Apr 222008
 

Urgent. Will die without reading.

  • 13:02 It’s surprising how many times a day I wash dishes, considering there’s only three of us and Chooch mostly eats off the floor. #
  • 13:36 I still feel sad when I think about Versace’s murder. Like I was his bastard child from a hetero fling & I got gypped out of inheritance.  #
  • 14:56 At work and it suddenly smells like someone just peed. #
  • 15:02 Pee smell was burning bag of popcorn that someone tossed, still aflame, in the trash. Big Bob saved day.  #
  • 15:22 Dear Robert Smith: not sure what I’d have done if you weren’t born. Happy fucking birthday, yo. #
  • 17:46 I usually have no idea what I’m talking about, but I like to think it sounds good. #
  • 19:25 define irony: asking Eleanore to cut – WITH SCISSORS – a stray thread from the back of my shirt #
  • 20:36 I often have urges to punch myself in the head. like now. what a coincidence. #
  • 09:29 I could never just take a hearty bite out of a whole tomato and call it a snack. That’s what apples are for. And Sno-balls. #
  • 11:07 Hoping the "poop, then stick fingers in it" phase ends soon. For Chooch, I mean. I outgrew that three yrs ago. #

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Apr 212008
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie's feet in the bathroom!

(More photos here.)

Apr 152008
 

If there was one moment in my life I’d love to be able to re-watch with a bowl of popcorn, it would be that day in fifth grade when Mike Harrison called Mrs. Glumac — the  obligatory meanest, nastiest, wartiest, tan-quilted-parka-in-the-winter wearingest lunch lady at our school — a bitch in the middle of a high stakes game of kickball, after she called him out unfairly.  Before she even had a chance to threaten him with a paddle, he took that rubber ball and hurled it at her face with the might of a thousand scorned bipolar women, smashing and breaking her glasses against her face. He smashed them for every kid holding their piss on that playground, every kid that Mrs. Glumac brought to tears in the cafeteria and every kid whose peaceful sleep was ever jarred into a fitful nightmare of hair nets and deadened eyes and Glumacian orders to line against the wall.

I remember how everyone just got really quiet, and Mrs. Glumac and Mike just stood there at a standstill, both in shock, we were all in shock. Mike was legendary in our eyes after that, having done what every kid thinks of doing, dreams of doing, wishes someone else would do to the cruel lunch lady who makes penises worldwide cower when she walks into a room. It was fucking awesome. I had a crush on him for real after that.

He totally got in so much trouble.

I used to keep a little log of daily happenings back then, just a little miniature spiral-topped notebook that I would write things like, “Spring is wearing a ponytail today — she’s going to be mean!” and “Oops, I have to sharpen my pencil!” It wasn’t a private diary, it was pine green, and everyone knew about it; so when we came back in from recess, everyone was all, “Erin, did you write about it yet, let us read what you wrote about it!” I believe all it said was a very succint “Mike H. called Mrs. Glumac a bitch then broke her glasses!” and everyone cheered when they saw the word “bitch” in actual penciled handwriting.

Apr 142008
 

Holy shit, sad!Eleanore’s not here tonight, which is a blessing (it’s quiet!) and a curse (it’s quiet!) all at once. I’m not missing the way she tapdances upon my nerves, but now there’s NO ONE sitting near me so I can’t swivel in my seat and start talking.

Except to myself.

So I took a picture of myself which I’m going to print out and tape up in front of me to make the conversations more legit.

My friend Amelia sent me a surprise package today which completely made me squeal. It came at the best time, too — I was just leaving for work when the mail girl hurled it upon my porch. Asshole.

I dare you to pull out my crown, Gummi Heart.Hidden under a mound of that sparkly silver ribbon stuff that my cats love to eat then regurgitate was pretty much a mother lode of odds and ends; in other words: stuff that someone weird like me would covet. In addition to a black baby doll, a pair of doll arms, a roll of b&w 120 film (which I needed!) and two small handmade notebooks (scribbling has already commenced) was a giant gummi heart, the kind of delicious treat that I’ve always wanted a Valentine to place into my outstretched hands, perhaps with a pack of Garbage Pail Kids for that extra special touch.

The back of the package says:

THUMP THUMP BEAT BEAT

MY HEART FOR YOU

THAT’S OH SO SWEET.

Who doesn’t want that?? Skinheads, animal sacrificers, and Kathie Lee, that’s who.

So now instead of doing actual work, I’ll be overdosing on candy organs and sticking doll parts in things, which is much better than Thursday night, when I listened to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge* for six hours straight and dreamt of slowly draining the blood from my veins. Thanks, Amelia!

(*I know, what the fuck, right? More proof that I’m secretly sixteen.)

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 112008
 

Last night I needed a short break from my loneliness, so I went outside and called Christina. While on the phone, a car crept into the lot. The headlights were suspiciously out. It only took me .3 seconds to yell, "Oh my god, DRIVE BY!" into the phone before taking off like a cartoon blur. It could have been gang initiation or something. I could have died so some asshole could become a Crip.

Once inside, I lingered in the hallway by the guard station. The loading dock door was open, and I saw the shady car pull into a spot up front. The lesbian security guard saw me huffing and holding my hand over my chest and she laughed at me because it was just one of the cleaning people.

But like that’s any better! There’s a new person on the cleaning staff and he appears to be straight out of the Pen. Last night, as he emptied my garbage can, as he lifted that garbage can with the same hands that maybe have garroted a hooker or stabbed a dealer, I politely thanked him. He grunted at me. GRUNTED at me. You know I whimpered audibly. 

Bob replied to my frantic email today and said the new cleaning guy is probably going to abduct me Buffalo Bill-style and now I’m full of fear and paranoia. Thank you, Bobby!

I guess it won’t matter that I’m all alone here at night once I’m DEAD. Because I doubt Eleanore will hear my screams over top of her coupon-cutting frenzy. Where’s Tina when you need her, you know?

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
 
  • Someone took a nice big shit in the bathroom right before I went in, so that was a thoughtful, and very fragrant, "Welcome Back from the Weekend!" gift.
  • There’s some man who pukes in the mens room every day. It’s kind of anthemic.
  • Bob started a new job today. He still sits two seats down from me, but he works daylight now. When he logged off his computer at 5:00pm and said, "Have a nice night guys," I kind of died a little. Who will I exchange juicy celebrity gossip with every night now? Who will serve as a diversion the next time I stalk someone here? WHO WILL TELL ME WHAT MOVIES TO ADD TO MY NETFLIX QUEUE? I am so abandoned.
  • Big Bob is listening to the Pirates game with one ear bud in, and when he occasionally turns around to give Collin an update, he doesn’t realize how loudly he’s talking and I’m blasted into the atmosphere by the sheer volume of his exuberance.
  • I feel like I don’t have enough decor on my desk.  I guess now that this is a Girls Only Zone (Collin moves to his new big boy cubicle tomorrow), I can:
    • string up a garland of tampons,
    • fan out episiotomy literature, 
    • talk about ovaries and placenta at my leisure,
    • squirt breast milk into Kim’s cube and she’ll retaliate by chucking a Nuva Ring at my head, and 
    • FINALLY hang up my poster about yeast infections which I stole from the gynecologist’s exam room.
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 032008
 
  • Gangsta rap from the ’90s
  • MTV and VH1’s signature blend of homogenized reality programming
  • Celebrity couples and their awesomely annoying nick names
  • Guns

It’s like if Us Weekly had a TV show on BET.

During a riveting discussion about MTV’s "The Hills" being nothing more than scripted reality, I argued, "Yeah, well, that’s even how ‘The Real World’ is anymore…"

Bob started to nod his head in agreement, then, thinking that I might be delving into deeper trains of thought, he asked, "Wait — the show, or like, the actual real world?"

"The show," I clarified. Then we laughed jovially at the idea of me actually philosophizing here at work. Or ever.

Apr 032008
 

I drive through the urban shopping district every day on my way to work. I don’t have to go that way, but I enjoy taking in the sights — where else can I see three wig shops in one block and a man who sells bags of peanuts and screams through your car window when you say no?

Today, the flow of traffic was moving slowly. I glanced out the window and noticed a small crowd of teens, maybe early twenties at the oldest, loitering on the sidewalk. One of the girls was jumping up and down, and I thought to myself, "Aw, it’s nice to see kids excited with life."

Then I realized that she was jumping up and down in rage, and before I knew it, she grabbed another girl and shoved her into the street, in the middle of traffic, and it was ON. Fists were swinging, braids were flying, their friends were screaming. It was intense girl-on-girl street fighting. None of that sissy gun-slinging like the boys do.

A cop who looked to be in his fifties came running into the street in an attempt to break it up. By this point, everyone was idling in their cars, ignoring the green light, and people had emerged cautiously from the surrounding shops to get a peek at the action. A grandmother walked down the sidewalk and shielded her young grandson’s eyes.

The cop had to hook his arm around the one girl’s neck, the one who started it, and then dragged her off the other girl. A guy in a quilted parka came from the other side of the street and restrained her opponent. Once the cop released the first girl, she and her friend stormed off, pounding the pavement viciously with their feet and continuing to snap their fingers and emit battle cries.

Cop cars bleated in the distance, but with the girls on separate sidewalks, the drama appeared to be squelched. I didn’t want it to be over so soon! Not at least until I got to see some slurpy eviceration-action, maybe an eyeball plucked and spinning on finger tip, knife in the vagina. AT LEAST A BLOODY LIP.

I wish all of my work commutes were that action-packed.

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.