Apr 142008
 

Chooch and I were sitting together on the couch this morning and I accidentally got too close to him, so he kicked me, yelled at me, and then finished me off with a smoldering glare that sent me straight into the Devil’s embrace.

Sometimes we’ll be sitting quietly and I swear I haven’t encroached upon his bubble of personal space, turned the channel, or breathed too heavily, yet he’ll still slug me. He’ll just haul off and sock me in the arm, never taking his eyes off the TV.

Also, I don’t think that flinching should be my natural instinct every time Chooch approaches me, but fuck, he can turn any household item into a weapon. If I take my eyes off him for a millisecond, there’s no telling what’s going to get chucked at my head. Hopefully not an anvil.

I was thinking about it this morning, wondering why he does shit like that, when I suddenly saw myself sitting next to Henry, punching his arm for no reason other than that he’s sitting next to me. I saw myself hurling pencils, candle sticks, cans of peaches, vampire porn DVDs at Henry, for no reason other than that he’s breathing. (And also — that it’s funny.)

Clearly I’m a great role model. I should be starting up a daycare or something, make a line of parenting DVDs.

Apr 092008
 

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

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

(I never really saw him.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 082008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

Apr 072008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 042008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 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 262008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 252008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 152008
 

When I think of Hell, I always imagine a large atrium-type  room  (but with like, less of the pretty botanical touches and more of the speared shit and car exhaust) where everyone goes to do their chores while enjoying a cocktail of some mighty fine ass rape by staggering penises coated with AIDS, followed by an enema of stagnant leech-filled pond water and battery acid. But after all that daily socializing, everyone relocates to their bunkers — their own little personal Hells-with-the-lid-on.

I think that my room would probably have a row of bottled Henry-snores, the caps of which will lift up in random intervals, broadcasting a nasal symphony around the walls. Eleanore will be seated two feet from me, no matter where I am she’ll be two feet from me, ripping up sheets of paper, slamming desk drawers, and sighing heavily. Then she’ll stuff her mouth with food and start ranting about racism, while hurling a pair of scissors down against the desk top. The clatter of that will reverberate inside my head, making my teeth chatter.

The Gum Popper will have a permanent perch upon my shoulders, cracking and slurping and snapping her fat Bazooka Joe-wrapped tongue in my ear and down my neck and even when she pauses, it’s still all I can hear, the ghosts of the gum echoing inside my skull and no matter how many times I gouge flaming twigs into my ear drums, the drums Satanically repair themselves and the new carnations come packing amazing clarity.

A parade of strangers will back me up against the wall with their overused sayings, like “Any-who,” “om nom nom,” “Asshat,” and “Exsqueeze me” and every third one will touch my eyeball.  And one by one all of my favorite bands will announce their tour dates but I’ll have to miss every single show because if I stop data processing for even three seconds, I’ll be eviscerated by a tag team of Fran Drescher and Jessica Simpson, who will laugh and sing in my face while strangling me with my intestines.

Then Henry’s ex-wife will come strutting around in a tie-dyed shirt, wearing her vagina on her face.

I guess it could be worse. No, that sucks.

Jan 272008
 

 

IMG00039

 

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

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

Why did this story not shock me?

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

Janna stood in the corner blowing her nose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I explained what we were doing.

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

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

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

My first shot came out pretty good.

cow

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

dolls

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

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

Jan 132008
 

2008 01 04 028 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 192007
 

What has:

  • pole-dancing,
  • spiked egg nog,
  • exotic cheeses,
  • Santa with a hard-on,
  • shiny door prizes like panini presses and a magic wand for can-opening ease,
  • a chocolate fountain centered around an array of fresh fruit and lady fingers in scandelous poses?

Not our department holiday party.

No, we got cold cuts drowning in a mucous-like moat, cheese slices that needed the aid of Freddy Krueger’s nails to be surgically removed from each other, a bowl of frozen fruit slices, and a giant sheet cake that had nauseating pink flowers piped precariously around the perimeter. (I deduced at once that it was going to be an offensive supermarket bakery cake, so I walked past it with my nose in the air.) We got scratch off tickets and Tina’s hair collar and a platter of bland cookies that were at least moist and not stale like I had initially suspected.

The cheese lasagna was a real treat, though.

1. A dayshifter who sits next to me. I rue the days she works late because she laughs like an engorged elephant cock is lodged in her throat and she’s trying to summon her inner Vesuvius to phlegm it back up. She handles a runny nose like your typical Teamster: loud, wet and crackly, like a bowl of exploding Rice Krispies is draining down her throat. She’s nice though.

2. Hey Tina, ever since you switched to the day shift, something really confusing and alarming has arrested me: I think I like you. Not in a ‘Hey, let’s go French in a bathroom stall’ kind of way, but in a ‘You’re over here talking to me yet I have no urge to inflict any bodily damage.’ But no, I’m not sad that I wasn’t sitting at your table. And while I imagine playing games with a bullyishly dominate personality such as your own is a dream come true for some (like perhaps a tribe of indigents who have never played games before) I’m not jealous that your table was playing  Taboo, as rousing and scintillating as it sounded.

3. Big Bob. He stole Collin’s Hot Pockets and made him cry.

4. Non-Big Bob’s plate of meat goods were a little too close to me. I felt violated and kept imagining someone gagging me with that slab of ham.

I was happy to be seated at a table of socially capable people — Lindsay, Bill, Brandie, and (Non-Big) Bob. However, we were joined by Stanley. I am fortunate to not have to deal with him because he works during the day and sits over by Bill and Lindsay. He has no filter, kind of like a child, and random strings of rudeness spray from his mouth in fairly consistent intervals. When we were walking up to the Mezzanine, one of the more heavy and elderly employees was up ahead, taking each step with deliberate slowness. Stanley yelled up, “Hey, Donna, we need to get you an escalator.” Someone behind him called him on his rudeness, only making him justify himself. “What? It’s true! Donna needs an escalator!” If I had to deal with that brand of idiocy for eight hours a day, one of us would have lost our job by now.

Stanley spent a good fifteen minutes diligently rubbing off five scratch off tickets, and even after inspecting them closely above his head, he still found reasonable cause to have Lindsay double-check. I took a picture of his crotch from under the table. Sadly, no boners arose from the rub-off frenzy.

And Bob, poor Bob; he stared off into the distance most of the time, mourning his other half’s absence. (Collin called off.) He seemed lost in thought, and I wondered if he was thinking about all the nights he and Collin spent playing their little celebrity chain game to pass the time while braiding daisy chain crowns for each other’s heads.

One of the games everyone (and by everyone I mean the Daytime Clique) was playing consisted of taping the name of a celebrity to each player’s back, and then everyone had to take turns asking a question to find out who they were. I told Bob it would be a good game for him and Collin to play and he lit up. “You’re right! I didn’t even make that connection!” Then he smiled to himself for awhile, probably rewinding the Collin-montage in his head.

Bill spoke of foreign-sounding things for awhile before I realized he was speaking in baking-tongue, while Lindsay smiled at me like an adoring fan and laughed at all of my antics, like when I took a picture of this guy who I have never seen before in my life, but supposedly he’s part of our department and works upstairs (if you want to take Bill’s word for it) and then ten minutes later I blurted out, “Oh shit, I think I made myself have a crush on that guy!” Lindsay giggled. In my head, I dubbed her my new work BFF. I’m not sure who the old one was. Bill perhaps, even though working opposing shifts has really driven a wrench in our rapport.

He doesn’t even bring me brownies anymore. I bet he brings some for Tina, in tiny baskets lined with rich Italian linen. Well, they can have each other.

Kim approached our table and asked why we weren’t playing games. Maybe it was just me, but I thought it was pretty obvious that our table was way too cool for parlor games, at least the ones that didn’t involve heavy betting and liquor. “We’re playing our own game,” I said. “It’s where everyone tells me how cool I am.” I smirked appropriately and Kim acted like she was about to be sick.

Since I pitched in a devastating twenty dollars to this elitist shindig, I gave myself a goal of “eat more than you paid for,” but the party started at 11AM and I just really wasn’t hungry. So in the end, I probably only ate $5 worth, which jacks me right off. (However, later on that evening, I had a piece of leftover lasagna for dinner. This is how it was made possible:  “Tina, you know how you’re always looking for a reason to leave your desk?” Tina looks at me, slightly frightened, before cautiously saying, “……yes?” I jump in for the kill. “Will you get me lasagna?” What? I didn’t want to lift that big pan-y thing out of the fridge! So Tina did. And it was decent.)

Then it was time to go back to work. Most people offered to help clean up, but I just got up and left.

Dec 152007
 

After much careful deliberation, a considerable amount of mulling, and a brief engagement with hemming and hawing, I have officially decided to participate in No Name Calling Week. This futility workout will begin on January 21, at which point I will shelve my Tourette-ish need to call Henry an ass-fucking moronic dick-shitting piece of trailer trash with a second-grade level spelling proficiency who washes his underwear in a creek. I will not tell Christina she’s a dumb fucking fake Mexican lesbo God-fearing lame rapping banana-stuffed cunt. I will not call my child a Little Asshole.

Luckily, I can still punch the shit out of Janna.

I will be monitored all week by Henry, Christina, Janna and I guess I’ll have to tell some people at work, since that’s going to be a very crucial chunk of the week.

“I’m going to win,” I boasted to Henry.

“Somehow I don’t think the point is to win a prize,” he said, yet another ounce of his faith in me fluttering off to Heaven.

I think I might be biting off more than I can chew. I also think this is intended for school kids.

Nov 272007
 

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

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

Saturday, 11-17:

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

Sunday, 11-18:

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

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

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

Monday, 11-19:

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

Tuesday, 11-20:

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11-21:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mom never called to see how I was doing.