RSS Feed

Tag Archives: humor

It is ON.

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

20130121-234718.jpg

Spinderella

Posted on

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

Posted on

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.

Posted on

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.

Posted on
The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...

Image via Wikipedia

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

Posted on

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.”

The Closet Superhero

Posted on

My entire life I’ve had extraordinarily vivid, realistic dreams.  They are almost entirely in living color.  They occur almost exclusively through my point of view; I don’t see myself in my dreams.  They are almost always cinematically perfect; dramatic cut-away shots of action taking place out of my view which I can still see and hear and understand.  They are almost always breathtaking and vibrant in their realism.  They are almost always unbelievably detailed; extraneous background sounds, smells and textures appropriate to the setting.  They are almost always ingrained in my consciousness upon waking.

Most of the dreams worthy of my morning remembrance, and there are many, almost always involve water.  Lots and lots of water.

And the ones fitting these descriptions are almost always…absolutely terrifying.

I do not drown in these dreams.  But there is a recurrent theme, or thread, running through all of them.  I end up in some sort of building; a warehouse, a house, a shed, an apartment building, a barn…which eventually becomes submerged in hundreds if not thousands of feet of water.  Water rarely enters these buildings save for the leaking which comes through the closed windows and doors.  There is air for me to breathe.  Life is normal inside these buildings.  But only inside.

I’ve had this same type of dream for at least twenty years, a couple of times a year, roughly six months apart.  They are definitely cyclical.  Cyclical to what, I’m not sure.

The last water dream I had was about five months ago.  It went as follows:

It was a summer night, early evening, in Chicago.  I had been to the beach and was walking home.  While I am usually the only person in my dreams, I don’t always feel alone…I know there are other people around I simply cannot see them, but I can usually hear them.  I could hear children laughing and playing in the streets.  It was hot, and I was sweating.  I was very anxious to get home.  I could smell popcorn nearby and realized I was very hungry.  I was wearing flip-flops and my feet ached.  I had a beach towel around my neck and was carrying a bag with a book inside.  I was walking toward the apartment on North Broadway I used to live in alone, at a time when that area was probably not considered the safest place for a woman to live in alone.

A few blocks from home I looked West and noticed huge, billowing, undulating black clouds forming and rolling Eastward.  The wind became strong enough for me to have to brace myself against light posts and buildings to avoid falling down.  I stopped in an inset doorway of a little shop and looked South, and noticed the same types of ominous clouds rolling in from the South meeting up with the clouds from the West where they converged over my head…then the same from the North, and the East.  I was one block from my apartment.  I heard no other people at this point, and there was no sound at all coming from the hurricane force winds.  Complete silence except for my heavy breathing.

I reached the double doors to my building and walked up to the 5th floor.  It was indeed my apartment in every way that I remember it in real life, except in real life that apartment was on the 1st floor, not the 5th.  I put my things down and stood in the dim light trying to catch my breath.  There was no sound anywhere save for my breathing.  I went to the stove and turned on the kettle to make tea.  I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and tried to make sense of the weather outside.  I couldn’t.

I went to the window facing South, and there it was far off in the distance…the wall of water, a hundred feet high.

I began hyperventilating.  I opened the window and now there was no wind, not even a breeze.  Roiling clouds overhead.  Utter silence.  But it was coming.  The black wall of water was moving toward me slowly and steadily, swallowing and making invisible everything in its path.

I started screaming to warn people of its approach, but there were no people to warn.

I was alone.  When I looked again at the street below cars were askew all over as if left there in a mass exodus.  I then realized that everyone knew of its approach but me and had gone to a safe place.

I somehow knew it was futile to try to leave.  So I got a teabag out of the cabinet and put it in my mug and poured the not quite hot enough water into it.  I started humming The Beatles’ “Michelle” under my breath.  And I kept walking to the window to see how close the wall was getting.

Within minutes it was across the street.  I could see it engulf the Walgreen’s, the video store, the bus stop.  It was relentless.

I closed the window and backed up facing it until I was against the living room wall.  Twenty feet, ten feet, five…….and then it slowly pressed up against the glass.  I could see into the rippling blackness which was held at bay only by some thin panes of glass, some wooden doors and some bricks and mortar.  I turned my head to the left and watched it lumber past another window, and then another until the dim sunlight was completely extinguished.  The electricity was still on.  Life was normal inside.

I moved in slow motion toward the kitchen again and stared at the bottom of the back door leading to the porch.  And I stared, and stared, until finally trickles of water started seeping in.  Then the same from one window, and another.  The windows and doors never broke or burst open, they simply…leaked.  A gentle, monotonous reminder of what existed outside.

And then I woke up.

What is happening to me now physically as I write this, is a controlled panic.  I’m breathing fast, my heart is racing, my head is pounding and my legs are shaking ever so subtly.  I’m trying to make myself calm.  It is difficult to write this out as I have.

I have analyzed these dreams at great length.  I believe their meaning goes beyond any simplistic Freudian explanation of repressed sexuality, or extreme stress literally burying me in over my head.

Nope, I’ve come to realize that about every six months or so I quite simply need the shit scared out of me.  Fear is a very real and true motivating force in my life.  I have worked extremely hard at controlling and containing fear since I was young.  I abhor being fearful.  I feel that strength and courage are two of the most admirable attributes of personal character.  And fear is an all-encompassing hindrance to attaining those qualities I so admire.

For me, I truly believe that my subconscious tests me in this way.  I’m one of those people who wonders often:  Would I run into the burning building to save a child while others run away?  Would I stand up to an attacker in defense of my own life or the life of someone I love or care about?  Would I do it for a stranger?  Would I think about it?  Or would it simply be an instinct one way or another?  I like to think I could truly be brave, put fear aside, take action at the risk of my own peril to help myself or anyone else.  I want to be that person.

I want to be strong, and brave, with a disregard for fear.  I want to make brave and strong and bold choices in my life which ultimately have a positive impact on myself and those around me.  I don’t want to be reckless.  I want courage.  Courage of conviction and personal truth.  These are character strengths I strive for and goals I have tried to reach since I was a teenager.  I’ve had only moderate success with these things, but I’m trying.

One of my favorite movies is “Defending Your Life” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  It’s kind of a hokey comedy about some people who die and discover that you don’t go straight to Heaven or Hell, but instead to a type of courthouse where you have to prove to a panel of judges that you lived your life without fear to the best of your ability.  A prosecutor awaits to show you examples of how you instead let fear run your life.  Hence, you must defend it.  If you can prove you made at least continual efforts at true courage in all aspects of your life – even if unsuccessful – whether it was to run into a burning building to save someone or took a calculated risk in the stock market in an effort to better your future or stood up to the playground bully…you move on.  If you can’t prove you lived your life without fear and with courage, you go back and start all over until you get it right.  If you have to go back too many times, eh…you get thrown out as unworthy of progressing to the next phase of existence.

The message of that hokey little movie struck a chord with me years ago and stays with me.

And I think that’s what these dreams are about.

For years I’d wake up from these dreams with dread, in a cold, dripping sweat…crying and gasping for air.  I’d have to turn on every light within reach, rinse my face, and it could take an hour or more to convince myself it wasn’t real, it wasn’t happening, so strong was their impact. Now, I wake up from them still breathing hard, but no sweat, no lights on, no water in the face.  In a matter of seconds I know it’s not real.

In the past, within the dreams themselves, I’d scream and try in vain to run, begging for someone to save me.  Crying for help.  Desperate.  Terrorized.  Unable to react in any way other than a primal version of myself. Now, I still breathe hard, my heart pounds, I feel clausterphobic…but I at least try to warn other people. I make tea, albeit not very hot tea.  I now watch in controlled, panicked silence instead of unchecked, mindless hysteria as the wall approaches.  I now make a concerted effort to be brave.

I don’t know.  That’s how I choose to interpret these dreams.  I suppose they could occur due to simple hormone fluctuations, the time of year, what I’ve seen on the news, sexual repression, the sometimes overwhelming nature of day-to-day life.  I suppose.  But I doubt it.

I think my subconscious self is wayyyyy more intelligent than my conscious self.  And I think oh, twice a year or so I put myself to a “test”.  Yes, that’s what I choose to believe.  And I’m passing with higher and higher marks the older I get.  At this pace I should be ready to prove my inner bravery to myself when I turn 80.  And that’s okay.  So long as I get there.

I’m due for one of these dreams pretty soon, within the next couple of months most likely if history continues to repeat itself.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  If this time I sit on the couch reading Cosmo and sipping a glass of Pinot Noir as the wall of water encases the world around me, I just might buy the cape.  Not the full body-hugging jump suit with the “C” for courage on the chest or the black, knee-high patent leather high-heeled boots or the mask or anything.

…it’s a deep, rich and blue satin.  It’s pretty and shiny.

I really want that cape.

“Dipshit” is the new “30”

Posted on

By the time this entry is posted it will be my birthday.  And I will be 43 years old.

This one is hitting me kind of hard for some reason. I’m not really sure why….

Ohhhh wait.  I know why.

Because DAMN it sure is close to 45.

Which is pretty damn close to 50.

It’s all so pathetically cliché; I don’t feel like I’m 43.

I don’t feel like I was born in the flipping 60’s.

I don’t feel like I should need bifocals (which I absolutely do).

I don’t feel like I should be in peri-menopause.

I don’t feel like I should be getting night-sweats for no apparent reason – to the point I wake up dialing 911 for the fire department to douse the INFERNO that is surely raging in my bed.

I don’t feel like crazy, wiry gray hairs should be popping up all over my body.

I don’t feel like working out at least five times a week should enable me to only sort of maintain my current physique instead of actively improving it like it would have even five years ago.

I don’t feel like when I dance in my living room my kids and nieces should recoil in horror and embarrassment and beg me to stop because I look like a such a dork, when I know damn well I look cool.

I don’t feel like it should be necessary to don a huge floppy hat any time I’m near sunlight so that my ever-increasingly sensitive skin doesn’t literally sizzle with Shar Pei sized wrinkles.

I don’t feel like I should preemptively start adding “Bran” to my diet to stave off the “irregularities” I hear about in people my age on those God-forsaken daytime commercials.

I don’t feel like my back and my knees should periodically give out on me…when I’m SITTING DOWN.

You get the picture.

I know.  Small potatoes.  Nitpicky stuff.  I have no real complaints.  That’s a lie, I do.  But I’m trying to keep them in perspective.  I have the love of family and friends and three wonderful children, and I love them back.  I recognize this post is excruciatingly petty.  I’m nothing if not self-aware.  I don’t know…I guess 43 just seems like a crossing-over into the permanent “I could be your Mother” category.  It’s inane.  Believe me, I know.

Honestly, the last time I had a problem with an age was when I turned…wait for it…………. 27.  What a dipshit I was.

“Oh I’m so sad…I’m almost 30 and I haven’t won an Oscar yet, or written my novel, or been skydiving…”.  Puh-leeze.

I still haven’t done those things.  Oi.

If I could go back and visit my 27-year-old self, I’d say “Hey, Dipshit, look…” and I’d show her the course of my life up to this point.  Then I’d ask her, “Would you really change anything?  Really?”

My 27-year-old self would ponder thoughtfully (after the near-stroke and freak-out of seeing my squinting, profusely sweating, hunched over future self) and say, “Are you fucking kidding me?  Yes!  Yes!!!  Hell YES!!!….Wait, where are you going, Grandma?  The “Golden Girls” isn’t on for another hour!  Come back here!  Are you DEAF too….wait….!!!”

My future self would have been walking out the door into the time portal upon hearing that and flipping my past self the bird.  I don’t think I’d appreciate being the victim of my own caustic, taunting sense of humor.

And also because while I’d change a lot, and I mean a LOT about the course my life would take, 27-year-olds who are depressed about some day turning 30 are really just stupid.

Did I mention I have less patience now too?

I hope in sixteen years I can come back here, still relatively happy and healthy, and write about what a dipshit I am right now.

That would be pretty cool.  Yeah, here’s hoping.

15 Minutes

Posted on

A long time ago, in a lifetime far, far away…I was 14 years old.  It was an unusually warm, October day during my Freshman year in High School.  I was a cheerleader and we were practicing on the football field.  I distinctly remember being hot wearing the white, short-sleeve, wool sweater with the big blue “R” on it.  It was snug, and scratchy – being wool – and fairly uncomfortable.  We had been warned by our coach not to wash the sweaters or skirts, or to get them soaking wet, ever, or they would shrink to a Barbie doll size and we’d have to pay for them.  They could only be dry-cleaned.  They were cute, old-school uniforms…complete with pleated white and blue upper-thigh-high skirts and yes…saddle shoes.  Boy, how I hated those clown shoes.

I only lived about five blocks from the school, and three blocks from the football field.  Practice that day was right after school and it was still fairly light outside when it ended.  I should have been home within a few minutes, but I had forgotten one of my books in my locker.  I ran back to the school, got my book, and walked out.  It had been a really beautiful day.  It was one of those Fall afternoons when the nearly setting sun glowed enormous and orange, and the warmth made the scent of the season’s change hang potently in the air.  It was my favorite season.

But in the ten minutes it took for me to run back to school, retrieve my book and walk out again – thick, dark, puffy clouds had gathered low in the sky.  I had no coat, no umbrella and the raindrops were beginning to fall.  Huge, round, cold raindrops.

Before I even reached the street it began to pour.  A hard, steady fall of cartoonishly-splashy drops.  I started to run.  And panic.  I was carrying my math book, and even though the very word “math” made my muscles tighten in tandem with heart-palpitating dread, I didn’t want my book to be ruined.

However, the real panic was reserved for my cheerleading uniform.

************************

My coach, well she was an…odd woman.  She was also my English teacher.  I didn’t much care for her, and she didn’t much care for me.  She was hard on me both in class and in practices.  She made “examples” of me in class, and not in a good way.  The most recent talking-down from her had come in class when she made me stand up and display my hands in order to show everyone that nail polish should never be chipped and old-looking like mine was.  Another was when she read one of my journal entries to the class as an example of “how not to write”.  She made us write in those things every, damn day.  The horror.  And one day she asked us to write about what animal we’d most like to be and why.

I felt like she was sitting at home drunk and thinking up crazy shit for us to write about and it annoyed me.  I’d been a “writer” literally my whole life, so I wrote what I thought was a brilliant thesis on how I’d be a “seal”, and explained why.  It was ridiculous, albeit I felt very well-supported and elaborated upon.

She knew I was writing it as a joke, and a joke on her at that.  Still, she couldn’t prove it.  What animal would you be…puh-leeze…so juvenile. Regardless of my convictions as to her lack of teaching skills, she then had me read it in front of the class.  Everyone laughed at the flowery language I used to describe how much I’d enjoy having warm blubber, eating live fish and swimming simultaneously, being able to dive to great depths with a single breath and how I felt in a past-life I might have been one.  She told the class it was disingenuous, it hadn’t come from the heart.  What did she know?  Maybe I really LOVED seals.  Eh…she rightly called me out.  I rolled my eyes and couldn’t have cared less.  I liked making people laugh so it was a win-win for me:  they laughed and she couldn’t embarrass me.  So…we had that kind of relationship.

Still, I was a good girl, and my uniform couldn’t get soaking wet.  Or she’d have my ass.

**************************

I crossed the campus and reached the street.  My heart was beating wildly, I was panicking.  I could feel the uniform clinging to me with its scratchy wooliness.  I couldn’t see any cars or people on the street at all.  It was like everyone had advance notice of the torrential downpour but me.  I ran and ran, thinking to myself that the less soaking wet it got the better.  I ran through puddles I tried in vain to avoid, then slipped and almost killed myself trying to jump over one up onto a curb.  My meticulously permed and then blow-dried-to-perfection hair was now just long, wet curls.  I was whining aloud periodically…”Shit!…oh come on…Shit!”.

I ran two blocks that way.  So scared of what would happen to my uniform, my book, that I’d get in trouble, that my parents would have to pay for new ones.  When I got to the beginning of the third block…I stopped at the park which still exists at the end of the street I grew up on, close to the football field.

I just stood there.  Breathing heavily.  Book held loosely in my right hand down at my side.  I brushed the drenched hair from my forehead, put my left hand on my hip and leaned on my right leg.  I remember it all so clearly.  Then I shook my head, leaned forward and yelled out “HAH!”  I think it was to the Gods.

Then…I let go.  I just had to let it go…the stress and panic of ruining my book and my uniform.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I had no control.  I simply had to let it go.  And when I did I felt so, incredibly…happy.

The rain was cold but I wasn’t.  I felt warm and I felt liberated.  I was alone on the street, possibly in all the world; just me and the rain and everything else that ever was.

I ran some more, toward nothing really.  Not toward home or school or shelter of any kind.  I walked in circles.  It suddenly felt so good to be drenched and free of my immediate worries.  I felt strong.  I began jumping around.  I jumped with both feet into a puddle sending mud and muck up my legs, inside of my hideous shoes.  I laughed out loud.  I yelled aloud at no one, and no one could hear me.  I felt powerful.  I wiped the rain away from my eyes and realized I was breathless from laughter.

I stood in front of the park and looked down my street with its big orange-leaved maples hanging over on either side touching at their tops to create a beautiful tunnel.  And then I walked…straight down the middle of the pavement.  No people, no one.  I felt free.  I carried my book close to my chest with my right hand and I swear to you I could not stop giggling.  I zig-zagged back and forth between each side of the street, up onto the sidewalk and back to the middle of the street.  No one was watching me.  No one could hear me.  I was alone, and I loved it.  I walked back to the park and then started to run again.

Mid-way down the first of two blocks toward my home I stopped and leaned over with hands on my knees, book under my right armpit, to catch my breath.  Water was running off of my face and the back of my neck in a torrent.  The pelting water from above was loud…I couldn’t hear anything but its pounding on the ground and parked cars on the street around me.  It felt like minutes, but in probably only a few seconds I lifted my head and looked up, still breathing hard.

There was a familiar car right in front of me.  I hadn’t heard it approach at all.  It had stopped and not hit me, which was nice.  I didn’t flinch.  I didn’t stand up.  I squinted through the sheet of water and insanely fast-moving windshield-wipers to see if I could determine who was driving it.  It was my Mom.  She beeped and held her hands up as if to say “Get in the car!”

I knew she or my Dad would come looking for me.  Still, I didn’t want anyone poking through this bubble I was floating in.  I walked to the passenger side window and she leaned over and slowly rolled it down.

“Hi!”  I exclaimed, smiling.

“Oh my God, get in the car!” she yelled.

“No…please…please.  Let me just run home.  It’s okay.  I want to.” I pleaded.

My Mom sighed, irritated that water was pouring into the car.

“What?  No, you’ll get soaked…and sick!”

I shrugged and said “Too late.”

I expected my mother, usually very forceful when it came to protecting my health, to protest and demand that I get inside.  But she didn’t.

She paused and said, “You’re crazy.  But okay.”

I love her so much for that.

I smiled and walked past her car as she slowly drove the opposite way.  I turned and watched her round the corner and drive out of sight.

Then I ran again.  I kept going until I got to the grade school across the street from my house.  I walked up onto the black-top of the school yard and looked West.  As torrential downpours are wont to do, they come on hard and fast…and abruptly end.  The rain was slowing and it was clear with an orange glow on the horizon.  It made me feel sad.  I didn’t want it to stop.  I didn’t want the moment to end.

I turned and looked at my yellow-bricked house with the crab apple tree in front.  I tilted my head.  It looked a little different to me somehow.  Smaller.  Suddenly…impermanent.  As the rain subsided to a drizzle, I crossed the street and went inside.

************************

All told, from leaving my school to walking through my front door, it was about fifteen minutes of my life.

But it was the first time I remember having the feeling of surrendering to a higher power, of having no choice but to let go of expectations and fear and consequences.  It was the first time I remember truly feeling free, and feeling alone in the world.  It was the first time I remember feeling peaceful and joyous amidst “chaos”.

There have been countless, much more important and life-changing fifteen minutes I’ve lived through.

But of all the fifteen minutes in all of my life, I remember very few with such clarity.

It was fifteen minutes of nothing.  But it meant everything.

What I wouldn’t give right now, nearly 29 years later, to be able to achieve that letting-go moment once again.

I’ve thought of that afternoon many times during the course of my life.  It’s stayed with me.  In some small way, it began to change how I viewed my life and my place in the world from that point forward.  I felt bigger, less afraid.  More…grown-up.  And it reinforces for me to this day that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.

I will always encourage my children to experience those kinds of moments, but I know you cannot manufacture an indelible memory.  They simply…happen.  They spring forth from nothingness into somethingness.

I’m betting my mother remembers very little, or nothing, of that afternoon.  Other than me possibly recounting it to her at some point, she’d have no reason to remember it.

I can tell you that I look very forward to the day when each of my children asks me, “Mom, do you remember that afternoon…you know, when I……?”  I’ll think back and try to remember, shake my head and say sweetly, “Nope”.

But I’ll smile, my heart will swell, and I’ll hope they had their fifteen minutes running in the rain.

******************************

Then again…maybe my mother smiled to herself as she watched me in the rear-view mirror.

%d bloggers like this: