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It is ON.

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So I am sitting across from my colleague, Dan.

He is a nice guy.  We have always liked each other.  We have a good working relationship; friendly, full of good, mostly-appropriate workplace humor.  More so I am full of my brand of humor and he is humored BY me, but still.

As it stands now, I have something he wants and so he is sitting in a chair in front of my desk beginning to grovel appropriately for something unrealistic he needs, in an unrealistic timeframe for an unrealistic client.

I enjoy his groveling so I let it continue because it makes me happy. He knows he may not get what he wants because I am no shrinking violet, but that getting there is half the fun.

Dan does not know me very well, but well enough to know this is the fun little game we play.

We begin our meeting, becoming more engrossed in the particulars of what he needs and when he wants it, and then things get a little tense when I push back on his requests.

My back tenses slightly.  You know, because I have now gone from playful-humor mode to biting-humor mode so he knows who he is dealing with.

It is now that the fireworks begin.

At a certain point in our banter, I feel an instantaneous flash of a spark in the lower part of my belly.

At that precise location, the heat starts gurgling.  Not roiling yet, just gurgling, like the little tiny bubbles in the pot of water over the flame on the stove that crawl up the sides, harbingers of what is to come.

Dan and I lock eyes, still negotiating with fervor like I watched my Dad do when I bought my first car.  The air between us is suddenly electrified.

The gurgling has now spread to my upper abdomen and is working its way to my slightly heaving chest. I am breathing imperceptibly faster.  Or is it perceptible??

The bubbles on the side of the pot are traveling upward faster…my neck, my arms…and now my heart is pounding.  I shift in my seat.  The words between Dan and I are still flowing uninterrupted.  But what is unsaid – is a lot.

My thighs are feeling the effects now, and I put my hand to the back of my neck and tilt my head slightly toward a training manual on my desk, in a valiant effort to draw Dan’s eyes away from me and what I am truly feeling.

And now, God, it is in my cheeks, my eyes…my face.  Continuing to talk and remaining focused on the task at hand is not impossible, but it is not without effort.

Dan is now looking at me with obvious interest.  With growing intensity.

This acknowledgement between us that something is happening is now undeniable.

I try to collect myself while speaking, as I slide my hand slowly across my desk a mere few inches from Dan’s hands – increasing my volume so he locks eyes with me again.  He clears his throat.

My left hand reaches knowingly for the small, worn and slightly misshapen steno pad next to my phone.  Dan mimics me and pushes his legal pad forward and lifts his pen to begin writing.

As he writes I stare at him, wondering if he knows what I am thinking, if he feels the charge in the air.

With the steno pad now in front of me on the desk, I slide my hands up to the back of my neck, lift both of my arms and softly, slowly lift my fairly long, brown hair up from off of my back in a flawless, sweeping motion.  My breathing is noticeable, my pulse quickening.

He looks up from his writing.  He is nervous.  I am nervous.  So much unsaid.

My left hand is holding my hair up off of my neck, and my right hand gently brushes my forehead, my temple, my upper lip, coming to rest on my chest just above the buttons on my summery blouse.

Dan notices this of course, but he pretends he doesn’t.  I pretend not to notice that he is pretending not to notice.

Dan touches the top of his collared shirt, brushing his neck with his forefinger.

My right hand reaches for the steno pad, no pen in sight.

I let out an audible though not entirely inappropriate gasp as I lift the pad and part my lips in anticipation of the bursts of wind that will cool my skin on fire – when I begin to fan myself like a Southern belle rockin’ away on her porch in August.

Dan looks at me.  He stumbles on his words and makes a feeble attempt at humor while staring at me fanning my face, chest, and the nape of my neck as I tilt my head forward.

He swallows hard.

I swallow hard and then decide to interject with something incredibly meaningful to us both…”How ’bout them Cubs?”…as we are both Cub fans.

He is thankful for the reprieve of the intensity between us, as am I.

He tells a story involving himself and a friend at Wrigley Field, and I giggle in awkward delight at how funny it isn’t, while appreciating his grasping at anything to avoid what is happening between us at this moment.

I am sure that what is going through our minds is similar…this is the office.  We are colleagues.  This should not be happening.  How will things ever be the same between us again?  Will anyone else notice what we are sharing right now??

I let a whispered sigh escape as I continue to fan myself slowly with tendrils of my hair wafting back and forth with each stroke.  I shift in my seat, moving my legs to the side so they are uncovered by the desktop.

Dan can take it no longer.  I see it in his eyes.  He needs to speak the words so far unspoken.

“Are…” he clear his throat, “…are you okay?”

I smile wryly at him, squinting my eyes slightly.

“Yes, Dan, I am okay.”

He breathes deeply, moves in closer to me and says, “Are you sure?”

Our eyes meet.  I move in closer…our faces just a foot or so apart now.

“Yes, Dan.  I am sure.”  I say with sweet deliberation.

“Oh…I…I, okay…” he stumbles, and shifts uncomfortably.

I interject, longing to speak the words we both want to hear.

I move even closer, Dan’s eyes narrow now for a second.  He is anxious.  No one is around.

“Hot…” I say with the beads of the boiling, roiling water from the pot on the stove now glistening all over my body…”Flash”.

“What?”  Dan asks a little too loudly.

“Hot.  Flash”.

We look at each other for what seems an eternity.

“Menopause, Dan.  Hot flash.  There I’ve said it”.

Dan leans back in his chair, tilts his head back and lets out a boisterous “Ha!  Wow.  Thank God, I thought you were sick and getting ready to throw up!  I’ve been sitting here this whole time trying to figure out how I could grab your garbage can just in case!”

As the roiling stops just as suddenly as the gurgling began, I laugh, dropping the steno pad and picking up a well-placed napkin to begin swabbing the comical amounts of sweat pouring off of me in embarrassing places.

“Yeah.  Well, it’s just menopause.  And this, my friend, is what it looks like.  You are watching biology, the cycle of life, the wonder of Niagara Falls – right in front of you all at once.”

Dan chuckles, “Just glad you’re ok.   That was definitely a show.  Thanks, man!” as he proceeds to get up and walk away.

“Ha…yeah, you’re welcome!” I say faux- jovially, adding the tag line of “you little fucker” silently to myself.

“Oh, Dan!” I yell after him, “Remember that deadline will not work for us – I cannot be flexible with that”.

He laughs and shakes his head “Ohhh damnnn, I thought I’d sneak that in since you weren’t listening with all that going on”.

“Hey”, I say with a hint of chiding, “Here’s the great thing about women, I can simultaneously sweat like a hog farmer through my clothes due to my lady bits working in overdrive AND AT THE SAME TIME listen to and absorb everything you are saying…which is more than I can say for your half of the species the majority of the time.  So you know what’s ON?  My deadline.”

“Yeah”, he smiles, “Okay fine.  Sorry.”

“Yeah.  That’s right!” I say rather loudly with pretend/serious indignation as he walks away.

I stand up letting my hair down with a flourish, straightening my skirt and lifting my now damp blouse away from my skin.

Little fucker.

Is it hot in here??

Oh it is on.  The heat is most definitely ON.

Dissonance.

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It was my favorite kind of day in Chicago. Sweatshirt and shorts weather, the perfect combination. Like chocolate covered pretzels – just sort of perfect in its dissonance. I knew when I woke up that morning I would call in sick to work. I was not sick.

It was 1997.

I did not know what I wanted to do that day, only that it was a morning I simply could not allow the same routine to exist.

I laid in my bed trying very hard not to allow the creeping feeling of guilt to lie on the pillow beside me. I instead allowed the just-fuck-it side of me to yawn and stretch and wake up. I said Hi! It’s about time you showed up, and I left a voice mail for my boss with some thinly veiled reference to things coming out of both ends of me…must have been something I ate…I should feel better tomorrow.

I lived alone. I sat up wishing I had a destination but was motivated to get up despite not having one.

I could tell through my curtains it was hazy outside, cloudy. And cooler than it was warm. This was good. I did not want the pressure of having to do something typical on a beautiful, exceedingly warm nearly Fall day such as ride a bike along the lakefront.

I stood up and got a head rush and waited for it to pass. I almost never wore my robe. But this morning I closed my bedroom door and took it off the hook. It was green, emerald-green. It is still green and I sometimes still wear it, but that was maybe the 5th time I’d ever put it on. It felt so nice and warm, and then I slipped on my slippers.

Taking probably seven steps I was standing in the middle of my living room. No noise except the vague sounds of traffic outside. I wished, deeply, that I drank coffee because that would have been the first destination. But I don’t drink coffee and never have. It sucks to not drink coffee, I thought to myself.

So I peed instead. No, man, not on the living room floor. I managed to get to the toilet. As I sat on the cold seat I thought, smelling coffee or bacon right now would be nice.

Done, I went to my refrigerator. Which was at the back end of my very long clothes closet. Which was of course just off the kitchen. So acceptable was this peculiarity in my 20’s.

Diet Pepsi was my poison, my caffeine. It is still so awesome. I opened a can and started to drink and took a step back.

The nice thing about having your refrigerator in your closet is that you can stand and stare at both and think…everything in here sucks, and have it apply to both your clothes and your food.

I made a slight belching sound and shivered at the coldness running down into my stomach.

I moved a box of crackers to get to a pair of my shorts. Then reached overhead and moved a box of stage makeup I’d had since high school to get at the comfy grey sweatshirt with no logos or words on it.

I took those and my poison and schlepped into the bathroom and got undressed. I started the shower while simultaneously brushing my teeth. I had to run the cold in the sink to ensure the hot in the shower would stay hot for longer than three minutes. I honestly have no idea if this was a factual cause and effect. But it happened once, and so I continued to do it for luck. My shower water needs to be just shy of scalding.

It was a big claw-foot tub that you almost needed a step stool to get into, and like every morning I showered I prayed, please don’t let me die getting into this thing because that would be a shitty and embarassing way to go.

While washing my hair I had two epiphanies: 1. I wasn’t even hung over and really wanted an Egg McMuffin. And 2. I was going to walk around my neighborhood and take pictures all day.

I was taking a photography class during this timeframe and I was suddenly excited that I had found the perfect justification for this day of hookie.

I rushed through my shower. I put my utilitarian underwear and bra on, khaki shorts and grey sweatshirt and blow-dried my long hair into a screaming knot. Instead of brushing it out in clumps I threw it up in a clip. A little makeup. Very little. Some blush and my ever-present lip gloss.

I was moving quickly now with purpose. Back into the hunger-closet to get my backpack. And then into the barely there little corner storage thingy in my bedroom to get my camera.

I opened the bag and began flipping through all the unused rolls of film. Yes, film. Film. The stuff Kodak used to make. Do they still make it?

Black and white. Sweet and salty.  Black and white.

I took two rolls. One Fuji and one Kodak, because I had just learned the difference between the two. I’m sure it was some subtly profound difference – but I couldn’t tell you now if you paid me.

I loaded the camera with the Fuji. I guess because it felt more exotic and leant itself to the possibility of something really cool happening. Fiji. Fuji. It’s how my mind works.

Shoved some crackers and keys in my bag, and walked quickly to the door. I banged my knee into the door jamb having not taken into account the backpack also needing to get through the opening.

Motherfuckkkkkkker, I whispered.

People had to go to work, after all, and I didn’t want to wake the poor bastards up. Skin was torn away from my knee but not bleeding so I slammed the door behind me to vent my anger.  Wow, so loud. I might as well have yelled MOTHERFUCKER at the top of my lungs.

I decided to walk North onto Broadway toward the not as nice part of my neighborhood and meander around in concentric circles from there. I had no idea if I would find anything which would be worthy of my Fuji. But there were some things. There were.

I stopped at Graceland Cemetery.  Cemeteries are usually beautiful to me and this famous one was no exception.  Through a chain-link fence bordering off construction I focused my paltry 35 mm lens on a tombstone.  Frankenstein.  That’s all it said.  Frankenstein.

A beautiful old church was being shredded apart with a wrecking ball, but the entire stained glass wall behind the altar stood alone.

Two ancient men smoking pipes and speaking to each other in what I assume was Polish.

A mobile HIV testing van.

And more, all worthy of my fictional gastrointestinal issues.

But I cannot find those pictures.

I have one.

The chain locked doors of a Pentacostal church which oddly held only evening services according to a sign on the lawn.  Two comically goliath doors were chained together.  Trying to keep the sinners out or keep them locked in?  From a half block away the wooden doors loomed absolutely black in color, shaded by an ornate archway, with the chains barely visible in the muted sun.

I knew the shot I wanted but it would not be easy to get on my manual camera.  It was a long exposure with no tripod.  I needed to hold very, uncharacteristically still.  I set my F-stop, adjusted whosas and whatsits, took a deep breath and held it in, then clicked the shutter three times.

Film.  There was no instant gratification.  No immediate affirmation of a job well or poorly done.  I waited over a week to get my photographs back from the developer.

It turned out exactly as I had hoped.

They were all worth it.

The Egg McMuffin was salty.

This, though, was my sweetest thing.

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Spinderella

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One of the funnier things I have seen on television is this scene from “Arrested Development” where Lucille 2, played by Liza Minelli, is sauntering herself into a clinic for treatment of her vertigo.  It then cuts to Lucille 2 leaving the clinic “cured” and running into a man arriving at the clinic for his own treatment, and well, things get dicey.

Okay maybe you can only appreciate the extreme humor of that scene if you actually suffer from it.

VERTIGO (DEFINITION):  The condition by which your balance and physical stability is compromised apparently due to some loose-piece-of-shit-eating-calcium or somethingorother in your inner/middle ear which enters and gets stuck in a part of the ear in which it does not belong and bangs around in that wrong place, wreaking havoc with your sense of motion – essentially creating the feeling of what you’re certain the brown acid must have been like at Woodstock ’69.

Hi!  I have Vertigo.  I was diagnosed with BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).

I have had this condition for years, enduring for the most part only short-lived bouts of it.  Sometimes is hangs on a bit longer.

This time it is the latter of those.

I woke up abruptly in the middle of the night a while ago while on my left side, decided I needed to know what time it was RIGHT THEN for some reason, whipped my head to the right to look at the clock – and whhhhooooooooossssshhhhhhh – there it was.

The entire room started spinning violently.  I grabbed hold of the covers and side of the bed and held on for dear life, gritting my teeth.  It was several minutes until the spinning completely stopped.  It was the worst it had been since the first time it happened to me around 8 years ago.

It has settled down.  I can certainly function normally.  After I’ve been awake and up for a while I forget about it.

But then I do something reckless like tilt my head backward to chug a Diet Pepsi or lie down without propping my head up on 12 pillows first…and there she is, that bitch.

Doing sit-ups at the gym is full of hilarity and fun!  I pop in my headphones, rifle through my iPod to choose a song that enhances the mood such as “Rubber Band Man” or “Stuck in the Middle with You” – and wait.

My head has to be in the offending position for a fairly prolonged period of time (15-20 seconds) before it happens.

If I lie prone or tilt my head back and keep it there…at first it feels fine.  Then I get all cocky thinking, hey, it’s gone.  But I know better:

  1. My eyes feel it first.  Almost like they start getting heavy and I close them.
  2. Then a pulsating starts in my brain and the whooshing sound starts in my ears.  Maybe it’s my heartbeat.  I don’t know.
  3. Then the spins start.  If you’ve ever been drunk, pretty damn drunk, and you plop down on your bed and stare at the ceiling and have gotten the spins – that’s it.  Only without the fun and mayhem of the drinking beforehand.
  4. It gets worse and worse, culminating in a full-out your-drunk-with-the-spins-while-at-the-same-time-on-the-tilt-a-whirl-at-the-carnival type feeling.
  5. Then it starts to subside.  It lessens.  It slows.  Eventually it stops, like it never happened.
  6. Until later if I tilt my head backward or lie down again, in which case – yipppeee – it basically starts all over.

When I went to physical therapy for this condition years ago I FREAKED OUT on the poor intern, so sure was I that it would never go away and would happen constantly every minute of the day no matter what I was doing (not the case), and verbally accosted her with:

“How am I supposed to LIVE??  What the fuck am I supposed to DO for the rest of my life…take the BUS?!?”

(That poor girl.  I really dislike buses.  The only time I took a bus regularly, ever in my life, was when downtown Chicago flooded in 1992 – underground.  Remember that Chicagoans?  No subway. Had to take the bus to work from the far North Side to Michigan & Randolph every day.  Man that sucked.)

I feel no symptoms of vertigo while I am driving.  Thankfully I do not drive staring up at the ceiling or lying down.

That very patient intern gave me some maneuvers to do (this and this) which either completely eradicate the dizziness or significantly lessen it.

I did one of them on a park bench once, after leaning my head backward to catch a frisbee triggered it.

When you see people made of clay doing this in public, you’ll know why.

Some day relatively soon, as history has proven, I will wake up and it will be magically gone again.  And it might be months until it rears its ugly head.

What really pisses me off though, is that it’s prohibiting me from pursuing a career in so many things like for instance, figure skating.

How could I perform one of those pretty tilty-head spins?

Come on.  If my vertigo is acting up I cannot do that.

Because I would look like this…

My secret dream of becoming the first 43-year-old, never-trained, never-before-ice-skated Olympic Silver Medalist (I am realistic…Gold at my age would be difficult) in solo or pairs ice skating can never be realized.

It makes me bitter.

And it makes it difficult to write.

I always write while sort of semi-laying on my left side. I don’t like to sit straight up at all while writing.  I am a lounger.

So I haven’t felt much like writing in a damn long time.  But I caved and have been sitting up writing this as if I have a 2×4 shoved up (noooo, not shoved up that) the back of my shirt with my head duct-taped to it.

But it is not at all conducive to creativity.

So if you don’t mind I am going to assume my normal Cleopatra-esque writing position here, reclining on my left side with my head tilted to the left, hoping the dizzies will keep at bay –  because I have been dying to tell you all this one thing that  happened:

h qwpeoi hgpajas ;lhgk.

lkdl lwkneu Piuuake lkwp oiue;lksntnbs;lkjsd.   Destiny lsadfoidE!!!!  Lhkasdkf[p.  l;kjd.  lads0ufgh’sdlkj@@R%.  HA!  Right!? ;lskdfo9lkhetr.

LJlkdf.  &4e8#$dafkj8.  angels singing 0o9e3r4u  daljgj384  adfj[og8add. *&3.  O(dlkfa. =profound 4dlkaf*.  og[a=adfouk.

*&4ew a’w33rmD 0)(*r  WEr9jd’fa09832  dsl never the same kjfa0-9rk=((87r)(r#$.  )98r39kjfd.  It was (*RJjtrLEUjh;ds life changing (ri;lfgnNcbbvnbk, ever.

Hold on…sitting back up now.  Okay.  Okay.  Definitely spinny but not too bad.  That was not as bad a spin session I don’t think.

Soooo….can you BELIEVE that HAPPENED?!  Seriously?  Seeing that changed my life forever and I hope it has as great an impact on you as it did on me.  I had to share it with you.  Please take it to heart.

Ah, it feels good to be back.

The Monkey Squad

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There are quite a few things a parent can do to inadvertently damage a child’s psyche.

It’s been done to all of us; well-meaning parents trying to infuse some sort of loving control over their children in an effort to guide them through the turbulence we call life.

Inadvertently damaging the child’s psyche usually comes in the form of the well-meaning parent (often frustrated at their astounding inability to break through the child’s unique ability to resist all guidance from said parent) resorting to some teaching tool or tactic they would otherwise not employ – were the child not a logic-allergic…child.

**********

Let me take you back to the summer of 2010.  I believe the month was July.

My three boys were outside in the front yard playing with two friends, also boys.

Did I say playing? Silly me.  I’m sorry.

What I really meant was screaming/yelling/wrestling/picking weird stuff up off the ground/shoving weird stuff off the ground into anyone’s face within arm’s length/falling down/scraping body parts/more yelling/asking for snacks every one and half minutes/all claiming they were Darth Vader when everyone knows there can only be one Darth Vader/crying and whining from everyone who couldn’t be Darth Vader because they didn’t call it first…kind of playing.

Aaaahhhhh.  A typical summer day here.

When my kids and neighbor kids are outside playing here (all under the age of 8) I am omnipresent.  Oh, I camouflage myself quite skillfully, usually in a discarded Army tarp and shrubbery remnants which I bungee-cord to myself, so as to disappear….

“…..you don’t seeeee meeeee…..

I like to think of myself as the Jane Goodall of Moms; living among them but trying not to interfere in the natural order.  The problem is they are out there for hours, dammit, HOURS.  It gets boring.

There is only so much yard work you can do covered in a mobile duck-hunting blind in the scorching 180 degree humidity of a summer day in Chicagoland.

"Dude, is that your MOM???" "Yes (sigh)". "Does she think we can't see her?" "Yes (sigh)". "Dude, that is messed UP!" "Dog, I KNOW!" (High five)

On this particular day my oldest son Boogs (5 1/2 years old at the time) was being uncharacteristically aggressive and testosterone-y with his brothers and friends.  He was also not listening to my admonishments and was generally pissing me off.

I try not to embarrass him in front of his friends with my discipline.  I make every attempt to pull him aside and embarrass him with my discipline.  But on this day he was having none of it.

I pulled out every Mom threat I could think of to get him to stop bullying his brothers and friends into being perpetual mere clone troopers or droids while he expected indefinite Darth Vaderdom:

  1. Reason:  Share Darth Vader and you’ll have more fun –  (“No!  I’m the best Vader and you know it!”)
  2. No popsicle – (“So, it would melt anyway!”)
  3. A time out – (“Good, I’ll get to sit down!”)
  4. His friends will have to go home – (“Big deal, they’re not playing right anyway!”)
  5. Go inside to your room – (“Mmmm…I’d love to be in the cool air conditioning!”)
  6. No TV for a week (“TV is stinky!”)

Arghhh…this kid.  The plain truth was he knew I was bluffing.  On this day the two friends were over because their mothers weren’t home.  He knew they weren’t going anywhere and that I wouldn’t make him go to his room.

Ooooh, he was giving me all sorts of lip and attitude and pushing my big, red Fisher Price-sized buttons to the Nth degree.  And he was just begging me to rein him in.

I was hot and frustrated and was trying at the same time to watch the other boys so I could prevent the “The Lord of the Flies” scenario from taking hold while their indignant leader was gone.

So I gently dragged Boogs alongside me as I waddled in my tarp and twigs to the side of the garage out of earshot of the other boys, and this simple phrase came flying out of my mouth in a forceful whisper:

“Do you want the monkey squad to come?”

Silence and huge eyes from him. Fear.  Then…

“What’s the monkey squad?”  Still with attitude, though faux now.

My first thought was “Ha!  That got your attention smarty.”

But my second thought was, “Oh boy…I wish I could take that back”. 

The week before we had watched “The Wizard of Oz” and it popped into my mind that I had told him the flying monkeys were the coolest, and at the same time scariest, thing to me when I was a kid.

But now I was stuck explaining what I meant and trying not to scare the shit out of him, without completely losing any standing as the Alpha Mother.

“Well, um, the Monkey Squad are really good, kind monkeys that sometimes come and teach kids who aren’t behaving well how to be better and listen to their Moms.”

Oh my God.  What the fuck? Because that is sooo much less scary than flying monkeys in a movie? 

“What do you mean?” he asked clearly terrified.  “Monkeys come and get you?  Where do they take you??”

Ahh, shit.  Think, woman, think…

“Um, they don’t really take you anywhere. They come and talk to you…. They…..oh forget it.  I’m making it up.  There is no Monkey Squad.  I’m sorry.  There is no such thing.  I was just telling you that funny little story to get you to listen to  me because you are not being good today.  I’m sorry.  There is no such thing.  Okay?  Just forget it.  Forget it.  Now go and play NICELY.”

He stood and stared at me.

“Where does the monkey squad live?”

There is no monkey squad!  (deep breaths)  I was joking.  Sometimes Moms do that when they are frustrated.  Never mind.  I was kidding.  There is no monkey squad.  Seriously.  I’m sorry.  I love you.  Now go play.”

And he walked away slowly, peering ever-cautiously through the trees for the rest of the afternoon.

Good Christ.  I felt terrible.  But damn if he didn’t play nice from that point on.

**********

Okay, so I thought it was done.  Kids his age have the attention span of ducks anyway, right?

That night we were getting ready for bed.  I was brushing his teeth.

“Mom, where does the monkey squad live?”

Son of a BITCH.

“Babe, listen.  I told you.  That wasn’t true.  Really.  I was kidding.  Sometimes Moms make jokes that are mistakes and that was a big mistake.  There is NO monkey squad.  I promise you.”

“Okay….”

Oh holy shit did I feel bad.  Horrible.  In a moment of sheer frustration and anger at my own inability to control a 5 1/2 year old boy, I instead scared the bejesus out of him.

I was sure he’d be riddled with nightmarish images all night long of flying monkeys landing in our front yard coming to take him to a Maury Povich-type troubled-teen boot camp.

But he slept fine.  He was okay. He never mentioned it the next day at all, and yet I was overcompensating still to make up for my “Mommy Dearest” moment.

I just wanted him to never remember I said it.  I plied him with more candy than normal.  Was super-lovey with him, more than normal.  And it seemed to work.  No mention the next day, or the day after that.

Whew.  Bullet dodged.

(I’m pretty sure, Dear Reader, you know that is not true or you wouldn’t be reading a blog entry about it would you?  Am I right?)

**********

Fast forward roughly one year later.  Early August, 2011.

My three boys were upstairs getting ready for bed.  I’m sorry, did I say getting ready?  Right.

What I meant to say was running around and bouncing off the walls like racquet balls as they usually do right before sleep.  You know, just to get it all out.

Teeth were brushed, potties used, jammies on and I was looking through the dresser drawers in my room right across the hall from them.

The two youngest boys were particularly nutso that night and even Boogs was getting irritated.  He kept telling them to be quiet.  But they wouldn’t listen.

I was looking for my night-shirt when I heard this from Boogs to his two little brothers:

“You guys better be good or the monkey squad will come and take you to their camp in the woods for months until you learn to behave.  But they’re not mean, they’re nice.  But still they live in the woods and they’ll come”.

What the fuuuuu………………..

“NOPE…NO….!!!!” I yelled as I tripped over myself running to their bedroom, pulling myself along the walls and busting through their bedroom door in an effort to diffuse the A-bomb I had dropped the year before.

“NO!  That’s not true.  Guys, no.  There is no monkey squad.  Ha!  Ho, man, that was just a funny little story I told Boogs a long time ago but it’s not true.  Okay…so, let’s get ready for bed guys!”

The forced chipperness was oozing out of my pores like molasses and they could smell it a mile away.

“The MONKEY squad?!?  What’s THAT?” my 3 1/2 year old whimpered in terror as he clutched his favorite stuffed animal – a monkey, of course.

“No, Babe.  No Monkey squad!  Hey, you guys wanna go to the park tomorrow and then eat ice cream sundaes for dinner??”

It was done.  The damage.  Boogs had remembered it…of fucking COURSE!  Why wouldn’t he remember the single most terrifying thing anyone had ever told him, much less that it came from his Mother; his ordained protector and anointed truth-teller?

**********

For the next half hour I tried in vain to explain the non-existence of the monkey squad.  The more I denied it, the more they believed.  They laughed some about it, but mostly they stared at Boogs as he kept interjecting more and more outrageous information about what the monkey squad was and where is was stationed (Minnesota, apparently).

It was the proverbial snowball.  From Hell.

They still talk about it.  They’ve told some of their friends about it.  One friend recently asked me if it was real.

“No.  Nope.  It is not true.  I told a bad-Mommy joke because I thought it would be kind of funny and maybe make Boogs listen to me.  Nuh-uh.  Not real”.

The friend turned to Boogs and whispered, “Where do they take you?”

It was useless.  They believed, and my protestations to the contrary seemed only to reinforce its reality.  It was done.

God only knows how many kids Boogs has told monkey squad stories to.  Hundreds?

The only thing I can’t believe is that I haven’t gotten a call from a single parent who had to get rid of their pet chimp because of my 10 second lie.

Parental guilt is rivaled only by Catholic guilt.  In my case I have both.  Such is my cross to bear.

These poor kids, not only will they be randomly subjected to sweat inducing, heart racing nightmares periodically throughout their lives…they will likely one day perpetuate this myth by telling it to their children in dire frustration, despite what logic dictates. 

But here’s a VERY interesting thing…  I Googled “monkey squad” just to see what might come up.  And there was the picture you see further up…”Monkey Squadron”.

Coincidence?  Was that picture created by a collective parental mind at work – by other parents all over the world who have told similar stories to force compliance from their offspring?

Or perhaps, just perhaps, we have direct knowledge as to how a folklore is born…on the driveway of a suburban Chicago home out of sheer desperation, from a little white lie meant to help a Mom on the precipice of losing control of her 5 1/2 year old son.

The whole story has taken on a life of its own.  You know why?  Because deep down kids think – it has to be trueMoms wouldn’t tell a lie. 

Ugh.

One thing’s for certain…I will lose all semblance of street-cred when they find out about Santa.


Dear Diary.

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When I was 9 years old my mother took me to Woolworth’s.  Oh how I loved that store.  Being surrounded by all the neat stuff there (otherwise known to us adults as crapola) was like being in Heaven for me.  I’m sure my mother did everything she could to avoid taking me and my sister to Woolworth’s mainly because she’d end up spending hard-earned money on well, crapola.

My life in some pages...

I tended to gravitate toward the paper aisle.  Scads and heaps and troves of paper as far as the eye could see.  Notebooks made heart race.  I wanted to buy all of them; one big shopping cart full of empty pages to be filled with drawings or doodles, but mostly writing.

It was there in that aisle my mother let me pick out a little spiral bound notebook.  It was green.  It cost .33 according to its top, right-hand corner, and it would be my very first diary.  I wrote this warning on the cover:  “DO NOT OPEN – Notebook for Notes!”   Above that I had scratched out the word “Diary”, which you can still clearly read.  I think it really threw people off the scent of its true function.

I kept one diary every year for 12 years, starting from the age of 9 – 4th grade, through the age of 21 – Junior/Senior year in college.  I’ve kept all of them, although I seem to have temporarily misplaced 1979 and a few others.  They’ll turn up.

There is no better way I could travel back in time than reading these things.  Not even with a DeLorean.

I will now give you some random excerpts from just a few of these diaries because, well, it’s scintillating stuff.  The depth and worldliness of my observations is kind of astonishing.  There’s really no other word for it.   Please take a moment and enter my pre and emerging pubescent mind, with some 43-year-old commentary.  If you dare.

Has held up well for 33 cents. 1978.

March 19, 1978 – Age 9:  My boyfriend Mike moved because his father had to move closer to his work.  I loved him. And he loved me.  It was true love. 

Mike once asked me to say “robin red-breast”, so I did.  He laughed and said “you said breast”.  I fell hook, line and sinker.  How could I not?  Our love was deep, and it was binding.

**********

March 28, 1978 – Age 9:  I’m sorry that I’m so late in writing but I got tied up.  I haven’t seen Mike since he moved.  I’m sure he’s forgotten all about me.  I like Jeff.

I must have been tied up in meetings.  I think 9 days was an appropriate mourning period.

**********

March 29, 1978 – Age 9: My friend Jan stayed overnight last night.  We had a super busy day.  We went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  It was about UFO’s (flying saucers).  Then we went home and ate and then we went into the basement and skated.  Boy what a busy day.

1984. This one is fairly sparse. Shame, it was a good year.

I’m not sure how I survived that day, yeesh.  Whew.  Just reading about it makes me super exhausted.  Those skates had metal wheels, not the fancy rubbery plastic kind.  No stoppers/breaks on the toes.  Those were some old-school skates.  The metal wheels were dented in places so it was kind of like skating on squares.  The laminate flooring in our basement bore the scars from our skate parties, and so did the walls and doors due to our roller derby, high-octane collisions.  Every few minutes from upstairs we’d hear “**%$^%$#….KNOCK IT OFF!”  But we were pretty bad-ass, so we didn’t.

**********

Junior/Senior year in High School. 1985-86.

March 30, 1978 – Age 9:  I spent the night at Jan’s house last night.  Her Mom made us clean the house and vacuum the living room and I knocked over a plant.  Her mom was out somewhere and came home that very minute but I ran so she didn’t have time to yell at me.

There are so many things wrong here.  Why did my friend’s mom make a 9-year-old guest clean her house and vacuum her carpet, while she was out getting a mani/pedi?  I do not note whether or not I was paid, but I suspect not.  Why did I scamper away due to the toppled plant?  Where was I going…I lived five miles away?  Why didn’t I man-up and say “Bitch, clean your own house!” while throwing the vacuum cleaner handle down and stomping out with pride? I’ll never know the answers to these burning questions.

**********

???? 12, 1978 – Age 10:  I got my report card today.  Last time I got a U, a big fat U, in “talking”.  But this time I got an S -.  So not too bad.  Man, if I got another U my dad would probably beat me. 

I wrote on this one with a peppermint scented pen. 1980-81.

Let me be clear, my father never beat me.  Back then you could make reference to even just the threat of “getting beat” by your parents without FOX News doing a sixty minute expose on it.  Those were the days.  I did talk a damn lot.  And most of my “U”s were in bright red ink, I think to emphasize the fact that if I could have gotten a “Z” in “talking” I would have.  It was the beginning of my disdain for the tail end of the alphabet.

**********

December 27, 1978 – Age 10:  This year’s Christmas was pretty good excepting I got the chicken pox.  I was loaded with them on my head, in my ear, in my mouth and everywhere else you could name.  I got the pox the last day of school before Christmas vacation and I missed the party and I was in charge of it!  And then my Dad got tickets to the Nutcracker Suite but I couldn’t go because I had a lot of the pox all over me. 

The Pox.  The dreaded Pox.  I had it bad, but not as bad as one boy I knew who was rumored to have scratched his wiener completely off during his stint with The Pox.  I’m pretty sure it was true.  I’ve seen that boy a few times over the years and my eyes always…travel…down….

**********

October 24, 1980 – Age 12:  Tonight at 7:00 I am going to my very first boy-girl dance!  Since I’m on student council I’ll get out of a whole day of school to decorate the gym.

This one is flannel. So comfy. 1986-87.

Really?  A WHOLE day??  To hang up some construction paper and sweep the floors?   No wonder I got a 7 in Math on my ACT.  I remember that day, and all we did was listen to the music us girls brought in so we could make the playlist..the playlist consisting of a 7 foot high stack of vinyl 45’s.

– Right now it’s 6:30 and me and Julie are getting ready for the dance.  I am wearing light blue pants and a blue turtle neck with a white vest.  I set my hair in curlers of course, but the curl didn’t stay in.  I put eye shadow and lip gloss on.

Several things:  1. Blue pants and turtle neck, with a white vest…I…I…don’t know what to say.  It’s not right.  2.  Curlers.  I remember those curlers of my mom’s.  They were steam curlers.  When you’d open the lid of the casing to pull one out scalding hot water would launch out of the top, along with enough scorching steam to melt your face.  You could have powered all of Vegas with my mom’s 12-curler set, the Hoover be damned.  3. I remember the eye shadow was green, which was the perfect choice to compliment my “Hee-Haw!” outfit.  I don’t know why someone didn’t help me.

– Now it’s 8 o’clock and the girls are on one side of the gym and the boys on another side.  All the girls took off their shoes because the boys were too short. 

It’s not like we were wearing stilettos.  Those boys were damn short.  Freakishly short.  Like Lilliputians, and I was only about 5’2″ at the time.  Um.  Yes. I took my diary with me lots of places.  Apparently I took it to this dance.  Geeeeeeeek.  What did I do, stick it in the back pocket of my electric blue pants next to my comb while I was swaying back and forth relentlessly…sorry, dancing…. with a boy?  I also wrote down who danced with who and how many times.  I made a chart.  What the….?

'Cuz nothing says "SECRET!" like huge black letters on a shiny, silver background screaming "SECRET!" 1981-82.

**********

November 18, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I’m working on my book.  I watched some TV too.  Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days.  I need a new bra and some long sleeve shirts.  And I want a piano. 

“…the attention span of a gnat” takes on a whole new meaning here.

**********

November 20, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we played dodge ball in gym class.  I ended up being the only one left on my side so naturally everyone on the other side was aiming for my head and neck.  I was lucky to only get hit hard in the side. 

Naturally the head and neck is where the four guys on the other side simultaneously aimed for me.  It makes perfect sense.  And I believe the gym teacher who sat off to the side, arms-folded on top of his beer belly literally pointing and laughing at me, yelled to me the phrase which Rip Torn inevitably pilfered:  “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!”

**********

November 21, 1980 – Age 12:  We finally found out who shot J.R.!  I thought it was Cliff Barnes.  Grandma thought it was Kristin.  Mom thought it was Dr. Elby (he’s a sicko) and my sister thought it was Pam.  But Grandma was right!  But now Kristin is pregnant with J.R.’s baby so he can’t call the cops on her or his baby will be born in jail. 

My Grandmother was a prophet.  Who else could have ever guessed it was Kristin when you had that sicko Dr. Elby running loose?  Grandma should have played the lottery that day. 

**********

My Grandma phase?? 1989-90.

December 1, 1980 – Age 12:  Today I feel like my life has ended.  John broke up with me in Art class.  He said we fight too much.  We went out for 1 month and 8 days.  He likes Jane.  She is such a slut. 

Ohhh, Johnny.  I really liked Johnny.  We did fight a lot though; about current events and who would be more rich and famous when we grew up.  I’m pretty sure I lost.  Also around that time I learned the difference between a “slut” and a “whore”.  Jane clearly deserved every bit of my appropriate assault on her chastity.  She DESERVED it.

**********

December 25, 1980 – Age 12:  Merry Christmas!  I got some stationary, books, lots of earrings, the new Styx album, an alarm clock and ATARI!  I also got a new diary, with a lock on it.  Atari is the best though. 

It was the best.  But most of my friends had Intelevision.  I hated Intelevision and worked hard to eradicate it from existence.  I did pretty well.  Styx “Cornerstone”.  I still have it.  You know it’s you, Babe.

**********

December 26, 1980 – Age 12:  I went to Mary’s slumber party tonight.  We watched The Amityville Horror.

The scene with Rod Steiger and the flies made me gag but I remember thinking it would have been scarier if they had been bats. And the bleeding walls made quite an impression.  I decided right then and there that I never wanted to live in a house with bleeding walls.  I’ve yet to cave on that decision.

**********

December 27, 1980 – Age 12:  Today we went by my aunt and uncle’s house and spent the night.  We all went to the roller rink.  Later on when we were watching TV me and my cousin Joe got into a fight and he hit me and gave me a fat lip.  But then I kicked him in the head.

Uh huh, but that kick in the head came about a half-hour AFTER our parents made us apologize to each other. 

This one survived a flood. Barely. 1987-88.

Only I didn’t really think I – needed – to apologize.  So while all the cousins were on the floor quietly watching TV as the parents played Pinochle,  I seethed, waited for my opening…stood up, and kicked him in the head.  He ran crying upstairs like a little girl because, shit, I kicked him in the head.  Yeah, go on…RUN.  He started it.

**********

December 28, 1980 – Age 12:  Played some Space Invaders today and then watched The Amityville Horror again and went to bed. 

Why was I always watching that movie???  Ahhh, right.  I forgot.  I was in love with James Brolin, going all the way back to Marcus Welby.  Mystery solved.

**********

December 31, 1980 – Age 12:  We went to Grandma’s tonight because my parents went out.  Me and Grandma stayed up until 2:30 am.  It was a blast. 

I wasn’t being sarcastic here.  I loved my Grandma.  I miss her.

**********

I hope you were able to absorb the profundity of these entries.  If so, check in some time in the future for the High School years.  It gets pretty steamy.  I won’t give it away but there is talk of (deep breaths)………………corduroys.

Just Say No. Well…Maybe.

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The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...

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I’m a sinner.

Despite being a genuinely good person at heart, I’ve certainly sinned during my lifetime.

I am imperfect.

I was at a party my Sophomore year in college.  It was at my roommate’s friends’ house down the street from ours, off-campus in the old Greek Row.  I had been drinking, but wasn’t drunk.  I was most definitely high, though, because my roommate was a stoner musician. I mean she played a wind instrument in the orchestra, not the drums or guitar in a grunge band or something, but still.  And well… I was high.  But not crazy-high.  Just happily buzzed.  The typical mellow, no worries, chilled, isn’t-everything-so-awesome-and-interesting kind of high.  I didn’t really know the people who lived in the party house, but they seemed cool. Nice.  Musicians also.  Artistic.  I was a Theatre major and I loved being around “that scene”.

At some point I wandered off from the group hanging out on the back porch and in the kitchen, and into the living room.  There was the stereo blaring The Ramones.  No one was around.  I stood in front of the speakers looking at the cassette tapes (uh huh, 1988.  Hey, at least they weren’t 8-tracks).  Probably 100 of them.  Without so much as even looking around to see if anyone was watching me, I picked up three of them and put them in my coat pocket.  They were three I wanted but didn’t have.  The only one I still remember was Sting, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”.

So I put these three tapes in my pocket very nonchalantly and turned and walked over to the couch, sat down by myself, put my head back and listened to the music.  I smiled to myself because I had just stolen these tapes, and I didn’t care.

Now Nancy Reagan would have said it was the pot stealing my soul.  It altered my thought-processes!  It brought out the demons in me!

Nah.  I’d always wondered what it would be like to steal something.  Small, you know.  Not grand-theft auto or bank robbery or anything.  But I had always been a good girl, and I wanted to do something “bad”.  The weed simply lifted the veil of morality that separated me from my inner bad-chick.  And honestly, it kind of felt awesome.

I walked around that party the rest of the night occasionally putting my hand in my coat pocket touching the tapes.  I had a little secret and I liked it.   Plus, they honestly had at least 100 tapes in there, they’d never miss these.  And they’d never in a gazillion years suspect lil ol’ me.

The next morning I woke up not with a hangover so much as a fog.  We didn’t get home til almost 4 am, and I woke up around 7:30 and I was just…tiiiiirrrrreeeeeddddddd.  I sat up in my bed, reached for the litre of Pepsi next to my bed (you know, dry mouth from all the reefer) and guzzled half of it without breathing.

It was FREEZING.  I think it was February.  My room was in the back of the house, and it was basically an enclosed porch.  I’m almost positive there was no insulation of any kind in that room.  It slanted significantly downward and to the right toward the back, with some paneling semi-nailed into some 2 X 4’s comprising a closet and old, dingy dark brown carpeting covering the floor.  I loved it.

My coat was laying at the end of my bed.  I reached over and put it on, got up to go to the bathroom, grabbed a piece of plain white bread from the kitchen and shoved it into my mouth (pathetic excuse for delayed-munchies junk food) and got back into my bed under the covers shaking violently.  I put my right hand in my right coat pocket and felt something hard.

My eyes opened real wide, and I pulled out the tapes.  What the…what???

Uh oh.  It all came back to me.  I was a thief.  There was Sting in all his tantric glory.

Oh. Boy.

I didn’t feel guilt right away.  I felt confused.  I remembered taking the tapes while being of “sound mind”.  I knew it was wrong when I did it, but I did it anyway.  I made a conscious, if not slightly altered, decision to steal them from my friend’s friend.  Yep.  I sure did.  I put them under my bed and put my hand back under the covers until I stopped shaking and started to fall asleep, I’m pretty sure with a slight smile on my face.

The next day was Sunday.  Me and my roommate went out for lunch.  We got back to our house and watched some TV.  Laid around.  Studied some.  Just a lazy day.  At some point mid-afternoon, she got a phone call.  She went into her room to take it and I went back to my room to find a book.

When I came back out she said, “That was Mike.  He’s so pissed off.  He’s calling everyone to find out who stole his shit.  Give me a break”.

Oh boy.

“What shit?” I asked.

“I don’t know, some tapes.  He’s so uptight.” she said shaking her head.

And I just shrugged my shoulders and sat down.

We both had our feet up on the Salvation Army coffee table, on top of the “Juggs” magazines we kept there as a conversation piece.  (Four girls lived in our house, all of us artists in some form or another, and we thought it was hilarious that we had four copies of “Juggs” as our coffee-table books.  Very weird, yet still damn funny to me).  And it hit me.  Um, I had done something bad.  And now I was feeling bad.  I had to return them.

But how??

“You know what?”, I said as if I had just remembered something, “…wait a minute”.  And I got up and ran to my room.  I reached under my bed and put the tapes back into my coat pocket.  I went back into the living room with my coat and reached into my pocket in front of her.

“Some guy at the party asked me if I wanted some tapes, and I obviously said okay, because I found these in my pocket yesterday and forgot about them”.

“Whoa!” she laughed, “Seriously?  Some guy at the party gave those to you?”

“Yeah, really.  Some guy sat down next to me and asked if I wanted them, and I said uh, okay, and he gave them to me.”

“Holy shit!  I have to call Mike!”

“Yeah”, I said, “I have no idea who he was, I just thought he lived there and was flirting or something and gave them to me.  And then I forgot about them.  He was pretty wasted.  But yeah, they’re obviously Mike’s.  So tell him I have them and I can bring them over to him.  Tell him I’m sorry, but I had no idea they weren’t that guy’s”.

Oh my God.  I was making so much shit up on the fly…and I was freaking out.  But I was an Acting major, so I tried very hard to utilize my training to cover my very-guilty-sorry-thieving-ass.

She called Mike.  She came out of her room and her face looked surprised and she said, “Wow, he’s pissed and he’s coming over here right now!”

“What?!  Pissed why??” I innocently asked.

“He thinks you stole them!” she gleefully yelled.

“What?!  Oh please.  Why the hell would I steal those?  I have a ton of my own tapes.  And I wouldn’t do that!”

“I know!  I told him that but he doesn’t believe me!”

Oh. My. God.  Now this guy who I didn’t know at all was coming over to what…beat me up for stealing his tapes?!

He only lived around the corner and within a couple of minutes he was knocking on the door.  I was cool.  Very nonplussed.  On the outside.

The tapes were sitting on the coffee table on top of the April issue of “Juggs”.  I thought if he saw them there he might be distracted from wanting to kill me.

He came in and said directly to me, “What the hell, man?  Why did you steal my tapes?”

“Hey, I didn’t steal them.  Some guy gave them to me and I was pretty stoned so I didn’t think much of it and forgot about them until you called here.  So here they are, sorry.”  I ushered his gaze toward the Juggs with all the zeal of one of The Price is Right showcase girls.

“Well this is only two of them.  Where’s the other one!?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I don’t have another one.  These two are the only ones he gave me”.

“Bullshit.  Where’s the other one?”  He was kind of menacing now. And it pissed me off.

“Hey, look.  He gave me two and these are them.”

“What did this mystery asshole look like?” he asked sarcastically.

I thought very quickly and decided giving him the “bushy-haired stranger” description would be too obvious a lie, and at lightning speed I ran through the guys who I remembered being there so I wouldn’t describe any of them.

“I hardly remember.  He was blonde.  That’s about all I remember.”  That description fit roughly 85% of the guys there that night so I felt sure I wasn’t pinning this on anyone in particular.

“Whatever, man.  Not cool!”  And he grabbed the tapes and left.

My roommate stood by the door with her mouth open and said, “What an asshole!  He’s always been asshole, man…I’ve never liked him.  Ugh.”  She came and sat back down next to me.

I was completely and totally freaked out.  I’d never stolen anything before in my life and I was wracked with guilt.  He knew I was lying.  It was good to hear that Mike was not highly thought of, that kind of lessened the guilt, but not by much.

My roommate completely believed me, because she knew I wouldn’t steal stuff.  That is what made me feel instantly horrible.  We laughed about it, all the while I was feeling bad on the inside.  My parents had raised me better, and I was a very good girl.

I went to my room soon after to take a nap.  I sat on my bed, reached under my mattress and pulled out…Sting.

So here was this crazy guy coming over to a girl’s house to accuse her of stealing his stuff, a guy who wasn’t digging “Juggs” (what’s up with THAT?) and…knew I was lying.

Still, I kept Sting.  What was wrong with me?  Had I turned to a life of hard-core crime?  Was MaryJane really the gateway drug Nancy had been preaching against all these years?

WHY had I kept Mr. Sumner’s tape?

You know what, to this day I’m not sure.  Except maybe at the time I was thinking, “Hey, if I’m going to get caught I don’t want it all to be in vain.  He can’t prove I did it…”

And maybe because a little part of me still wanted to feel “bad”.  A little rebellious.  A little ballsy.  Push the envelope a little.  I laugh to myself as I write this…yeah, a REAL little.  What a bad-ass.  Are you rolling your eyes along with me?

I still have “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” in a tub in my basement.

I’d never stolen anything before that night, and I never have since.  Well, not long ago I walked out of the gym with one of their towels.  I had simply forgotten to throw it in the bin when I was done and had left with it absent-mindedly.  I brought it back the next day – after washing and folding it.

I heard the song “Russians” on the radio the other day, and here I am telling the tale of my inner-outlaw.

I don’t feel guilty about it anymore.  I’ve done a lot of other worse, though not intentional, things in my life.

It was just one of those things that I did…maybe as proof to myself that I could take a risk and get away with it.  It was stupid and not right.  It was wrong.

But…is it bad that I don’t really regret keeping it?

Eh. I blame the weed.

Maybe You Had to Be There: No. 1

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I love to laugh.  I really do.  I mean it!  I love it.  And I love making people laugh.  It’s like a drug to me.  I’ve never used cocaine or heroin or uppers or goofballs or, Jesus – I’m so uncool…I’ll just say “illicit drugs”….but to me I equate enduring gut-busting laughter, or causing it, with that kind of high.  Any of you hard-core drug users out there might disagree with me but you can’t prove me wrong so, piss off.

It’s been a while since I’ve laughed so hard that I felt like I couldn’t breathe and like I was going to pass out, and I really need a fix.

So I started compiling in my head the things that I can remember laughing at the hardest in my long, illustrious life.  This is one of them:

College.  1988?  Probably Midnight.  Eating at “The Junction” with the usual suspects… a bunch of dirt-poor, over-worked, never-paid Theatre students.  This was “our place”.  We OWNED that place.  You could write a check there for a buck-fifty.  ‘nough said.

So I’m eating a taco salad (not their signature dish, but it cost like $ .12 – so it was pretty popular).  I start choking and gasping for air.  My friend “Sue” (I’m protecting her identity, from what I don’t know…but she’s the same friend with whom I shared Super Mario life-lessons) is sitting to my left eating her who-knows-what.

I’m gagging and can’t catch my breath.  Other friends start to notice and become passively concerned, doling out the intermittent, obligatory “are-you-okays”.  Sue doesn’t flinch and continues eating and I was pissed she wasn’t trying to help me.  She was, after all, the only one there who had taken Nursing courses and was, I assumed, my best chance at survival.

I dramatically, natch, grab my throat, look directly at Sue and sputter out the word “HEIMLICH!” in my raspy, nearly-deadness. She. Does. Nothing.

Someone from across the table leans over and smacks me on the back in a pretty half-assed sort of way, rolling their eyes the whole time.  That pissed me off too.  I cough and the offending piece of something dislodges in my throat.  I breathe hard and drink some water, slamming the glass down with a flourish.

Once I compose myself I turn to Sue, and with arms flailing in their ridiculous Italianness, yell…

“What the FUCK!?  You couldn’t HELP ME??!!  I said Heimlich!!!

Without looking up and continuing her meal she said……

“If you can say it, you don’t need it.”

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