Jun 232008
 

I don’t think I’ve missed hitting up the Three Rivers Arts Festival once in the past twelve years, so I dragged Henry, Chooch and Blake downtown to spend a leisurely Saturday evening perusing overpriced beaded jewelry and hopefully tripping over some knife-wielding homeless assholes. The arts festival is kind of like the summer kick-off here in Pittsburgh and I usually wind up spending exorbitant amounts of money on a piece of art that likely only cost $20 to make. Sure looks good on my walls though.

Blake has a pet rat tail now that he keeps tucked under his hat; it’s earned him about 146 scene points. 54 more and he can cash them in for a new white studded belt.*

It was slim-pickins this year though. Cheesy windchimes and generic photography (Pittsburgh in the morning, Pittsburgh at night, Pittsburgh under a cloak of fog, Pittsburgh who-the-fuck-cares) seemed to be the most prevalent wares on display in the rows of tents. Look, if I’m going to buy a photograph of the fucking shit hole I live in, it better depict faux-nuclear warfare and slutty clowns sucking dick atop the Mellon Arena.

There was one artisan that was peddling these amazing pieces of metal eye candy, which I could imagine making a cameo as a murder weapon in a Dario Argento film. Blake and I drooled over the aluminum display for like, three seconds (ADD, holla), but alas — neither of us brought our platinum AmEx cards to bloat with $2,000 purchases.

Blake bought a soft pretzel, though.

My stalking skillz were on the fritz that day. Every time I would covertly snap a shot of someone, the person next to them would send WTF rays right through my skull. I eventually gave up and reluctantly settled on shots of skylines and clouds. You know, like the shit that was being shilled inside all of those tents. But then Blake stepped up as a subject and I was happy again. I tried to get him to stab a cop for the sake of photography, but finally I settled on having him stand casually in front of things.

Like a wall of graffiti in a damp alley.

Seeing us slip suspiciously into an alley probably made the Dad Alarm sound inside Henry’s head. He backtracked a few paces, squinted into the alley, and asked, “What are you doing?” Don’t worry, Henry! We’re just freebasing, brb.

“Can I be done soon? It’s really hot over here,” Blake asked through gritted teeth.

“That’s because it’s STEAM,” Henry shouted, making me hurry up. I bet Blake’s mom loves it when he’s out with us. I have him loitering in seedy alleys in the middle of downtown Pittsburgh, climbing trains, enjoying natural steam baths: All things that Chooch has to look forward to.

There were two cops standing nearby and I was set off immediately by the fact that they were just STANDING THERE DRINKING GATORADE AND BEING LAZY ASSHOLES. Some ho was probably getting raped in a nearby alley, but at least these assholes are replenishing their flab with ELECTROLYTES.

Fuck, I hate cops.

Of course Henry tripped all over himself to defend them. “THEY’RE HELPING PEOPLE CROSS THE STREET!” he shouted desperately. Helping my ASS. They had their backs to the street-crossing pedestrians!

I kind of feel inspired to take senior portraits. Alternative ones, you know? “Listen here, high school cheerleader– I’m going to fashion a murder scene and you’re going to pretend to picnic off the bodies.” WHO WOULDN’T WANT THAT FOR THEIR SENIOR PICTURE?!

Back in the vicinity of the festival, I spied a set of stairs descending into the bowels of the city. I think it was some kind of utility thing that I know nothing about but I’m sure Henry does. It looked really desolate and cinder-blocky at the botton of the landing, so I urged Blake to walk down so I could take a picture. As soon as his foot left that final step, an ear-splitting siren went off, interspersed with a male computerized voice alerting the world of terrorists. Seriously, it sounded like BWAKBWAK WARNINGDANGERDEATHALERT BWAK BWAK and I almost shit myself.

Blake and I ran like hell and when we caught up with Henry, we tried to play it cool, but he saw right through our scared, blanched faces.

“Congratulations, you’re probably on video,” was all he said.

After leaving a trail of suspicious behavior through the streets of town, we hit up Point Park and made the mistake of giving Crazy Ass Chooch some freedom. Once he was out of his stroller, there was no catching him. I was grateful that we had Blake with us, because he chased after him while I continued to be a lazy ass and complained about how badly my feet hurt. Cry for me.

Blake and I were walking ahead of Henry and Chooch and apparently some punkass skater bitch looked at Blake and said, “If that was my kid, I’d kick his ass.” Unfortunately for that kid, Henry was close enough behind us to hear that comment and proceeded to flex his muscles and spit poison-tipped darts into that fucker’s neck.

I mean, I suppose that’s what he would have done if his balls weren’t made of cotton candy and butterfly wings. Instead, he whimpered and kept on walking.

We lazed around the wall of the fountain at the Point and ogled a couple whose lips were scandelously fused together. Blake wanted me to take their picture, but the boyfriend busted me and let’s just say it wasn’t the first time in my life that I felt like a sexual deviant.

*I seriously, honest to God-ly love scene kids. Like, I want to hug them all and be their big sister and film a couple After School Specials about those rainbow sex bracelets.

May 122008
 

Today, I took Chooch over my friend Jess’s. Usually I don’t have a car during the day, so whenever I go out with Chooch, Henry is with us too. But today was the day of Independence, so I loaded Chooch and all his shit in the car and after fifteen minutes of struggling with the car seat straps and retrieving all the shit I forgot in the house, we were finally ready to go.

We had to stop at CVS first to pick up some stuff for Jess. Apparently, Chooch is perfect when Henry takes him to the store. But with me, it’s always game time, so he was trying to get me to spin in circles and then wanted me to sit on the floor with him and he was pulling me in a trillion directions so I ended up having to hold him while we were in line and some old man was causing a ruckus over toilet paper and I was like, "Just pay for it, asshole, can’t you see I’m holding a eighty thousand pound toddler?"

After we left, I called Henry to tell him I appreciate him, because I can’t imagine being a single mom and having to do this shit on my own all the time. I get frazzled easily so I was nearly in tears, after struggling with the car seat again, and I think I ended the phone call by whimpering, "And I’m pretty sure his shoes aren’t on right." Pretty much the jokiest mother ever. Seriously, I’m useless. Unless it involves running around, screaming, and making up monster voices.

I even texted a heartfelt  "I<3u" to Henry again, out of desperation, and I think it had an effect on him because he bought me a new camera. Yes Henry, I’m keeping you. A proposal might be nice, too, though. Just a suggestion.

Jess just had a baby a week ago and named him Gavin. It was Chooch’s first time around a baby.  He was enrapt, confused, suspicious, annoyed, enamored all at once; his head was probably very near-explosion. Naturally, the first thing he did was go straight for the soft spot with his fist. He kept saying, "Baby!" and doing the sign for it. Then he was trying to tickle him, I think? I don’t know, but he was stabbing the baby with his finger and saying "diddle diddle" and it was weird. Usually, he puts up a good struggle when it comes time to have his diaper changed, but when he saw Jess changing Gavin’s diaper, he pulled me off the couch and said, "Uh-oh, pee" and patted his diaper. Then he layed down, willingly, on the floor, and remained calm and still while I changed him. If only it was always like that.

He started to get annoyed at the lack of attention, though. His remedy for that was standing on his head, slamming into walls, and performing a small sign language show for us. Then he would fall on purpose and say, "SOWWY!" Yes Chooch, we’re watching you. Yes Chooch, you’re amazing. I think it was his way of saying, "That baby is ok, but let’s not bring one home." Chooch, I just got my fat ass down to a size medium, so don’t worry: there are no babies in my future.

 

Feb 192008
 

Sunday night, I had this strong desire to read a book. This presented an unfortunate situation, because I didn’t have any unread books here to choose from. The used stores were closed by then, and I didn’t feel like going to some gigantic book Babylon like Borders or Barnes and Noble because I wanted to get in and out and the choices there are entirely too overwhelming.

So I sucked it up and went to Wal-Mart. I know, I know. I hate Wal-Mart. It’s dirty there and bleak and makes me feel like I’m stuck in a state-run institution and I want out out out. But I figured the limited selection would enable me to grab something quickly and bolt.Convenience – that’s how they get you.

Since Henry was with me, we had to stagger down the completely boring computer aisle and then we had to look at lamps and then Chooch saw a large display for Cars magnets so I had to toss Lightning McQueen, Mater and Sally into the cart. You can imagine how disgusted I was since we were supposed to be there for me, to have my needs met. I could have gone off to peruse the books while Henry browsed what’s probably considered fine merchandise by people of his own social tier, but anytime I stray from him, he inaccurately gauges the amount of time I need before meeting up with me, and so I finish up in my aisle while he’s still off looking at butt paste and American flags. Then I go off in a panic-stricken search for him and my palms sweat and I whimper and I wind up tangled in racks of scarves and headbands and Looney Toons-emblazoned oversized sweatshirts and it’s just never a good scene.

Henry was having a troublesome time pushing the cart. "It must be one of the exercise carts," he grunted as he gave it another sharp shove.

"They have those?" I exclaimed.

"Um, no. It was a joke. Re-re." Here I thought Wal-Mart might be getting fun.

Henry stalled the cart in front of a row of magazines and I wandered off to the whole four columns of books. I peeked around the corner, expecting the row of books to continue on the other side, but instead came nose-to-nose with a blinding green St. Patrick’s Day headdress.

I skipped over the romance section and kids section and self-help section and Oprah section and was essentially down to one rack boasting a meager selection of current fiction. Now, aside from Harry Potter, I really haven’t had the chance to read in a very long while. I think the last new book I read was The DaVinci Code, and that was when it very first came out, before all the hype. So that was a long time ago.I used to read all the time when I worked at the meat place, but they were mainly James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell-type thrillers, nothing that really stuck with me so I don’t count those.

I tentatively tucked two books under my arm and held another in my hand, debating which to get. Some of the books I had actually heard of but wasn’t sure if I’d like them based on the cover art, because I’m shallow and I judge books by covers, evidently.

Just as I was about to put two books back and grab The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a middle-aged woman with black hair and thick-framed glasses shoved her way next to me. Her body touched mine at one point, that’s how close she was standing. I withdrew, but then she spoke.

"This is a great book," she said as her arm jutted out and her finger jabbed the cover of Best Friends. The suddenness of her movement set me off balance and I took a step to the side. "I read it, then read it again immediately. It was great, couldn’t put it down." She slapped it into my hand, which was limply sticking out in front of me.

"Oh," I said with buzzing nerves. "Thanks." I’m always confused when strangers spontaneously speak to me.I learned all about people like her when I was in pre-school. She’s the kind of person who sticks razors in apples and drives rusted vans with tinted windows and has a doll collection that inhabits an entire bedroom in her old dilapidated farmhouse  and their eyes follow you around the room during the day and at night they come alive and fuck you with their porcelain hands. 

"This is great, too," she said. Her voice was full of self-assurance and confidence, as though she was recommending books to her sister or baby’s mama. She continued poking at books on the shelf, telling me what she thought of them, like we were having our own private book club meeting, while I casually skimmed the back of the first book she dumped into my arms. I’m thinking that if I wanted these kinds of suggestions, I’d just ask Eleanore for some good reads. Or Tina, though she strikes me as the type that enjoys Tim O’Brien war novels.

"Let me see what you got there," and I fearfully held out one of my original picks. "Oh, I haven’t read any of his books, but I hear he’s wonderful," she said of Nicholas Sparks. Then she titled her head back and pulled down A Thousand Splendid Suns.

"Have you read this?" I shook my head to the side. "All of my friends loved it. Me? Couldn’t get into it." She slammed it down and bent at the waist to look at the next row. I took that as my cue to leave. And I did, hurriedly, just turned and ran before she could talk again. And I was sure she wasn’t through talking to me. What was the protocol? Should I have said goodbye? Thanks? I didn’t really fucking care; I just wanted to go home before she made our bodies touch again.

At the self-checkout, I decided that the book she handed me looked really gay, so a Wal-Mart employee had to come over and help me since I already rang it up. Then I got home and realized that Nicholas Sparks is that asshole who writes all those sappy love stories like The Notebook. The one I bought is Dear John and I’m nearly done with it and it hasn’t done a damn thing for me. It reminds me of the stupid books my aunt Sharon used to read on the plane every time we’d vacation  together. She’d sit there and cry dramatically and clutch my arm and read passages out loud and I’d tell her to shut up and take a nap.

So please tell me what books you like. I really don’t know much about what’s "good" and "essential" these days — I’ve always been more into music. I’ve been having a hard time going to sleep when I come home from work and I’d rather fill that time with books and not TV. (I’m sure the fact that I chug coffee up until 11:30pm has nothing to do with my inability to sleep.) Tell me what to read; I trust you guys. No romance or science fiction, though. I really like horror and memoirs, and anything that’s unforgettable. Whatever that means.