Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yes, I know father's day was three days ago.

I wasn’t planning on doing a father’s day post, mostly because my dad and I have a tolerate/hate relationship. But it looks like I’m going to do a semblance of one anyway. (Basically it’s all Beta Dad’s fault. You can blame him and his awesome post for giving me the idea. I don’t think of it as cheating since our fathers are two VERY different men.)

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This was in a Q&A forwarded email I received the other day:

“Describe your dad in one word.”

I hate this directive. One word answers have never been my style and describing anyone that way, myself included, is an irritation. This has less to do with the fact that I’m a descriptive person, and more to do with the fact that no one fits into a one word mold. No one.

My dad is, more often than not, an asshole. I’ve written about our issues before, most of which have to do with his drinking or occasional foray into the world of narcotics and/or gambling. But that’s only part of the person he is, so I figured I should be fair and introduce you to the rest of him. Not just the bad, but the good, the ugly, and the more than slightly ridiculous.

1. He’s very, very good at his job.

Starting as a welder in his late teens, he eventually became a certified steel inspector. He worked for several well known inspection companies, traveling around the US and Canada, until my grandfather (who is also an inspector) started his own company. He worked for Pop for a long time, still doing a lot of traveling, until he and mom divorced and he settled in Oklahoma. He recently returned from a job in New Jersey and is now working close to home.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to go on site and see at least part of what he does. I don’t pretend to understand the details of the job, but I do understand respect and it’s very obvious that the men he works with respect his ability and opinion. I used to love listening to his stories about the bridges and buildings he had a significant part in, one of which is my favorite place: the lovely, enormous glass and steel library downtown.

There’s a picture in my photo album that I look at every now and then. In it he’s no older than I am now. He’s standing with a group of men on the unfinished skeleton of a building, his hair in a youthful floppy style just visible underneath his hardhat, grinning and waving with the city skyline and the clouds at his back. It never fails to make me simultaneously pleased and anxious.

2. He introduced me to great music and taught me how to act like a redneck boy, should I feel so inclined.

Though the money spent on his various outdoor toys often made our bills late, I can’t deny they were a lot of fun. I had a go-cart, a golf cart, and a badass ATV that I would drive through the woods and around our back roads like a bat out of hell (with a full face of makeup, of course). He had his own ATV and we’d load them up on the trailer, drive to his buddy’s house for a fish fry, then spend hours in the woods driving the trails and drinking beer. I was usually the only girl on those outings and while they strapped coolers full of beer to the back of their rides, I’d strap a cooler full of Smirnoff to mine.

He had an old bronco that he put enormous tires on – like, mini monster truck tires – and we would take the hardtop off, drive to an old trucking road after a recent rain, and go mud digging. I’ve never been much on dirt or mud, but some of my fondest memories are of standing on the back seat of that jacked up truck, holding on to the roof, and being caked from head to toe in gunk. Afterward we’d drive to the boat ramp and back the truck almost all the way into the water. I’d let go of the roof and just float out over the submerged back end.

And while we were on our little excursions I got a crash course in good music: Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top. I loved rocking out in the front seat with a soda in one hand and a Slim Jim in the other. Sometimes he would tell me things about the bands and sometimes he would just crank it up as loud as it could go.

He gave me a few of his old cassette tapes so I could listen to them in my room. My favorite was Pink Floyd’s The Wall and I wore that thing out. It drove my mom absolutely crazy.

3. He’s unintentionally funny.

When he tries to be funny, he isn’t. His jokes are always stupid and/or embarrassing. And usually, after he cracks one, he does this weird chuckle and says “Huh? Huh?”

One of his favorites was reserved for after big meals and used far too often. He would groan, stick out his stomach, rub it and say, “Hey...I’m pregnant with a baby elephant. Wanna see his trunk? Heh heh heh heh. Huh? Huh?”

Maybe unintentionally funny is the wrong choice of words.

We laugh when he lies about ridiculous things for no reason (which happens weekly), we laugh when he gets drunk and cries about nothing, we laugh at his dancing, we laugh at his solid white enormous tennis shoes, and we laugh at his facial expressions. We imitate his walk, the way he talks, and his speeches we couldn’t help but memorize.

I’m sure that all sounds terribly mean and unnecessary but trust me...finding the humor in that man is essential to dealing with him. If I couldn’t laugh at him, we just couldn’t interact.

4. He’s predictable.

“I brought ya inta this world. I ken take ya out and make anuder un jest like ya.”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase when I was a kid...

He used to say it in anger, but now that I’m an adult he usually says it in an “I’m being funny and menacing at the same time” kind of way. And I can predict, down to the second, when it’s going to come out of his mouth. And I say it with him. And he hates it.

He will wear the most vulgar t-shirt he can put his hands and go out in public. Always. It’s a given.

Probably one of the worst was when my sister was about nine and on a church softball league. He showed up late to a game one afternoon, pulled in the parking lot squealing tires on his motorcycle. From the bleachers mom and I could see him walking through the crowd on the grass. Each time he passed a group of people there was an immediate reaction. When he finally reached the low chain link fence around the field I recognized the t-shirt right away. It was one mom had attempted to throw in the trash just a few days prior. It was grey and had a bulldog on the front. And on the back it said in big letters: Big Dogs Eat More Pussy.

My mother was mortified. Still is, in fact.

“I love ya more n anything in this world. I’d die n go ta hell fer ya...ya know I would”

This is the precursor to every serious discussion, no matter what the subject matter. (Ever seen Brokeback Mountain? Say it with that accent.)

He cannot give a straight apology. It always goes like this: “I’m sorry, but”. He can’t leave the “but” off. This is because it’s never really his fault.

5. He’s got more than nine lives.

The man has been in every kind of accident you can think of and is still alive. And still doing stupid shit. Car accidents, boating accidents, ATV accidents, welding accidents, ect.

After his terrible motorcycle accident last year, where he broke all of this ribs on one side, suffered head trauma, and numerous other injuries...I thought he MIGHT be ready to wizen up a bit. Yeah, not so much.

After a few months of recuperating in Oklahoma, he went back to work in New Jersey. One night he called me and I could tell he’d been drinking. He kept laughing and carrying on while I “mmm hmm”ed and “uh huh”ed, waiting on an opportunity to get off the phone. Then he suddenly said, “I was so drunk the other night that when I was trying to get the key in the lock I fell off the porch, into the bushes, and broke the ribs on my unhurt side!” Way to go, dad.

Since he’s a habitual liar I checked with my sources and turns out, that’s exactly what happened. I suppose his resilience is a bit extraordinary for someone with his chemical history. This is probably why The Grandmother says he’s the antichrist.


But whatever his faults (or his origin), my dad is certainly a special individual.

I’m looking forward to our visit with him in a few weeks. At the moment anyway. Once I’m there, it usually only takes about 24 hours for me to start daydreaming about whacking him upside the head with a frying pan.

Happy father’s day, daddy. *WHAM*

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are you there God? It's me....just kidding.

I’ve never been a very spiritual person. I can tell you that when I was in my early teens I believed in God as much as a child that has no interest in him can believe. I was far more interested in the activities that believing allowed me to participate in: trips to amusement parks, concerts, sleepovers, softball games (for the boys, not the sport itself), and weekends in the mountains. Sure, I’d wave my hands in the air and sing a few songs in exchange for all that fun time away from my parents.

Forming a relationship with an entity I couldn’t see or hear wasn’t that difficult a concept as I spent half my time immersed in a world of fiction anyway. But I thought about God with the inconsistency of youth, usually when I wanted something that I wasn’t likely to get and prayer was the only bargaining chip left. It was a selfish belief and I imagine completely common among that age group. Going to church gave me a set of friends I wouldn’t have had otherwise and for that I was grateful. I was a strange mix of social butterfly and awkward outsider – sometimes outrageously present in a room and sometimes so in my head that you would’ve thought me deaf. (If that doesn’t scream bipolar, I don’t know what does.)

The summer I turned 16 my cousin Ben died in a Jet Ski accident. I’d had older relatives die – my Nana, an uncle, a great aunt – but Ben was just three months younger than me and there was no grasping that reality. I loved him fiercely. We grew up next door to each other and his absence was so close to intolerable that, in the weeks after his funeral, I recall virtually nothing – my memory is spotted with black holes.

Like everyone that grieves, I became angry. I renounced my tenuous belief in a God that would take away someone so good and so young. There was no one else left for me to strike out at. I left the church and the youth group behind.

However, Ben was still gone. And if I didn’t believe in God at all, how could I believe in heaven? I spent so much time sitting in front of his headstone, talking to the air and tracing his name with my fingertips – trying desperately to figure out a way to believe in the place and not the maker. Instead of imagining Ben within the pearly gates, I imagined him sitting on a low cloud, his ever present fishing pole in one hand. It was the best I could do.

I went through phases over the years – waiting on signs, believing in signs (there or imagined, I still couldn’t rightly say), and avoiding the question of God and heaven all together. If someone asked me, I would say Ben was in heaven. I didn’t want to explain my feelings or debate the bible. Still don’t, in fact. Theological debates interest me about as much as politics – which is to say, not at all. I don’t often think about where Ben is anymore, but rather just remember him as he was. Next month he’ll have been dead 10 years and with each passing season it’s gotten a little easier to let him rest, wherever that may be.

I don’t have any problem attending a church service these days. There’s no more anger or staunch refusals to be a part of it in any way. I can go to church on a Sunday morning with my grandmother and sit quietly in the pew, reflecting on what we’re going to have for lunch or my new handbag. I can hang my head and close my eyes during a prayer, stand up and sing, and warble the sing song “Amen” with the rest of the congregation. Church is just a place, God is just a name, and prayer is just a moment of meditation. It’s safe to say that since my breakaway, I’ve thought about religion as much as I’ve thought about the mating habits of beetles. Until the past few weeks, that is.

Now I have a daughter and I’m supposed to be the person that shapes her into the woman she’ll one day become. That’s difficult enough without the question of religion.

For the first few years of her life I was quick to say that, no, I didn’t intend to take her to church and no, I didn’t intend to have her baptized, and as far as I was concerned she would be free to choose her own spiritual path when she was old enough. This, of course, did not go over well with my family.

My grandmother is, for lack of a better description, a loyal Lutheran. And while I’ve made fun of her sayings and speeches in the past, I don’t actually belittle her faith (Or anyone’s, with the possible exception of a Kool-Aid cult). But honestly, anyone who says to me “Red underwear is the devil” or raises their arm and proclaims in a reverent voice that they hope the drivers of cars with loud “boom boxes” will be struck by the “mighty” arm of God...Well, they’re just asking for it. I will laugh. I’ve exasperated her with my unwillingness to budge on the topic of religion (and politics, but that’s another story).

Recently my mother, unbeknownst to me, signed my daughter up for a week of vacation bible school. Now, she’s been to church before a few times and she’s been told stories about God and Jesus by my grandmother and mother, but I generally stay out of those discussions. I always felt that she was too young to understand anyway, so it wouldn’t make a difference what they said. But this was a first.

Starting last Monday at 6pm, I dropped her off at a church down the road from my house. (One of the doctors that work with mom is a member and invited her.) I walked her inside the fellowship hall behind the church, exchanged pleasantries with some of the women I knew by the door while I made sure she was where she needed to be, and returned home until it was time to pick her up at 8:30.

Each night I picked her up she had a smile on her face and some crafty thing in her hand. I liked seeing her excited about coming back. She was like me when I first started years ago – more eager about the company I was keeping and the fun things I was doing than over the reason behind it all. She asked me a few questions about heaven, but thankfully they were mostly rhetorical or required only an “mmmhmm”.

Saturday night I went with my mother, sister, and grandmother and sat in the sanctuary. I watched and smiled while Hannah sang and did her little dance routines with the other kids her age. Afterward I shook hands with a few of the members, smiled, and participated in the southern chitchat required of church functions.

And in the car driving home, while Hannah sang to herself in the backset, I wondered:

Should I join a church for her, even if I personally am not sure I believe in a higher power? Should I pretend for her benefit, will it be good for her? Will it confuse her when she’s older if I go along with it for now? Should I answer her questions about heaven the way a believer would, rather than a cynic? Should I continue to avoid them? What, if anything, should I do? Isn’t laying the basis of belief the same as telling her what to do? I would love to let her decide what to believe when she’s older, but I’m just not so sure anymore.

I still haven’t made a decision and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just be the procrastinator I’ve always been and put it off until she’s grown and then the decision will be made for me.

Only God knows, right?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blog-ish news and a new meme

It’s been more serious than usual around here lately, hasn’t it?

I’m one of those bloggers that, 97% of the time, doesn’t plan their posts. I’ll occasionally get an idea or write down some dialogue that I find entertaining, but generally my posts start by staring at a blank white screen. Honestly, I just start typing. Sometimes I’ll write an entire page before I figure out just what I’m working toward. Maybe that’s why I have trouble with conclusions. (There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.)

Serious posts are necessary for even the most dedicated humorist, I think. And some write in such a way that their personality and wit shine through even the most unforgiving of topics. I won’t give you examples of those bloggers – there’s no need and I've done it more than once already. Take a look at my blogroll and you’ll stumble upon one or two.

Nearly all of the posts I’ve written that I’m proud of aren’t funny at all. I find this highly amusing because I’ve never wanted to be that sort of writer. It’s easy enough to relate embarrassing stories about yourself or make fun of your surroundings. It’s a great deal harder, for me anyway, to write about more meaningful things. A lot of the serious happenings or feelings I’ve shared on this blog, I’ve never shared elsewhere. I’m a very private person in terms of emotional displays – tears, sadness, and even love. They make me uncomfortable and embarrassed.

I could delve into why I have issues with those things, but I’ll leave that for another white screen and beckoning cursor. This was merely an impromptu service announcement, a just in case you were wondering what the hell’s been going on around here sort of deal. Now it’s time for the real post.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve done a meme or acknowledged an award of any kind. Please accept my apologies and gratitude if you’ve recognized me at all over the past several months. I know I’ve been a bit slack.

I’ve been wracking my brain for something lighthearted and/or disgustingly vulgar to share with ya’ll this week, but until this morning I was at a loss. It’s not that there’s been an absence of humor in my daily life; it’s just that they’ve been small things barely worth sharing. (Not to worry though. Only one more week and there should be plenty of stories to share. Beach + Birthday + 7 women = definite blog post.)

Anyway, BugginWord recently gave me this award:



Apparently I’m supposed to “list (and then explain your reasoning) 5 characters you’d like to do the horizontal whiplash with”.

I thought, “Well that shouldn’t be difficult...” Then I started looking over previous lists and realized that all these bitches sole my fictional characters. I can’t use either of my True Blood crushes, my favorite TV King of England, OR the best Scottish hero to grace a steamy romance novel. Sigh. So, I had to think a bit harder.

Then I got tired of thinking harder and trying to be all creative and just got down to business:

He’s lewd, he’s crude, and he’s filthy. Ladies (and gentlemen, if you’re into that sort of thing): He’s Captain Jack Sparrow.


Now, vast arrays of women love Johnny Depp. He’s one of the most heralded hotties to grace the big screen. But in all honesty, even though I’ve always thought he was good looking, I never really gave two shits until he played the role of the devilish Jack Sparrow.

I’m usually not attracted to hairy, dirt under their nails, manual labor type guys. But for some reason, Jack fits the “I’d tap that” bill. Even in that scraggly get up, with those horrible teeth...I’d get sand in all the wrong places for this pirate.

Savvy?

Next we have Jeremy Grey from Wedding Crashers:


I love Vince Vaughn in pretty much everything, but his character in this...yum. He’s a womanizing, fast talking bastard and it’s hot. Everything he does is ridiculously over the top, but somehow it works. There’s one scene in the beginning of the movie, where he’s talking to his secretary who suggested setting him up on a blind date, which sums it up perfectly:

“Janice, I apologize to you if I don't seem real eager to jump into a forced awkward intimate situation that people like to call dating. I don't like the feeling. You're sitting there, you're wondering do I have food on my face, am I eating, am I talking too much, are they talking enough, am I interested I'm not really interested, should I play like I'm interested but I'm not that interested but I think she might be interested but do I want to be interested but now she's not interested? So all of the sudden I'm getting, I'm starting to get interested... And when am I supposed to kiss her? Do I have to wait for the door cause then it's awkward, it's like well goodnight. Do you do like that ass-out hug? Where you like, you hug each other like this and your ass sticks out cause you're trying not to get too close or do you just go right in and kiss them on the lips or don't kiss them at all? It's very difficult trying to read the situation. And all the while you're just really wondering are we gonna get hopped up enough to make some bad decisions? Perhaps play a little game called "just the tip". Just for a second, just to see how it feels. Or, ouch, ouch you're on my hair.”

I don’t know about you guys, but that’s my kind of man. Sigh. As a matter of fact, that is me...with a penis. (Or used to me, before I got all sentimental.) And I’d totally sleep with me. You know what I mean?

Character number three is an oldie but goodie:


Dear Rhett Butler,

I give a damn. In fact, I’d give a damn all night. All.Over.Your.Face.
I’d take your money and your lovin’ and shove scrawny, broody Ashley Wilkes off a cliff. Word?

I’m sorry, but if Clark Gable doesn’t make your nips stand to attention in GWTW when he gets all shouty and angry, with a lock of that sexy hair falling over his forehead...you’re either one of two things: dead or not into men. He’s the perfect balance between naughty and nice, between sophisticated and rugged/manly. Southern charm indeed.

This next one, if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, will come as no surprise. (Though it may disgust a few...cough...Veg Ass...cough.)


James Spader, as the creepy E. Edward Grey in Secretary, turns – me – on. I get goosebumps every time I watch. I can’t deny that the setting, the plot, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sexual awakening help fan the flame of my interest, but he’s definitely the spark.

Moody, secretive, darkly funny...Weird. I’d gladly assume the position.

(On a semi-related note, his character on the TV series Boston Legal, the chauvinistic man whore Alan Shore, also does the trick.)

And last, but not least, we have a bit of a surprise twist:


I’d like to be the filling in a Diane Lane/Oliver Martinez sandwich please.

There are only a handful of women I find attractive enough to consider getting busy with, and Diane Lane’s character in Unfaithful, Connie Sumner, is one of them. Paul Martel, played by Oliver, is no slouch either. The two of them together...RAWR! I’ve already talked about this one a bit before too, so I’ll leave it at that. And, if you haven’t ever seen this movie...Go out, get it, turn off the lights, and pull the shades. You know, until it gets to the bloody part.

So that’s the list. I’m supposed to now nominate five people to do this thing and that’s a bit of a tough call because A) I hate making people feel obligated and B) I hate just saying "whoever wants to do it, do it", because if they’re like me...unless they’re specifically chosen, they won’t.

Since option A bothers me just a tad less, I suppose I’ll go that route:

Veg Ass

Sara

Erin

Jules

And the reclusive, laid up with a bum leg and surely has the time to do a meme, person that I'm about to prove doesn't read this anymore (HA!):

Jerrod

Pass if you like, bloggers, but I’d love to see your choices.

Hasta maƱana.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Even my psychotic half is an attention seeker

I stopped taking my medication.

It seems like a simple statement, but to some it’s the equivalent to “there’s a bomb on this plane” or “the rubber just broke”.

I’m terrible about taking medicine anyway. I rarely finish antibiotics and birth control pills are out of the question (not that I’ve needed them recently). I have a cabinet full of half empty pill bottles from one time or another, one sickness or another, one dark place or another. I should throw them away, but instead I line them up like mutilated sentries and shut them away in the dark with a satisfied click, too helpless to do their job.

I’m not ignorant. I know it’s not healthy to stop taking a prescription before it’s finished. The majority of the time, when it’s for a sickness, it’s because I’m absentminded or lazy. The rest of the time is more difficult to explain.

When I was kid they gave me Ritalin. I couldn’t sit still in class, had trouble paying attention, and I could be a bit high strung. The Ritalin made me settle down, sure, but it didn’t help me pay attention. I was simply bored, but back in those days it was easier to drug um’ up than ask questions. No one asked themselves why I could sit still from dawn to dusk and read a book the size of my head, but had trouble in the classroom.

I had to go to the office every afternoon for my pill and one of the ladies would follow me to the water fountain in the hall to make sure I took it. I eventually learned to let it fall from my mouth and into the little slots of the fountain as I leaned over to take a drink, shielding it with my body. When the doctor eventually decided it was ok for me to come off Ritalin, that I was (halleluiah!) cured, I smiled to myself and thought, “Idiots”.

I suppose it’s safe to say that I’m defiant, in part, for the feeling of smugness it creates. Though I may have been right not to take the Ritalin then, it doesn’t mean that I’m right now. I’m well aware of that.

But once I start feeling better, once the pills get me over the first hurdle or two, I stop. I say to myself, “You’re fine now. Good job.” And I go on about my business. I add another sentry to the shelf and turn my back – satisfied that their task is done, I’ve stripped them of their ammunition and it’s all up to me from that point forward. I can handle it. I've won.

Life goes on.

Then I’m riding in the backseat of a car on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve just finished a book and I close it with a sigh of satisfaction. But mere moments later I’m restless. We pull over for gas and as the driver gets out to pump, I stare out my window at the busy street. That’s when I see her. She’s wearing a knee length flowered dress and a scuffed, ragged looking pair of Keds. A green and white stripped sock stretches halfway up her left calf, the other is bare. Her hair is cropped close to her skull and her shoulders are hunched around her bent head, as if expecting a blow to fall any minute.

As she passes a few feet from my window I notice her battered black suitcase. Gripping the handle in a dirty fist, she trudges by. In a high pocket on the outward facing side, a grimy brown teddy bear rides shotgun. I stare at his slumped form, rolling along behind his slumped mistress, until they disappear from view.

I feel my face tighten and my eyes begin the tell-tale swim and burn. I hold my breath and lean my head against the back of the seat. “I must be getting my period”, I think. But even as the words form in my brain, I know they aren’t true.

I’m willing to bet that nothing about that woman or her ratty bear would have bothered me had I not stopped taking my meds. They weren't the cause, just the trigger. I probably would have laughed at her one striped sock and her stupid bear and forgotten all about them later. As it is, it’s been weeks and here I am recounting it to you in vivid detail.

Then, just last week, I was on my way home from work. I’d gotten off early and I was in a great mood - singing along with the radio, enjoying the sunshine through the open roof and the wind in my hair. But 15 minutes or so into the hour commute, as if in answer to a brisk snap of summoning fingers, it all went south. I can name no trigger, no real reason for my abrupt change in mood. Suddenly everything was just wrong.

Every unhappy thought or trivial problem I’d had over the past week went ricocheting around my head, gathering strength with each pass and manifesting into a giant ball of “What the Fuck”. I fought back tears and felt my face grow hot. I tried to make sense of it all, to reason with myself. Again, “Must be getting my period” and “Stop it, stop it right now”. Neither helped. By the time I was five minutes from home I’d managed to work myself up so much that I was having trouble breathing.

And all over what? - An argument with a friend, the distance of another. A sudden feeling of loneliness because I’m the last single person in my circle, attending another wedding that weekend. Pressure to be this, do that, feel something, feel nothing, smile, put on the cocky Alyson show. So tired, so tired.

When I arrived home I immediately went to bed and hugged my pillow, just laying there with my eyes closed and breathing slowly, willing myself to calm down. And after a few minutes, I did. I got up, changed my clothes, and walked down to the lake to join the pre rehearsal dinner party that was already in full swing. I was back up again, inwardly rolling my eyes at my dramatics. “Ugh. You are such a fucking girl.”

And that’s where I’m at now. At this moment I feel relatively normal and objective. I have things to look forward to in the coming weeks, things that I’m excited about. But who knows? Tomorrow someone might not call or I might see another homeless person with a battered suitcase and I’ll think it’s the end of the world. Or that my abrupt change in mood has something to do with my period.

Right now I know better. I know I shouldn’t have added that last sentry to the shelf so soon...maybe ever. And when it gets to be too much, I’ll get another and then another. Until one day the door won’t close on them anymore. They’ll band together, form a misfit army to bring me down, and I’ll be found out. Then everyone will know I’m crazy.

But I’ll wait until then. Because haven’t you heard?

Vicious cycles are my specialty.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Traveling light

Last night I unlocked the door and walked into an empty house. I placed my bags on the table and stood there, hearing nothing but the quiet rush of cold air. No one careened into my legs demanding attention. There was no shouting, no banging of pots and pans, no blaring TV.

For all my To Do lists, when faced with the reality of being truly on my own, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I wandered around for a few minutes like a ghost, disoriented, knowing there was a light somewhere meant for me disappear into, yet unable to find it.

I finally decided I was being ridiculous so I slipped on my swimsuit, grabbed a towel, and shuffled out the door.

And shuffle I did. Since Sunday my pace has slowed considerably. With no deadlines, demands, or people to satisfy, there’s been no need to constantly check a clock or step harder on the gas pedal.

It was overcast and humid, the grass still wet from recent rains. It’s my favorite time of day to go swimming – right before dark when everyone else is inside eating dinner and the lake is smooth and quiet.

Diving into the water and swimming just beneath the surface is one of the best feelings in the world. It envelopes you, feels like silk rippling over your skin every time you move a limb. I lay on my back underneath it and waved my arms lazily to stay down, looking up at the play of shadow and light.

I came up for air and struck out toward a neighboring dock, intent on swimming laps. But after only a few passes there was a buzzing around my head. I squealed and dunked under the water, swam a few yards, and resurfaced. A horsefly was determined to make my head his resting place and he chased me all over the cove before I finally conceded defeat and got out.

Back at home I took a long, hot shower and did something I never get to do: walk around in a towel. It seems so simple, but it’s a luxury I don’t get often. I was riffling through my dresser, looking for a t-shirt, when my hand found something unexpected – a short, blue silk nightgown with thin straps and a plunging neckline. I’d never worn it before – partially because of where it came from, and partially because it would just be silly to walk around a crowded house in such a thing.

I wrapped my wet hair in a towel and slipped the nightgown over my head. I reached back into my dresser and pulled out the sheer, matching robe. Shrugging it on and standing in front of the mirror, I felt just a tad silly. Maybe other people walk around their homes in silk and satin, but I’ve always been a cotton t-shirt kind of girl. I kept it on anyway. When would I ever get the chance to wear it again?

I could go on to tell you about how I ate a helping of chicken salad and watched the last half of Dirty Dancing. Or how I sat on the dark porch and smoked a cigarette, feeling every bit the old fashioned diva in my silk. Or about when the cat ran out the door and I had to chase after him in the dark, feeling not so much like a diva and more like a lunatic. Regale you with all my solo activities - exciting or otherwise.

Instead I’ll tell you this:

Being alone for an extended period of time is not exactly what I expected. I thought I remembered what it was like when I lived by myself, but I’d forgotten a few things.

Like the fear of walking past an uncovered window, seeing nothing but your reflection surrounded by black, and wondering if something or someone is looking back. Or the way that so much quiet time can make you think about things that you wouldn’t normally have the time or energy to think about. Or that feeling of isolation and disconnect – like you’re the only person in a 100 mile radius (except, of course, for the thing that may or may not be staring in your darkened window).

Last night I stared into space and listened to the fan whir overhead. I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts strayed from one thing to another – my day and the parts I enjoyed, the fear of the unlikely lurker outside my locked doors and bolted windows, how hard my family would laugh if they could have seen me decked out in my fancy night attire. I tossed and I turned, though I was physically more than comfortable.

Finally I picked up my cell phone and went to my messages. In the inbox were two videos my mother sent me earlier that day. In them my daughter is standing by a pool in her bathing suit, hands on her hips, demanding that everyone “watch this!”. She turns and shoots a grin over her shoulder before jumping into the pool, going underwater, and popping back up triumphantly, then running back up the stairs to do it again. I’ve been trying to get her to jump off the dock and stick her face in the water forever, and she never would.

I felt a mixture of things – pride for her little accomplishment, disappointment at not being there to witness it first hand, jealousy that my mom was getting to experience her first beach trip and I wasn’t. But mostly I just felt better. Because as much as I’ve enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) my quiet time this week, the truth is I’m not actually alone. I won’t ever be again. And who really wants to be anyway?

I relaxed back into the pillows, closed my eyes, and fell asleep knowing I wasn’t so ridiculous after all. I found my light right where I’d left it –




Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Sunday Roast


Eddie Bluelights over at Clouds and Silvery Linings was kind enough to burn me alive ask me for an interview for his weekly segment "The Sunday Roast". I'm in very good company, so after you've read my bit, go check out the other roasts. It's well worth it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

She's the ______ to my ______.

I decided not to like her the moment we met.

Her appearance completely clashed with my shallow friendship guidelines. I didn’t want to be seen with a pint sized brunette that wore studded belts with giant mouth shaped buckles and said insanely inappropriate things at inappropriate times. I didn’t want the other servers to dislike me either. I had a lot of bad habits at that time, but being a people pleaser was perhaps my worst. The girls that looked like “my kind” called her weird, though they had no problem laughing at her antics.

She didn’t seem to care that the female staff didn’t want much to do with her. She smiled, did the robot or the worm across the floor, flashed the kitchen boys, and went about her business. Occasionally I would have a section next to hers and watching and listening to her handle her tables was a learning experience. I’d been a waitress before, and I was a good one, but she could wipe the floor with me. By the time a group finished eating they weren’t just her customers, they were her friends, and they would come back and ask for her again and again.

Most of the serving staff was over 21 or damn near, but I’d only just turned 18. There was a bar right around the corner owned by a lecherous foreign guy that would let us in no questions asked. It became a ritual: Work till around 10-12, get off, sometimes change clothes, go to the bar with the others, get wasted, and go home around dawn. She never came with us, though I’m sure the guys probably invited her.

One Sunday morning, after a particularly rough all-nighter at the bar, I decided to call in to work. I was living alone at the time and hadn’t yet gotten a phone hooked up, so I drove the five minutes into town and called my manager from a payphone to beg off.

There were two managers, Brad and Ronnie. Brad was the GM and though he could be fun and had a mouth like a sailor, he didn’t tolerate any bullshit. Ronnie, on the other hand, was a lackadaisical pot head that liked to hide in the staff bathroom and smoke. If we ever needed anything while he was in charge, we had to hunt him down...follow the smell, as it were. They would both go out drinking with us occasionally.

I knew that I couldn’t use the “I’m sick” excuse because they were all well aware that I hadn’t left the bar until 6am. So when Brad answered, I said the first thing I could think of, “Dude, my car won’t start.”

“What the fuck!”

He bitched and moaned at increasing volume and I held the phone away from my ear.

“I had to walk to the payphone to call and tell you.”

After a few more seconds of swearing, he suddenly became quiet. I was terrified that he was going to fire me, but instead he shouted “RACHEL!”

“Rachel, can you go pick Alyson up? Her car won’t start!”

I heard a chirpy “Sure!” and then Brad said to me, “Here! Give Rachel directions to your house, she’s coming to pick you up!”

“But Brad”, I stuttered, “I live over half an hour away...”

“Can’t be that far”, he boomed, and handed the phone to her.

I reluctantly gave the girl I’d pretty much managed to avoid, until that moment, directions to my house. I warned her that it was a “long way”, but she said she was ok with that. I hung up, heaved a great sigh, and drove back home to get ready. In reality it was a 25 minute drive, but I was hoping she’d get lost. Most people did.

She made it in no time at all. I answered the door, said a sullen hello, and plopped down on the couch to put on my sneakers. She stood in the doorway and silently looked around. I was just finishing with the knot on my second shoe when she said, “There’s nothing wrong with your car, is there?”

I stared at her and she stared back, a small smile on her face. It was plainly obvious that I was miserably hungover so rather than deny it, even though I wasn’t yet sure of what she’d do with the information, I simply said, “No.”

Her grin got a little bigger, but all she said was “Ok”.

I grabbed my purse and apron and followed her out the door. She had a black Dodge Neon and I had a blue one, though hers was covered in band stickers and the like. We climbed in, she started the car, and heavy metal came blasting out of the speakers. I winced and she immediately turned it down, but even at low volume the squealing and wailing was enough to make my head pound.

I was trying to decide if I should suggest she turn it off or switch it to a pop friendly radio station, but I was worried that either option would be met with a disagreeable reaction. If we turned the radio off, the silence would be awkward; we’d have nothing to talk about. And the pop station route might make her laugh at me. Whether I liked someone or not, I still didn’t want them laughing at me and I had a feeling she would.

While I was having this internal battle she was pulling out of my driveway. My stomach growled. I hadn’t had time to eat before I left. Some people can’t eat when they’re hungover. I HAVE to. Even if it makes me feel worse.

I don’t know if she heard my stomach chewing on itself or not, but she turned toward me and said, “Hey, do you wanna go to Wendy’s?”

She was smiling at me in a mischievous way and I understood what she meant before she even explained. I grinned back at her. “Hell yes.”

And then we had an actual conversation. We talked about work, my hangover, how hungry we were, and the story we’d tell Brad when we returned. She would claim that she got lost on the way there and as added ammunition I would throw in that I had tried to tell him it was a long drive to begin with.

We went through the Wendy’s drive through and she surprised me again. “Let’s take this to the park.”

We sat on picnic benches, ate our food, and talked some more. She was funny and smart and completely different from what I imagined her to be. By the time we got to work I was ashamed of myself for the way I’d treated her before. I’d deliberately avoided her because of what she looked like and what other people said. I’d never thought of myself as a snob until that moment.

We were so late to work that I think we only had one table a piece before we left again. Poor Brad. We had a good laugh over his exasperation.

I continued to go out with the other people from work, but I started talking to Rachel a lot more. She even started coming to the bar. One of the girls that was supposedly “my kind”, Kelly, moved in with me because I was scared to be alone out in the middle of nowhere. Call it a hormone thing brought on by pregnancy (long story).

And wouldn’t you know it? “My kind” of girl turned out to be a cokehead that threw massive drug parties while I was spending the weekend at my mother’s. I kicked her out the minute I heard about it and found the evidence. (After I, at around 7 months gone, attempted to murder her at work.) Having a father that snorted your grocery and field trip money up his nose has a tendency to make you a little unforgiving in that department.

When I left the restaurant and moved back home, all those girls that I spent my nights partying and hanging out with disappeared. But Rachel didn’t. We talked on the phone and we went to lunch. When they finally induced labor, she was the only person that wasn’t family that I called.

Six years later she’s still the first person I call when anything of importance happens. She’s my daughter’s godmother, a huge part of my immediate family, and the best friend I always needed, yet never knew to ask for.

She is quirky, outspoken, honest, obnoxious, and unfailingly witty. She still wears studded belts with enormous buckles, band t-shirts, and no makeup. She’s shaved her head twice in the six years we’ve been friends – Once because she wanted to and again just recently for a very worthy cause (and she manages to pull it off, like a tiny rocker version of Demi Moore).

She’s an atheist and a self-proclaimed medical research analyst (which is a nice way of saying she’s a hypochondriac that loves Google). Her favorite author is Chuck Palahniuk and she listens to music that makes me cringe. (Yet oddly enough, also loves Britney Spears.) She collects dinosaurs and all of her dance moves are from decades past: the peewee herman, the worm, the sprinkler, etc. She’s pretty much what I used to say was the complete opposite of me.

My mother claims I’ve changed since Rachel and I became best friends, that I’m not myself anymore. She says I’m more combative and less spiritual. She’s only partially right. I have changed, but I’ve never felt more like myself. And she did that for me. She helped me be honest and original again. Being her friend allowed me to show my quirky, slightly shocking side without fear of ridicule or rejection.

Though I realized we have a good bit in common, we each have our own distinct role in the relationship. And, make no mistake, it is a relationship. (There’s nothing sexual about it, though we did make out once when we were shitfaced drunk.) She’s the dependable to my flaky, the rock to my rap, the understated elegance to my over-the-top glitz, and the reasonably grounded to my overactive imagining.

After thinking about it, just this moment in fact, it’s a wonder that I can commit myself to this person even platonically for the rest of my life yet in the past committing to a man would be giving in to the masses. We’ve had our arguments and our disputes, and I’m very much the woman in our relationship. I feel out of sorts when she’s angry at me and set out to fix it immediately. Well, unless she’s in the wrong. Which, because she’s clearly the man in our relationship, she never is. (That’s a joke. Sort of.) It’s strange, isn’t it? That women can form a bond that tight with each other and yet shy away from anything else?

My gawd. This post about my best friend has turned me into a raving lesbo.

We’re taking a trip to Alabama this weekend for her cousin’s wedding. Maybe the five hour drive will be a good time to discuss our gender roles. And that talk will be quite appropriate after I first mention that I wrote about our friendship and receive her response, which I’m 99.9% sure I already know.

She’ll flash me a coy grin and say:

“Lesbian! Wanna spoon?”

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Keepin' it classy

I’ve been working on a blog post about my best friend since last week. I wanted it to be funny and heartwarming, with a side of “oh no she din’nt!”. At present the almost finished product is a tad sappier than I intended. And I’m currently not in the mood for sappy.

So I’ve been sitting here for a few minutes, trying to decide what I should write about. Nothing special immediately comes to mind. Unless you want to count the million little things that went on over the long weekend that couldn’t possibly produce an entire post.

Like how, on Thursday, I spent four hours banging out unnecessary reports as fast as I could because certain people around here are fucktards with a capitol Fuck. It frustrates me to no end when I know the answer to a question and no one will listen.

No one: Am I a fucktard?

Me: Why, yes. Yes you are.

No One: *silence* Anybody else? I don’t understand the Office Assistant Language. She just does what I say – doesn’t really know what’s going on, poor girl. Can anyone else tell me if I’m a fucktard? *silence* Sigh. *turns to me* Fine! Have a full report on my desk by 3pm! I want charts with lots of color and pictures of gophers fornicating!

Me: *slam, slam, slam* (head hitting desk) I’ll get right on that! *slam*

I guess I could write a long post about frustration in general, but I think I’ve gone that route before: Sexual...check. Work...check. Home...check. Friends...check. Anything with a penis...check. Yeah, frustration is so done around here.

How about an outing with my friend Megan on Friday? I could talk about that?

We went to dinner at a trendy Japanese restaurant, but for some reason it was hotter than Satan’s ballsack in there. I was wearing a dress that, once seated, didn’t cover much of my ass and after eating a bowl of stupid egg something or other soup that she talked me into getting, my legs were super glued to the goddamned seat. She was sweating, I was sweating, everyone was sweating.

And our waiter was a complete sleaze ball.

He had dark eyes and dark hair gelled into ridiculously tall spikes. He wore big silver rings on each hand (not on his ring finger) and the standard black outfit of the other servers. He had a nice face and looked to be about 30 to 32, but clearly thought he looked no older than 25. When he approached the table my first thought was, “I know that guy from somewhere...he looks really familiar”. My second was, “*squinty suspicious eyes*... didn’t I fuck him...?”

That’s me. Keepin’ it classy since 2001...ish.

He got progressively handsy as the meal wore on. By the time we were enjoying a last drink before heading for the movie, he’d gone from shoulder massaging and back rubbing to squatting at breast level and licking his lips. By then I was almost sure he was a guy named Trey that used to run with mutual friends around my town, so I asked him.

Turns out I didn’t know him after all and his familiarity with my...person was even more unwarranted than I originally suspected. Especially when he referred to my breasts as “melons”. I mean, really? Are you a waiter or a pimp browsing the flesh market? I know how hard it can sometimes be to distinguish the two, but here’s a little trick: Nice restaurant = waiter. Seedy bar/alleyway/crack whore’s house = pimp. You’re welcome.

At the movie, Sex and the City 2 in case you were wondering, we had to sit near the front. Poor Megan’s neck started to bother her from all the craning, but other than an infrequent urge to cross my eyes I was alright. The film has gotten some bad reviews, but from what I can tell (and I’ve only seen every episode ever made twice, so what do I know?) the girls are the same as they’ve always been, plus a few years, and there are some great one liners. That’s all the review you’re going to get out of me. I’m not a critic and I almost always find something to enjoy about everything I watch.

We spent the rest of our night in a bar with a bunch of men. She canoodled with her boyfriend and sucked on hot honey wings while I debated the merits of certain cell phone brands and girls that don't like their nipples bothered with a guy whose name I simply cannot remember. He accused me of trying to distract him with my cleavage and I was forced to silently forgive the waiter from earlier because referenced once, it’s their fault. Referenced twice or more, it’s clearly mine.

Still keepin’ it classy, obviously.

Alright, even that didn’t take up an entire page. Would you like to hear about how I got my hair highlighted on Saturday morning, still nice and ripe from my 4am homecoming? Or how I went home and painted my toenails and fingernails with the neon blue polish from the OPI Shrek line? Or! How about how I was so lazy that I missed out on all the boating that day and by the time I made it into my bathing suit there was no one around and I lay on the dock for 10 minutes before a storm came up and blew me away?

No? Ok.

How about this one:

On Sunday I ran into this guy at my family BBQ / lake party. I hate it when guys that say they’re going to call you and never do still look great when you see them six months later. (Note to self: Write ode to swim trunks with no lining.) I also hate it when they don’t speak to you the entire day and every time you lock eyes across the gazebo they give you a little knowing smile before turning away. Like they’re just waiting for you to half levitate and float their way, dragging your toes behind you, with giant cartoon hearts beating out of your eyeballs and your tongue lolling out of your mouth. Puleeeassse, fucker! I’d rather masturbate to Larry King Live than let you think you’ve won.

The best part was when I was floating on a raft and he joined a group leaving on a boat ride. As they drove by he stood and faced me, half bowed and blew kisses, grinning like a maniac the entire time. I didn’t do anything except hiss at my friend Claire floating nearby, “Did you SEE that? What a DICK!”

“Yeah”, she replied, “you should have done this...uh uh!” She did the old hand chopping on either side of the vagina motion that I haven’t used since Bush #2 was in office.

“Fuck! Why didn’t I think of that?”

She continued to make chopping motions and grunting sounds, occasionally throwing in a few bird fingers and an arm hook move for good measure. I think that last one was supposed to mean “up yours”, but you can’t ever be too sure about these modern gestures. Now that I’m old I have to be careful about that sort of thing. I wouldn’t want to throw up any new aged gang signs by mistake.

I probably did the right thing by ignoring him (read: not coming up with an appropriate gesture in time). I’m above all that now. I’m, like, thisfuckingclose to being PTA mom extraordinaire. Maybe even a Girl Scout troop leader. Aren’t the little ones called Brownies? I fucking love brownies.

Sigh.

Ohmigawd, look you guys! I managed to make a post with a theme entirely by accident!

*chop chop* Uh uh! Who wants to see my melons?