Monthly Archives: September 2012

Andy Williams, Shelley Winters and Me

Andy Williams, Shelley Winters and Me

I will blame this maudlin exhibit of nostalgia on two events from this past week: I had a birthday and my imaginary childhood husband passed away.

I could launch into a monologue about the Depression and the Great War. But, while I may feel that old, in reality I’m not.

Instead I will now launch into a monologue about being a little kid in the 60’s during the Not So Great War.

A few houses down from us lived a family by the name of McRuffian.

(This is not their actual name but I figured I’d made it pretty far in life without being sued so thought I’d keep that going. Plus, I’m totally loving this whole fictitious name thing. Our milkman was named Milky VonLactose. See…nothing but fun!!!)

I’m not sure how many kids the McRuffians had but there seemed to be a herd of them running around and terrorizing the neighborhood like a scene out of Clockwork Orange.

In fact, in our house, one of the worst things you could hear from our parent’s mouth was “Don’t be a McRuffian!” It snapped you out of whatever inappropriate and cruel behavior you were participating in immediately. The very name turned your blood to ice.

It seemed to me that Mrs. McRuffian was never fully clothed. I only saw her in a slip. I’m sure she wore clothes at some point but I, honestly, have no memory of it. In my mind I will always see Shelley Winters – disheveled and lusty.

A bitch is no match for a lady except in a brass bed, honey, and sometimes not even there. ~Tennessee Williams

To me, she was exceptionally intriguing. Oozing sexuality when, in reality, I think she was just tanked early in the morning. And, probably with very good reason.

But, to my romantic sensibility, that house was the Minnesota version of a steamy Tennessee Williams play. Drunk, sexy mother raising a house full of men’s men.

I wonder if she called her husband Big Daddy….

By the way, I know there was a Big Daddy somewhere in that house but I can’t come up with a single memory of him.

Mickey McRuffian was my first kiss….and it grossed me out because I thought he was a troll.

Anyhoo, my best friend was Matt Snottowski (see, again, so much fun!!), one of 11 kids that lived down the road from us. He had a perpetual stream of green snot running out of his nose but he let me boss him around so you all have him to blame for how pushy I am. He was my childhood enabler.

We played house a lot. I’d put on my mom’s apron and put some Andy Williams on our giant console record playing machine.

(Go look up “records” in the Google, kids.)

Andy Williams, to me, was the perfect husband. He seemed clean and looked like he smelled like Christmas. He sang of romance and wore the hell out of cardigan.

I’d greet my phlegmy pretend husband at the door to the sounds of Moon River as he carried a paper sack that was supposed to be a briefcase. He’d put the “case” down at the door, sit down on the couch and say “Get me a beer.”

To which I replied “Get your own damned beer and get me one while you’re at it.”

Clearly, I was ahead of my time.

(Oddly, I started this post right before Andy Williams passed away this week. So, a tip of my fedora to you, Andy! Perhaps we will marry in another life. And I bet you would get your own beer.)

Scenes From a Coffice

Scenes From a Coffice

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

Disheveled woman dressed in yoga pants and hoodie enters ramshackle coffee shop. It’s a slow-motion scene, reminiscent of a Scorsese film, as the Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” plays in the background.

I see them all looking at me slack-jawed, the citizenry of the Coffice. They watch as I find my favorite table next to a power strip and slowly, slowly reach into my computer bag. There is a collective gasp as they are all blinded by the sexy, shiny new MacBook Pro I unveil.

Oh, I know they have all been mocking me with my archaic and filthy old Toshiba. Undoubtedly taking bets behind my back on which super virus will be unleashed by my sticky keyboard.

But no, not today. Today I stun them with my firepower.

Put your single soy cappuccino away, little barista. You think you know me? You don’t know me. Give me a double espresso with a Jack Daniels back today, small purveyor of the bean.

Behold! On this magical contraption, I will become a famous writer – a national treasure the likes of which has not been seen since….uuummmm…..I suppose I should read more.

Yeah, so I got a new computer. And I have a bit of a hard on for it too.

I’ve been tied to the PC world for what feels like an eternity so getting to join the hip, young world of THE APPLE (said with reverb) is a better means of aging denial than getting a tattoo or a piercing….or hormone replacements.

Lest this turn into some Apple commercial (though, call me if anyone wants to do that) let me enlighten you on my insecurity about EVER being uncool.

I’ve always thought that I was a very cutting edge and hip person. My guess is that most people who are decidedly NOT cool think the same thing about themselves. So, trust me, I know I may well fall into this category.

Working in a Coffice is where you see the coolest people IN THE WORLD. They are unshaven, unwashed, hopped up on “the bean” but are working their stubby little fingers to the bone to do something spectacular.

If they didn’t believe this, they’d be sitting in an office cubicle with much better hygiene.

They are artists, entrepreneurs, writers, developers, and drug dealers who are working outside the system, thereby flipping off “the man”. I love these people down to the tips of their dreadlocks and feel like I am always trying to be worthy of their acceptance.

Let’s paint the scene of a REAL Coffice.

A true Coffice is an old gas station with a small Guatemalan in the back room roasting beans.

The baristas are only slightly higher than their clientele and can also give you a tattoo in the back by the bathrooms on their breaks.

The manager spins vinyl at local raves on weekends. (They still have raves, right? Is that what the youngsters are calling them?)

So, rest assured, if you are at any coffee shop that has anything better than a spray painted piece of plywood as its sign, you are not really at a Coffice (always capitalized, by the way).

Coffices push me to create some new idea, thought, sentence, whatever. Thereby, rendering me immortal.

That, and it always seems to provide the perfect soundtrack to my life.

INT. COFFEE SHOP –  LATER THAT DAY

Disheveled woman packs up her creative magic box as the spell is broken and, amidst many jump shots of admiring eyes, leaves to the sounds of  “Stuck In the Middle With You” by Stealer’s Wheel.

FADE TO BLACK

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

“Everyone is wise until he speaks.”
~ Said by someone who has self control

Let me explain. As if I have to….

I come from a thick-skinned, sarcastic clan of Irish hooligans with excessive body hair who are masters at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I’m the youngest of six kids, raised in a predominantly Irish Catholic family with a dose of Chilean for spice. Though, according to my father, the Irish DNA can kill any other DNA with just a pithy quote from Oscar Wilde.

We lived in the frozen tundra of Sartell, Minnesota in the ‘60s amongst a community of over-breeders. The entire town seemed to be populated by about eight families of fifteen kids each. My parents were barren in comparison.

I went to St. Francis of Xavier Elementary School and thought Richard Nixon was cute. I feel I need to share this shame to illustrate my compulsive need for constant and full disclosure. I also had a mad crush on Glen Campbell and Andy Williams. But that doesn’t feel nearly as shameful as the Nixon thing, hindsight being 20/20 and all. And, to answer your question, yes, I have odd taste in men.

So, you get the picture. As a typical youngest child, I do a lot of stupid stuff. It doesn’t help that I inherited my father’s inability to keep words and actions inside our brains from making awkward public appearances.

Like the time I pantomimed male masturbation in front of my family during a game of Cranium.  As they all looked at me with gaping mouths I knew it was not the most appropriate choice to have made. And yet this didn’t occur to me until I had already simulated self-love in front of my parents.

In case you are wondering, I was acting out Master and Commander and I did win the round.

I have a rich familial history of this sort of behavior. Just to clarify, I don’t mean the public masturbation but the lack of editing oneself. I come from a long line of proud Irish impulsivity. And my father was the clan leader.

I can just imagine the insensitive blurting that occurred during the Potato Famine. There is a good chance we were actually kicked out of Ireland and just told people it was because of our insatiable need for starchy root vegetables.

I was mortified at my wedding when he asked my ultra-athlete sister-in-law if she still menstruated. This is very logical and appropriate wedding conversation for those of us who are afflicted with this disease. However, normal people may find it a bit unsettling. I’m sure it was a fleeting curiosity in his head and when he opened his mouth to take a bite of poached salmon, it simply fell out.

I don’t think my father was trying to insult or shock, I just think he didn’t really give a damn how his comments landed. I suspect he’d always been like this in his life so I won’t attempt to blame it on the insensitivity of the elderly.

Since my mother does not suffer the same affliction, she tended to sit in stunned silence. So, lacking any real counter-balance in my life, I started my career at a young age.

An early example: My first confession.

We had a super groovy macramé and guitar priest named Father Kramer at our church who I thought was the next coming of Bobby Sherman. Being the super cool dude he was, he decided it was a much gentler experience for children to sit in his office rather than the confessional to unload our myriad criminal acts.

As I sat swinging my feet on his big red leather office chair, he asked me if I had any misdeeds I felt I should confess to him and, of course, The Big Guy. It just so happened that I had bitten my sister Julie’s finger the week before. I maintain to this day that if you don’t want to get bit by a shark you don’t shake chum in its face so she should have known much better than to put it within biting distance. I drew blood.

After telling Father K this story, he looked at me solemnly and shook his head.

“You know, Irene, there is never a call for violence. Do you think you made the right choice in this situation?”

Not a second passed before, out of my little mouth tumbled:

“Well, shit Father, no one is perfect.”

My memory goes dark at this point either because I was literally smitten down by the very hand of God or all the drugs I’ve done subsequently have simply erased it. Either way, I do not recall getting punished for saying this so it only fed my belief that I was not in the wrong. This, in turn, helped to mold me into the solid overly honest and awkward adult I am today.

And I’m OK with that because, as we all know, no one is perfect.

Ode to a Brave Husband

Ode to a Brave Husband

Look Mama!
I bagged me a keeper!

This week’s blog is all about my lovely husband “Jim” (I still don’t believe that’s his real name). Today  we celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary.

And since I couldn’t find what the appropriate gift was on the list for a 17th, I’m going to give the gift of words.

For anyone who knows me, maintaining that level of consistency for that long without just wandering off is a rather large feat.

And, anyone who knows me will also agree to the super-human accomplishment by “Jim” for having lived with me every freakin’ day…for 6,205 days…148,920 hours…8,935,200 minutes. Not that the poor man is counting or anything.

I only hope the three goats, basket of root vegetables and the plot of dirt he got from my village elders was enough to make up for it all.

So, I thought, given his obvious insatiable thirst for pain and discomfort, maybe he deserved a little shout out on this, the anniversary of his decline into madness.

We’ve traveled the world together, had the mad rollercoaster that is twins, moved too many times to count, fart and pee in front of each other. What story would be a good one to really capture the essence that is “us”?

The one that comes to mind is the Incident of the Bee in the Bathtub. So that is the one I’ll tell, as a tribute.

(The knocking-himself-out-on-a-ceiling-fan story will have to wait for his birthday.)

By the way, this story does nothing but paint us both as complete morons.

Back before we went down the slippery slope (covered with rusty razor blades) of parenthood, we used to do monthly getaways to quaint bed and breakfasts all around the Puget Sound.

On this occasion we headed to Victoria for our romantic getaway, staying at a lovely Victorian B&B across from a bucolic, grassy park.

We checked in and, as childless people tend to do, we decided to take a bath in the middle of the day! We were that filthy.

The large Jacuzzi tub was positioned right next to the bed, in a large bay window that overlooked the park across the street.

Once you are sitting inside the tub, you could not be seen from outside. But, you sort of had to slide in on your stomach to avoid showing the world your kibbles and bits. And so we slid like Army grunts into our soapy haven without detection from the outside world.

Once in the tub, we noticed there was a lovely wedding happening in the park so we soaked and watched all the hazy loveliness of new love blossoming across the street as we sipped champagne.

As we relaxed, we both started to hear a loud buzzing noise and noticed we were beginning to be dive bombed by a very large and annoyed wasp. We swatted it away and thought for a minute he had found something else to occupy his time. But, it would seem he was just getting started.

Over the next hours (OK, it was probably 90 seconds) we were terrorized relentlessly by this little asshole. I don’t know what we did to piss him off so much, I believe wasps by their very nature are just pissed off, but he went after us with a vengeance as if we had killed his family and burned down his dry cleaning business.

(Cue The Benny Hill Show theme music….now!)

Our swatting and flailing grew to a fevered pitch. There was water splashing all over the place, we were slipping and sliding all over, hopping and dancing around trying to get the damned thing to stop terrorizing us.

Finally the water must have gotten it because we saw it floating in the suds as we stared at it, panting from the exertion.

As we high-fived each other on our exceptional wasp survival skills we realized that we were standing, buck naked (or is it butt naked…I’ve never known), in front of the window for all the gentle citizenry of Canada to see.

This of course, is humiliation enough. But we also realized that there were quite a few people at that wedding who were no longer paying attention to the exchanging of vows happening in front of them.

We both waved to them and slowly sank back into the tub, where, “Jim” was stung by the dead bee anyway.

So, Happy Anniversary, “Jim”! You are a brave fighter of bees, a tolerable scrabble player, fair armchair electrician, and a man with the cohones to be married to me. Well done!

And perhaps, some day you will reveal your true identity.

Crazy Chicken People

Crazy Chicken People

WTF??

You’d never believe this but I have a couple of minor phobias. I know I have just shaken your world with that news flash.

So, let’s start with birds, shall we?

I actually like to watch birds as they soar through the sky and perch in trees. They are lovely to look at and listen to with their melodic chirping.

But, if you get one of those fuckers on the ground and pecking near my ankles, I will go all Tarantino-style ape shit on them.

I have this terrible phobia of birds on the ground. It skeeves me out to no end. I’m only slightly more comfortable if they are not on terra firma. But, still not a fan of flapping wings around my head either.

This tends to be a problem because so many of my friends and enemies (many of who will be commenting on this blog I have no doubt) are buying into this foul (do NOT excuse that pun) craze of becoming “urban farmers” or, as I call them, Crazy Chicken People.

These are people who don’t quite have the cojones to just go live on a farm but clearly can’t be bothered to drive to the goddamn grocery store to feed their insatiable need for huevos.

They start these mini petting zoos in the back yards of their suburban tract homes and get all superior because they are “eating sustainably”. I thought that was the whole purpose of eating anyway. To sustain. Clearly I’m missing something.

Listen, I don’t have anything against chickens.

Ha!!! Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t know why I even said that. I freakin’ hate chickens. I’ll eat them, no problem. Happily, in fact, since that will mean one less avian terrorist in the world.

I’ve had a checkered past with non-flying birds. I believe I was allowed to watch The Birds at an entirely too young age. The scene when Suzanne Pleshette and Tippi Hedren are walking the kids through the school yard through a sea of stinking crows and other feathered miscreants clearly was the beginning of the end of my relationship with these creatures.

You’d better hope they’re only here to crap on your car.

There used to be an evil wild turkey that lived outside my building at Microsoft. The ugly fuck hung out like a turkey version of Travis Bickle.  All lunatic attitude just waiting for some trouble.

It would mean a mad run from my car to the door to avoid being attacked. Literally. I mean it. It would peck your eyes out just as soon as smell your fear.

I had a bag of rocks I kept in my car and would pelt it with them as I made my escape.

(By the way, it is virtually impossible to look even remotely cool while blindly running in terror from a squawking bird as you throw rocks at it. Just in case you thought you might want to do that to improve your cool factor. See, I am here to mentor you.)

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?

I always thought it would be a wonderfully liberating gesture to throw an actual bottle of Wild Turkey at the asshole but couldn’t quite stomach the waste of it.

Take that lethal piece of ironic justice, you big bully!!

So there you have it. I think you all know now how I feel about this. But, please do let me know if I’ve left anything unclear here.

I leave you with these words to ponder, spoken by an advanced non-avian human.

When birds burp, it must taste like bugs. ~ Bill Watterson