Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Cheesy and dorky New Year's Eve fun!
May 2009 be happy, healthy and most of all, FUN!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Mix

So, you would think with the last 10 days off, I could have found time to blog, at least more than a clip from a movie. But first there was Christmas shopping (always last minute), then the actual event (very fun, but utterly exhausting), then the visiting with family from far and wide, then the "other" Christmas with the family that couldn't make it to the first Christmas, and finally, during and immediately following the second Christmas, THE STOMACH FLU.

On the other hand, all of this insanity gives me a lot to write about. I tried to choose: fun stories of family dysfunction or tales of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea (which, by the way, my two year old finds hysterically funny)? Extensive lists of food consumed or detailed descriptions of what it looks like on its way back up? So, I've decided to just write a jumbled mess, thus reproducing in the written word the very chaos I experienced. Stick with me; this could be rough.

The first item: a rant against Santa. Since when does the jolly red fellow bring more than one toy per child? He was nice enough to only bring one to our house, but apparently he visited my in laws and left such a load there that I had to INSIST that we leave 80% of it there (that'll teach him). In the last five days, I have watched my children devolve from relatively normal, albeit temperamental, little tikes into greedy, grabbing materialists of the worst variety. That's not to say I don't appreciate Santa's generosity, but on top of the wonderful gifts from family and friends, HE REALLY SHOULDN'T HAVE. I know I sound like a Grinch. Maybe I am. But seriously, people, you should see my house. And as everybody could predict (because it happens every year), they find the boxes much more entertaining than the gifts themselves.

But the visit with my side of the family was nice. New babies, new stories, new but familiar faces. Always welcome. Except the stomach flu they brought with them...

I seriously won't get into too many details except one. My four year old does not have any memories of throwing up and doesn't really know how to do it. He puked a trail of debbi dogs (I can give you the recipe later) that began on his Lightning McQueen sheets, across his (formerly) cream-colored rug, all over the wood floors leading into the bathroom and finally ended on the white bath mat but could not bring himself to do it in the toilet because he was afraid the toilet water would splash him in the face. Coming upon this scene out of a dead sleep, I, feverish and already nauseous, tried to aim his poor little head over the toilet but, in so doing, stepped in the slightly warm and noxious goo of the above-mentioned debbi dogs, which, in turn, led to my own (immediate and violent) upheaval, a perfectly aimed arc of beer and Christmas cookies, overshooting the head of my little sick cherub, landing perfectly (and splashingly, much to his horror) in the pristine coolness of white ceramic toilet. I won't bore you with the other details -- the hosing off of bedding in the backyard, the endless night and following day. But here we stand, alive and stronger for it.

A special shout-out to Bev and her husband for going shopping for us -- the laundry detergent, popsicles, and 7-up were like manna from heaven. Thank you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I watch Fargo every year on Christmas Eve. While this isn't my favorite scene, it is the most famous and the best one I could find on youtube. And what says "Christ is born" better than a human leg going through a woodchipper?

I hope your holidays are merry and bright!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Dawn of the Dead

As I sit down to continue spinning my yarn about what happened in the aftermath of the La-Z-Boy discovery of 1981, it occurs to me that you, gentle reader, might be interested in hearing first of what happened to Dawn. I can assure you, it is much more interesting than my discovery of horse hatred and the Son of God.

I'm sure you thought it quite "fortunate" that Dawn and her siblings were sleeping in the Winnebago on the night of her father's demise, and you were right to do so. Apparently the detectives in Richland Center thought it was, too; it just took them two years to find the murder weapon.

In 1982, Dawn's mother was arrested and put on trial for stabbing her husband in his sleep. Dawn and her siblings moved in with their grandmother, who also lived in town, for the eight months it took to try and convict her. Of course there was shock, but the townspeople also fell victim to an epidemic of worldly-wise head nodding. Of course she did it; look at the way she spent his money. (or) Well, if she didn't do it herself, she sure as hell knew who did. My father belonged to the latter camp (and was also a head nodder). He had known Don; he worked at the service station in town. He was a 6'4", 200 pound former Marine with flaming red hair. Dawn's mom, on the other hand, was 4'10" tall, one inch short (well, tall) of being a dwarf. Even if she did it when the man was sound asleep, my father contended, he would have been able to defend himself.

In addition to the speculation generated by the trial, there were also new, gruesome details for the public to ponder. The murderer had written obscenities all over the white bedroom walls in Don's blood. My middle school art teacher had helped the family clean up the mess (a fact I only discovered in college). The murder weapon had been found in the family's above-ground septic tank.

Dawn, Tiff and I remained very close through all of this, and our protectiveness of Dawn, and by extension, her family, became almost rabid. Dawn said (and I think truly believed) her mother didn't do it, and that was enough for us. We were ardent supporters of Carol (besides, what 12 year old wants to believe that a mom could off a dad?). Tiff and I were questioned by detectives about a photo they had found in Dawn's house, a polaroid of Carol taken in a bowling alley, to which someone had applied a match and bubbled out her face. Although we could honestly answer that we had never seen it, it seems pretty logical that one of her children did it. How could they not resent her for valuing BINGO! over them?

At any rate, Carol was convicted on circumstantial evidence and was sentenced to 20 years to life. Dawn and her siblings were sent to live with their mother's sister and her three children in Hume, Missouri, and just like that, she was gone. Well, she had left town -- she was hardly gone. In a display of loyalty that I don't think I could recreate today, even as an adult, Tiff and Dawn and I did not fall out of touch with each other. We called weekly and Dawn came back every six months or so to see her mom. With a southern accent. With stories of her cousin, at first how cute he was, then how he had seduced her, then how he had abused her. She lived through some white trash shit that put our former collective experiences to shame. By her junior year in high school, the situation had become so dysfunctional, that Dawn returned permanently to live with her grandmother. Before she graduated, she saw to it that her siblings were brought back too.
We remained close through high school, but then Tiff moved away, got pregnant, had a stillborn, got divorced and fell off the face of the planet for three years. I went to college, lost Jesus, and hated going back to my hometown. In my sophomore year of college, Dawn and her siblings were on The Oprah Winfrey Show, back when she was still doing sensationalistic "trash." I watched in disbelief as they talked to their mom via satellite. It was surreal. We spoke occassionally, but for the most part, it ended at our high school graduations.

Dawn is now the mother of five children, happily married to a hard-working family man. At least that's what I heard.

Eva! Look away!

To launch the beginning of 16 days off in a row for me (and to end an unforgivable dry spell), I thought I would offer this image of holiday infant terror. My apologies to Eva -- the good news, they can't actually come out looking like this. To achieve this look, the bambino in question requires at least one sick parent who is good with face paint.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Daughters of the Dead

I was going to write an entry on how I became a born again Christian and how I unbornded myself, but I realized that in order to tell that story, I first needed to tell the story of my friend, Dawn.

During the summer of fourth grade, I remember waking up one morning and my father telling me that there had been a murder in town. This was MAJOR NEWS! in our little hill-locked burg and it was all anybody could talk about. A man had been stabbed to death in his sleep by two intruders who knocked his wife out when she woke up during the horrid act. Fortunately, their four children (ages 11 through 5) had been sleeping in the Winnebago parked in the driveway.

I don't know if it was out of morbid curiosity or a deep-seated desire to befriend people who shared the rarity of a dead parent with me, but I made it my first order of business to find out about these kids. How could I not know them? Through my best friend, Tiffany (yeah, bad name), I discovered that they went to Doudna Elementary School (while we went to Jefferson). She told me they all had red hair and the oldest was a girl, Dawn, who was 11, one year older than me. Tiff had been to Dawn's birthday party the previous year, and I remember thinking she was incredibly cool for having such intimate knowledge of this celebrity family. Trying to be nonchalant, about a month after the murder, I asked if we should invite Dawn over to my house. She set it up.

The first visit was incredibly awkward. First, Dawn's father was buried directly across the street from my house. She literally had to step on his grave to get out of the vehicle which delivered her to 481 E. 8th Street. And then there is the fact that pre-pubescent girls (always prone to drama and overweening emotion) really aren't very good at negotiating the nuances of first-time meetings. I think the first thing I said to her was, "I just wanted you to come over because I know how you feel." I don't remember her reaction but I'm sure she was uncomfortable. We did end up having fun: I had a six-foot deep freeze full of ice cream and we had HBO -- 'nuff said.

Dawn, Tiff and I became thick as thieves almost immediately. The best thing we had in common was very little parental oversight. And we made the most of it. Sleepovers were always at my house because my father worked nights a lot. Tiff's grandmother lived next door, so there was that to be aware of, but we pretty much did as we pleased. We taught each other how to smoke like movie stars and how to dance like Olivia Newton John. Dawn introduced us to the extra thick application of goey, clumpy jet-black mascara at which she had become an expert to cover her bright red lashes. We walked the cemetery at midnight just for the thrill of it, and, of course, stayed up all night talking about boys: Tiff loved Chad Albaugh, Dawn loved Mike Rizner, and I loved Kevin Knause. Good times.

Dawn's mom, finding herself in possession of $60,000 in insurance money (double indemnity is a wonderful thing!), promptly bought a large house on "our side" of town, which meant Dawn would now be attending Jefferson with Tiff and I. The other thing she did with her money was develop an addiction to BINGO. She would travel the state with her friends, her ink marker and her table toys, leaving her youngest children with Dawn, Tiff and I, now aged 12, 12 and 11 respectively. It was the best school year ever. Her mother would be gone for days at a time, leaving her new Chevy Chevette in the driveway. It was too tempting to resist. We would cram ourselves and two kids in the car, leave the next oldest home alone and go driving for hours. We also loved to repeatedly douse Dawn's Linda Ronstadt poster, proudly displayed on her bedroom door, in Aquanet hairspray and light it on fire. We watched Grease no fewer than 20 times on her mom's waterbed. The house was a nightmare. With 5 cats, one of whom was always pregnant and miscarrying on the children's beds and the endless piles of crap and junk food her mother purchased, the house was literally a cesspool. It smelled horrible. We didn't care.

And of course, there were boys. Not just Chad and Mike and Kevin, but also Kirk and Jared and Robby and Ralph and Gary and Mark. It sounds lurid, but we actually (and unbelievably)remained relatively innocent. Games of spin the bottle abounded but it never went beyond kissing.

And this is where my stories meet. One night, as three unsuspecting girls made out with three equally unsuspecting boys in three cat-hair-covered lazyboys, one very suspicious father made one very short trip to one very dark and quiet house. We scrambled like cockroaches when the front door opened, my father catching fleeing boys by their shirt collars and unceremoniously hurling them out the front door. Tiff and I were forced to return to my house, in complete shame and fear. Dawn remained at home with her siblings to await her mother's return.

The consequences were as follows: I couldn't go to Dawn's anymore, although she was still free to come to my house. Tiff was grounded for a month and also banned from the house of sin. My father never told Dawn's mom, probably figuring it would make very little difference to her. My final punishment was the worst: I was being sent to Montana to spend the summer working on my aunt's Morgan horse ranch. And that's where I found Jesus.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Song Test

The blog hates me! I just put this in at Bev's. No big significance. Just enjoy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Beat that My Heart Skipped

Pardon my long absence. Real life -- what a drag! I had posted this on my blog in November and then removed it as an apology when I thought I had offended someone. That was a silly thing to do. By the way, Bev's daughters introduced me to this, too-- thanks, girls! (But honestly, what are young girls doing watching this anyway?) Enjoy!

(Bev! Why have I lost my embedding skills???)

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Walk of Shame

And to complete my trilogy, I had the interesting experience of having a new "reputation" at work. Apparently, I'm the workplace party girl. At least nobody said I did anything too wildly inappropriate, so I find comfort in that. I did see a group of guys talking who stopped as soon as I walked near them. They all turned, like a three-headed Cerberus, and leered in my general direction. Well, at least they have something fun to remember.

You'll be happy to read I've been dry since 4:00 Saturday afternoon. But I'm going out tonight -- for one beer. I promise!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Given my apparent problem with alcohol, I've decided to go clean today and drink only water and maybe some coffee.

So, what gives, fellow bloggers? Did you guys all go on vacation together and not invite me? Not that I'd blame you -- nobody likes to have a sloppy drunk to look after.

I'm looking forward to your posts!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dancing Around the Christmas Tree

I went to my work's Christmas party last night. I don't remember how I got home or what I said to my in-laws when I got here.

Today could be a long day. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

God's Most Perfect-est Food

If there was only one food left on Earth, this is what I would want it to be. Other suggestions?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How Do I Get on this List???

Hindi Sad Diamonds

I remember seeing this in the theater with Bev (I'm going to speak of her as if she's passed on until she submits a new post). This scene has it all -- pageantry, an evil bald villain stalking the young hero, crazy-cool music and a dance number! On the big screen, it took my breath away. I'm reading a book right now in which one of the characters is a Bollywood director and it made me think of this (for obvious reasons).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Commuter Update

The 'Ho Does it Again

Cape Ann, Massachusetts -- A local woman reports a noticeable increase in men driving Chevy trucks waving in her general direction in the last two weeks. "I just can't believe this keeps happening," the woman stated in a private interview with Truepenny staffers. "It's like I'm a dude magnet." The woman, who has asked to remain unidentified, attributes the attention to her vehicle, a black 2008 Chevy Tahoe with a girl-devil decal on the back window.

In the last two weeks, the female driver reports two new additional "waving relationships" having been established on her drive to and from work, bringing the grand total to three. When asked how she felt about strange men waving at her, she replied, "You can't overthink these things. It's been fun and I'll enjoy it while it lasts." The two new "wavers" drive white and black Chevy Silverado's. "It helps me keep them straight!" she said.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Perfect Paragraph

If I could write only one thing this beautiful in my entire life, I could die a happy woman:

One Kashmiri morning in the early spring of 1915, my grandfather Aadam Aziz hit his nose against a frost-hardened tussock of earth while attempting to pray. Three drops of blood plopped out of his left nostril, hardened instantly in the brittle air and lay before his eyes on the prayer-mat, transformed into rubies. Lurching back until he knelt with his head once more upright, he found that the tears which had sprung into his eyes had solidified, too; and at that moment, as he brushed diamonds contemptuously from his lashes, he resolved never again to kiss the earth for any god or man. This decision, however, made a hole in him, a vacancy in a vital inner chamber, leaving him vulnerable to women and history. Unaware of this at first, despite his recently completed medical training, he stood up, rolled the prayer-mat into a thick cheroot, and holding it under his right arm surveyed the valley through clear, diamond-free eyes.

--Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Mates

I think this is funny -- all except the bit about making a poo in the teacher's hair. That's just in poor taste.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


When I was teaching English in Budapest, I had a group of adult intermediate level speakers with whom I got on smashingly. Probably because the class was in the evening, they were relaxed, mildly inappropriate and willing to do all the crazy language exercises I did with them in lieu of a textbook. They liked to quiz me on how to get from point A to point B in Budapest using only public transportation. On the last night of class, I walked into the classroom, the lights went out, and the students (who had been waiting in the back of the room) paraded up to the front of the class, single file, led by their classmate, Zoltan, a midget, carrying a book of Hungarian art with a candle-topped cupcake burning on top. It was like something out of a David Lynch film.

Because very few people in Hungary had telephones in their homes at that time, I would leave my address on the chalkboard after our final class if I really clicked with a group of students (that seems so foolish to me now). On a Saturday about a month later, there was a knock on my door. I opened the peep "hatch," and seeing nothing, I closed it and went about my business (the alcoholic couple who lived next door had a grandson who like to liked to play knock-knock ditch). And then another knock. I did the same thing, my annoyance plainly visible and audible, and then a high-pitched but gruff voice, "Hi! It's me. Zoltan." Looking down, I saw him, bundled up against the cold, a stocking cap with a pom-pom on top almost covering his eyes. Embarassed but happy to see him, I invited him in and my boyfriend and I offered him a drink. He asked if we had any tea, so I put the kettle on. The apartment was insanely small and I remember worrying that he was going to burn his face on the stove as he chatted with me in the kitchen standing very close to the open flame.

Zoltan stayed for six hours that day. We learned a lot about his life. He lived with his mother. He was a door-to-door salesman of children's books, and before that, of doorknobs (I kid you not). He loved working, meeting new people, and he loved his mother. He said he was thirty years old. As he got more comfortable, his cheery conversation took an ugly turn. He asked if we had met any Roma people (aka, Gypsies) since living in Budapest. We said, no, we didn't think so. "Well, it's not like you'd be able to tell these days," he suddenly fumed. He then went off on a tirade. His hatred was palpable, coming off him in waves. He turned red, he slammed his small fists against the arms of the chair. He hated them for stealing Hungarian jobs, for being given preference in housing (because the Communists had wanted to keep these nomadic people in one place), for breathing the same air as him. I feigned sleepiness, I didn't offer him more tea, I started drinking beer, but he didn't take the hint. He raved for three hours. He never came back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Even a monkey would agree

One of the sexiest, saddest, funniest, sweetest things ever written in the English language:

And Jacky Caffrey shouted to look, there was another and she leaned back and the garters were blue to match on account of the transparent and they all saw it and they all shouted to look, look, there it was and she leaned back ever so far to see the fireworks and something queer was flying through the air, a soft thing, to and fro, dark. And she saw a long Roman candle going up over the trees, up, up, and, in the tense hush, they were all breathless with excitement as it went higher and higher and she had to lean back more and more to look up after it, high, high, almost out of sight, and her face was suffused with a divine, an entrancing blush from straining back and he could see her other things too, nainsook knickers, the fabric that caresses the skin, better than those other pettiwidth, the green, four and eleven, on account of being white and she let him and she saw that he saw and then it went so high it went out of sight a moment and she was trembling in every limb from being bent so far back that he had a full view high up above her knee where no-one ever not even on the swing or wading and she wasn't ashamed and he wasn't either to look in that immodest way like that because he couldn't resist the sight of the wondrous revealment half offered like those skirtdancers behaving so immodest before gentlemen looking and he kept on looking, looking. She would fain have cried to him chokingly, held out her snowy slender arms to him to come, to feel his lips laid on her white brow, the cry of a young girl's love, a little strangled cry, wrung from her, that cry that has rung through the ages. And then a rocket sprang and bang shot blind blank and O! then the Roman candle burst and it was like a sigh of O! and everyone cried O! O! in raptures and it gushed out of it a stream of rain gold hair threads and they shed and ah! they were all greeny dewy stars falling with golden, O so lovely, O, soft, sweet, soft!

James Joyce, Ulysses


A ghoulish repast as your stomach continues to work on that pie. The perfect digestif!

(Sorry, it won't embed.) And a shout out to CT who showed this to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"But here I cannot but stay and make a pause..." Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving

So, it's Turkey Day, and of course I can't let the opportunity to do some Pilgrim bashing pass me by (cute buckles notwithstanding). The following excerpt is very long and somewhat boring, but PLEASE read it. I worked really hard cutting and pasting it from a different website:

But here I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amazed at this poor people's present condition; and so I think will the reader, too, when he well considers the same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which went before), they had now no friends to welcome them nor inns to entertain or refresh their weatherbeaten bodies; no houses or much less towns to repair to, to seek for succor. It is recorded in Scripture as a mercy to the Apostle and his shipwrecked company, that the barbarians showed them no small kindness in refreshing them, but these savage barbarians, when they met with them (as after will appear) were readier to fill their sides full of arrows than otherwise. And for the season it was winter, and they know that the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search an unknown coast. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not. Neither could they, as it were, go up to the top of Pisgah to view from this wilderness a more goodly country to feed their hopes; for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to the heavens) they could have little solace or content in respect of any outward objects. For summer being done, all things stand upon them with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hue. If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world. ….What could now sustain them but the Spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: "Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity," etc. "Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good: and his mercies endure forever. Yea, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them." "Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness and His wonderful works before the sons of men."
William Bradford
Of Plimoth Plantation

These words of William Bradford contain the entirety of my mixed feelings about the "discovery" of this part of the New World. I read a large portion of this work every year with my students and I always find myself hating and begrudgingly admiring Bradford and his crew.

On one hand, who decides to remain in New England in December and then has the gall to bitch about how rough the conditions are (especially when their charter had been granted for (much warmer) Virginia and they KNEW they weren't in the right place but purposely decided to stay in New England as they could better build an isolated cult without those pesky other settlers around)? Have any of you been to Cape Cod in December? Wearing only wool? I bet they WERE uncomfortable! In this passage, one can also see their seething hatred for untamed nature and for the "savage barbarians" (the same barbarians who would later share their food with them).

On the other hand, I can't help but admire the strength of their faith. When I think of what an incredible risk this was and how badly they desired to build a sort of utopia based around their core beliefs, I am astounded by their courage. I can't think of one thing I believe in strongly enough that would lead me to uproot my life and move to an unseen land on a ship full of sailors who hated me and my kind. Unfortunately, they and the Puritans would ruin it all by, in turn, becoming the least tolerant group of religious fanatics to ever walk the planet. Their desire for religious freedom, it turns out, was only for themselves; they would become the new "hand of the oppressor." For all that it was, it was decidedly NOT a grand experiment in democratic living.

If you ever get the chance, read more in Bradford's work. It is full of "honesty" about how they treated the natives -- of course, they didn't see the problem with their behavior, but you will. It also tells the tale of much suffering on their part.

As an American and a (relatively new) New Englander, I am, of course, very thankful they came. Even if they were sneaky, lying, complaining bastards.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

David Lee, The Pig Poet of Utah

From his collection, News from Down to the Cafe... like Tom Waits without the music.

Sonata in Red

"On a field, Sable, the letter A, Gules."

Timmons Adam was upwards
of sixty-eight years old retired
from being a teller at J.R. Potts bank
when he came in the cafe
the first time alone
after living in town his whole life

he and his wife were married
long enough they both knew
they didn't like each other
also knew there wasn't anything
they could do to do
anything about it
so they waited it out

she kept a short leash
we figured she figured
if she didn't want anything
to do with him
nobody else could either
watched a lot of TV

it was a miracle
she died first
he buried her in her own
family plot
opened up all the curtains
let some air
blow in the house

Boys he sed the minute he walked in
it's a A for Adam red-letter day
I done read the will
believe I inherited
my own family estate
gentlemen the drinks are on me
we all got a fresh cup of coffee that day

came from then on
almost the rest of his life
right out of bed
for coffee and breakfast
smiling like the sunshine
down to the cafe
wearing a black suitcoat and bow tie
mostly bright red
about every single day

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What Ugly Women Know

One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted --
One need not be a House --
The Brain has Corridors -- surpassing
Material Place --

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting --
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a'chase --
Than Unarmed, one's own self encounter --
In lonesome Place --

Ourself behind ourself concealed --
Should startle most --
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body -- borrows a Revolver --
He bolts the Door --
O'erlooking a superior spectre --
More near--

~Emily Dickinson

This poem gives me the chills -- "Ourself behind ourself
concealed" -- could anything be more terrifying?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why Bev is Right

I should have been more careful. Look what happened in an eerily similar episode of X-Files! You fans will recognize and love this bit:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Otie Zerfus

Every year I teach Oedipus Rex to my senior world literature class. I always smile in delight when some boy in the class invariably says, "Dude! He's doing his mom!" as the horror of realization dawns on him. And then I tell them this little story from my childhood.
As you know, I grew up in a very small town. We did, however, have a "taxi" service in town, but nobody ever used it. In the first place, it wasn't listed in the phonebook or anything; it was more a word of mouth business. Secondly, it was owned and operated by the Zerfus family. (My dad actually had to take the taxi to work once when I accidentally drained the battery in his truck by leaving the door ajar after making a hasty exit from a makeout session with my boyfriend in the garage... but that's a story for another time.) The Zerfuses were a freakish family, even by the standards of our town, which had more than its share of families with skeleton-stuffed closets, my own included. But the Zerfuses left their closet door open -- unpardonable.
They lived about two blocks away from me, on the other side of the cemetery, in a white ranch house that looked like any other house in the neighborhood except for its peeling paint, its trash-strewn, unmowed yard and the torn red drapes that hung in the picture window. Otis Senior was never home. He practically lived at the American Legion. When it was closed, he drove around the town for hours at a time in his very old dark green Plymouth Fury III with the word "Taxi" spelled out in duct tape on the side. Mrs. Zerfus (whose first name I never knew, nor did anybody else for that matter) was insanely, wretchedly obese and practically a recluse. She could occasionally be seen riding shotgun with her husband when they went grocery shopping in the next town. Their only child, Otis Jr. (the main character of this story), was anywhere from 20 to 30 years old and was well known to be clinically insane.
My only personal experience with Otie Jr. was when I was in sixth grade. I had some girls over for a slumber party. We had just watched Halloween on HBO (my dad was working until 1 a.m. and the temptation to watch R rated movies was far too great to be overcome) and thought we would give ourselves a thrill by very quickly pulling open the drapes on our large picture window to see if the glowing gravestone in the cemetery across the street was putting on its show. Instead of ghastly, glowing granite, we saw Otie's face pressed up against the glass of the window, a glowering look in his eyes. Chaos ensued as we screamed, ran in circles, and randomly slapped and punched each other as we scrambled for the safety of the basement. Four girls called their parents and went home immediately.
Otie's insanity was further demonstrated by his habit of standing in the cemetery in the middle of the night, Bible in hand, scream-preaching about the moral dangers of the use of marijuana until the cops came to take him home. I can't remember a word he said, but I will never forget the sound of his comically high-pitched voice; nor will I forget the image of his massive, shadowy form (he stood about 6'2" and weighed almost 300 pounds) as he stood amongst the stones, his long greasy black hair dripping across his pasty white face.
One day The Richland Observer contained a most interesting birth announcement: To Otis Sr. and Mrs. (?) Zerfus, a baby girl. This was definitely news in our town; what were they doing having another kid with a full-grown boy living at home as it was, for Christ's sake? Lots of jokes also circulated about what it would look like to see those two in the sex act, a most distasteful image, I must admit. About a month after the birth, my dad was at the Legion having a drink with his buddy Larry when the door opened and in walked Otis Sr. A guy at the end of the bar yelled out, "Hey! There's the new daddy! How's that baby doin'?" Without batting an eyelash, Otis Sr. took a seat at the opposite end of the bar, and yelled back, "Why don't you ask the boy? It's his."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Creepy Monkey Chimneysweep

When we moved into our house, I found this two-inch metal figurine in the matchholder of our fireplace (pardon the poor quality of the picture). Part Pan, part monkeyman, with more than one allusion to the devil (note the hooves and broom which suggests a trident), it has become the most beloved of the creepy objects I possess (but I'll show you a piece of jewelry later that is a close second).

Was this part of some child's toy from a far less uptight era (what with its sharpness, guaranteed lead content, and swallowability)? Was it a talisman of some kind? Did the previous owner bring it, find it? This needs a story! Sounds like a job for Bev or Eva (no pressure, ladies).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shake it, shake it.... shake it... Feel Good

Before you listen to this, plug your computer into the most powerful speakers you own and crank the bass. The best song around for 'Ho drivin'. Oh, and enjoy the video, too. (Sorry, it won't embed.)

My prolificity has left me tired, dahlings... This is just for fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


About a year and a half ago, we had to have our yellow lab put to sleep. It was heart wrenching, and I was such a coward that I had to have my neighbor's husband take her, something I've regretted ever since. Wanting another animal, but not having time to properly care for a dog, we decided to adopt two kittens.

I've never been a "cat person." When I was young, my mother had a black angora named Samson who taught me to respect and sort of hate cats. I find their unpredictability disturbing and I don't really like anything that poops in a box, especially a box which I have to clean every day. But they can be cuddly in the wintertime and I was missing having an animal, so I decided to take the plunge into cat "ownership" (as if!).

Upon arriving at the pound, I was disappointed to find they only had two cats "ready to go." If I was going to do this, I didn't need time to talk myself out of it. Unfortunately, one of the little buggers was off getting de-buggered, but I took him sight unseen after the hunky dogcatcher/poundkeeper assured me he was a nice kitty. The other feline was there but he was already over three months old and looked like a full grown cat next to the newly-weaned precious babies with whom he was housed. I tried to approach him, he hissed and ran away. Hunky dogcatcher assured me he really was a great cat but needed a firm and gentle approach; he demonstrated this for me on frightened feline (and for a minute I wished myself a cat) and I could hear this cat purring even as he looked at me in terror. I'm sure my head was muddled from standing so near perfect poundkeeper, but I giggled and agreed to take him, too. I was to return in two days to pick up them up -- if nothing else, I'd get to see Dave (?) Doug (?) Mike (?) again...

Two days later, after much primping and preening, I arrived at the pound to pick up my new wards. "Elvis" (the newly-castrated) was adorable and sweet and tiny. "Mikey" (the terrified hissing purring mess) was completely tense and entirely pissed off. I wrote the check, said my fond farewells to delicious dogcatcher, and off we went. The ride home was noisy (all Mikey) and sounded like I was killing a large opera singer with a butter knife.

Upon arriving home to two overly excited children, Mikey scrambled, still screaming, upstairs, under my bed, where he remained for the next four weeks. Elvis toddled out of his crate, hopped in my oldest son's lap and fell asleep.

The first order of business was names. No way in hell was I going to have two cats named Elvis and Mikey. After seriously considering Pontius and Pilate, we decided on Cain and Abel. They are half brothers, one litter apart, and their personalities seemed perfectly suited. The second order of business was to make Cain love me. I felt foolish for taking this psych case of a cat in the first place, but I also felt it would be a major accomplishment to have this creature trust me. I spent the next four weeks on my knees, squeezed half under my bed, tempting him with tuna fish (the smell of which makes me gag). I tried everything, including expensive toys. I even had my crazy neighbor (;-) come over to help. As the owner of four fairly normal cats, I thought she would be of some help. Her advice? 1. Give him a bath (yeah, right; I'm not an idiot) and 2. Just force the fucker and hold him tight and love him. She left bleeding. I even called sexy animal control officer/cat whisperer to the scene. (Seeing him on his knees in my bedroom will make the next 13 or so years well worth it). His advice? The same: gentle but firm.

Just when I was about to give him back, Cain decided to come around. It started with a small nuzzle in the middle of the night and very slowly progressed to creepy-watching-me-as-I-slept to sleeping on me (but tearing off in a fit when I awoke).

Cain is now solely MY cat and I adore him. He lives in self-imposed exile in the cellar during the day, but once those noisy kids go to bed, he is cuddled up on my lap and won't tolerate anybody touching him but me. As weird as this sounds, I count this as one of the greatest achievements of my life. And I hate cats.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Amazing Gary

I have a cousin who ran off with the circus when he was in eighth grade. And we're talking in the mid sixties, not 1934 when people seemed to do such things.

Barnum and Bailey's had come to visit a Wisconsin "city" (read town in any other part of the world) about one hour from his home. My aunt took her four children to see The Greatest Show on Earth and returned one child short. There were weeks of waiting (can you believe the woman never called the police?!) and finally a phone call from the little fugitive stating he had run away with the circus and was never coming back. Aside from raising the obvious question of how rotten life must have been with my aunt that the circus became a viable option (although I guess her failure to notify the authorities pretty much answers that), it has always seemed like a Huck Finn-esque story to me -- as unrealistic as Huck's finding $6,000 in gold in a cave (or was it $3,000? Whatever.) or his staged death by violent cabin invaders and subsequent flight down the slow Mississippi with an escaped slave. But Gary is real. A real kid who ran away with a real circus.

He became an elephant trainer and remained with the circus, aside from a two year hiatus when he purchased his own elephant and gave rides to kids at state fairs in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. What a bleak existence that must have been. He has been back with Barnum's for six years now. He's in charge of elephant "acquisitions." I don't know what this involves but I do know he travels to India every six months or so. I imagine horrible, under-the-table dealings for baby elephants and the exchange of wads of Barnum cotton-candy sticky cash. I know there are supposed to be humane laws protecting elephants, but sending them away to join circuses doesn't seem like it should be legal.

Gary used to be the black sheep in our family; now he's the family hero. Maybe because he had the audacity to run away with the circus, but more likely because, true to his word, he really never did go back home and we love a stubborn personality. His status in the family peaked when he was trampled by a bull elephant during a training session in the mid-80's and had to spend the next year in the hospital and in rehab. We love a dumb shit, too.

For Frank

Who's there?
Duane who?
Duane the bathtub! I'm dwowning!

But seriously...

Why I Believe in Ghosts

My mom died when I was seven. Those of you who know me know that I am not morbidly sentimental about this -- it happened and it was sad and of course I still think of it, but this is not a sob story. It's a ghost story and in a strange way, it's a nice companion piece to my earlier post, "Mother's Love."

Anyway, about one month before she died, we had moved to a new, larger small town in Wisconsin where my dad had gotten a better paying job as a refrigeration specialist at an ice cream factory (seriously, people, you cannot imagine how many friends you have when your dad works at an ice cream factory. But that would come later.) We were temporarily living in an apartment across the highway from the factory. She died quite unexpectedly and there we were -- me in a new town, awkwardly trying to make friends in an already-established group of second graders, my dad working a new job while trying to learn his role as "Mom" -- and both of us dealing with a fresh and painful grief. We had been the Cleavers in our life before she died. We lived in a white house with three large gardens and shrubs which my dad trimmed into geometrical shapes. I remember Mom handing him his lunchbox every morning as she kissed him goodbye and greeting him every evening with a brandy and seven. She was always there to meet my bus after school, always had dinner made by 5:30. And after she was gone, life seemed strange indeed. We were living in a noisy apartment on a highway, Dad was working swing shifts, my next oldest sibling had just left for college, dinners were burned and now featured Spam and instant au gratin potatoes. I had to spend a lot of time alone until we could find a babysitter so the rules on days when he worked till 4:00 were as follows: come home from school, unlock apartment door, lock apartment door, turn on TV and wait for Dad. And don't open that damn door for anybody, you hear?

About two weeks into this new life of ours, I got home and did exactly as directed; I was getting used to it. But on this day 4:00 came and went, and then 4:15, and then 4:20, and then 4:25. And then hysterical crying, and then some screaming. Of course, in my heart, I knew he was dead. And I would have to live alone in that apartment and I would have to cook all my own meals and nobody would ever tuck me in again, and... KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! WHAT?! AND NOW MR. STRANGERDANGER IS AT MY DOOR! AND HE'S GOING TO KNOCK THE DOOR DOWN AND KILL ME WITH AN AXE AND THEN WE'LL ALL BE DEAD!!!! The knocking and crying continued for a few minutes and then there came shouting (a stranger's voice -- LET ME IN! UNLOCK THE DOOR!) and then hysterical, terrified shrieking. And then the door unlocked and opened and my dad walked in and I almost evaporated with relief and happiness. The neighbor had heard me crying and it was he who had been trying to get me to open the door, poor guy. Anyway, as I sobbed into my dad's tight hug, I remember him saying, "I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry..." over and over. It was a pretty intense afternoon.

Years passed and we never spoke of this. Actually, I hadn't thought of it much until he brought it up one night as we drank coffee before he left for work. During the summers as a teenager, I used to stay up until my dad went to work when he worked the overnight shift or I would wake early to see him when he got home. We had our best conversations at these times and if nothing else we would watch CNN or Johnny Carson together. I don't know why he chose this particular night to bring up this memory, but without warning he asked, "Hey. Do you remember that time I got home late right after your mother died and you were so upset?"
"Yeah." (Christ, who wouldn't?)
"Do you know why I was late?"
"I had gone to the liquor store and got chatting with a guy and I forgot."
"That was a rotten thing to do."
"It's okay. We ended up okay."
"Do you know what happened that night when I went to bed?"

And this is why I believe in ghosts. Apparently, he had just gotten into bed and had not yet fallen asleep. He said the mattress started gently shaking. He got out of bed to stand on the floor and it stopped. He got back in and it started shaking again, harder and harder. He said he was terrified. The mattress started shaking so violently, in fact, that he was thrown out of bed and against the wall. Then it all stopped and he spent the rest of the night on the sofa, scared out of his mind. He said he knew it was my mom, and he knew she was pissed at him.

So why does this make me believe in ghosts? It's not even my own experience, after all. Well, I don't believe out of a misplaced, sentimental notion that my mom would care so much about me that she would traverse the unknown realm between the living and the dead just to protect me and punish those who might cause me pain. It would be nice to believe that, but... This story made me believe in ghosts because my father, a World War II veteran and the most fearless man I've ever met, was terrified and shaky just telling me about it six years after the fact. He was a sceptic in the extreme and didn't have time for any of "that nonsense."

"I never forgot that, you know," he said, squinting at the wall through the snaking smoke of his cigarette. "And I've never been late getting home or picking you up since then. You probably don't know that, but I haven't been late once with you, not for anything."

And this is why I believe in ghosts.

**Disclaimer: my father became an overnight alcoholic after my mother passed. He drank a quart of brandy and a fifth of schnapps a day at his worst. Fortunately, he would later go on to conquer this demon. I realize, however, he may have been drunk and had a vivid dream that still left him frightened years later -- but if that's all you can think, then you've missed the point of my story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thought of the Day

Sorry, there's going to be a lot of Tom Waits on this blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Inebriate's Guide to Boston's South End -- With Rodrigo and Me.

I have been constant to one man for thirteen years. He is my best friend, Rodrigo (that's not his real name -- his real name is even better -- this is the name he asked I use if I blog about him). We met when we were dating brothers. We lived so close that our back porches almost touched. We joked about making tin can phones and setting up a pulley system between our apartments. Well, those brothers are long gone, but we have held fast. We have seen each other through break ups, falling in love, more break ups, family issues, general feelings of malaise, periods of intense joy. For nine years straight we have gone to Provincetown, MA every summer to dance and drink and lie on the beach. He is endlessly patient, caring, and kind. Like me, he can be petulant and selfish, which is why I love him so much.

Anyway, on Saturday (after an incredible massage -- he's a massage therapist) we went to Boston's South End for some bar hopping. I thought I'd share the places we went and what we drank -- I think we ate but I can't remember. He keeps me in touch with the city dweller I used to be.

Stop #1: Gaslight Beverages: R ordered the Edith Piaf and I ordered L'acolyte (when I ordered it, I simply asked for the Acolyte -- the bartender said, "Oh, you mean "lah-co-leet?" Whatever... the thing with the French brandy in it, lady.) Check out the menu for the ingredients -- they were delicious. The bar looked like a silver jewelry tray. Highly recommended, snobby staff notwithstanding.

Stop #2: Rocca Beverages: R ordered the Strata #6 while I had a nice sangria. Fabulous interior, nice staff, awesome ladies' room.

Stop #3: Banq Beverages: We both ordered Dragonfires (I think... Dragon somethings... things were getting fuzzy at this point). The hands-down coolest interior of any restaurant I've ever seen. It's like a cave but nicer and with toilets. Way too many bartenders -- all women, all bosomy, wearing black tank tops -- hmm... interesting for the four straight men who were there, at least.

Stop #4: Club Cafe Beverages: R had the French Martini and I had the Lime Drop. I vaguely remember eating nachos. Our waitress was a bitch.

Stop #5: Border's Beverages: I had the Eggnog Latte and R had a dry cappucino. Much needed coffee break after all that imbibing and a windy walk. This was our last stop.

We won't see each other again for a few months, I'm sure. But it doesn't matter, even if we don't talk once between now and then. We pick up right where we left off.

Rodrigo, you're the best!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Coffee in Bed

I love Squeeze!  Love 'em!


Last year, my friend's daughter was part of a video project in which she taped people talking about their strange little habits. I wondering if any of you out there in blogland have any you would like to share?

Here are some of mine: all the coffee cup handles in my cupboard have to point to the right, I have to make my bed so that I lie in between the bright side of the pattern on the sheets, and I count everything in increments of 12 (the number of seconds I curl my eyelashes, stairs, sidewalk squares, M&M's [which I also eat by color]).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

So I Must Be Ecstatic Today

This is true of me. Sometimes.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meet the 'Ho

It occurred to me after posting my last entry that I have yet to talk about one of the last great passions in my life, my new Chevy Tahoe, or "The 'Ho." But this is a complicated matter...

I know it is completely unpractical (although I have two small sons, we rarely do anything out of doors. It will never drive us to a skiing trip or convey us to whitewater rafting adventures.). It is better on gas than I had expected but I know it is environmentally irresponsible -- and I really DO care about the environment -- you should see my recycling contribution every two weeks! I'm not a litterbug and I almost never pour turpentine down the sewer grate at the base of our driveway.

But here's the thing. When I test drove this vehicle and felt the purr of her engine beneath me, that was it. Maybe it's because I'm short, maybe it's because I learned how to drive on a Chevy Silverado and this is somehow related to regaining my youth or being like my father. I don't know. I just love it. I come up with random excuses to go to the store and cruise the beach instead.

It is undeniably superficial, materialistic, wasteful and selfish to love driving my 'Ho as much as I do. The first song I played on her amazing soundsystem was Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You." Whenever someone jokingly comments on how it's too big "for a girl of your size" or gives me a hard time at work for my horrible parking job, I apologize profusely. I admit to my weakness. Unlike my friend, Beverly, who feels the wonderful pull to be peevishly bad, I feel a compulsion to please, to confess, to prostrate myself, guilt stricken, in front of the judging hordes (who probably don't even exist and aren't judging at all but I'm paranoid, too).

But enough. Here's a video that I love. The truth hurts:

The Man in the Red Truck

On my way to work, I pass a man in a new red Chevy Silverado (extended cab, full-size bed, chrome package) heading in the opposite direction. If I leave the house at 7:02 every day, I'm sure to see him. Even one minute earlier or later, and we miss each other. He waves to me, and recently I've started waving back.

Why does he do this? Because I also drive a Chevy behemoth? Is he flirting? It seems strange to say this, but I look forward to this every day. I know from the Nascar stickers that I see in my rearview mirror that we would have little to nothing in common, but I like this strange, gas-guzzling connection we have. It's just a friendly thing to do in an unfriendly world.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

But then again...

this was my other favorite song. Poor me, indeed!

In My Heart I Have But One Desire...

When I was 20, this was my favorite song. Can you tell I was young and romantic? A better side of myself which is long since burned away. Poor little me!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mother's Love

When I was about five years old, my brother caught me a wild baby bunny. He jumped right off a hay escalator and severely injured himself, but that rabbit was mine. Much to my surprise, upon arriving home with my new treasure, my only-cat-loving mother agreed to let me keep him. She even set up a cage for him in her immaculately clean kitchen. Life was great. Every day, I would come home from school, feed and pet "Hoppy" (you can see originality was discouraged in our house). He was so cute, so soft, so fluffy! And he was growing up.

One day many months later, upon arriving home, my mother met me at the door to give me the bad news: she had taken Hoppy into the garden with her to keep her company as she weeded her carrots. And do you know what? That little bunny ran away. I was devastated. I remember weeping into her polyester shirt.
When I was nineteen, I found out from my sister that Hoppy had not run away at all! In fact, my mother had killed him, skinned him and made a nice Haasenpfeffer out of him, which I apparently ate for dinner.

While this may seem a Grimmsian nightmare of sorts, I could only laugh at my mother's actions -- and not a bitter laugh. A true chuckle. I don't know what her motivations were... years of resentment toward her children? a genuine love for slow roasted game? It doesn't matter. What a thing for a woman to do!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair."
C.S. Lewis

Horses and Apples and Snakes

A good friend introduced me to this video which I love. Moses meets Catherine the Great in a Tim Burton world. And those shoes!!!! Creepy, sexy, lovely, sad and funny.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Random Fact of the Day:

Too bad we still haven't learned to use it like Superman. How was he able to look through just one layer of Lois Lane's clothing to see the color of her panties but later was able to check her for internal injuries (which X-ray really couldn't do, right?). They just knew things on Krypton that we still cannot fathom, I guess.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Waitsian Irony

A wonderful song and a beautiful vision of an ugly truth: (give the video a few seconds)

Word to Your Mother!

Anybody else out there have some cool words that you'd like to share?

Some of mine: mellifluous, brazen, exacerbate, extant, fleer (see below!).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yo Gabba Gabba

Okay, have any of you had the misfortune to see this show? And we wonder why our kids can't compete. The worst part is that it's like kid crack -- they would snort this show if it came in powder form (so keep that in mind if you need time to make dinner or empty the dishwasher or run screaming in circles in your backyard).

Here are the thoughts of someone who agrees with me (an old post but he describes the exact episode that is making me insane).

Behold the horror!

Okay, I could turn the TV off -- but then what would I do?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Apology

Thanks to my harsh sense of humor, I inadvertently hurt a very new but very dear friend. This is for you, Tex. I'm truly sorry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Love Stuck!

I just finished reading (okay, perusing over the course of the last two months), Umberto Eco's On Ugliness, given to me by a friend on my birthday. Check it out if you get the chance. Thanks to this book, I have a new favorite artist Franz von Stuck. Thought I'd share the wealth.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ghost Busters

Did anybody out there see Ghost Hunters this Friday? Did you think the voice and the pulling of the coat was staged? Oh how wonderfully frightening it was!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Favorite Word

Today's entry? A simple, beautiful word: fleer. Would anybody care to use it in a sentence?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Without Merit

This will be a blog dedicated to random musings, useless knowledge, pointless rantings, and occasional discussions of the paranormal.

My very first contribution, for all you anglers out there, is how to tie a Snell Knot. Enjoy!