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.

Jan 032008
 

“Henry?! Hi. I was just calling to tell you that Christina and I might be about to get our asses kicked.” 

“Yeah? I’m not coming to get you.”

It all seemed so harmless when the notion came to me on Sunday evening.

“Best idea ever: let’s walk down Brookline Boulevard with my Holga and take pictures of the assholes who live in my town.”

Henry did not agree that this was the best idea ever, but Christina, always afraid of defying me, went along with it. I grabbed the camera and my cell phone and we embarked into the wild frontier of Brookline.

Walking down the main drag, we came across few pedestrians. Apparently, one of those Steelers games was on, so most of the population had taken refuge inside their homes or local bars, eyes glued to TV screens. I secretly felt proud knowing that I left a house where The Game had not taken over the  television.

An older man slowly passed by, one hand clamped firmly upon  his young daughter’s arm, keeping her upright while she clomped along on roller skates. He tossed us a furtive, sidelong glance and picked up his pace, dragging her along. I suspect he perceived us as being suspicious, just because we were giggling nervously and I was trying unsuccessfully to camouflage my large chunky plastic camera behind my back.

Really Awesome Idea Part 2: “Ooh, let’s go into the bars on this street and take pictures of unsuspecting drunks.”

I could tell that Christina was fighting hard to ward off the angel on her shoulder and after a few moments of consideration, she gave me a feeble and unconvincing answer of, “OK yeah, that sounds like….great….fun.”

The first bar I decided to crash was the Lockerroom, which could very well be an example of Brookline’s seedy underbelly, where an opulence of cocaine and menthol cigarettes can be found amongst gun-toting wife beaters (the men, not the shirts, although they’re probably wearing the shirts). The door to the bar is found at the bottom of dimly lit cement steps, the door itself unmarked and dark metal, giving the impression that what you might find on the other side could quite possibly be the ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs.

HPIM0193I cracked the door enough to glimpse a sliver of the darkened bar, inhaled some of the stale air (possibly tinged with meth fumes), and promptly bolted back up the steps.

We continued to skulk down the sidewalk, looking like we were ready to hold up a mini mart, I’m sure, when we happened upon Gordon’s Lounge.

“Oh, this is it. This is the bar we have to go into,” I said lustily, imagining the awesome photo I could steal of the run down patrons. I lingered before the door, flip-flopping. “Here, you do it,” I commanded as I thrust the Holga into Christina’s chest. She later confessed that entering the bar under the pretense of undercover paparazzi was not on her Good Time Sunday Night agenda, but she did it anyway. Because that’s what friends are for — serving Erin unconditionally.

In her own words:

i went into the bar, (which by the way was no bigger than most people’s living rooms), acting as if i were looking for someone. this made me look like a complete moron since the bar was so small to begin with, and my over-emphasized room scanning was unnecessary. i made a big display of my disappointment in not finding whoever i was “looking for” and headed for the door.  as i opened the door, i gave one last look and placed the holga up by my shoulder… aimed it at all the bar patrons and snapped a quick photo. using my high school basketball skills, i turned 180 degrees and ran as fast as my fat ass would allow. 

While Christina did her thang, I ran away and ducked into an alcove next to a bank, a spout of mad giggles threatening to launch from my mouth, not to mention the urine that was surging through my bladder. I was employing controlled breathing tactics to steady squash my impending wet pantied-laughing fit when Christina burst through the doors of Gordon’s and came barrelling toward me, just as the father and his wheeled daughter passed us by again. I was so humored by their need to skirt away from us (to the point of nearly walking off the curb) that I was inspired to snap a picture of their retreating bodies. The daughter noticed the flash and quickly spun around to look at us. The father sped up his pace and the two of them disappeared into the shadows of the next block. When I told him about it the next day, my work frienemy Collin said the man probably feared his daughter would be sucked into our lesbian cult, and I wanted to be offended by that but I laughed anyway.

I had grown tired of taking pictures, so I pulled the plug on the shoot and we turned to retreat.

“Wait — we have to walk past Gordon’s? You didn’t tell me that!” Christina looked slightly panicked, so I pacified her by suggesting we cross over to the other side of the street.

As we began our trek home, I peeked across the street and noticed that two people had emerged from Gordon’s. They stood on the sidewalk, looking left and right. I averted my eyes, wary of being spotted, but curiosity got the best of me and and I rubbernecked once more.

Now there was a throng of four patrons. One of them, a tall and bald man, spotted us.

“Hey!” he yelled.

He’s probably not directing that at us, I tried to assure myself. He’s maybe calling a taxi.

“HEY!” he shouted louder this time, causing a shiver to melt down my spine. The throng began moving, mirroring our steps from the other side of the street.

“Oh my god, he’s going to fucking murder us!” I tersely whispered to Christina. The man was still shouting at us. I looked around innocently, hoping that my body language conveyed that I wondered to whom he was shouting, because it certainly couldn’t be at the two sweet, demure women who were merely taking a nice evening stroll. Except that my harried motions all but screamed, “It was us! Over here! We’re the two you want!”

“What the fuck were they doing when you took that picture?” I cried, thinking that we know had photographic evidence of a bar-top virginal sacrifice.

“I don’t know, they were just watching the football game!” That explains it. Christina had a mask of fear on her face. “The worst part is that I look like a boy from across the street. What if they get as far as jumping me before realizing that hey, I have tits!?”

I stole another quick glance at the angry mob, cherishing the parked cars along the street that doubled as shields, and noticed that one of the women had pulled a cell phone from her purse and was dialing.

Holy shit, what if they’re calling the cops?, my inner voice added an extra punch pf paranoia. Or worse — what if they’re calling more drunk Steelers fans?!

“If they catch us, we’ll just deny it,” I blathered, attempting to shove the Holga down the front of my coat. I didn’t look obvious. Not at all. “Or…we can just fall back on the excuse I always use in  times like this: we’re playing a photo scavenger hunt.”

The throng of pissed off photographic subjects gave up after a block and a half, probably not wanting to miss any heart-stopping plays during the game, so we slowed down our pace and tried to relearn how to breathe.

A block later, a skeletal woman with dark eyes and a husky voice stepped out from a stoop and said, “I’m sorry, can I have a light?” As Christina reached in her pocket for her lighter, the woman found her own and excused our services.

“Decoy!” I hissed at Christina, who instinctively spun around to see if we were being followed. Henry refused to come pick us up, and the rest of the walk home was nerve-rattling. Every time a car drove past, I considered diving into a bush.

That picture better be fucking awesome.


Later that night, we drove around, me in the passenger seat with the pig mask stuffed over my head. Now that was a Really GOOD Idea. At every red light, I’d stare into the car next to us. It’s funny how determined people are to not look twice. I scared one guy into turning left, I swear to god.The best was when I had Christina pull into the Denny’s parking lot. She idled next to a window, and I was going to get out, but just staring at the diners from the car ended up being effective enough. One man sat, burger halted in front of his gaping mouth, and stared at me in disbelief.We went to Wal-Mart and terrorized the shoppers in the parking lot for awhile, but it started snowing really hard. “Nothing’s better than bacon in a blizzard,” Christina ruminated, sending me into a five minute crack-up. (At that point, it didn’t take much.)

On the way home, flashing lights loomed ahead of us. “Motherfuck, it’s a roadblock!” I screamed in despair. “They’re on to us!” It ended up just being three cop cars with someone pulled over.

We ended the night without getting beat up or arrested, but we had fun trying.

HPIM0221

Dec 072007
 

For the past week, I’ve been doing this really obnoxious thing where I brag about how awesome I am. Mostly this has been happening at work. Anytime I know the answer to something, trivial as it might be, I get all sore-winnerish and shout about how my innards are made of awesome.

"Did you just make coffee?"

"Uh, yes. Because I’m full of awesome."

I bet it’s really charming to be on the other side of that.

Tonight, I was telling Christina about how my son has been a little asshole lately. "He keeps grinding his teeth, and when I tell him to stop, he fixes his eyes on mine in a stubborn glare and does it harder," I complained.

"You know what they say," she schooled. "Your kids end up being two times what you are."

"So Chooch is double stuft with awesome?" I asked.