Lawson (l.) and Evan, who was always nervous and hyper-aware of my presence.
Eleventh grade started out to be a horrible year for me. Rumors were started by a bunch of janiform assholes who were merely masquerading as my friends. Half the time, I didn’t want to go to school. I was being harassed on the daily. Teachers were intervening. My friend Lisa stepped in at one point too, and there was a confrontation which made the situation worse for me, but I loved Lisa for trying.
Of course, the whole brouhaha started over a guy. And one that I didn’t even give a shit about, to boot.
I wasn’t super close with Lisa until that year. She took me in under her wing and slowly but surely, we found ourselves as the nuclei of our own group. In addition to the two of us were two other girls, Angie and Martha (her name was actually Melissa but we all called her Martha, the origins of which I’m unsure). We called ourselves L.A.M.E. accordingly.
There were some guys in our group, too. Lawson and Russ from the previous post, and Evan. We went to haunted houses togethers. Had parties at each others houses. Watched hockey games in my grandparents’ basement while Sharon stamped around in a huff upstairs. (She HATED that my pappap let us hang out there.)
Of course, when my pappap passed away halfway through my eleventh grade year, all those other assholes were suddenly remorseful, showing up at the funeral, calling me with their hollow sympathies. Two of those people continued to make my life shit even after high school; one of them befriended Henry’s ex-wife and alerted her of my pregnancy before Henry had a chance to tell his kids.
But the people in this picture below? None of them ever fucked me over.
Angie, me, Martha, Lisa, Russ, Lawson, Evan: in my pappap’s game room.
Henry wanted to get his son Blake out of the house on Sunday, so we decided what better way to be all familial for free than to go to the fucking flea market.
I had no coffee in my system; my head was thumping and a sour scowl was perma-etched on my face. Henry was all, “OK, this shit ain’t gon’ fly” so he went to one of the snack bars for a remedy, commanding Blake, Chooch, and myself to stay put where we were. As soon as he turned his back, we did what any other miscreants would and wandered off into the abyss of redneck unwantables.
“Who the fuck would buy this shit?” Blake mumbled as we pushed Chooch’s stroller past a table of romance novels and metal scraps.
“That guy,” I answered, as some loser handed over a fan of bills.
We continued strolling along, taking turns complaining about how gay everything was. Then we talked about Chiodos for awhile, which briefly lighted both of our faces, until it occured to me that we had been led too far astray and Henry was probably walking in circles, crying into a Styrofoam cup of coffee. So we hurried back to where Henry left us, but he wasn’t there. We then made the mistake of leaving the Abandoned Child Depot in order to find Henry, which was fruitless since he was doggy-paddling in the sea of beer tee’d bargain hunters, hoping to find us.
Fuck you, assholes!
We made it back to our spot right as Henry called Blake’s cell phone. When he finally made his way back to us, we were all, “What the fuck, we were here the whole time, asshole!” Henry looked dumbfounded.
“I walked right past here and didn’t see you. Didn’t you see me?” he asked, eyes squinted with confusion.
“Probably, but everyone here looks like you,” I said. I don’t think he heard me, but Blake did, and as soon as Henry turned his back, we laughed like children.
We walked past one table weighted down with incredibly worthless junk, just as a very manly woman with the roughest smoker’s voice barked, “How much you want for that bottle of Eternity?” It seriously sounded like a knife-fight was happening in her throat. Her interest in a bottle of perfume tickled me so greatly that I was falling into Henry’s back from laughing so hard. She was with some social reject who had a lipstick print tattooed to his neck. God, what an asshole.
Just when I didn’t think anything could top those two, some broad petrified in makeup from 1975 began advertising loudly for the shitty cat nip mats she was shilling. “They make extraordinary gifts!” she called out jovially and I lost my shit all over again.
“Oh, they’re fucking extraodinary alright. I hope I get fifteen of them for my birthday. Motherfucker.” Then I thought about how much hate I had boiling in my belly, and I smiled.
Around the bend, some dumb ass colostomy bag of a broad was selling CDs and at the very top of one of the stacks was The Cure’s “Disintegration”. Henry pointed this out, probably thinking I’d go all Pollyanna and realize that the flea market really was a place for extraodinary gifts, but instead I grew angry. I mean, I was practically roiling.
“You don’t re-sell a Cure CD!” I bitched loudly. “WHO DOES THAT? An asshole, that’s who.” And I know that shitty old lady heard me too. SUCK IT, bitch.
It wasn’t until we fell upon some old dude slinging the mother lode of incense and natural soap that my edges began to soften a bit. I wasn’t too interested at first, until he stood up from the perch he had on his van and started teaching us of the miraculous healing properties of some shitty soap that sounded like “doo-doo” but was really something else that I just didn’t give a shit about. That was when I realized he was awesome. At first, it was because I thought he had a British accent, but then I think he was just slurring really bad from prolonged use of psychedelics. How nice of him to come to Trader Jack’s flea market straight from Woodstock.
“Buy some of this shit,” I hissed at Henry.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because that is one cool asshole.”
And so Henry bought some shit, that scared little bitch. He bought a whole heap of incense and found out later it makes him sneeze.
“This stuff is made in India. This ova’ here is from New Yorkkkkkkzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzsnore.”
Normally, I would try to be a little covert with my mean-spirited picture taking, but by this point I had adopted the “fuck a bitch, suck a dick” attitude and began walking RIGHT UP TO PEOPLE, stopping in the middle of the aisles, and holding my phone all the way out at arm’s length. Henry was not pleased. Especially when, afterward, I would justify my actions by shouting, “What? That person’s an asshole. They deserve this, and worse.”
Yeah, you count that cash, you cock sucker. Bet it’s going straight into some yeasty g-strings, you sex addict. SUCK A DICK.”
Speaking of sex addiction (a very serious plight not to be taken lightly), there seemed to be a LOT of porn there this time. Large cardboard boxes marked ADULT DVDS XXX in thick black marker were nestled smack in the middle of baby clothes and Care Bears. I desperately felt the urge to rummage and pilfer, but felt strange doing so with Blake with us. I’d like him to not speculate upon my sex life with his father.
Apropos placement if you ask me.
I saw a produce-hawker go apeshit on a pile of empty banana boxes. I don’t know what got all up inside his puckered sphincter, but he was hurling the boxes out of the back of his truck and plowdriving them into the gravel. His face was red and his fat lips were a’quake with obscenities. I stopped to gawk for awhile, savoring the terror that was arresting my heart. Violence makes me wet.
More flea market assholes, plus Chooch and Blake.
There was some girl there who was clinging onto her youth even more desperately than me. Quite possibly the oldest scene kid ever, and ridiculously so. As she pushed a stroller past us, she giggled and very coquettishly said, “I like your piercings!” to Blake. After she walked away, Blake mumbled, “Dumb bitch.” It was high-five worthy.
The only cool people there. Aside from Blake and me.
Sometimes, for no reason, I would growl. Say, for instance, someone in a Kenny Chesney shirt would push past me, in a huge fucking hurry to look at fake designer sunglasses, my arms would get all stiff and I’d just fucking growl. Ew, grr.
Henry wouldn’t buy me this awesome Jesus Loves Me hat. Now I’ll have to find something else to wear to the church fair. My garter belt and a Cannibal Corpse shirt, I guess.
Later that day, Henry was telling me that his mom asked him to take her to the flea market next weekend.
I laughed, it was an angry laugh, and said, “I think I’ll sit that one out.”
“You ain’t kidding,” he said. Supposedly I’m banned for life or something.
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.
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.
Awhile back, I had the moronic idea of slapping together a photo shoot because I apparently really like torturing myself with projects that don’t amount to anything in the long run.
I placed an ad on Craigslist and several girls responded. I emailed back and forth with some of them and they seemed very cool and eager to do this. They understood that it wasn’t for some glamour magazine spread, but perhaps they’d walk away with new pics for their MySpaces, who knew.
Then something happened. Something by the name of Chuck. He responded with great zeal and boasted that he’s been known to slip into a dress on ocassion and he’d gladly slap on some lipstick too if I wanted. I was like, sure whatever dude, just please show up.
Chuck began emailing me every day, like the cyberspace version of my Aunt Sharon, offering little suggestions here and there. There would always be a sentence starting with "What if…." Some of his ideas were cool, but then he was starting to get too alt porn on me.
I ended up canceling the shoot because the weather was shitty, but Chuck asked if we could meet at the location and go over some ideas, get to know each other, etc. Of course, I made Henry come too. Chuck showed up wearing a Steelers pullover and ballet flats on his sixty-year-old man feet. Dude, Chuck was OLD.
He was nice, though. We tossed around some ideas, yet they all seemed to veer into the direction HE wanted to take it. "We can make the girls wear mustaches. Let’s dress like fairies. Let’s be naked." <—Chuck’s ideas.
Then he told me I was weird and I was like, "Wow, I’ve officially hit rock bottom."
Afterward, he began emailing me about this nineteen year old model he knows named Jeanne. Jeanne is into alt porn and lingerie. I kept reminding Chuck that I wasn’t trying to get all Suicide Girls with this. I didn’t even need a real model, just a BODY willing to put an animal mask over their face. Bottom line. He kept trying to get me to call Jeanne and I kept saying, "Yo Chuck, bro, listen up — I don’t even call my FRIENDS. No way am I calling some stranger to talk about some dumb ass pitchure takin’ idea I had."
So Chuck played the middle man and tells me, "Jeanne is concerned there are too many girls that will be there. Would you be willing to stay after and just shoot Jeanne and me?" Oh, I’d love to. LOVE TO. Because that’s what would truly make my world turn, taking racy pics of you, Chuck. Of YOU.
Finally, last week, I sent out an email to him, one of my fake addresses, and two of Christina’s, stating that straits are so dire that I was forced to get a second job, leaving me with NO FREE TIME. No photo shoot, sorries.
He replied immediately and said that’s too bad, but he’s also free on Fridays and Mondays.
I ignored him.
He emailed again and asked if he could email the other "models" to see if they want to work with him on his bizarre genderbending assignment.
I ignored him, so he emailed my fake address and Christina’s two addresses anyway.
I was one of the people who was going to work with Erin at the photo shoot this Sunday that was cancelled. If any of you would be interested in possibly working with me in the future please send a reply to this email. I’ve basically been into gender identification stuff. anything weird and pulls ones focus as to how gender is socially viewed. Sometimes it involves full crossdressing , 50% crossdressing , or maybe just 33 1/3 % crossdressing or poking fun at how gender is usually viewed. I love the 40’s fashion look so i get involved with that a little.
Erin is a great girl with a lot of talent and I wanted to work with her but being that this was just for fun she was unable to commit. From time to time photographers contact me with an interest in doing a shoot with me and I was just contacted by a professional photographer yesterday who is interested. If any of you are interested in doing some professional work for your portfolio and also helping me out with some of my stuff just let me know.
if i don’t hear back from you i promise i won’t bother you any more.
Then he emailed me asking to borrow my sacred tutu that Merry made me.
I ignored him.
Finally today he emailed me again:
Needless to say I’m a little disappointed about the cancellation of the shoot but I understand and under the same circumstances I would have done the same thing.
I was just thinking, your photo projects seem like a lot of fun and you have not only the photographic skills and talent but you seem to be responsible and a pretty good organizer. You should try to pull some girls together for a shoot but charge them for you time and a cd. If you got three girls and charged them $20 for your time plus $5 for the cd that’s $25 a piece and if you got 3 girls together for the shoot that would be a total of $75. That’s still not a lot of money but I think anyone who was looking for a free shoot can fork out $25.
The other thing is, I ran across this article a while back about this female photographer who photographs nude men. These’s nothing illegeal or immoral going on. She’s been doing it for 25 years and she’s married. I’m sure there is a market for that in Pittsburgh. Men are basically exhibitionists. Maybe it sounds sleazy but I think it’s pretty cool. You could probably make some pretty good money doing that. Judge for yourself from the article.
I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER, nor do I have the credentials to pretend to be even close to one. This was supposed to be for fun. I would feel like an asshole making people pay me when I can’t guarantee that anything is even going to turn out! I’m using toy cameras for Christ’s sake. And why does he keep trying to lure me into the world of nudity?
Unable to ignore him any longer, I replied and told him of these concerns, and also reminded him that my tutu was not storebought, but something that is very precious to me, so no he cannot borrow it. I also told him that unfortunately, my desire to follow through with this project in the future has been diminished because what started out as a fun thing has been weighed down by too much stress and too many details that have veered away from my original concept and vision.
I got an email back saying that it’s OK, he understands and that he’s buying a yellow baby doll dress today and if he paid me $50 would I photograph him in it?
THIS ISN’T FUCKING GLAMOUR SHOTS, BITCH.
Bob brought up the horrifying possibilty that Chuck might still show up on Sunday, since he lives so close. "What if he brings his own people and tries to steal your idea, and then sees you and everyone else there? You’ll have to tell him the truth then."
I considered this for a moment. "No, I’d still lie." It’s like sit-com in me, I’m telling you. Even when I want to tell the truth in these ridiculous situations, I find myself weaving alternate truths. It’s what happens when I panic. I’d make a great President.
I don’t have a problem with cross dressers or nudity or old people who are into both of those things, but I DO have a problem with pushy people trying to take my reins from me. Back the fuck off, asshole. This is mama’s gig, go sit down.
Big Bob at work told me that the problem with being harmlessly weird like me is that it’s like a gateway for sickos. I’m not sure what he meant, and I don’t particularly think Chuck is a sicko, but I think the lesson I learned is to not post on Craigslist. Maybe stick with MySpace.
"I’ve never seen the line this long before," Henry exclaimed when he called me from Club Zoo. "And we’ve been to a lot of shows down here!" He and his kids had left earlier than Christina and me, so we decided we better hurry up and get down there.
When we arrived, I saw that the line of dual-toned shellacked hair, skinny jeans, and black eyeliner was sort of long, but not nearly as bad as Henry was wanking off about. As we walked toward the end of the line, I called to alert him of our arrival. He told me that he and his kids were on the ramp near the doors, and that we should just cut. I hung up on him and while I was bitching to Christina about how I hate when people cut in line and surely was not about to do that myself, a burly man in a security t-shirt called out to us before we even made it to the end of the line.
"You guys got tickets? Then come with me." He escorted us all the way to the front of the line, past all of the bristling scene kids and Henry.
Inside the club, I called Henry and told him since they had tickets, they evidently didn’t need to stand in line, but he said it didn’t matter. Not wanting me to feel special about the random escort, he quickly added, "He probably just chose to let in you two because you’re OLD."
Finally, we were all inside together. Henry’s oldest son, Robbie, introduced me to his girlfriend, Bree, but she didn’t seem to like me.
And Blake swore that the girl he was with wasn’t his girlfriend, but she should be because they were really cute together.
During the opening band, The Color Fred (featuring Fred from Taking Back Sunday), Christina took pictures of the scene kids around us, Blake and his non-girlfriend ran off to the arcade (Club Zoo is an 18 and under club on nights that bands aren’t playing), and Robbie and Bree never said where they were going. Meanwhile, Henry leaned against a railing with his arms crossed and bandanna too tight, looking surly and awkward. This was the first time in two years that he wore a bandanna and I was like DO NOT LIKE, DO NOT LIKE all night long. Why did he have to tie it so tight? Jesus, it made his face look near-explosion.
It had been about four years since I was at this particular club, so I wasn’t used to the balcony area being VIP only. "But why? That’s so lame," I whined to Henry. He shrugged and said that there was a bouncer sitting at the top of the steps behind a rope.
"Do you really want up there?" Christina asked. Of course I did, it was off limits. Some older man in a security shirt and a hat walked by, and Henry pointed to him.
"That’s the guy you want to talk to," he said. I don’t know how Henry finds this shit out. It must be old man code or something.
So Christina goes up to the guy and the first thing she does is accidentally knocks his hat off. He doesn’t help us get in, but then she sees the original security guy from outside, whispers something in his ear and he motions for me to follow them up the steps. He whispers to the VIP guy, who obediently marks our hands and unclasps the rope to grant us entrance. Henry, Blake and his friend Stephenie were standing on the steps, looking betrayed and left behind, like we just snatched the last safety raft on the Titanic. But our security friend had retreated by then and the VIP guy wouldn’t let them through. Later, we lied and said they had to be 21 anyway, even though we never bothered to ask.
Henry waved it off and told us to stay up there, it was OK. What he meant was, "You’re so selfish, you little stuck up bitch, fuck you for making my favorite kid feel like shit!" So, I felt a little guilty. Not guilty enough to surrender my newly acquired VIP status though.
The VIP area was pretty boring. A couple of black couches scattered around and some slutty girls leaning against the balcony and pretending to give a shit about the band playing. We sat on a couch and acted like idiots for awhile, before deciding to go back down where the action was. "We’ll come back up for Chiodos," I said, and Christina agreed.
I failed to mention to Christina that I located Henry through the power of texting, so she somehow got left behind as I did my signature "I’m always in a hurry" march over to the doors. Apparently, she ran into Robbie (after MacGyvering a way for Blake’s friend that’s a girl to be able to see better) and asked him if he knew where his dad was. "Over there, looking like a creep," he answered. Possibly my favorite moment of the night, and I didn’t even witness it first hand.
Another favorite moment that I wasn’t present for was when Christina asked her security friend if she could leave to get her cigarettes from the car, so he marked her hand with a black "21" and sent her to the bar next door, where she felt obligated to order a $5 vodka and cranberry and drink it near a group of ten people who were all friends with each other and looking at her like she was an outcast. Only then was she able to retrieve her Camels from the car. I wondered why it was taking her so long. I mean, I know she’s Mexican, but I didn’t think she’d walk THAT slow.
We hung out with Henry for awhile at the back of the club, just in time for Drop Dead Gorgeous to come on. Christina made friends with two mothers, completely out of the blue, because she practically wears a neon sign that flashes "TALK TO ME, I’M APPROACHABLE." It’s obnoxious, really. Every time I turned around that night, she had someone sidled up next to her, telling her about their recent $8,000 boob job, or the fact that they were presently spying on their daughter and have an affinity for harder music, like Pantera. I guess no one talks to me because I either look: angry, boring, or superior. I’m betting on superior.
Henry was completely in pain during Drop Dead Gorgeous’s set. "All they’re doing is screaming! They suck! It’s like they’ve been playing the same song eight times in a row!" I liked them, but I have a lot of aggression brewing inside of me, so screaming in music is something that appeals to me.
I made the eerie observation that there were at least twelve other boys there that looked like the spitting image of Robbie. I swore I kept seeing him with a different girl every time, and then I would realize that it was some other skinny kid with a pierced labret. There was one instance where I walked past one of his doppelgangers and slapped his shoulder, only to realize it wasn’t him. I shared this with Robbie, the authentic Robbie, at the end of the night, but in true teenaged ambivalence, he half-laughed and then shrugged, and I felt lame.
We ditched Henry for the VIP area during MxPx’s set. Leaning against the balcony and looking down at the kids below, I realized that I didn’t feel very VIP. Where was the champagne? Why were there no hotties in my lap? I wanted to be down where all the action was, otherwise I’d feel like a fairweathered fan. And that’s something that I definately wasn’t. Fairweathered friend, maybe. I looked at Christina and said, "Let’s blow this joint." We flipped off the VIP area and went back down into the bowels of sceneville, where we found Henry outside socializing with security and parents. He tried to make me jealous by bragging that he saw Craigery of Chiodos, and I was kind of glad that I wasn’t there for that, because what would I have done? Cried and then felt shitty for the rest of the night, that’s what.
I decided that night that I want to do a photographical study on scene kids. That’ll be my next Craigslist ad.
While we were waiting for Chiodos to come on, Mike from MxPx strolled past. A small handful of kids clung to him, begging for pictures to use as default MySpace pics, and I urged Christina to do the same. "You really like him," I reminded her. "Go ‘head!" I implored, shoving her forward. There she was, standing next to him, and both of their faces seemed to display the same pained, frustrated expressions. I had no idea what they were saying to each other, but I took the picture anyway.
"That was the most embarrassing moment of my life!" she yelled, stalking back to me and Henry. "I had no idea what to say to him since I WAS PUSHED INTO THE SITUATION, but I wanted to find something that we had in common. So, I was trying to tell him about how I saw them when they were on tour with my friends Dan and Chrissy but I couldn’t remember the name of their band back then, and he had no idea who I was talking about, so he just said, ‘It’s nice to see you again, though.’"
"Element 101," I said. "That was the name of their band." Christina slapped herself in the head and I was doubled over in laughter. "And they’re not even my friends!" I reminded her, furthering her pain. Look at her face in that picture! Whenever I’m feeling down, I just look at that, and feel so much happier.
Just then, Fate dropped the perfect example of a scene girl down right in front of us. Christina was acting all shady, attempting to take her picture in secret, but I stepped forward and said, "Why don’t you just ask her, so you don’t look like a pedophiliac stalker?" Christina agreed that this was a great idea, and made up some story about how we thought her hair was really terrific and would like a picture for our cool hair scrapbook (the scrapbook part is what I would have said, because I’m better at lying than Christina is). The coon girl was all, "OMG I did it myself too so that really means a lot!" and vogued in the standard Internet profile pose before quickly retreating with her friends. It warmed my belly to know that we made her feel good about herself, because I know how nervous I was all the time back then about fitting in. No, seriously. I was all, "Are the bands of my braces the right color this time? Is it lame to drink 2 percent? Should I not be shaving lines into my eye brows? OMG suicide."
A tall man with long wavy hair walked past and Henry proudly boasted, "That’s my new friend. He likes Pantera." I guess Henry’s bandanna deluded that guy into thinking that Henry was worthy of chatting with outside the club. I told Henry that Christina had also befriended him earlier in the VIP area (seriously, I turned my back for five seconds to see if I could spy Henry down below, and next thing I know, my spot is lost to some tough-skinned man who surely owns a Harley, and Christina’s talking to him like he’s her favorite uncle). Christina tried to act like he was better friends with her, but seemed crushed that he only told Henry he has a prosthetic leg.
Seconds before Chiodos came on, Christina arranged for a photo-op with her favorite bouncer, who for some reason really took a liking to her. The spell she casts on people can be very annoying at times.
Chiodos. Oh, Chiodos. I don’t even know what to say, really. Of course Henry refused to follow us into the undulating wall of kids, choosing to keep his feet firmly planted at the back of the club by the red-haired merch girl who had shitty signs perched on her booth, making Christina decide to leave a comment on Chiodos’ MySpace, alerting them to the rudeness of their merch girl and that whoever’s dick she’s sucking, it’s not worth it.
I’m too old to be getting all up into the pit, too vain to be suffering a broken nose, and too aggressive to be warding off flailing limbs without landing myself in jail, so we opted for a spot with a great view and sufficient personal space. It was perfect.
Every time Craigery threw back his head and arched his back into a gutteral roar, I laughed, knowing that somewhere behind me, in the darkness of the club, Henry was grimacing and rubbing his temples. He’s admitted numerous times that he enjoys their music, but hates the screaming. I love it. I also harbor more aggression than Henry does though, as evidenced today by the bloody knuckle I left the house with.
The sound was so fucked up at the beginning that I couldn’t even tell what the first song was. They quickly got it straightened out and it was pure insanity from there on out. I had goosebumps up to my scalp and was on the verge of tears the entire time. Eventually, they played "Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek" and I lost it. Completely fucking lost it and I let the tears fall. It felt good. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child.
Toward the end of the show, a young kid who looked like Gerard Way pre-MTV exploitation decided to stand behind us and scream things like, "CHIODOS SUCKS! NEVERMIND, CHIODOS RULES!" and then he’d go on to chat with his friends like he was in a fucking coffee house about how he couldn’t believe he had to go to school the next day and all he wanted to do was go home and take a three hour bath. THEN GO DO THAT, ASSHOLE. Eventually, Christina turned around and said, "I paid $25 to hear this band play, so if you want to talk how about standing back there?" It was an awkward moment, the two of them staring at each other, before Christina finally turned back around. He stood there dumbly, with his mouth half-opened, like he really wanted to say something shitty but couldn’t think of anything. I figured at the very least, I’d wind up with some gum or a cigarette butt in my hair, but there was no backlash.
By the end of the set, I pretty much wanted to kill myself. I can’t explain what it is about those guys, but they make me feel so emotionally fragile. They make me want to simultaneously break a lamp over my head and hug a kitten. They make me wish I could run away instead of being a lowly data processor. They make me want to paint pictures with my own blood and then hold hands with someone I love.
Today I realized, "I would give up my tickets to the Cure to see Chiodos again" and it was a monumental moment in my life.
[I know not everyone is a fan of screaming, and this was the only song of theirs sans screaming that I could find a video for. See how I cater?]
The thought of the zoo usually brings to mind smiling families, ice cream stands, fluffy animals, and tasty pizza; but then I get there and remember that really it’s full of screaming kids, air that’s heavy with fecal fumes, asshole mothers carting around wagonfuls of screaming kids, exhibits blocked by screaming kids, screaming kids in buses, screaming kids wearing matching school district t-shirts, restroom entrances flanked by screaming kids, moms in ill-fitted jeans screaming at the screaming kids, balding dads blocking out the screaming kids by fantasizing of beer and slutty babysitters. Oh, and old people. Old people on foot; old people on tram, old people in motorized wheelchairs running over screaming kids and old people on foot.
Let me break down my zoo jaunt for you:
Car ride: Are we there yet, are we there yet.
<20 minutes: Oh my god animals look at the tigers oh my god ice cream oooh Dippin’ Dots!
The worst thing for me is how predictable it is. I know that around that bend is the monkey house. I know the kimodo dragon won’t be out. I know I will hate everyone there. I know I will have to restrain myself from punting kids over fences. I know I’ll be disappointed by the food at the cafeteria and I know that Henry will act shocked at how expensive everything is.
Maybe the zoo can change some shit up, create a theme. Like, maybe The Zoo Takes Harlem. So instead of feigning astonishment and adoping a face full of wonder when I witness the requisite elephant-takes-a-dump scene, perhaps my reaction would be genuine if I stumbled upon the elephants warming themselves in a front of a garbage can fire with a cluster of hobos. Perhaps the zebras could throw some dice in an alley with some inner city kids, maybe the monkeys could smoke some crack under a bridge. I’d love to see the bears and the ostriches in a gang war.
Maybe schedule some human sacrifices. I volunteer the albinos. Who would really miss a few hundred albinos per season anyway, am I right Pittsburgh Zoo?
Chooch was mainly interested in the other children. "Yeah, but look at the LION," I would say, but he would laugh and point at the kids around him, thinking they were there for his amusement. Wait, I guess he really is a lot like me.
At the polar bear exhibit, some little mother fucker squeezed out the last bit of juice from a juice box and then tossed it onto the ground. I was appalled. I vocalized my disgust by scraping sound off my throat and scowled at him and his asshole mother as they walked away. I wanted to say something, shove my fist through their faces, make a citizens arrest.
"He’s like, six years old," Henry pointed out, concerned that I was considering physical punishment. I didn’t care! Littering is littering and his vagina-faced mother is allowing him to ruin MY WORLD.
We ran into them again before we left, in the reptile house, where I noticed that his t-shirt said, "Make pizza, not war." Making sure the little littering asshole was within earshot, I said smugly to Henry, "I want to make him a shirt that says ‘Empty juice boxes go in the garbage can, not on the ground.’" Henry rolled his eyes and continued along with Chooch.
The next thing I knew, the asshole’s equally assholey mother came barrelling around a corner, shouting, "Bram! Bram!" Her miniature litterer broke through a crowd of kids, tears streaming down his face — and in those tears my vindication manifested — and he ran into his mother’s arms.
"That’s what happens to kids who litter," I said loudly to Henry. "They get LOST." Henry told me to drop it, but I wasn’t done gloating. And it figures his name is Bram. Bram. Ha! I scoff at you, Bram.
Our last stop was the Dippin’ Dots stand, where we shared a dish of banana split freeze-dried balls of ice cream that cost FOUR DOLLARS PLUS TAX. Fuck you, zoo. It’s freezer-burnt ice cream crumbs, for Christ’s sake. As we were finishing, a partially-crippled woman sat down at the other end of our picnic table. We got up to leave and I said to Henry, "I hope she doesn’t think we left because she’s degenerate." I was actually concerned about someone’s feelings for once!
"I would never leave just because someone sat down beside me. Unless it was you," Henry said. And then we left.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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."
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.
Caralee 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’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.
When I left my job Thursday night (technically Friday morning), my gas light flickered on. I don’t pass any gas stations on the usual route I take home, so I made a right, hoping it was the correct one since I couldn’t see what I was doing. (I totally should not have been driving without some kind of seeing aid.)
I misgauged my location and while the road I chose led me to the road I wanted, it spilled me out right in front of a section that was blocked off for construction. Unable to make the left, I was forced to turn right, which brought me closer to the seedier parts of town. I’m only on this particular road in the daylight, so I was struggling to see where I was going, and wasn’t even sure if any gas stations were nearby. Through my squinting, I made out the red and yellow blur of a Shell sign, so I pulled in with relief.
Digging through my wallet, I discovered that Henry never returned my credit card (he used it to go grocery shopping, since I always have more money than him because I’m the best) so I had to use the one for our joint account. While I was fumbling to key in the PIN at the pump, an older black man shuffled through the deserted (and very, very dark) lot toward me.
"’Scuse me, miss? I ain’t mean you no harm, but I was wondering….if you could let me pump your gas for you, maybe give me a few dollars in return? I’m homeless, see — just temporarily! I don’t like to be begging so I try to do things to earn the money, see? I haven’t eaten in about two days."
He kept talking, and I was only partially listening because I was too busy scanning his person for the outline of a gun. He had his hands where I could see them, and we locked eyes for a few seconds. Something told me not to be scared.
"I can’t see," I said stupidly, as the credit card terminal on the gas pump was beeping to alert the entire area that I was too retarded to enter my PIN properly.
"You ain’t pushing the button hard enough," the man said, pressing down hard on the "enter" button with the pad of one bony finger, turning his flesh white around the nail. It accepted my PIN this time and he looked at me, waiting for my answer.
I sighed and handed him the nozzle. "I don’t have cash on me," I started, but I felt the tiniest pang of guilt watching him stand there, feeding my car full of fuel, "so let me go inside and find the ATM," I mumbled. I really kind of just wanted to go home. Now I was stuck getting gas for the car and helping a person in need: two of my least favorite things.
The gas station doors were locked because it’s situated so close to the heart of the ghetto. I walked up to the window, where a large and very angry-looking black man was seated behind a sign that instructed: Cash Transactions Only. Below it was a bank teller-type drawer. It reminded me of the time Janna had to make an after-hours bread transaction through the steel drawer of another poorly-located gas station because I was majorly drunk and needed spongey carbs to soak up the stomach acid.
I pressed my face close to the speaker embedded in the bullet-proof window and begged to be allowed inside to use the ATM. The clerk gave me an annoyed glance and then shook his head disinterestedly. "If I buy something, can I have cash back?" I asked, thinking that I could use this as a really legitimate excuse to buy a pack of Camels. Possibly two. I was aware of the slight whine in my voice.
In a perfect world, he’d have jumped up, clapped heartily, and squealed, "Why sure, little white girl in the faux-fur collar! Come right on in! You own the world!" Instead, he didn’t even bother to look at me this time, giving me a second head shake, slow and deliberate.
I sighed haughtily and stomped back to the car.
"I stopped when it got to $10, just like you said, ma’am!" The homeless man was standing with his hands stuffed into his pockets, shoulders hunched against the wind. He looked like he wanted praise.
"Look, I’m sorry but the store is locked for the night so I can’t get any cash." We stood facing each other awkwardly, and I watched as his face fell. I deliberated for a second before sighing and asking, "What’s your name?"
He stood up straight and introduced himself as Mel. He whipped out his thin wallet and flipped it open, exposing his ID to corroborate his story.
"Mel, get in the car. I’ll drive you to Ritter’s, there’s an ATM there." Ritter’s is a diner a few blocks away, in a safer, more populated, area of town. They have good fried green tomatoes. I mean, as good as you’re going to get this far north.
Mel took my hand, asked my name, and thanked me. A brief flash of being filleted with Mel’s blood-crusted switchblade whirred past my eyes, but I shook it off.
I know, REALLY BAD IDEA. What person in their right mind lets a pseudo-homeless man in the hood, late at night, get in their car? Not that I’m in my right mind, but even I should have known better, and I guess I did, but there was something telling me it was okay. A vibe or something, I don’t fucking know. My paranoia works in mysterious circles: It’s broad daylight in a park full of laughing children, shiny balloons and Jesus feeding ducks and I’m cowering behind a bench, anticipating a drive-by. Midnight in the ‘hood with a strange homeless man in my car and I’m fine, thinking about grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles on the side, just fine.
Mel acted as my eyes on the short trip down to Ritters. "Oh Miss Erin, watch that car parked on the side of the road," he’d warn. "No, it’s this next block up here, Miss Erin," he’d correct. Mel was probably more intimidated of me and my (lack of) eye sight than I was of having a strange man in my passenger seat. Interspersed between Mel’s driving instructions, I learned that he has a bullet lodged in his head and one in his back, and that he lost his mother and two sisters a year ago. He has three kids: the oldest is twenty-three and the youngest is seven.
Inside Ritter’s, I used Henry’s credit card once again to withdraw money. I stood there at the front of the restaurant, holding the bill in my hand, contemplating asking the cashier to break it into smaller bills for me. "No, it’s Easter," I said to myself. I took the money outside and stuffed it in Mel’s hand.
"Oh Miss Erin," he whispered and shook his head. He started to say it was too much but I pushed his hand back into his side.
"It’s OK. You need to eat. It’s only money." I was shocking myself. I started to wonder where this uncharacteristic charity act was coming from.
We stood around under the front light of Ritter’s for a few more minutes, talking about our kids and life and suddenly I wasn’t in such of a big hurry to get home.
Because I knew I’d have a lot of ‘splaining to do.
Mel asked me to keep him in mind if I needed yard work done or my basement cleaned (I later announced excitedly to Janna that I was going to buy him) and then he let me take his picture in the dim light. After I allowed to give me a bear hug, I continued on my way home.
It was a drive full of nervousness and trepidation.
All the lights were on when I got home and Henry was dressed for work (he usually leaves a little after I get home, around 1AM or so). I always come straight home from work, so I’m sure he thought I was sucking dudes off in an alleyway.
It probably didn’t help that I was vomiting nervous giggles all up in his grill as soon as I walked through the door.
"What did you do?" he asked, the underneath of his eyes creased with concern.
I rummaged through my purse, keeping my face hidden behind a wall of hair. "Henry, don’t be mad," I urged through taut laughter. "I’m just going to write you out a check—-"
"WHAT DID YOU DO?" he asked again, sounding quite alarmed.
I couldn’t stop laughing. I tried to stall as long as I could, but he eventually made me cry uncle, just with his eyes alone.
So I told him the story. He sighed a lot throughout my tale. Sometimes he closed his eyes to keep the fear from showing. Occasionally he shook his head in horror. "And so what it all means is, I’m a good samaritan," I finished.
"No, you’re a fucking idiot. Why would you let some homeless guy in the car? AT NIGHT? AND IN THAT AREA?" He grabbed the check off me and shoved it in his pocket.
"So…you’re not mad that I gave him money?" I asked slowly, confused yet relieved.
"No. Just don’t let strangers get in the car. You know better."
Do I? It was a real good father-daughter talk. If only we had been sitting atop a Laura Ashley comforter and I was hugging a teddy bear, it could have been a great public service announcement.
"But you have to admit I was doing really good. I haven’t done something this stupid in a very long time," I said.
He was still mumbling about me being an idiot as he walked out the door for work. It could have been worse. I mean, I could have brought Mel home with me.
[Ed.Note: I know I’m a stupid asshole and highly reckless. You don’t need to tell me. I will try not to do it again.]
“Your prescription hasn’t changed,” my eye doctor said, pushing the butterfly-shaped apparatus away from my face. I started to relax in the orange leather seat, thinking that I would get to leave sooner than I imagined.
He pulled out a pen light and some sort of magnifying glass and after blinding me while forcing me to stare at his ear, he started pressing down on my closed lids.
“Have you been in a car accident recently?” The question made me pause; I answered no.
“Any sort of trauma? Been hit with a basketball?” he suggested. I said no to both, but started wondering what Henry does to me in my sleep that would change the shape of my eye balls. Am I going to lose them now?
Then my doctor dropped the false concern from his voice, adopting instead a tone of mild irritation. “Oh never mind, it’s because you wear your contacts too much.” He wheeled his seat back behind his desk and began scribbling in my chart, shaking his head at my irresponsibility. He told me that my over-used contacts have caused an allergic reaction to my upper eye ball area in both eyes. The name he gave it sounds like an STD gone optical. The good news is that my medical insurance will cover it, because what was originally just a routine exam (back when the sun still shone and birds chirped my name) was now an appointment to treat a medical condition.
“I’m going to prescribe you some eye drops. Use it for ten days, then I’ll see you again to check the progress. Don’t wear any contacts for the next ten days! I’m serious. I’ll know if you’ve been wearing them.”
I’m certain this was the point during the exam where I gulped. I’d have rather been getting a pap smear right then.
The conflict lies in the fact that I don’t have any glasses. I broke my last pair in an Incredible Hulkulean fit of rage, instigated by my extreme agitation of viewing the world through lenses. But I couldn’t tell my doctor this because five breaths ago I was swearing that I alternate wearing contacts with wearing my glasses.
I’m sure he could smell the stench of bullshit seeping through my cheese-clothed lie. He’s an eye doctor, for Christ’s sake. But I’m stubborn, so I left his office armed with a prescription and no eye sight. I tripped a few times on my walk home, flopped down on the couch and proceeded to panic.
How would I drive to work? How would I see who’s walking past my area? How would I spy on the creepy cleaning guy? Oh yeah, and how would I work?
I cried to Henry about it, but received no consoling. “That’s what you get. You idiot. Just go back and tell them you need to order a pair of glasses.”
“No, I don’t want to pay for them! I just spent $150 on a contact supply,” I whined.
I slapped my old contacts in right before I left for work, so that I could at least see while driving. Except that the lenses have grown ornery in their old, abused age, and refuse to stay suctioned to the curve of my eye. I blink and they ride up, like my eyes are trying to reject them. Even my EYES aren’t as retarded as me. I had to drive with my head tilted back, peering down my nose. Christina, trying to find the bright side, pointed out that at least I’ve had a lot of practice with looking down my nose.
Work was long and arduous. I took my contacts out as soon as I got there, so I had to pull my monitor as far out as possible, without knocking the keyboard off the edge. I couldn’t slouch in my seat like usual or I would be too far away to see the screen through my furious squints.
The worst part of the night was when I tried to pay my coffee bill. The lady in charge of the coffee club was gone for the day, so I was instructed to give it to her friend Sharon. I’d never been to see Sharon before, but the coffee lady told me in an email that Sharon sits near her.
I did my best to walk over to their area of the building without reaching with my arms, an inherent reflex when vision becomes obstructed, or so I’m learning. Convinced that Sharon had an office and not a cubicle, I began pressing my nose up to the first several closed doors I came upon, squinting to see the names. The third or fourth door (blindness renders me dyscalculate, apparently) was open. I know this because a bright haze emanated from within, like I had finally reached Heaven’s gates.
I could detect a blurry outline of a human situated behind what I assumed was a desk. “Sharon?” I called out hesitantly. I jumped a little at the sound of my voice, which I had raised the volume on to compensate for my lack of sight, I suppose.
“No, this isn’t Sharon’s office,” answered the voice of a man. I squinted and brought my hand above my brow, like I was trying to see into the sun. This did nothing to sharpen the man’s outline. I know, I was surprised, too.
He tried to point me in the direction of Sharon. “No, the other way,” he said, as I turned to leave. I couldn’t see where he was pointing, so I was trying to fake it. He had to correct me THREE TIMES before I finally pivoted to the right and walked right into Sharon’s cube. He probably thought I was autistic.
On my way back to my desk, I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t even know who I was acting like an asshole in front of, so when I get my sight back, I won’t even know to be embarrassed if I ever encounter him again.
Until I inadvertently found out from my friend Jenn, who works during the day, that this guy in her department just got his seat changed. His name is David and I had a brief crush on him during our Christmas party, wherein I spent a good twenty minutes taking clandestine pictures of him sitting alone and brooding. After she mentioned that, it occurred to me that the man in the office sounded like him. I tried to imagine David with a blurred face. Later, when all the dayshift people were gone, I groped my way back to that office, stood with my nose an inch from the door, and read a line of fuzzy letters that spelled out “David [Hopefully-Erin’s-Future-Surname-But-Certainly-Not-Now].”
Today, I had planned to go to Goodwill and see if maybe they have a box of unwanted eyeglasses that I can pick through, maybe find a nice old man pair or fabulously over-sized owl-frames, in the style of Brett Somers. But Henry argued that Goodwill doesn’t just collect a box of prescription glasses to re-sell. “They probably send them to old people homes,” he reasoned. But how will the poor people see?
“Here’s a thought,” Henry posed over the phone this morning. “Why don’t you just call your fucking eye doctor and tell them that you can’t fucking see?”
“Because I don’t want them to know I lied! Ooh, unless! What if I call them and say that I left my glasses on the bus yesterday and I need an emergency pair?”
“Or, why don’t you just tell them you’re a re-re who has never had glasses.” When he came home from work, I had the bean bag pulled two feet from the TV and I was lurched forward, squinting to make out the undulating forms of Danity Kane. “Is this where the blind people sit?” he asked, with a roll of his eyes.
Once I’ve woven a tangled web, the lies and deception just get deeper and deeper; there’s no turning back now. And it’s stupid things I lie about too. I mean look, I’ve been writing on the Internet since 2001. You would think that if I was so into knitting ridiculous afghans of aspersion with a distorted reality fringe, I would do a better job constructing a polished image of myself. Like, maybe I would lie and say that I went to an Ivy League, perhaps Oxford, Photoshop my pictures and pretend to be in porn. But no, instead I’m like, “Hey, I’m a fatso! And a high school drop out! I’m not even awesome enough to have a hot boyfriend!”
But glasses I’ll lie about.
Henry sad he might have his old glasses, a pair of 1980’s aviators. I really hope he finds them, because I bet they’d cover at least half of my face. Until then, Christina is sending me her glasses.
I’m starting to lose sight (ha-ha) of my initial point. Why am I doing this again? Oh right, because I’m an idiot.
There are few things my child could do to make me want to disown him. I was willing to turn the other cheek when he flung a forkful of noodles ala ketchup at me in protest. That’s one of my favorite meals, my signature dish. Nothing beats a bowlful of al dente egg noodles drenched in a sauce of congealed and lukewarm ketchup.
It took some time, I won’t lie, but I healed. I moved on. I continue to enjoy ketchup’d noodles alone.
I didn’t think he would find a way to hurt me more than he did that day. Until this morning. I slaved over slathering the perfect marriage of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff onto two slices of bread. I painstakingly cut the sandwich into tiny, bite-sized cubes, perfect for popping while enjoying an A.M. viewing of "Blue’s Clues."
I set the plate down in front of him. He grunted. I pushed it closer and he gave it some consideration. Then he grunted again and pushed the plate back at me. I tried to sneak a tiny morsel past his lips, in between chews of Goldfish. He crinkled his nose and his lips transformed into an iron barrier against unwanted edibles.
My asshole son doesn’t like Fluffernutters. I’ve been stabbed in the heart. Stabbed with a forkful of Fluffernutter hateration. How could he betray me like this? I’m running out of meal options for him, things that I’m capable of preparing and/or assembling, and if he keeps turning his nose up at my creations he’s going to be subsisting on crackers and Pringles every day until Henry comes home.
Maybe I can eventually get over this latest rejection. But if he doesn’t learn how to dance like the Jabbawockeez, I’m returning him to the hospital. Maybe I can exchange him for Lasik or get a voucher for an organ transplant. Or maybe they can just give me an organ if I’m in no immediate need of transplantation, to fashionably display outside of my body. "What? Is it my kidney brooch you’re admiring?"