Imagine finding out two of your favorite bands are going on tour together. You run around the house screaming for a little bit, and then you buy tickets and feel really good about that for the rest of the day. Then you look forward to that night for weeks. No need to even put it in your calendar – that date is seared into your brain.
Imagine waking up the morning of the show, letting consciousness fully immerse you, and then realizing that the show is tonight. Your heart does that roller-coaster flip-flop and you kind of can’t stop smiling. You realize you’re feeling a little under the weather, your throat hurts and it’s the kind of day you’d spend laying on the couch, but no way are you missing motherfucking Chiodos and Emarosa. No fucking way.
Now, imagine being en route to the show. You’re maybe a mile into the drive when you start scrolling through Twitter (don’t worry – you’re the passenger). You’re flicking through the timeline at warped speed, mostly out of habit, mostly because it’s the same old shit. But then your eyes latch on to four simple words and no way, no how can they un-see what they just saw. It’s instant scarification to the retinas, worse than the Tazmanian Devil tattoo on your mom’s tit.
Jonny goes to Rehab.
Four simple words, but you know. You know with every fibre in your being that this is referencing Jonny Craig, the singer of Emarosa. So you click the link that the Absolute Punk twitter account provided, and sure enough, you quickly learn that that motherfucker has been shipped off, not exactly to rehab, but to detox. But then you think, “Maybe this is a joke. Maybe this is Jonny fucking with everyone. Maybe they got it all wrong.” But then you continue to read and see that the source is the reputable Alternative Press, and even though you’re reading this out loud to your boyfriend and laughing, there is bitterness entwined with it and your heart has been left crushed, festering and pecked by crows on the road a half mile behind you.
Part of you is glad you learned this ahead of time, that your anticipation of seeing one of your favorite singers is snuffed out now, in the car; you’ll have time to get over it, to sort through your emotions, to make sense of it. Except that even though he is your favorite singer, you hate his guts, so you spend all night ranting and punching your boyfriend in the stomach because you are so angry that he’s just another talented scumbag who cares more about the fucking high than his career, his band or his fans. So angry are you that you can’t stop shaking and yelling, “OH MY GOD I HATE HIM SO BAD!” and then doing that cold laughter thing that scares your boyfriend because he just knows that one day that laugh will be accompanied by the brandishing of a bloodied machete. And you realize you’re being selfish, that you should be happy he’s getting help, but you paid money to hear his fucking honey-dunked voice, because that’s YOUR crack. And imagine that you’re a parent now, and you work an evening shift, so the opportunities to go to shows have become few and far between, but when one arises you snatch it out of the air and hug it close to your chest. You have a right to be selfish. Because you know he’s not sorry. You check his twitter and see that all he’s doing is complaining that it’s cold in California, not apologizing to his band for being a fuck-up and leaving them in the lurch, or telling his fans that he’s sorry for letting them down. His latest shenanigans are one giant shit that he stood up to admire before flushing. And everyone he hurt in the process is the toilet bowl.
And then you realize that there might not be a “next time.” This notion is a detonator for your ire and you kick the wall. You’re pissed because this is typical Jonny Craig. Unreliable, inconsistent, a loose cannon. And perhaps that’s part of his appeal. You follow his career because he’s a sideshow, a trainwreck. You love to hate him.
But you love to love his music.
Imagine a few weeks ago, reading some fan’s account of buying a Macbook from Jonny and then never receiving it. And then seeing more scorned fans coming out of the woodwork in droves, saying that they too were scammed, most to the tune of $800. You don’t really believe this, even though Jonny is a ginger douchebag who you sometimes dream of punching in his circus peanut dick, he’s not that stupid to scam his fans on TWITTER, right? Well, apparently this was all true and the final straw for his record label, who shipped him off to California over the weekend to enter a detox facility and is now reimbursing everyone he robbed. He didn’t do this on his own accord – he was forced to get clean. So he’ll be in the place for as long as it takes to get the heroin and crack (awesome) cleaned out of his system and then he’ll be released into a world where he doesn’t know how to function, so he’ll find new ways to score the hard shit and the cycle will start all over again, because he doesn’t want to get clean, his record label wants him to get clean. And then you know what? You start to think about worst case scenarios. You think about this dumb fuck with the golden voice throwing it all away, holing up in some crack house, pulling out his teeth and fucking dying. And then you start to cry, even though you hate him, because all he is at this point is another example of wasted talent. That’s when you realize that the anger spewing from your pores is just a flimsy mask for what you’re really feeling: heartbreak.
In spite of the maelstrom of emotions chewing an ulcer into your gut, you go to this show, and when Emarosa takes the stage with a fill-in singer (Tilian Pearson, formerly of Tides of Man), you respect that they’re still there, and you ignore the proverbial egg on their faces because they don’t deserve this. And you applaud for them harder than you ever have before.
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.
"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?]
When I was growing up, my mom would tell me stories about Green Man’s Tunnel. According to her, the Green Man lived in an abandoned train tunnel in a suburban town south of Pittsburgh called South Park. He was green because he had the horrible misfortune of getting struck by lightning. Electrocuted by a toaster while bathing. Stuck his dick in Gumby’s light socket. He was green, OK?
I would argue with people for years, spitting in their faces that it wasn’t an urban legend, that the Green Man was real, that my mom went to school with the Green Man, that her best friend went to the prom with the Green Man, that I SAW HIM WITH MY OWN EYES.
(I never really saw him.)
Then there were the people who believed in the legend (hello, it’s TRUTH, not legend) but insisted that the tunnel was located in other wooded areas, next to a creek in another town, on a pot-holed rural lane in a different county. My friend Keri insisted it was in a town called Dravosburg. "Remember when me, you, and Dan went to Green Man’s Tunnel to set off firecrackers?" she’d start. I would shrug. "Yeah you do. Dan got hit in the face with one of them, remember? He had that big welt on his cheek?" I would stubbornly say, "Well Keri, I remember the time we went to atunnel in Dravosburg, but not Green Man’s Tunnel. THAT tunnel is in South Park." For years, I wouldn’t acknowedge the memory of that day until she quit calling it Green Man’s Tunnel.
My mom would drive us out there, my brother Ryan and me, repeating the story in case we forgot how tragic and green the Green Man really was. "He was so nice, really good looking too, until he got turned green." Before we’d reach the part of the road where his rusted, graffiti’d, abandoned train tunnel could be seen, we’d have to first drive through a long underpass; a creek flowed along one side. Some people’s version of the story claim that when you’re in this tunnel at night, your headlights go out. Your car just shuts off, completely dies. The Green Man comes and steals your electricity and then I don’t know what. Fucks you with it? Shoots down planes with it?
Sometimes, in the tunnel, my mom would slow to a halt, the headlights would go out. My brother Ryan would cry, but I knew that the lights were out because my mom turned them off to scare us. My chest would tighten, palms would moisten, even though I knew that part of the story wasn’t real, that the Green Man was sad and just wanted some friends. Just wanted some friends to bring him some Hustler and maybe a forty of Miller Lite.
I couldn’t provide him those things, the booze and the porn, but I was determined to give him companionship, friendship, a membership to the Erin Rulz 4 Lyfe club. So one night I prepared a small sandwich bag of assorted candies. Tootsie rolls and Lifesavers and some mini Snickers, and in that bag, among all the candy, I tucked in a note that I wrote on a piece of blue paper. My mom drove me out to his tunnel. I had intended on taking the bag right up to his tunnel, right up to entrance, where I would then knock on the steel door and he would take me in and we’d sit down and drink some cans of Coke and talk about how tough it is, not fitting in, and then I’d give him half of a best friend pendant and we’d keep in touch and twenty years later he’d be my son’s Godfather.
Instead, I completely flipped my shit when I got close to the ominous tunnel, saw the "condemned" sign on the gate, heard fluttering noises in the patch of woods above the unused tracks, and I chugged my ass back down to the road where my mom idled in the car. Tossed the baggie of treats into the small gravel lot across the street and ended up back in the passenger seat, eyes closed and fighting to catch my breath.
"I thought you weren’t scared of him," my mom said as the tunnel became smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. And then she did what she did best when I was in distress: laugh at me.
I always wondered if he got the care package, my carefully prepared snack pack of love and frienship. I wondered if he ate the candy before a woodland creature scampered over from the other side of the creek and devoured it. I wondered if the Tootsie Rolls got stuck in his teeth and if he used his tongue to pry it from his molars and I wondered, was his tongue green too?
Today, while I was getting my hair done, my stylist Lucia was talking about her boyfriend’s sister.
"She lives out by Green Man’s Tunnel." She paused, waiting for a sign of recognition. I didn’t say anything, but my body stiffened, hoping she’d give the right answer.
When she added, "Out in South Park," I lit up.
"OK, I know exactly where that is," I smiled.
Just another reason I love Lucia — she knows the right story.
Chooch and I took a walk around the neighborhood this morning. There were some pine cones scattered along the sidewalk in front of a house up on the corner and Chooch was inspired to collect five of his favorites to join us on our stroll. He carried two and I was stuck carrying the other three, which were prickly and sharp and I really wanted to chuck them into a sewer grate, but Chooch kept checking my fist to make sure they were still in there. He knows me too well.
On the way back, he recognized the pine cone-strewn corner immediately and climbed up a slight slope in the yard and plopped himself down under the pine tree, which he soon realized was a cone treasure trove. While he was maniacally harvesting pine cones like they were organs he couldn’t live without, I took a seat next to him.
And then I screamed.Screamed like I was being filleted by a native in the jungle. Screamed like I was seeing Michael Jackson’s penis darting in and out of a hole in the wall. This is the part where I screamed like an asshole, in case you couldn’t tell. Perhaps you heard me.
"Why are there tiny swords slashing my flesh!?!" That’s what I screamed, in case you were wondering. Probably someone else’s child would have looked at me in fear, possibly soiled themselves too, but Chooch is immune to my overreactions and continued piling dirt and moss into tiny mounds.
So it turns out Satan hadn’t sent an army of horned elves to siphon my blood like I originally thought, but that I had sat on a blanket of sharp pine needles. I mean, these fuckers were lethal, like I could probably give Henry a surprise sex change with one, or finally re-pierce my ears like I’ve been talking about for the past two years. I had to pluck some of them from my palms and brush the rest from my ass. Where is my tuffet when I need it? I glared at Chooch who was protected from pain by his diaper padding. Must be nice. Except for the wallowing in piss and shit part.
Nature Time was over for me at that point, so I dragged Chooch back home against his will. Not before turning around to retrieve the five original pine cones at Chooch’s (very loud) insistence. Back at home, I panicked because the sites of the needle-pricks began to burn and sear. I was about to Google "pine tree poison" to see what grisly demise was in store for me, but then Chooch and I became distracted by "Bringing Home Baby" and I forgot — UNTIL NOW — all about the fact that I’m probably dying a slow death from nature-venom.
: Being a mom means carrying shit. I learned that really quick.
: Being a mom means lugging a bucking and wailing child back home while trying to avoid his big hard head from slamming into your nose.
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.
After much careful deliberation, a considerable amount of mulling, and a brief engagement with hemming and hawing, I have officially decided to participate in No Name Calling Week. This futility workout will begin on January 21, at which point I will shelve my Tourette-ish need to call Henry an ass-fucking moronic dick-shitting piece of trailer trash with a second-grade level spelling proficiency who washes his underwear in a creek. I will not tell Christina she’s a dumb fucking fake Mexican lesbo God-fearing lame rapping banana-stuffed cunt. I will not call my child a Little Asshole.
Luckily, I can still punch the shit out of Janna.
I will be monitored all week by Henry, Christina, Janna and I guess I’ll have to tell some people at work, since that’s going to be a very crucial chunk of the week.
“I’m going to win,” I boasted to Henry.
“Somehow I don’t think the point is to win a prize,” he said, yet another ounce of his faith in me fluttering off to Heaven.
I think I might be biting off more than I can chew. I also think this is intended for school kids.
I had slight twinging on my left side. I was fairly certain it could be my kidney, but also considered a strained muscle. The pain was just a dull ache that fades into the background of my day, so I didn’t concern myself too much.
When I came home from school, I started to get body aches so I sprawled out on the couch under a blanket and had Henry serve me Tylenol. Henry bitched that I was 5% sick, 95% dramatic, but by that night, I was nearly convulsing and couldn’t get warm no matter what I did. My teeth were chattering so hard that I was afraid they would chip. Henry bitched for me to call my doctor, but I just got new insurance last month and hadn’t had a chance to choose a doctor yet, so his bitching was for naught. Henry is MEAN when I’m sick.
I had a fever of 103. I wanted to go to the ER, but Henry bitched again about calling my doctor (which I still didn’t have).
That night, the music wafting from Chooch’s monitor started talking to me. Maynard James Keenan was telling me to pull out my intestines and tie them in bows (A Perfect Circle will never sound the same to me again).
The CD in Chooch’s room also has a Club Ibiza remix of Bush’s “Letting the Cables Sleep,” a song that used to be quite capable of soothing me but under the spell of my fever had suddenly sounded like if vinegar and garlic and bile, straight from Satan’s saliva, solidified into a thorny-armored army of musical notes and began its cavalcade down my temporal lobe. I wanted to reach out and shut off the monitor but I couldn’t muster the energy.
I was sick. Sick, sick, sick. Fever. Henry bitched. My only meal was a small cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream which made me nauseated. That night, I hallucinated that I retrieved my imaginary $15 flea market shot gun from under my pillow and Frenched the barrel while finger-jobbing its trigger.
In the early AM, I called Henry and begged him to come home and take me to the hospital. He came home alright, but instead of taking me to the hospital, he found me a stupid doctor on Brookline Boulevard because it would only cost $10 instead of the $100 ER fee, but my appointment wasn’t for another 6 hours. I didn’t care about the extra money it would cost to go to the ER. I just wanted to get better and go back to work. Time is money and either way I was losing out on it.
The doctor’s office was next to a laundromat, and as soon as I walked in, I was barraged by a stench of Beef-a-Roni and vitamins. Some poop, too I think. There were watermarks on the ceiling, wallpaper was ripped from the walls near the floorboards, and the magazines catered only to the elderly patient bracket. The receptionist had a brassy hair helmet with fringed bangs and close-set, beady eyes. I didn’t like how forcefully she grabbed the clipboard from me.
A male nurse came and took my vitals. He had a creepy white handlebar moustache with blonde highlights and wore beige scrubs which made me uncomfortable. The bathroom where I gave my urine sample had tile ripped up from around the commode. I felt like I was in a Nicaraguan clinic and became afraid that Angelina Jolie would come in and try to adopt me.
My doctor was in his forties and very personable. He put me at ease and didn’t patronize me when I told him I was sure I had a kidney infection. He wholeheartedly agreed and, as he took my pulse, said that I was “very sick.” No shit, I felt like I was dying. I told him so, too. He laughed when I said I expected to be able to return to work the next day.
Later on, I was home alone with Chooch while Henry went to pick up my prescriptions. Chooch kept beating on me and I was so sick and exhausted that I lost it and started wailing. It was a pitiful moment. Not really one to share with Kodak.
I couldn’t find any relief during Tuesday night. I was so tired and wanted to sleep but I had a searing pain in my head and my fever kept spiking. I called Henry into the bedroom (he had been banished to the couch for snoring) and gasped, “Look, I surrender. I cannot manage this pain. I’m dehydrated. I want to go to the fucking hospital.”
He was all, “Well, I don’t know how you’re going to get there….” and I growled, “Work it out!” He of course sat there stupidly, so I yelled at him to call Janna, who arrived shortly around midnight and took me to St. Clair Hospital, where there was an apparent gnat outbreak.
After I registered (the nurse loudly asked my weight, but then whispered, “And when was your last period?”), Janna, my knotted hair, and I sat in the dingy waiting room on hard teal chairs. Some bitch we went to high school with walked by with her butch-gait and I scowled. Then I panicked that she would fuck with my chart and I would wind up getting chemo or a mastectomy.
When I finally got a room, a nurse came in and asked me what was causing me the most pain. “My head!” I whined. “You have a kidney infection, but your HEAD is giving you the most pain?” she asked in disbelief. Oh lady, if you only knew. It felt like an irate Roman god had stuck tuning rods in hellfire and then pierced both of my temples with them until the formed crosses behind my eyes, at which point seventy-three bolts of lightning were summoned to strike while a Molotov cocktail made from bleach, John Candy’s stomach acid, Black widow venom, BTK’s semen and Flava Flav’s athletes foot exploded in the back of my head, the after effect of which was like being persistently bitten all over my brain by a swarm of fire ants. This would happen over and over, like Groundhog Day. Except it was every hour. So Groundhog Hour, I guess.
It also didn’t help that I was lying on a headful of knots on top of more knots, sucking the dicks of other knots. Janna chose our hospital quiet time to request a story. I’m sorry Janna, but this IV in my arm is kind of distracting me from spinning yarns. Why don’t you pull out that book in your purse? I hear those book thingies have lots of stories.
I was released at 5am, but not before the ER doctor said, “You know, generally when people have kidney infections like yours, they’re admitted.” Tell that to my boyfriend, doctor. I tried to sleep when I got home, but my headache was still there. In fact, by late morning it was at its peak. Henry called the doctor and had my prescription switched from Cipro, because as it turns out, we’re just not meant to be friends. He also called in a prescription for a pain reliever, so I was ready to get stuffed by dinner time.
I sent Henry off to the market with his little wicker basket to fetch the ingredients I need for my SECRET pie.
He just called and yelled, "I’d like to thank you for sending me to Giant Eagle so I could have some jackass back into me!"
I was really panicked about it, wanting to know the degree of damage, but first I had to sit through Henry’s painful (because he’s a crappy storyteller) account of the accident. "….and I was just sitting there, at a complete stop, waiting for someone to pull out of the space ahead of me, when this dick comes backing out real fast into me and then he has the nerve to get out and yell at me! ‘Don’t you see people backing out?!’ Yeah, and I’m at a standstill!"
"And is there a lot of damage?" I cut in.
"….he just gets back in his car and leaves. Dumb bastard."
"Damage?" I ask again.
"I mean, if he hadn’t pulled out so fast…."
"Damage?" I ask with a mouthful of fingernails.
"….didn’t do any damage to the van…."
"Oh, you’re in the company van? Then I don’t care. Good bye."