Saturday, July 31, 2010

Seven things I like - Part two

2. Possessive meditation

Shopping is a pastime a lot of people enjoy – whether it’s for the rush of spending, for comfort, or maybe for acceptance...for wanting to be a part of life as our society suggests they should.

I don’t necessarily like shopping. In fact, sometimes I loathe it. I take little joy in spending my car insurance payment on a dress I’ll wear only once, and seeing a display of new merchandise in a store doesn’t give me any thrills. I rarely buy into consumer claptrap or watch commercials and think “I want that, I need that, I must have that”. I hate driving for miles to find a parking space just because I needed to pop in for a small necessity and everyone on the planet decided to participate in a little retail therapy.

But I like owning things. I like the possession aspect of consumerism – holding my, often reluctantly, purchased item in my hands and reveling in its unfamiliar freshness. And you may be thinking, “Everyone likes owning things, silly!” But I often think, maybe a bit psychotically, “This is mine. It only belongs to me.”

There’s obsessiveness in the way I own things. Only certain things, actually. Things I think most people wouldn’t choose to be obsessive about – not cars, jewelry, or anything expensive at all.

As a preteen it was photos and the like. - I took pictures and had them developed several times a week. Pictures of inane things like a stuffed animal I’d gotten for my birthday or our cat shoved in a doll stroller, over and over again. Cloth covered albums with their shiny plastic sleeves and caption cards and cardboard photo boxes with neat labels. Wooden frames, metal frames, magnetic frames, and flimsy foam frames. And always more pictures.

As a teenager it was writing supplies. - Soft bound journals full of empty white pages and a bright ribbon bookmark. Colorful post it notes and boxes full of intricate stationary. Spiral notebooks, college lined paper, unsharpened pencils, and thick pink erasers. Crisp packets of crayons, markers, and pens...with a special box to hold them all.

As an adult it’s expanded a bit – makeup, books, well as the aforementioned items. Nothing terribly important, obviously, yet each and every time I acquire one of those things, I have a ritual. It hasn’t changed since I was a kid.

I smooth out the covers on my bed and I set the items down neatly, lining them up just so and then arranging myself in a cross legged position with my back against the headboard. Then I look at them. I smooth my hands over them, pick them up and feel the weight of them, turn them over and over. I smell them, and I...enjoy them, without technically doing anything. Sometimes it takes awhile. Eventually I put them away or use them, but never without having done the ritual first.

I like to think of it as possessive meditation.

I’m completely aware of why I do this. Or rather, I have a theory that I’m relatively sure is correct.

Ever since I was little my father delighted in telling me that I owned nothing, not even my underwear. “But I bought that with my own money”, I’d say. Or, “It was a present from so-in-so.”

“It doesn’t matter”, he’d reply, “you live in my house and everything in it belongs to me!”

That might sound like an oddly mild statement to some, but my father was not a mild mannered man. He always felt the need to punctuate these declarations with convincing, less than pleasant actions, and with little to no provocation.

I didn’t truly understand until I was older, until I learned to understand my father. It wasn’t about the things; it was about power.

My little ritual started, I believe, as a form of rebellion and became a necessary means of establishing my own brand of control. “This is mine. It belongs only to me.” I was convincing myself, telling myself not to succumb to his hype like my mother had. He owned everything about her and I not only despised that, I feared it. Taking control of certain objects, even if only with childish ritualistic actions and fervent thoughts, kept me from losing my mind.

Now it’s no longer necessary, though I continue to do it out of habit and strangely, enjoyment. I’m strong enough and old enough to rebuff anyone that would attempt to control me, including my father. In fact, I delight in telling him, loudly, just how much I possess that he doesn’t. And he hates it. He hates hearing the conviction in my voice and seeing it on my face. He hates the loss of control.

Sometimes I imagine him sitting crossed legged on a bed with all his belongings scattered around him. I walk over and with one sweep of my arm, send it all tumbling into a huge trash bin. Then I turn and walk away. Leaving him with nothing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Seven things I like - Part one

I’ve been reading the fruits of this particular meme’s labor for several weeks now, biding my time. And finally the day has come. Philip, from the blog the domesticated bohemian, has named me one of his seven “pass it on” choices. (The man knows not what he’s done.)

I'm supposed to write seven things that I like/love/whatever and then pass it on. With this particular meme it’s become common practice to write an entire post per item. (Some wonderful examples can be found here, here, and here.) And though I think it's a fantastic idea and plan to make better use of it later, this first post will be a tad short. 

Now, not only does this meme give me seven guaranteed, theme ready posts…but it allows me to finally talk about one of the most significant inanimate objects in my life.

1. The detachable showerhead

Technology is a marvelous thing, especially for women.

They’ve invented lasers to remove excess hair, turned breast augmentation into a veritable art form, and recently even found a way to create the kind of dimples you don’t have to gain weight to obtain. They’ve introduced us to such marvels as GPS, to track that special someone when he doesn’t want to be tracked. And digital cameras, so that when that GPS leads us where our womanly intuition knew it would, we can capture him perfectly. With his pants down.

New gadgets turn up daily and I, for one, thoroughly enjoy exploring all this generation has to offer…stalking not necessarily included. However, it’s often the simple things we appreciate the most. Things that never received much fanfare to begin with and have been around so long that we rarely, if ever, think about who made them possible.

Like the detachable showerhead.

After a brief and none too thorough search, I was unable to find the name of the person that invented it. But I came up with a theory:

Some woman remembered just how much fun she had playing in the sprinklers as a kid and how, if she stood over them just so, the world was suddenly a more bright and pulsating place. And this happened, I’m guessing, in the era that back massagers were bought as back massagers, yet secretly used as vibrators. Or do people still do that sort of thing? It’s entirely possible, because I once knew a girl that had a small, battery operated flossing device that she used as a bullet. She called it a cheaper version of the real thing, but in my opinion you get what you pay for...and she paid to press a button and hold it down the entire time. Seems rather like shooting yourself in the foot to me. I’d get tired of holding down that damn button, or my finger might keep slipping off and make it stop and go, stop and go. Unacceptable.

Anyway, so this woman that remembers getting busy with a sprinkler has the bright idea to make an indoor version that’s not only suitable for the vagina, but great for easy tub/shower cleaning, not to mention working those pesky kinks out of your neck and shoulders. Brilliant, I say.

I’m pretty sure you can get a fancy pants version that has a ton of settings, pressures, and such. But the standard four is good enough, I think. You’ve got:

* Full Body, wide cone spray for maximum coverage
* Heavy Rain, full spray which offers pouring rain sensation
* Jet Massage, oscillating massage for relief to tired and sore muscles
* Mist Spray, full coverage spray which gently hydrates skin.

I know half the fun is in experimenting, but I’ll just go ahead and tell you not to use the Mist Spray on your sensitive areas. Unless you like feeling like a bunch of angry bees are stinging your lady petals. And sometimes Jet Massage can get a little intense. Like, hitting Little Richard notes intense.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Driver's Ed

“The number on this ID card will be her driver’s license number when she’s old enough to drive. Isn’t that neat?”

I raised my eyebrow at the unusually chipper DMV employee behind the counter. “It’ll be awhile. I’m sure they’ll have risen the driving age considerably by then.” In my head I added, “And rightly so”.

The smile she gave me seemed to say, “Listen lady, I’m trying here.” But in my defense she’s the very first DMV employee I’ve ever met that didn’t appear angry or lobotomized.

According to my father the kid didn’t need an ID card to fly. He claimed he called the airline and spoke to someone directly. It was entirely possible, but not very probable, so I decided to have one made just in case. Which was why I was standing at the DMV counter, holding the wrist of an uncooperative five year old, on my coveted lunch break. And sweating, I might add, because it was approximately 103 degrees and humid enough to cause mirages in the parking lot. I was almost positive I’d seen a mariachi band and a dancing margarita.

“Mom, I’m getting a driver’s license!”

It was not a question, but a statement. And for the fifth time since walking in the door, filling out the paperwork, and taking a number I said, “No. It’s not a driver’s license. You are too young to drive.”

“When can I drive”, she whined.

The lady behind the counter paused in her typing to smile at my cranky child. “Soon”, she the exact same time that I muttered, “Never”.

She crossed her arms over her chest and said what all children from a broken family say when they aren’t getting their way. “Humph. I’ll just ask my daddy.”

I only just managed to stop myself from saying, “Good luck with that, kid. If you can squeeze any money out of your broke ass father, then you’ve got a tighter grip that I do. And I don’t foresee a wealthy, car buying, insurance paying stepfather in your future. Also, shut your pie hole.”

Instead I simply laughed and escorted her to the side counter to have her picture made.

The whole process wasn’t as painful as I expected, but it caused me to think about things I hadn’t even begun to fathom. Like my child a car...with a motor. Blaring a DMX CD, smoking a stolen Virginia Slim, carting around three boys with sagging pants that are rolling up marijuana in the backseat, all while her best friend flashes truckers from the passenger side window.

Or maybe she’ll be a bit smarter than me. A mother can dream.

I can sympathize with teenagers desperately wanting to drive. I’m only 25. I remember what it was like to crave that freedom – to count the days until you didn’t have to be embarrassed about riding the school bus or being dropped off by your parents. To this day, I don’t think I ever wanted anything more than I wanted a set of car keys and that little plastic card.

But I also remember what a fucking idiot I was and how often I came close to killing not only myself, but every woodland and domestic creature in the surrounding area. Just like every teenager that knows everything and thinks they’re the best driver, like, ever.

I was luckier than most. While the majority of my friends had to wait until their sophomore year to get their license, (because there was a mandatory Driver’s Ed class that had to be taken first) I got mine that summer. Papa paid for my cousin Christine and me to take a four day course with a private driving instructor – three days of on the road training and one 8 hour day of video watching in a “class” similar to those given to drunk driving enthusiasts. At least my dad said they were similar.

Our instructor’s name was Karen and she was a very sweet lady. And by sweet I mean that she only made us do parallel parking five times a piece and always let us go through the drive through at Bojangles for an afternoon biscuit and a sweet tea.

We had a lot of fun in those three days. The exception being Christine’s interstate driving - which was like teetering on the edge of a precipice and not daring to breathe lest we go plummeting to our deaths... all the time knowing that had I been the one driving, I would have at least had sense enough to use signals on the way down. I read the training manual twice, after all. My skills were clearly superior.

When it came time for us to go to the DMV I was ecstatic. I knew dad was going to give me a car right before we left to take the test as a surprise. I spent a lot of time coming up with the perfect outfit to wear in my Mustang convertible, which is what I asked for and had no doubt I was getting.

And get one I did – a 1990 white model with a beige top. He tried to pull the ole Jekyll and Hyde trick on me though, because the inside looked like a warehouse after a rave. The door panels were ripped off, exposing the metal and wiring underneath, and the fabric on the seats was virtually threadbare. I wasn’t able to hide my disappointment and didn’t put much stock in his promises to fix it up. The kicker came after the driving test (which I aced) when we were on the way home. Despite his reassurances that the inside only needed a “little” fixing up and the beige top was “brand new”, we still got drenched in a sudden downpour.

“So dad”, I said, pushing wet strands of hair off my forehead, “how does a brand new top have that many leaks?”

I got a different car a few days later and though it wasn’t much better, at least it didn’t leak. It was a 1989 dark blue Mustang hatchback. The paint was peeling on the back and the inside smelled like a strip club (took me a few years, and becoming legal, before I could put a name to that smell) when he first brought it home – ashtray filled to the brim and beer cans rolling out from under the front seat. I don’t believe his story that the long haired, angry tattooed guy that dropped it off in the middle of the night just suddenly wanted to get rid of it, oh no! I’m willing to bet it had something to do with a game of poker.

It took two days of cleaning before I would even sit in it and knowing I was unhappy, dad purchased what every 15 year old girl needs in her busted ass hoopty – a state of the art CD player that flipped out of the dash with a remote control, a 1200 watt amp, and a trunk full of speakers.

In theory it was a cool gift, something I knew a lot of kids with a vehicle would love to have. But there was nothing badass about the clanging and rattling that old car emitted when the “system” was turned on. With the windows down it was tolerable, but otherwise the radio had to be kept at a manageable volume. Not only that, but I didn’t want to ride with the windows down. People would see who was inside.

When I pulled up in that ticking, shuddering mess on wheels the first day of school, I was beyond embarrassed. There I was parking next to the suped up trucks, SUVs, and sporty Eclipses. It took me a while to realize that I had to act like it didn’t bother me and then they’d stop laughing. After a few weeks I got used to the old thing and even grew to like it. Just a bit.

The more comfortable I became with my car, the more comfortable I became with driving in general. Soon I was steering with one knee, smoking a cigarette, putting on mascara, and blaring disgusting rap music up and down the roads. I had a routine – once I was two roads from home I would turn down the music, flick out the cigarette, hide the pack, and spray myself with eau de trashy teenage girl. (It amazes me that Christine and I thought that god awful stench masked our deceit.)

But one afternoon on my way home from school, I left the routine a little late. As I struggled to turn off the CD player with the remote, toss my cigarette, and make a sudden right hand turn onto our gravel driveway...I lost control of the car. I could have corrected it immediately, but when the steering wheel jerked my cigarette fell between the seats. I ran over the stop sign, flattening it to the ground, and hit a tree.

Thankfully the only thing wrong with the car was a broken headlight. I, however, wasn’t so lucky. I was unable to back it out. Instead of walking home calmly and rationally explaining to my mother that I was fiddling with the stereo (leaving out the cigarettes) and lost control, I wailed like a banshee. I walked the half a mile from the stop sign to my house, crying the entire way, went in the door and told mom that I’d gotten my goddamn shoestring caught on the gas pedal.

I was wearing flip flops.

Then just a few weeks later I was on my way to town, jamming out to my rattling windows, when I passed Christine in her bright blue, brand new Eclipse (the bitch). In the country when someone taps their breaks or flashes their lights at you, it means one of three things: they are saying hello, there are cops up ahead, or they want you to stop. As Christine drove by, she tapped her breaks and honked her horn. So I stopped.

It was on a back road close to our house and there was no one else around. So when she stopped too, and didn’t seem to be making the effort to back up, I decided to go for it. However, I went for it a little overzealously. I punched the gas too hard and flew backwards so fast it scared me, causing me to accidentally turn the wheel and do a complete 360, then slingshot straight down into a deep ditch.

It scared the living shit out of me and that’s really the only excuse I have for the first words I said to Christine when I crawled out of the car, wild eyed and disoriented, but unharmed.

“Did you see those huge deer!?”

“What deer”, she said.

“The deer”, I emphasized heavily, “you know, the ones that just ran out in front of me!”

“You’re a fucking retard.”

Funny thing is, my parents didn’t believe me either.

And those two incidents? Those were just the beginning of my long and fruitful driving record. I ran over and into things with that old Mustang that I wouldn’t even tell my dog about. Though I never hit a human at full speed, I can tell you that. And there’s a certain county judge that will never forget the day I backed into his brand new Lincoln in the Wal-Mart parking lot and took off like a bat out of hell. That one earned me a week on the bus and instilled in me the always healthy habit of checking your mirrors first.

After a year of all that unintentional mistreatment, the damn thing finally blew up. Dad sold my sound system for the crack rock and, feeling bad, Papa bought me a brand new PT Cruiser.

There’s a video somewhere of the day he took me to the dealership. In it I’m standing on the bottom step in front of the building next to Papa, my parents, and my sister when they drive the car in from the side and park it a few feet away. Papa says, “Happy Birthday, Alyson”. And I let out a scream to rival any slasher actress and say “HOLY SHIT”, launch myself at him, wrap my legs around his waist, and hang there. The poor man had to go lie down.

But as thankful as I was, I wasn’t very gentle on the PT either. There were deer, curbs, and the side of a building or two that were intimately familiar with that car. Oh, and policeman. They were pretty familiar too.

Two cars and seven years after the PT was given up, I still have a reputation as a horrendous driver. I haven’t gotten a ticket or had an accident in about three years (I think...). I’ve become infinitely more careful. But they’ll never forget and they’ll never let me live any of it down, especially ‘The Mustang Chronicles’.

Most teenagers think they’re invincible. I obviously did. And I can’t believe I’m about to parrot my grandmother...but the simple truth is that driving is a privilege, not a right. Kids need to earn the freedom to hit a deer, hose hair off the bumper, and swear someone must have hit it while they were parked at the mall. Or maybe what she said was, “Driving is a privilege, not a right. Damn it, I can’t believe I just bought you that Dodge Neon.”

In the DMV that day, as I thought about all the stupid shit I’d done, the machine spit the kid’s ID out into a tray. The woman behind the desk handed it over and we made our way out the door. She was jumping up and down chanting, “Let me see! Let me see!” I watched the grin spread across her face when she saw her picture and her own handwriting across the bottom. She chattered and chattered, excited about showing it off to the rest of the family.

As we drove out of the parking lot she handed it up to me and said, “What’s that say mom?”

“Which part?”

“The big red letters on the front...what do they say?”

I glanced down at the card then grinned at her in the rearview mirror.

“It says ‘NOT A DRIVER’S LICENSE’ and ‘UNDER 18 UNTIL 4-6-2023’.”

“Awww man!”

She wasn’t happy, but my mood had marginally improved.

Each new parenting experience, like having an ID made at the DMV, makes me feel that much closer to things I’m not sure I’m ready for. But just seeing that date made me feel marginally better, because 2023 seems like a long time from now. And even if it isn’t, I’ll keep pretending otherwise till it’s time for our next visit and a new card.

And because... according to Papa, who has the black marks on his patio to prove it, the kid has inherited my driving talents and is currently practicing her ram a ditch and lie about it routine with a pink Barbie Power- Wheel convertible. In fact, she’s pretty much got it down.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beyonce should write a song about this shit.

A few years ago my mom was dating the most gawd awful man.

He was socially awkward, but not in that endearing way some people are, when everyone around knows that they simply can’t help themselves. Those people are accepted into the fold and embraced for their awkwardness. “Oh, that’s just John! He’s a few cards short of a full deck, but very nice once you get to know him.” No, not like that at all. He was socially awkward in a Fatal Attraction meets Law and Order sort of way. “...and these are their stories! DUN DUN!”

They were introduced by my godmother and her (now) ex husband, going out on a few double dates with them and such. I wasn’t terribly concerned with their relationship; in fact I pretty much ignored it...until he started spending more time at our house.

In the beginning the only opinion I had about him was that he was ugly as homemade sin – short, oddly shaped, with coarse black hair in a V that stuck out over his forehead, and a pair of beautiful blue eyes ruined by the fact that they were covered with a thick black almost unibrow and so close together, you often had to look twice to make sure they weren’t crossed. And then there was the rather large tattoo of SpongeBob Square Pants on the side of one calf. I kid you not.

But eating dinner with him at the same table and sitting on the couch opposite his Hunchback of Notre Dame frame, I became uneasy. He never said much of anything and when he did, it was strange and had a tinge of faux cheerfulness. And the way he looked at and touched mom made my stomach turn.

I’ll admit I tested him – ignoring him, being rude - if looks could kill he’d be six feet under. I had suspicions. And when, after barely a few weeks of seeing each other, he was showering her with expensive gifts and sending flowers to work every day, I knew I was on the right track to psycho town.

I was sitting alone on the porch one evening reading when mom came out to ask my opinion on an outfit. I looked her up and down, nodded my approval, and went back to my book. Still she stood there until I looked again, a thoughtful expression on her face. “So”, she leaned across the back of the chair in front of me, “what do you think about SpongeBob?” (It’s what we called him behind his back. Still do, in fact.)

I looked at her with exasperation. She already knew what I thought of him as I’d said so loudly and more than once. I believe the most often used phrase was “fucking creepy”. But mom is one of those people that will continue to periodically ask the same question, always hoping for a different, more satisfying answer. I sighed, wondering just what I needed to say this time to prevent her from ever asking again.

“I don’t like him”, I said seriously. “Every time I look at him I think to myself ‘it puts the lotion on it’s skin, or else it gets the hose again!’

She immediately burst out laughing. I’m admittedly an amusing impressionist, but I meant every word. And I couldn’t help chuckling a bit at her reaction, but I followed it with a sobering “just you wait” in case she doubted my sincerity.

I needn’t have bothered. Mom happens to think 95% of people are insincere, hence the repetitive question asking I suppose. My answer became a running joke, repeated often at the family gatherings that he didn’t manage to weasel his way into, and yet she still continued to date him.

The more time he spent around her friends and family, the more insistent the clamor became – “There’s something wrong with that guy. (Dun Dun!)” And though he was not an intelligent man, as evidenced from our previous stilted and juvenile conversations, he was street wise. He recognized the signs of unease and he made changes to his routine. Rather than sending her flowers every day, he took it down to once a week. Rather than just giving her an expensive present, he also gave them to my sister and me. Rather than just sitting on the couch and staring off into the distance at Sunday dinner, (I’m assuming it was the distance... Like I said, his eyes were almost crossed) he painted the outside of my grandmother’s house.

I wasn’t very happy about the situation, but I was also being bought. Which is nice, terrible as that may sound? (Especially when you’re a single parent whose baby’s daddy is a man whore that fathers more children than a Polygamist cult leader and your kid is last on the child support totem pole.) And as an added bonus, there was talk of them moving in together and mom giving me the lake house outright. Creepy fucker with a SpongeBob tattoo or not – a free house is nothing to sniff at.

But after they’d been dating for several months, mom had to have major surgery. I took the day off and planned to stay at the hospital with her overnight, but that morning he joined grandma and I in the waiting room and he never left. I couldn’t get rid of him to save my life and being close to him for that long was making my skin crawl. The minute they informed us she was out of surgery and in a room where we could go in, he was off like a shot. I was livid.

He sat beside her the entire afternoon and into the evening, leaning over the space between the couch and the bed, and rubbing her right hand raw while her left repeatedly jabbed the little red Morphine button. To make matters worse, when she had visitors he refused to move – just sat there with his ass crack hanging out of his stupid shorts, chafing her hand like a lunatic.

I left. I couldn’t help it. Grandma took one for the team and said she’d stay the night because if I had to sit in the same room with him for one second longer, they’d have had to do emergency surgery and remove my foot from his ass.

A few weeks went by, with mom laid up in the bed at home. He continued to drop by and call, but miraculously she seemed to be coming around. She started avoiding him and making excuses. I thought his behavior at the hospital had finally pushed her through the veil.

Then she showed me the ring.

Apparently he’d proposed to her some weeks before and she’d kept it to herself. She told me that she wouldn’t give him an answer, so he just gave her the ring and said to wear it and think about it, or something of the sort. I was horrified.

Lucky for me (and probably her skin), when she started to distance herself a little, he shot himself in the foot. Stepping up the psycho routine, he sent nutty text messages and had his mother call my grandmother and cuss her out for no apparent reason. Adios, SpongeBob. You don’t fuck with my grandma.

And though he was everything but a gracious ex, he did refuse to take the ring back.

Now mom has a relatively normal boyfriend who we love and the ring is snug in her jewelry box. We even laugh about SpongeBob sometimes, even though he’s done and said disgusting things since their breakup, some of it pertaining to me (which I wrote about here).

Sadly, the ring is quite gorgeous. So much so that occasionally, when I rifle through mom’s jewelry box for something and see it sitting there, I can’t help but slip it on and wonder.

How many women have accepted a shiny, expensive rock from a broke down prince? How many are desperate enough for that fairytale that they’ll brush aside their real wants and needs? How can anyone ever be that lonely?

And you know what fucking sucks?

I think I might be on my way to figuring it out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The VIP section

Several years ago I was in a gas station, minding my business, buying a forty and a pack of cigars. (Or maybe it was a pack of sour gummy worms and a Mountain Dew...whatever you need to tell yourself.)

I had the classic stoner (gummy worm addict) look going on – frizzy hair piled into a disheveled bird’s nest on top of my head, big sunglasses covering red eyes, and a t-shirt with a fraying decal on the back of a naked man and woman running under big letters spelling “Carolina Streaker”. Real jizz in your pants kind of stuff.

I paid for my contraband, went out the door and back to my car. I was smoking a cigarette and staring at the front of a huge black bus when I reached for my drink and realized it wasn’t there. Cussing, I got out and headed back toward the gas station. But as I reached for the door handle, someone yelled and I glanced back.


I collided with a man coming out the door, dropped my cigarette, and, if my muddled memory serves, shouted “Fucking Christ”. He apologized and grudgingly so did I, still looking down and brushing the ashes off my pants leg. Then we did the dance. You know the one? Left, left, right, right, sorry, sorry, left, left, right, right, pause, um ok, I’m going to go this way while I said this way...ok...goddamn it, just be still!

The whole thing probably only took 10 seconds, but in my memory it slows down to a crawl. I suppose it’s my subconscious way of torture. Because during that last pause, before we went our separate ways, I finally looked him full in the face and noticed...

I’d been door dancing with Edwin McCain. Cue open mouthed shock and staring at suddenly VERY visible side of black bus with his name in GIANT letters and, oh yeah, his FACE on it. *slow clap*

That was my first disastrous brush with a celebrity. I mean, unless you want to count the time before that when I got so drunk I made out with a guy in a bar because I thought he was the front man from that band. You know the one? With the tattoos and spiky hair? And the ripped arms and holey pants? That guy.

And maybe also a girl that looked exactly like Kerri Russell. If Kerri Russell wore fishnets and rubbed her nipples suggestively in bars, which I’m sure she doesn’t. Not classy, fake Kerri Russell.

Oh, wait, and there was that time two years ago when my favorite band in the entire world, Ludo, was playing at a local tavern. It was a small place that my best friend and I frequented so I was positive I’d finally get to meet their lead singer Andrew Volpe. I’d already gotten two of the members to sign a CD at their last show, but somehow I missed him. And don’t get me wrong, I love them all, but Andrew Volpe makes my nipples hard.

Anyway, while waiting for the first few bands to play I got epically hammered and left for a quickie with the fireman because he lived in an apartment right next to the bar. All I remember about that was showing up, bouncing around on top of him and laughing for what I thought was about 15 minutes but turned out to be a lot longer, and hauling ass out the door still pulling on clothes and screaming, “I’m gonna miss Ludo!”

By the time I got back they were almost through with their set. I wrapped my arms around a wooden post between the stage and the bar and sang along with my favorite song and one other and it was over. A little while after they packed up, Rachel had to pry my grasp open and half carry my ass out the back door. And while she was helping me stumble across the parking lot I was shouting, “FUCKING LUDO WOOOOO! WOOOOO! YEAH!”

“ know they’re standing RIGHT there”, she said, embarrassed and irritated I’m sure.


There they were, Andrew Volpe and the lot of them, standing in a group outside by themselves loading up and witnessing my embarrassing drunken display. Rachel knew better than to take me over there and hurried us to the car.

So apparently I’m terrible with celebrities. So terrible, in fact, that when my stepsister Jess told me we’d gotten VIP passes to meet Kendra Wilkinson and sit in the holy grail of club seating, I was a tad nervous.

Every summer, while I’m vacationing in Oklahoma, we go out drinking and dancing at least one night. This year I spent almost the entire week ping-ponging between my bed and the pool so I was happy when she finally said, “Friday night we’re going out”.

Friday afternoon we went to a movie and then did a little browsing for shoes or maybe a new shirt to wear out that night. I was relaxed, full of Chili’s chicken crispers, and aimlessly wandering the aisles flicking through racks, when I heard Jess talking excitedly on the phone. I made my way over to her just as she was hanging up.

“My friend got us VIP passes in to hang out with Kendra Wilkinson tonight, but we’ve got to dress up and wear something with pink in it.”

My first reaction was excitement - Holy shit! VIP? Really? That’s fucking awesome! Ooooh, Dave is gonna be so jealous when I tell him I met her! Go Kendra! Go Kendra!

My second reaction was panic - Wait? Dress up? Ohmygawd, I’ve got nothing to wear to a VIP party! I have no clothes! Nothing pink! SHIT! Wait...all of the girls there are going to be a size two with gigantic fake breasts and wearing pink see-through Band-Aid with built in herpes repellent! I don’t know if I want to do this.

In reality, I had a suitcase with six and a half dresses shoved in among the t-shirts and shorts that say COCKS across the chest or ass, and a firm grasp on how to avoid anything herpes related. (What? It’s a college sports team. Scouts honor.) I say six and a half because one was actually a skirt that I briefly considered turning into a strapless dress in the event that I wanted the natives to see how tan my ass cheeks have gotten this year. (For the record, I now have the ass cheeks of a Mexican. Just like my boobs. Ole motherfuckers.)

We spent the next few hours frantically trying on dresses and shoes. I suppose it was a bit more frantic on my end because I’d found the most beautiful bright blue stilettos that I was sure I couldn’t live without...yet also sure there was no way I’d manage to pair them with anything pink without looking like Malibu Barbie – the cracked out version. Somehow knowing that didn’t stop me from trying anyway.

In the end Jess threatened to leave me there, so I settled on buying two pairs of the same stilettos – one in black, one in silver – and waved a longing goodbye to their shiny blue sisters. I found a strapless dress with a tight teal bodice and a flowy skirt with swirls of different colors, including pink. It was a bit louder than my usual style. I’ve always been a bit of a solid colors, straight lines, lot of black type of girl. But it was crunch time and everyone else seemed to think it was perfect. (Or they were tired of my bitching and I actually looked like an over tropical, special needs tourist.)

We got ready at Jess’s house in record time, just taking quick showers and retouching makeup. I threw some mousse in my hair and decided to just let the afro go. By then I was less anxious and more resolved. I wasn’t going to suddenly get better looking. Best to just say fuck it and drink a lot.

We got to the club around 10:30, sat down in a booth and had a few drinks before making our way to the VIP area. And it was insane.

The tiny section was surrounded by people – baby hookers in skin tight dresses everywhere! There was a low wall around the area with two roped entrances guarded by men with their arms crossed in an imposing manner. Chases and couches with pillows and a few low tables were stragestically placed and men and women, dressed from skater pro to Las Vegas hooker, buzzed with anticipation. There was even one girl who had a dress cut down to her waist...and the boobs hanging almost as low to match.

It wasn’t what I expected and I was relieved. From the phone conversation with Jess’s friend, I thought it was supposed to be a more intimate affair. The word “table” was tossed around and I was afraid I’d be stuck next to some bunny with a double decker bus on her chest and a penchant for calling me “Excuse Me Peasant Please Move”.

Not at all. There were probably about 30 or so people in our little box and the rest of the hundreds were looking out from the balconies, the stage, and pressed up against the barriers like bloodhounds scenting a bitch in heat. They were salivating, I tell you. And from my perch on a low couch near the dividing wall, I could feel their hot breath on my neck. It was a little exciting. Not the hot breath part, that was kind of gross. I mean the atmosphere – knowing that I was sitting in a place they all wished they could be sitting.

When they announced her entrance the crowd went nuts. She went straight past the rope and stood on the lower deck of the VIP section, taking pictures with the people pressed against the edges and waving to those further out. I was proud of myself for not being all “WOOOOOO” or “Ohmyfreakinggawd you’re, like, so awesome” when she finally made it to the inner sanctum. I was actually completely calm and collected when we spoke, shook hands, and took a picture with her. And after having a bit to drink and going from past experiences, I’m thankful someone slipped me a chill pill. She was very down to earth and gracious, which made it easier I guess.

Even those people that say “If I ever meet a celebrity I’ll be totally cool and calm, unfazed...they’re just people” have those moments. Obviously. But maybe I’m finally growing out of my crazy fan stage.

Or maybe, three hours later and in a different club, I flew off a bar stool and busted my ass on the wet floor because I may or may not have heard someone say something about Ryan Reynolds being there and I was drunk enough to believe it AND attempt a gymnastic leap from a sitting position. Possibly. And maybe I blamed it on the slippery dress and a handsy skeezeball to my right wearing too much Axe.

The world may never know.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of fireworks

Yes, I’m aware that you all are still waiting on part three of the birthday beach trip. Or, I’m aware that you should be waiting, yet have probably moved on to greener, more interesting pastures and juicier cows. In any case, the next installment will go up later this week.


We’ve celebrated Independence Day the same way for as long as I can remember.

Every year the extended family gathers at my Papa’s house for BBQ and swimming. All of the aunts, uncles, cousins, and long time family friends whose names I can never remember come with their special dishes and touchy feely nature. The prize winning pies and baked beans I don’t mind, the touching I do.

I can only deduce that Southerners, in general, are a touchy feely sort. Everyone in this area is always hugging, patting, and holding. With strangers it’s easy to say, “Hey, motherfucker, touch me again and I’ll break your fingers off one at a time and shove them up your ass.” With family...not so much. I can’t very well say that to my Aunt that comes around three times a year, but who's name I can NEVER remember. It would ruin my fa├žade of the friendly, slightly quirky relative that is so sweet she calls everyone “babe” or “sugar”.

Anyway, after a day filled with eating homemade goodness and diving off of moving water vessels to avoid the tender embrace of old ladies, we take the boats out to a big island and watch the fireworks. It’s usually the same old show – small bursts of red, small bursts of blue, small bursts of white, small intermittent bursts of other random colors and then – BAM! There’s a rousing five minute display of continuous color and noise, each one seemingly bigger than the last, until there’s nothing left but the tiny waving lights of boats on dark water and wisps of tell-tale smoke floating over the trees. And of course the unspoken musing – I wonder how much they paid for that shit? That finale would probably cover the cost of my car loan...

When I was a kid I loved watching the fireworks. Sometimes my dad would spend a fortune on poppers, sparklers, and huge kits instead of on the crack rock and we would set them off on the dock after returning from the island show. Sometimes we’d have contests with the Yankee neighbors two docks over and if they came close, a stragestically placed beer bottle with a rocket in it would send them scattering, securing the win and my father’s good humor.

As an adult fireworks lost most of their appeal. Every time a huge burst of color filled the night sky, I imagined a brand new Coach bag being set on fire. Such a waste. Yes they were pretty, but so are hookers if the lighting is just right.

Due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e.: divorce, home wrecking whores, and the possible contents of a suspicious plastic baggie) dad moved to Oklahoma. And somehow it became common practice to spend a week or two every year visiting him over the Fourth of July holiday. This never bothered me very much until last year.

See, spending the 4th in Oklahoma also meant spending my birthdays there. And after last year’s incident, I’d had quite enough of that. So when it was time to set our vacation dates for this summer, I refused to go until after the 4th.

This, of course, allowed me to plan my first real birthday celebration in three years (specifically: the beach trip I’m not through telling you about) and to once again be present for Pop’s Independence Day celebration. Yay. And of course, when Pop found out I’d be attending, he solicited my help with the grub.

Lucky for me though, a week before D day I was invited to join a group of friends on a boat for the entire day. I’d never been one of those people that could float around for hours at a time, swigging beer and doing the Macarena until I collapsed from heat exhaustion and/or alcohol poisoning, but who was I to pass up an opportunity to slip away from the touchy feely crowd.

Saturday morning I got up at nine and put together two pans of macaroni and cheese, covered them with tin foil, and took them down the hill to Pop’s. I was a little apprehensive about leaving the rest up to his Filipino girlfriend, but I was told to be waiting on the dock by 11:30 and that was way too early to stick those suckers in the oven. I gave her instructions and went back home to shower and change, vowing that if she ruined them I’d deny involvement of any kind.

At 11:20, right as the boat pulled up, I was on the gazebo in my bathing suit, shorts, and tank top – a case of Mic Ultra in one hand and a bag of lake necessities in the other. Claire and two others were already there waiting. Once on board I took inventory: 10 people, 7 coolers stocked with beer and snacks, 4 cases of beer to replace those already in the cooler, and an undetermined amount of red, white, and blue paraphernalia.

I was in high spirits as the boat glided away from the dock, leaving the touchy feely relatives behind and taking me to a place I’d only been once before (and never for something this big): Party Cove.

I sang along with the radio and chatted with the others for awhile, but soon I was staring out over the water, lost in thought. (I’ve always been more reflective in transit than I am sitting still, if that makes much sense. Maybe it’s the blurring scenery or the hypnotic rolling of the waves.) I wondered who would be at the famed cove. I wondered how I’d stay on the boat all day, until dark, and if I’d be begging to go home before it was over. And I wondered, just briefly, what Thomas Jefferson and his crew would think of the way we celebrated – in bikinis, swilling beer on a boat, wearing red, white, and blue Mardi Gras beads.

But reflective only lasted until the third beer and our arrival at Party Cove.

We tied up to another boat and started the chain. Three hours later we were in a row of nine and sporting a crowd of at least 50 people. And though our group didn’t have the flashiest boats in the cove, we definitely had the loudest. Rap music blared from one where girls danced on seats. Country music blared from another and a football was tossed back and forth over the chaos. People floated all around the row on fun noodles and rafts like scattered debris. And almost everyone visible had a beer clutched in their hands. I didn’t know half of the people there yet we all scrambled back and forth over those boats to get something or other, do something or other, and everyone was as friendly as could be.

When my cousin Dooby arrived around 4 with his wife, and my friend, Marie in tow, I’d managed to drink more beer than I ever thought possible. By 5 I was staying in the water as much as possible. I’d slathered on the sunscreen too late and could practically hear my arms sizzling. So when they decided to leave an hour and a half later, I decided to jump ship and go with them.

Sitting on their boat, on the very end of the row and pulling away, I looked out over the party still in full swing. Claire and the rest of my crowd seemed a little disappointed about my desertion, but they waved and promised to see me on the dock later that evening anyway.

The long ride home was fun and peaceful. Dooby did an impromptu dance, Marie and I took more pictures, then we all sat and enjoyed the breeze and the waves.

When Marie and I made our way into Pop’s in search of leftovers, we discovered that the touchy feely fuckers had hoovered my macaroni. We had to make do with ribs and squash casserole, but it was worth it because they were all already gone. My skin was as red as a baboon’s ass and throbbing worse than Fabio’s manhood in a Harlequin novel, but I’d managed to stay away long enough to miss them all and that was worth celebrating.

All too soon the sun was going down and we were piling back onto the boats for the fireworks display. I’d slowed down on the beer, eaten, and taken a brief nap – but I wasn’t necessarily in the mood for more boating. I was a bit cranky and whimpering in pain, actually.

We found a spot among the hundreds of other boats and dropped anchor. The sun was almost gone, the final rays casting just a tinge of orange and red on the waves, and I felt relief. I was glad it was gone, glad that I’d managed to survive the entire day without chickening out...much. And while we waited on the fireworks the waves got larger.

I love to swim out in the open, big water and convinced the others to join me. And that’s where I was when the first sparks shot into the sky – straddling an orange life vest, bobbing up and down like a cork, cooked arms blazing, with a beer in my hand and a smile on my face.

And they were as terrible as I remembered. But you know what?

I loved every minute of it. Especially the highly overrated ending.

Because some traditions, especially the kind that don’t involve touching relative strangers or getting up early on a weekend to make macaroni, are quite comforting. And definitely fitting.