plush over-sized key chains. Keri and Justin were swearing and screaming at me. I was crying.

The bully car continued to intimidate us with the horn-blaring while I unlocked my door and reached across the inside to unlock the passenger door. Keri and Justin both tried to get in my uterus-sized two-door Talon at once, prolonging their success. Once they were in, I gunned it, not even bothering to steal a look at the driver of the opposing car as we squealed past it.

We drove in silence until the poorly-lit country roads spilled us out onto the highway where we took refuge among the traffic.

Only then did anyone dare speak.

“I don’t know what you guys were so scared for. It was probably just some teenager having some fun, trying to scare us,” Justin said, leaning back with his fingers laced behind his head.

*****

The weather was unseasonably spring-like on Sunday, so Henry, Chooch and I piled into the car and drove south to take some pictures and enjoy the rare opportunity to drive with the windows down. Our plan was to go out to Uniontown, a small town at the base of the mountains, and get some nice country photographs.

We took Rt. 51, which leads straight from Pittsburgh to Uniontown. It also passes through Perryopolis on the way.

“Hey, there’s this old Quaker Cemetery out here. We should try to find it,” I casually suggested, recognizing that the right hand turn into farm country was coming up. What better way to spend a beautiful Sunday with the kid and manservant? Field trip  the haunted cemetery! C’mon boy, let’s get our desecratin’ on, I should have hollered to Chooch.

Henry found it without mishap (evidently the road it’s on is called Quaker Cemetery Road, so Henry figured it was a safe bet we were on the right road). When I reached the crest of the small hill, I spotted the stone house with it’s corrugated tin roof, ominously gaping front door and windows that stared out like empty eye sockets.

I wasn’t scared this time, finding bravery in the sunlight, and I marched right through the archway and started taking pictures. Probably, if I was someone other than myself, the first thing I’d do, I’d go straight inside that stone shack and start poking around. But I was cautious. I let Henry go inside first while I admired the various hues of beer bottle shards as they sparkled in the sun. The shards wrapped around the front of the house, like a moat in front of an alcoholic’s castle. I was sad that no one ever invites me to party in creepy cemetery houses.

Henry went inside first, getting some digital shots of the interior. I asked him if he felt scared when he was in there and he gave me that “don’t be an asshole” sneer. Still, I lingered near the door while Henry and Chooch retreated somewhere in the back, behind the house. I thought I heard shuffling coming from inside the house, but I shook the idea out of my mind and went in.

The inside was sheltered by a roof made up of thin wooden slats. It looked unstable, like I could be buried under it at any given moment. The walls were mostly blue and covered in graffiti. I tried to read it all, as much as I could before my bravery reserve was drained, but there was nothing very interesting. No Hail Satans or Human Sacrifice FTW!s to be found; just an abundance of generic “_____ was here”s and ambiguous initials.

Each end of the room had a fireplace. Henry said later that he had wanted to get all up in it and see what was going on in the chimney’s guts, but he never said why he didn’t follow through. Because he was scared, that’s why. I can only imagine how much clenching he had to do to keep from shitting his pants when he was in there alone.

Still afraid of the being impaled by a collapsing slat of wood, I started to walk out. Henry completely doesn’t believe me, and probably no one else will either, but as I started to step through the doorway, I heard a chorus of whispering coming from \the left corner of the room. I SWEAR TO GOD. I swore to God when I was telling Henry about it too and he was like, “You can’t swear to something you don’t believe in” so I changed my pledge of honesty to Satan instead and Henry started in on that bullshit about how you can’t believe in one and not the other and I was like, “Shut up, stop acting like you’re religious” and he said if there was no God and just Satan, then the world would be way worse than it is now and I said, “No, Satan’s just lazy is all” and that’s about as deep as the two of us get into theological debates. Our next one is scheduled for 2030. As if Henry will still be living then.

After the whole whispering episode, I was pretty much in a huge hurry to leave. If you buy into legends and ghost stories, it’s said that the meeting house was where witches were taken to be killed. I really hope the whispering I heard belonged to Glinda.

Later that day, I was reading a website about the cemetery and it says, “There are also stories of certain graves being cursed, meaning that if you stand at them, or read the writing on the head stone, you could have bad luck or die.”

Click for more

Awesome. Nice knowing you, Chooch.

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.

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.

Dec 102007
 

So, it’s here! I’m freaking out! It came at a perfect time, because Henry was napping, so I shoved it over my fat head and crept up the bedroom to give him a nice little surprise. And by crept, I mean that I clambered up the steps on my hands and knees, pausing every other step to squeeze back pee. I couldn’t stop laughing, and I tried ever so hard to muffle it, but I only ended up making the inside of the pig’s snout very warm and moist.

Anyway, Henry was not sent spiraling into the land of heart attacks, like I had hoped. He rolled his eyes and quietly begged, “Please don’t show that to Chooch” (who was also napping), before rolling back over and pulling the covers up to his chin.

But I’ll tell you who WILL be taking up residence in the land of heart attacks: My boss, Kim. Everyone got to leave early Thursday night and I thought I was the only one still packing up all of my stuff. (Seriously, I bring half of my house with me in my giant purse, and then it takes me five minutes to stow everything back in it at the end of the night.) When I was finally ready, I went to round a corner, where Kim was hiding behind a wall like a child and lurched out at me. I dropped some stuff, that’s how startled I was. I startle very easily. So my plan is to stash the mask in my gigantor purse and wait until late tonight, when all the dayshifters have left and our department is left in silence. I’ll wait for Kim to go to the bathroom, and then I’ll hide behind the door.

I hope she cries.