Short moment, long story

15 Jan

I don’t have feet. I have chunks of frozen hamburger meat that have been molded into a vague ‘foot’ shape. The chunks were then wrapped in paper-thin skin suits and attached to my ankles. 

They are always cold. They are cold in the dead of winter and the dog days of summer. They are cold in cotton and cashmere. They are cold (and itchy) in thick wool. They can be buried in two pairs of socks, slippers, and blankets, and they will still be cold. 

Sometimes, they get tired of their constant frozen-ness. They then morph into heat seeking missiles. And, at night, they lock on to their preferred heat source: the portable furnace known as my husband. In a strange zero sum scenario, Ken’s body – especially his midsection- pumps all of the heat back into the universe that my feet lack. The skin-wrapped frozen hamburgers have interrupted many an otherwise peaceful slumber with their subconscious heat seeking behavior.Once the missiles have acquired their target, said subject inevitably responds with a high-pitched, inhuman noise. For the most part, I have done my best to avoid eliciting the noise. The heat seeking frozen hamburgers have been on their best behavior. 

And then there was Wednesday night. 

I am a big believer in the equitable distribution of chores. It’s how I was raised – my mom and my sister would cook dinner, my dad and I would do the dishes. My mom was in charge of the inside of the house, with gleaming floors and crisply ironed linens, while my dad ruled over the outside, cultivating wild raspberries, unruly Rose of Sharons*, and malevolent hostas. 

I brought these equitable principles to my marriage. Luckily, my husband is very patient, generous, and cooperative. 

Tuesday night, we had friends over for dinner. I made my fabulous meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and veggies.  After we ate, I cleared the table, rinsed the plates and glasses and silverware, and put them in the dishwasher. I then faced the rising mound of pots, pans, and prep bowls. They seemed to have multiplied while we ate. A watched pot may not boil, but un-watched pots and pans quickly revert to wanton behavior, procreating in the sink. 

So I turned to my husband and asked him, sweetly as could be, to do the remaining dishes. “Not right now, of course,” I soothed. He quickly assented. 

Our guests stayed longer than anticipated. At 11, I went to bed. Husband is a night owl, so I assumed he did the dishes in the wee hours of the night, possibly by candlelight. 

Wednesday morning revealed more wild dish-copulation. I had to get the child to school and myself to work. “Please get to the dishes,” I gently reminded as we quickly kissed goodbye. 

Wednesday was a long day – I stayed at work til 7:30 and still encountered heavy traffic the whole way home. When I came in the door, close to 9 pm, husband and child were absent and the pots were smoking cigarettes after copulating yet again with the pans. 

There were two options at this point. 

1) He said he would do the dishes, so we will now commence with war of stalemate. The dishes will continue their unfettered amorous ways. He (or she) who cracks first and actually does the dishes loses. 

2) I do the damn dishes. I lose the battle, possibly the whole war. 

I quickly devised Option 3: do the dishes. Lose this battle. Then, revenge. 

I do the dishes. Husband and child return. Child is safely tucked into bed. I change into pajamas and quietly peruse a library book. Time passes. 

Around 11, husband comes upstairs to begin his bedtime preparations. I saunter over to him and nonchalantly say, “Guess what I have?”

He is only mildly interested. “Not pinkeye again, I hope.”

I sidle up along side him, touching his arm, deepening my voice, trying to be as seductive  as one can possibly be while wearing thermal pajamas. “Guess what I have,” I purr. 

He is intrigued. Clearly I have been inspired by the licentious dishes. He lets me take him by the arm and lead him to the bed. He lies down. I curl up alongside him and unbutton his shirt, dispensing little kisses along the way. “Guess what I have,” I whisper in his ear. He is grinning in anticipation. 

Cold feet, mothafuckaaaa!,” I jubilantly yelp as the heat-seeking missiles of frozen hamburger meat  activate and immediately hone in on their bare bellied target. They clamp on like barnacles, toes wiggling wildly to amplify the effect. 

 I have been struggling to find the proper words to describe the result. It was somewhere between a squeak and a screech, with distinct tones of surprise, anguish, and betrayal. It was the sort of noise Mickey Mouse would make if he happily went to work, suddenly realized he forgot Toodles or whatever, and returned to the Clubhouse, only to find Minnie in a compromising position with Donald Duck.

  

I didn’t say anything, no explanation or apology. But now, as I write this, I have the perfect punchline. As he was yowling, I should have said, “you know what they say. Revenge is a dish best served…. Cold.” 

And then I would drop the mic, put on my sunglasses, and drive off on a motorcycle of flames and victory. 

So that’s our life. How’s yours?

*While writing this, I realized I had no idea how to properly pluralize more than one Rose of Sharon bush. A spirited debate ensued on Facebook. The concensus seems to be “Rose of Sharon bushes.” I think my way is better though so I’m sticking to it. 

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Three Little Words

12 Sep

It’s past 2 am on a Friday night (Saturday morning?). I should be in bed, asleep. But I can’t. It’s not Kenny’s snoring (although that’s partly the reason). It’s not the caffeinated water I mistakenly drank before bedtime (although that might be a contributing factor). No, it’s something else that’s keeping me up tonight, and has been for a while. It’s endless thoughts on the power of language, of words, of three little words in particular that have ignited a firestorm here in my community and in my heart.

Three words that, on their own and without any context, should be self-explanatory and non-controversial.

Three words that have brought hate and harm to the people I love.

Three words that I completely agree with.

Black. Lives. Matter.

If you’re already firing off any angry comment or unfriending me, I’m guessing you wouldn’t listen to the rest of what I have to say anyway. But I urge you to hold off, stick around, read a bit, and just listen.

It’s been explained before, many times, and by people a lot more eloquent than I. The New York Times and, surprisingly, Cosmo, have the best, clearest articles I could find.

I thought this was a straightforward thing. It’s simple – Black Lives Matter. It’s not that white lives, or brown lives, or any other kinds of lives don’t matter. And by saying it, I’m not saying I don’t support or even love the police officers in my family or in my community. Due to my job, I work with a LOT of cops. And I love them. They have an incredibly hard, often thankless, job.

All I’m trying to say when I say Black Lives Matter is just that: Black. Lives. Matter.

So, if you pay attention to the news in Chicago, you can imagine how this week has been for me.

Small explanation: I am a resident of two worlds. I am a member of St. Linus parish and the proud parent of a fourth-grade Hawk. I try to make it to mass as often as I can, and usually every Sunday. But I also, until recently, proudly served on the Board of the Beverly Unitarian Church. I try to take Daniel to the Sunday School there as often as I can. I was raised in both worlds, and I think it’s good for him to be exposed to both, too.

Sadly, too many time commitments and my desire to commit more fully to St. Linus caused me to resign my membership on the BUC board, so I missed the discussion and the decision to place those three little words on our church’s electronic sign.

But I did get to witness the firestorm of criticism and hate that erupted online. Before they were deleted, I saw threats made against our children. That would, by definition, include my son.

Think about the insanity of that for a second. My child’s life has been threatened because of three simple words on an electronic sign. The hate, the misinformation has spread so far and runs so deep that my son, and other innocent children, are threatened because they attend Sunday School at a church that had three words on its electronic sign for less than a week. Words that were meant to be a sign of solidarity, of support, of inclusion, have instead drawn ire and threats of violence. I’ve seen people characterize participants in the black lives matter movement as ‘thugs.’ Who’s the real thug here: the suburban mom trying to raise her child with diversity and an open mind, or those who threaten to harm that child over words on a sign?

Three words: I am sad.

Three words: I am angry.

Four words: How can I help?

Four words: What can I do?

I recognize that I come from a position of privilege. That my struggle is, in the larger picture, insignificant. But I struggle for meaning, for change, for something positive to contribute.

And all I have to give are words.

Three words: Black Lives Matter.

Two words: I’m listening.

One word: Love.

Forcing Friendships

26 Aug

Sorry for not updating in a while – I spent all my writing energy in those last two posts and quickly ran out of good stories to tell. I’m trying to think of more memorable moments to share, but I can’t promise that they’ll be nearly as entertaining as those two. 

In the meantime….

Today was Daniel’s first day at a new school. We transferred him mainly to have him closer to home in the hopes that he would make more friends in the neighborhood. It went well enough this morning – we actually left the house on time – and the drop off was drama free. For the rest of the day, I was on pins and needles at work, anxiously waiting for the phone call as to how it went. So when I saw my mom’s cell calling, I jumped on it like a duck on a bug.

Unfortunately, it was hard to hear what was going on over the crying.

It’s got to be the worst feeling as a parent – when there’s nothing you can do for your kid to make it better.

Granted, Daniel tends to focus on the negative, and so his report should be taken with a grain of salt. But he said none of the kids would talk to him, that they acted like he wasn’t there, and, even more upsetting, the teacher expects them to read and write cursive.

The cursive thing I can work on at home. The kids? I can’t fix that for him.

And it’s not that I haven’t tried. When we finally decided on transferring, I reached out to the local moms groups on facebook and asked if anyone would be willing to meet up. Some very nice and friendly moms responded, and one organized a meetup at a local park for fellow fourth graders.

But I can only do so much. When we got to the park, Daniel did not interact much with the other kids at all, saying he preferred to play by himself. Nerves? Shyness? Anxiety? By the end of the playdate, he was playing with some of the other kids, but I was anxious the whole time. Why doesn’t he approach the other kids? Why doesn’t he fit in?

I wish I could direct the movie of his life. I’d write a thoughtful, heartwarming, uplifting script. I’d cast kind hearted people as both supporting players and lead roles. I’d make sure it had a happy ending. But I have to accept the fact that, at best, I’m a character in his drama, not the director.

The reality is, you can’t make friends for your kid, any more than you can force people to be friends with you. It has to happen naturally, and it takes time. You can’t force connections, you can only put yourself out there and hope for the best. But what do you do if your kid doesn’t even want to put themselves out there? And what do you do when you’re worried that your kid will never fit in, thanks to his ‘issues’?

I didn’t mean for this to be so negative or depressing. I was hoping that I would have a “Daniel transferred and everything is going to be perfect!” update. But life just doesn’t work that way. I have to sit back and let the movie happen.

  
He’s a pretty handsome leading man, if I do say so myself. 

In other news….

We celebrated the last days of freedom by going to the beach. I insisted on slathering sunblock all over Daniel. He squirmed and fidgeted and yowled like an angry cat. Exhausted, I put the sunblock aside and watched him frolic in the waves.

Guess who’s now sunburned all over the right side of her body – and not at all on her left. 

   

S

  

The Demon of Seduction

27 Jul

N.B.: This is my best story. I apologize if it’s your second, third, fiftieth time hearing it.

It is important to note that this is how I looked at the time of this story.

It is important to note that this is how I looked at the time of this story.

I could begin at the end, with him telling me that I was the Demon of Seduction. But to understand the end, you have to go back to the beginning. Not just the beginning of our relationship, though that will be important as well, but the beginning of the year. The school year, to be precise. Because that first day that I met my roommate really set the tone for the following months of insanity, to the point where me being dumped for being a minion of Satan seemed the only logical, rational result.

So I’ll back up.

I graduated high school at the age of 16, confident in my abilities and the false promises that I could do anything I wanted to if I just set my mind to it. I did well in chemistry and anatomy and abysmally in biology and physics and yet boldly declared Biology as my major with the intent of eventually going to medical school. I flippantly declared that I would not be concerned with the velocity of a gurney as it came at me and focused on the thrilling, if disgusting, pictures in the anatomy textbook. I selected a small, liberal arts college in Middle-of-Nowhere, Illinois, based on their strong pre-med program and a hefty scholarship. I visited the campus and ignored all the warning signs that this would be a bad fit, and eagerly packed my bags for the next stage of my life.

My parents drove me down, got me some bookstore swag, and promptly left me to my own devices. I was struggling to put up my new Blues Brothers poster at my desk, swearing profusely as it refused to stick to the cinderblock walls. I heard a loud thump behind me and turned to come face to face with a previously unheard of species: Born again Christians. Three of them, to be precise. Three blond haired, blue eyed, corn fed Christians, all with perfect ‘o’s for mouths gaping at me.

I jumped down from the chair and extended a hand in greeting. “Hi! I’m your roommate!” The girl looked at her parents in sheer ‘do I have to go through with this?’ terror, then turned back with a brave smile and friendly handshake and thick downstate twang.

The Housing Office, in its infinite wisdom, had paired two biology majors together. One from a small town in Illinois, approximate population 2,000, the other one of the few students to actually have a Chicago address. She thought I was in a gang, I thought she had possibly recently escaped a cult. We both brought our favorite books to college: mine were a large variety of mysteries, classics, and novels. Her collection consisted entirely of the Left Behind series.

The rest of our time together was much like that first meeting – one of us gaping open mouthed at the other strange creature. She only listened to Christian rock bands, an oxymoron to my way of thinking. She would turn them on, turn them up, and leave the room. I retaliated by buying every George Carlin CD that Columbia House had to offer. Other than that, we got along great. She read the Bible at me, I showed her The X-Files.

But by the semester break, things were not going well. We both dropped out of the Biology program, though for different reasons. I failed biology – a bitter blow to my ego – based a combination of factors. First, I was often unable to get out of bed for the early morning class. Second, when I was able to, I was unable to pay any attention. Third, the lab portion completely mystified me as I did not give a shit about plants. Fourth, I don’t remember ever opening the textbook. It was embarrassing and difficult to embrace, but the truth was, I couldn’t do anything by just setting my mind to it.

My roommate, in contrast, was doing fairly well. She dropped out of the Biology program on an entirely voluntary basis. I had not gotten out of bed and I had missed it, but apparently there was a heated discussion one day between her and the professor. She took the side of ‘dinosaurs are a conspiracy by the United States government to turn us away from Jesus’ and the professor took the side of ‘are you insane?’. My roommate sadly informed me that she didn’t think the college was conducive to a Christian lifestyle. I put George Carlin on pause and agreed.

Christmas break came, and I went home with my tail between my legs, facing my failures. I had flunked Biology. I had failed to make very many friends. The college I went to was very heavily into the Greek life and I had chosen not to rush any sororities because a) I already had two sisters and b) I didn’t feel like paying several hundred dollars for 40 more.

I came back to another failure: I had failed to keep my roommate. Either she was finally raptured, along with all of her possessions, or she had moved out.

I immediately missed her. She had been sweet, polite, and utterly fascinating. Her empty bunk mocked me with all my failures – I had failed in my chosen major, I had failed to make friends, and I had failed to even keep a roommate.

So I started looking for other methods of connection. I turned to the then-nascent world of online dating. And that’s how Adam* entered the picture.

I forget, now, what site I found him on. I don’t think match.com was a thing yet. However it happened, I stumbled across this older (a senior, how scandalous!) farming mechanics major at the nearby State University. He fit all my criteria: he was tall, dark-haired, handsome, and he actually liked me. Our first few dates went well and he started calling me “Sweetness.”

I forget, now, how, when, or why the subject of religion came up. It might have been that first date at the low priced “fancy” Italian restaurant. Or it might have been when I went to his apartment to watch movies and found several Bibles by his bed. However it happened, it did come up that I was a lapsed Catholic and that he was a really big fan of Jesus.

No big deal! I thought. I have experience with this type of species! I may have driven her away by the semester break, but now I knew what mistakes to avoid. I put away the George Carlin CDs. I cut down on my swearing. And it was, initially, worth it. We had a great time together. He was considerate and charming and he made me chocolate chip cookies from scratch. Yowza.

So I understood when he declined to attend a formal dance at my school, so that he could attend play practice at the local church he was involved with. He had the leading role, since he was the youth minister of the small congregation. So I played my part of dutiful girlfriend and went to the local mall to buy a new dress. It was way too long and a little too big, but I felt pretty and proud.

And so I happily rode in Adam’s pickup truck to the world premiere of “Spiritual Warfare.” The plot, such as it was, struck a few chords with me. Adam, going against type, played the youth minister of a small congregation. But Adam was too successful for Satan’s liking. I snickered quietly as Satan sent the Demon of Alcohol – a teenager exaggeratedly drinking out of an empty beer bottle. Satan’s next move was a little more surprising, since this was not 1959, but the Demon of Rock and Roll was equally unsuccessful.

And then I gaped, open mouthed, as Satan sent his last, best minion: the Demon of Seduction in the guise of a college aged girl. Adam – or his character – started spending more time with her and less time at church. And then Adam called her “Sweetness.” Oh, I knew where this was going. I sat stone faced through Adam’s tortured monologue: “What am I doing with this girl? I can’t marry her – she’s Catholic, not even Christian!” The congregation clapped their approval as I started fuming inside. Remember – I’m only 17 at this point and not thinking about marrying anyone, let alone someone who doesn’t understand that Catholics are Christian too. The play ended in vigorous song, complete with arm swaying and a rockin’ drum solo.

The preacher thanked Adam for his fine performance. Then the preacher asked if anyone here tonight needed Jesus. He encouraged us to “Come on down!,” as if this was the worst episode of The Price is Right ever.

And this is the part of the story where people start to not believe me, but, yes indeed, down I went. You see, one of my nephews had been born shortly before the play, and was having some difficulties. I wanted to pray for him in the nice, quiet, reserved Catholic way. And so I went on down for my chance at the Showcase to say a quiet prayer.

Adam’s face lit up as he saw me making my way down the aisle. I got to the front, knelt, and made the sign of the cross. Unfortunately, Adam didn’t get to me first. The Demon of Rock and Roll did. She grabbed my hand and shoved her face THISCLOSE to mine and screeched, “You tell it to Jesus! You lay it at the foot of the cross!”

Terrified, I did the only thing I could: I turned and ran, tripping over my too-long dress as I made my way towards the Sunday School classrooms. That’s where Adam found me, huddled on a chair. He pulled up a chair next to me and calmly and sadly explained that it was over – the play had made everything clear to him. I was the Demon of Seduction, sent to sway him from his ministry.

I started crying – I had really liked him and didn’t want to be alone again. But I couldn’t argue with him, and I didn’t even try. How could I argue against such obvious manipulation from his church? How could I make him see he’d been played? It was a battle of Spiritual Warfare I would never win.

In every relationship, we change ourselves, even if only slightly, for the other person. We tone down our bad habits, we sand off our rougher edges. We open ourselves to new experiences and new interests. We bring our best selves to the table.

And then, sometimes you get to the table only to realize the other person is crazy. And so you run, you hide, you take pride in the best parts of yourself, and you find yourself secretly flattered that Satan selected you, of all people, as a Demon of Seduction. And you use that line for free drinks for a reallllly long time.

**not his real name.

p.s. Check out the new official Facebook page and like it and tell your friends and have a great day:

https://www.facebook.com/evenmygpsislost

The Day I Killed The Pope

24 Jul

It was ten years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was April 2, 2005. I think it was a Friday. I was 23 years old, second year of law school, and three home pregnancy tests had just informed me I was not alone. 

I was, at the time, in a serious relationship with a fellow law student. We were both stunned by the positive tests and I made a doctors appointment for as soon as possible to confirm. The boyfriend did not come with me to the doctor. Instead, I was escorted by my father. 

My dad and I were always buddies. I was his youngest, his wild one, his ‘Mighty Moe.’ We would play ball in the backyard together for hours. He taught me how to mow the lawn, how to drive a car, and how to shoot beer cans with a BB gun. I asked him, once, if he was sad neither my sister nor I were boys. He was incredulous. “Why would I be? I had you.”  We spent Saturday mornings together on the streets, him jogging and me on my bike. We spent Sunday mornings together in church, him with his head reverently bowed in prayer, me crawling under the pew. We had a secret signal with each other. We were buddies.

It was an awkward car ride. The news of my surprise pregnancy had been delivered by my mother and so I was still unsure of my father’s reaction. He had promised love and support, but was he hurt? Angry? Or, worst of all, disappointed in me?

There didn’t seem to be anything to say right then and so we were silent the whole way. For early April in Chicago, it was a beautiful day. Warm weather, sunshine, soft breeze. The windows rolled down, we continued on side streets through the heavily Polish neighborhood to the unfamiliar doctor recommended by my insurance as available that day. 

As we drove, John Paul II lay dying half a world away. The papal death watch had begun in Rome that morning. Crowds gathered in the square, crying, praying, preparing to mourn. Announcers gave updates in hushed voices, and through the open car windows we could hear the surrounding Polish neighborhood holding its breath. 

We arrived at the doctors office. I asked my father if he wanted to come inside, he grunted his decline. He stayed in the car, radio on. I went inside and figuratively faced the music. 

It didn’t take long for the results to come in – I was definitely with child. I was given some prenatal vitamins and referrals. I was slightly more prepared for the news now that I had three home pregnancy tests under my belt but I was still terrified. 

I stumbled to the car. Dad turned down the radio. “Well?” 

“Yup. I’m definitely pregnant.”

As I finished the “-ant”, the tone on the radio shifted. Black smoke was now appearing. Pope John Paul II had died. My father looked at the radio. Looked at me. Looked at the radio. In a voice filled with equal parts astonishment and amusement, he cried, “You killed the Pope!”

And that was when I knew we would be fine. 

  

Who the eff did I marry?

22 May

This post is because, earlier this week, I did something that caused Ken to look at me with his wonderful baffled expression and say in his most astonished voice, Who are you? Now, if only I could remember what it was that I did.

I don’t care how long you dated, or how many years you lived together before hand. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known each other for a really really long time. The amount of time you’ve spent together ahead of time makes no difference. At some point in your marriage, you will look at your spouse, and say to yourself, “Who is this?!”

It’s part of a larger question: How well can we really, truly know another person? We can spend as many hours with them as possible, we can tell them every secret about ourselves, but when will we truly know each other? Can we really predict how they will act, or react, in every possible situation and scenario? Can we really know everything that’s happened in the play of their lives before we stepped on the stage?

No, no we can’t. And both my husband and I discovered this on our honeymoon.

72302_1547142190820_5602840_n

The best part of this photo is either my wicked sunburn or the very romantic trash can.

We spent a couple days in Mazatlan, Mexico. We swam in the pool, walked along the beach, went out drinking, and I went snorkeling and busted my knee on some coral while Ken wisely stayed behind on the beach drinking rum. It turns out that, aside from drinking and swimming, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do in Mazatlan. We walked around the downtown area and saw the cathedral, we signed up for a day jaunt into the mountains and countryside, and kept swimming and drinking (at the same time, thanks to the hotel’s swim-up bar).

And then came the moment. The moment of surprise, the moment of truth, the moment of brief fear as Ken worried to himself, “Who the hell did I just marry?”

The moment was the result of the culmination of several factors. 1) There’s not a lot to do in Mazatlan. 2) There’s a really sad aquarium in Mazatlan. 3) To attract visitors, the aquarium advertised “An adventure you’ll never forget!”: getting into the shark tank to feed the fish. 4) The shark tank guy spoke no English. 5) I speak no Spanish. 6) I did not understand the instructions. 7) My name [Sheilah] is not easily pronounceable in Spanish, so I told the guy my name was Cecilia. He would then say something and shout Cecilia! followed by what I assume was pay attention, for God’s sake! as I looked around for who he could possibly be addressing.

And, the culmination, the tingle of panic and fear for Ken: I got in the shark tank anyway, handing him my camera and flippantly disregarding any safety precautions and all common sense. As he watched his new wife go down into the water, Ken wondered just what, exactly, he was getting into as well.

Exhibit 1: Crazy Person.

Exhibit 1: Crazy Person.

A few days later, we were walking along the main strip in Mazatlan to try to find a restaurant, when I had my moment of “Who the hell did I just marry?” There was the requisite wonderment, surprise, and even more fear and panic. Again, the moment was brought about by several factors.

1) I do not speak Spanish and I am not half-Mexican. Ken does and is. 2) In the US, no one thinks Ken is Mexican. In Mexico, everyone thinks Ken is Mexican. 3) I decided I wanted authentic mariachi music on my honeymoon. 4) Our hotel did not offer mariachi music, but claimed a restaurant “just down the street” did. 5) We did not think it would be a long journey, so we walked instead of taking one of Mazatlan’s ubiquitous former-golf-carts-now-taxi-cabs.

As we walked northbound along the street, a paneled van heading southbound slowed as it approached us, and the sliding door on the passenger side began to open, revealing quite a few men inside. That was when Ken pushed me to the side, and angry words were exchanged in Spanish. I have no idea what was said by either party.

And when I asked my new husband “What was that all about?!” he insisted, “Oh, nothing.” Did they want to kidnap us? Did they want to give us directions? Were they a rogue mariachi band in disguise? I’ll never know. But that nonchalant “Oh, nothing” was what stood out at the time. Here I was having visions of death and despair, and was now shaking in my flip flops, while my husband was able to straighten his shoulders, move along down the road, and think nothing of it.

67982_1547138950739_5020194_n

Exhibit 2: Crazy person.

So we both discovered a lot on that honeymoon. We explored Mazatlan and the surrounding countryside. We found out that we really like rum and Pacifico beer (separately). We learned that it takes a lot of sunscreen for me to not get sunburned, that “shark” in Spanish is “tiburon”, and that you really should take taxis everywhere.

And we found out that the person we had just married, that we had yoked ourselves to for the rest of our lives, was crazy. And no amount of dating, living together, sharing our souls with each other, had quite prepared us for that fact. I think we’re both still recovering from the shock.

So, when it happens to you, and you find yourself looking at your spouse wondering who the hell that person is, be thankful, because at least you didn’t discover it while your spouse is about to tempt death in a fiberglass cage, or defeat death at the hands of rogue mariachis.

Open Mic and Mr. Dynamite

29 Apr

I have good – no, great news. I have now rocked TWO open mic sessions of South Side Story Club [http://www.storyclubchicago.com/]

Last week, Tues the 21st, I told my favorite personal story of all time – the Demon of Seduction. And I didn’t expect to tell another story for a while. But I got a notification that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. With little time to prepare, this is what I said. It’s all true.

I got short notice that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. I wasn’t sure if I should sign up for one of the open mic slots, since I didn’t have a story ready. But the universe must have heard my deliberation and said, “Ah, I’ll fix that problem. I’ll give her a story to tell.” And so here I am [Story Club South Side, 4/28/15], ready to talk about Mr. Dynamite, Butters, and the single greatest expression of passive aggressiveness I have ever been privileged to witness.

Of course, today started out normal, as most days do, with no hints of the insanity to come. I never do get advance warnings of impending crazy times until it’s too late. I had the day off work, my friend Kristi had a washer and dryer she wanted to get rid of. She offered to sell them to me, and sweetened the deal by offering to find a mover for me. Done! Sold! The mover, Chuck, called me Monday night and we arranged to meet at Kristi’s old apartment at 9:30 the next morning. Kristi said she had agreed on a fee of $75 when she talked to Chuck. However, Chuck was now complaining that it was too low, given the mileage and gas involved. “Oh,” I said, “I was planning on giving you a tip too.” Chuck then demanded a fee of $100 in cash. I quickly texted the update to Kristi. She said it was fine, and gave me the cash and the key.

I never know how much time to allot myself for traffic, and I’m always either horrendously early or embarrassingly late. I left my home in Oak Lawn at 8:00 a.m. and was already at Belmont Harbot by 9. I parked and walked along the lakefront to kill time. As you hopefully know, it was gorgeous this morning – not a cloud in the clear blue sky. I watched the glassy green water slap up against the rocks on the shore. It was just me, and some fishermen, and some… fish. Dying. Flopping around in their death throes there on the concrete. No omen necessary – crazy times are clearly here. I fled to my car, disturbed but undaunted.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

Dying fish not pictured.

Dying fish not pictured.

I arrived at Kristi’s apartment in plenty of time. One of the other residents in the building has a free-range cat named Butters, which is really the perfect name for this cat. He is fat, very orange, and both affectionate and very stubborn. Attempts to turn Butters into an indoor cat failed miserably as he chewed through the window screens. He meowed hello to me, happy for company.

No sign of Chuck, so I sat on the back deck, enjoying the sunshine. Butters approached me and started rubbing against my leg. Maybe he smelled the fish? No, hang on, no, he’s…. he’s definitely humping my leg. I thought only dogs did that, but no, Butters was actively proving me wrong. I picked him up and off my leg – no easy feat given his claws – and let him settle in my lap as I called Chuck. It was now well past 10 and I had places to be.

Butters purred loudly in my ear, now trying to hump my face as I patiently explained to Chuck that HOLLYWOOD and HOWARD are completely different streets. [This makes more sense to Chicago/Evanston residents.] As I sat in Edgewater, getting violated by Butters, Chuck was tootling around Evanston, possibly even Skokie.

The wonder that is Butters.

The wonder that is Butters.

I got Chuck turned around and on the right path. I waited a bit, then went down to the corner to flag down Chuck.

He almost drove past me, and it was with dread that I realized that no, that was his van. The green, beat up Aerostar that looked like it was being held together with duct tape, chicken wire, and prayers. The van with a large number of decals on the back, including Calvin pissing on union “scabs”, and, in huge letters, “Mr. Dynamite.”

I took Chuck to the laundry area, showed him the washer and dryer. He promptly declared that this was a 2 man job. Silently cursing, I did my best to make it a 1 man, 1 woman job, but it quickly became clear that I was going to be useless in getting the appliances into the van. Chuck then recruited a rather stunned and nervous alley picker to help. I slipped the random alley guy the $10 I had initially set aside as Chuck’s tip, and he scuttled off like a nervous crab.

I then gave Chuck explicit instructions on where to go. I found a scrap of paper and wrote down the insanely easy instructions – 55 to Cicero, to State, to Central. Super easy, right?

As I started driving home, I called my husband Ken from the car (Bluetooth enabled car, ease off CPD). I asked Ken to meet me at home – Chuck was raising all kinds of red flags for me. Ken sighed heavily, clearly a martyr to his wife’s paranoia.

I got home in time to crate the dog, face down the glowering Kenny, and to sit on the back porch and wait. And wait. And wait some more. I called Chuck again. Despite the ridiculously easy, handwritten instructions, he was lost. Again, unaware that CENTRAL is a completely different street from CENTRAL PARK. [Side note: I can’t figure out how on earth he got on Central Park from my directions.]

Ken now understood that my concerns were legitimate. He declared that Chuck could leave the washer and dryer in our garage, but would not be setting foot in our house. Chuck finally arrived, and with Ken’s help, unloaded the appliances into our garage, where I can’t wait to do my laundry!

I got a Gatorade from our kitchen and went to pay Chuck with the cash Kristi gave me. Chuck asked how much I was giving him. I told him – $100. He got angry and asked where his promised tip was. I told him – with the rando from the alley. Chuck got really angry now and started complaining that the job was worth way more than that and should have taken two people and I should have had the money for two people and so on. I didn’t engage – especially since the ‘two people’ ended up being Ken and I wasn’t about to pay my husband. I told Chuck to talk to Ken. “I’d rather deal with your husband,” Chuck sneered as I brushed past him into the house.

A few minutes later, Ken slammed into the house. Apparently Chuck was refusing to leave without an additional 20 dollars. [I found out later that he initially refused to leave without $200 in cash but Ken shot that down pretty quick.] Ken asked if I had cash, but I had none. Chuck refused to take a check.

I was about to call the police but it was time for the greatest act of passive-aggressiveness ever. Ken went upstairs and returned grimly clutching two Tootsie Roll banks. “Do you have any cash?” he confirmed with me, and I silently handed over two singles. I then watched my husband sloooowly count out eighteen dollars. In CHANGE. He asked for a Ziploc bag and the Gatorade, steeled his shoulders, and, supplies in hand, marched out to battle Chuck.

I don’t know what was said, only that Ken returned from battle with the Gatorade and no Ziploc bag. I commented on the Gatorade’s presence. Ken sat it down and solemnly informed me, “Chuck said, ‘Fuck your Gatorade.’”

“Well that’s just…” I didn’t get to finish my sentence. Ken was already gathering up his briefcase, ready to return to work.

And suddenly, I got it. The images from the day then coalesced into a final, larger picture. The dying fish, horny Butters, the decals on the van, the Tootsie Roll banks, the rejected Gatorade – all combined to make a portrait of a noble, brave husband slaying the dragon that was Mr. Dynamite.

Edited to Add:

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