Tag Archives: humor

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. 



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:


Define ‘Inappropriate’, Part 2: Danny and the Library Book

12 Oct

I’m not trying to brag, but Danny is smart. Really, really smart. He taught himself to read at an early age. He devours books. I love coming into his room and seeing him holed up under the covers with a chapter book. He reads anything and everything. He really likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, the Boxcar Children series (which is how Benny got his name), and the “Stink” books (all about Judy Moody’s kid brother).

And it’s a challenge, finding age-appropriate, but challenging, material for him. I want to expand his horizons, expose him to new things, but I also have to be wary of how sensitive he is. He feels things very deeply, he’s very empathetic, and he internalizes things that others wouldn’t. He’ll watch something, or read something, and seem fine, only to have nightmares a week later. For the most part, he lives in his own little world. He has an imaginary Formula One race going on his head and he gives me updates on the standings every morning. He has written several imaginary tv shows in his head, including their theme songs. (My current favorite is “Pillow House.”) He’s a sweet, sensitive, brilliant little boy, and I’d like him to keep that innocence for as long as he can.

And every once in a while, he does something that just really creeps me out. This week, it was his library book selections at school. I reached into his bookbag and pulled out Curious George. “Aw, come on Danny, you can do better than that,” I thought. And then I pulled out this:

Don't worry, they're... laughing?

Totes appropriate.

What is this I don’t even whaaaaaaat?

I asked him about it. He said he wanted a book about war. Well, I’d say he got one. I wanted him to challenge himself, read a book above his current level, but this?

I texted the picture to my sister, his godmother, who understands him. She called back right away with concern. “Maybe you shouldn’t let my sweet little Dan read that. Isn’t that going to give him nightmares?”

Yes, probably. But… I don’t want to discourage him. I’m proud of him for going beyond his comfort zone. Still, I think this is waaaay too far out of the comfort zone. I did a quick skim of the book last night – it’s long, wordy, and full of horrible death and dying. I want to let him make his own choices, but I don’t want to deal with the nightmares that will result.

My current approach is to read it with him and talk about it. We read about 20 pages last night, and stopped right when the British lost the naval battle and the captain chose to go down with the ship. He didn’t seem too upset, and he didn’t have any nightmares, though that doesn’t mean they aren’t coming eventually. He didn’t seem too perturbed by it at all, which I guess is a good thing. My hope is that, by reading it together, he can process the concepts in a safe and encouraging way, while continuing to expand his vocabulary and knowledge.

Still… wtf? Why did he pick this book? And why didn’t the librarian say something when he checked it out, like, I don’t know, JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL, FIRST GRADER.

But that’s the thing about Danny. He zigs when you expect him to zag. He is full of surprises. He pulls out a Curious George, then a book about death and destruction. He is a paradox.

For example, one day we were driving and he was chattering away in the backseat. Usually he talks about his imaginary Formula 1 drivers, so I figured it was safe to tune out. My ears perked up right away though, when I heard, “It’s simple really. All you need is a dead body, a pocketknife, and an ostrich.

I nearly crashed the car. When pressed for an explanation, he stated that he learned that ostriches have very small brains. “True,” I said. “They’re smaller than their eyes,” he said. “Ok…” I replied. “Maybe that’s why they act so crazy,” he says. “Their brains are so small, they can’t help it.” [There was an incident at a petting zoo when he was 4.] “Probably true,” I conceded. “So they just need a bigger brain,” Danny continued. “You can take one from a dead body, and give it to the ostrich.” I explained, “But that won’t work. Your brain stops working when you die. And it would kill the ostrich to take his brain out.” Danny thought about that for a minute. “Oh… well.. in that case, I guess I could just teach an ostrich some tricks to make him smarter.”

I was relieved. I went from fearing I was raising Dexter, to fearing I was raising Dr. Frankenstein, to realizing I was actually raising Dr. Doolittle.

Still, I’m keeping a close eye on him. And hiding my World War II movies. And I might have a chat with the school librarian.

p.s. Assuming he does really want to learn about WWII, are there any kid-friendly books you’d recommend?

Saints, superstitions, and selling houses

9 Oct

Over three years after buying my first home, I’ve reached another milestone – selling. I moved out of my parents’ house into a small 2 bedroom condo with Danny in August of 2009 – right before Ken proposed. (Had I known what was coming, I probably would have stayed where I was and saved for a wedding, or a different place. Bygones.) It’s always a bittersweet feeling, walking through the empty rooms of a place you called home, even if the new place is better, and even though you didn’t live there very long. It’s still the first place I owned, the place we started living in as a family, the place Danny started kindergarten from. The place that was so conveniently close to the grocery store, my aunt, and some really awesome neighbors. Still, it was too far from Ken’s job and family, and too small for three people. Especially when one of those people owns a large collection of toys. (Ken, not Danny.)

I met with the realtor, cleaned up the place, did a final walkthrough. I’ll miss it, but it’s time to move on. So now the question is, how do we sell it quickly?

This is what Google Image search came up with. I like it.

Both Ken and I were raised Catholic, and so we’re both familiar with the tradition of burying a statue of St. Joseph, upside down, in the yard of a house you’re trying to sell. I don’t know how I know this. I don’t remember anyone explaining this to me. It’s one of those things you just absorb, like so many other traditions.

In fact, the seller of our current house called soon after we bought it and asked if he could come dig up the front yard, because he had buried Joseph there. Unfortunately, upon arrival, he couldn’t remember where exactly Joseph was, and so left without excavating him. He’s still lurking, somewhere in our yard. (Joseph, that is. Not the seller.)

Hopefully, his current position will work for the condo. The HOA would probably frown upon us digging up a common area, and we don’t have any flowerboxes or potted plants to hide him in. I joked that I would hang him, upside down, from the kitchen ceiling fan, an idea that has yet to gain support.

That got me thinking, though. How do these things get started in the first place? Who was the first person to bury St Joseph outside a house they were trying to sell? Did they bury him upside down the first time, or did they figure that part out later? “Huh… tent/hut/cabin/whatever didn’t sell… Better bury him upside down!!

St Fiacre. With a hoe. The jokes, they write themselves.

And the same with other saintly traditions. As Catholics, there’s patron saints for everything. St Thomas More is the patron saint of lawyers, which makes sense since he was one. St Jude is lost causes “because his New Testament letter stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them,” according to catholic websites.  The assignment seems to be based on an aspect of the saint’s life. But it gets more random- St Fiacre is the patron saint of both venereal diseases and cabdrivers, among other things, including gardening and boxmakers. I don’t know if he had one sponsorship and then the other, or if he was a venereally diseased cabdriver and boxmaker who gardened in his spare time, or if whoever is in charge of assigning these things just has a giant dartboard of saints. “We need someone for this, hurry!” Bam! Now you’re the patron saint of VD. You’re welcome.

But I do understand, psychologically, why the traditions continue. It’s called confirmation bias. You don’t remember all the times St Anthony didn’t help you find your car keys, but you do remember when you lost your id badge at the Taste of Chicago that would be expensive to replace and you and your friend  prayed to St Anthony before heading to the lost and found where someone DID turn in your badge, even though that had more to do with the fact that you had the same name as the Mayor’s chief of staff than St. Anthony (what up, other Sheila.).

So. Burying St Joseph upside down probably doesn’t do anything. But, even confirmation bias is occasionally confirmed. Obviously St Joseph worked for the prior owners of our house, or he wouldn’t still be in our yard.

So, if you’re looking at condo listings in the Chicagoland area, and you see St Joseph hanging from a ceiling fan, he’s trying to point you to a really good deal. With hardwood floors, in unit washer and dryer, central a/c, and various other amenities.

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