Sunday, July 29, 2007

Oh Schitt

I could not go out with a man named Barry Schitt. I just couldn’t do it. What if I ended up liking him? What if we ended up getting married and I’d forever be known as Mrs. Schitt? Hyphenating would have only made it worse and if I chose to keep my maiden name everyone at the Basura Bat Yam synagogue would call me a dirty, feminist whore and curse me with the evil eye (not that I really cared, but my grandfather would). I couldn’t have a boyfriend, forget a husband, whose name sounded like something cats do. Barry Schitt.

You know what, I couldn’t even go out on one single date with this guy because I knew the entire time we were out all I’d be able to think about was his unfortunate name. The hostess at the restaurant would ask what name our reservation was under.

“Schitt.” My blind date would reply.

“Excuse me?” the hostess would ask.

“Schitt.”

Then there would be a terrible mix-up because she’d think he was cursing at her or making some immature, frat boy type of joke and she’d threaten to have us kicked out until he’d be forced to show her his license. It would be awful and terribly embarrassing.

Nope. I couldn’t go out with Barry Schitt.

“You have to.” Said my mother.

“Why?”

“You can’t insult Hyman Lebenklutz. How would it look for the Cantor’s grand daughter to turn down a date with the nephew of one of the biggest contributors in the congregation?”

“He donated the door frames.” I knew this because in the synagogue there was a brass plaque on every single doorframe that said "Door frames generously donated by Hyman Lebenklutz.

“It’s a big deal to those people. Just go out with him. Don’t embarrass your grandfather. This is important to him.”

“Fine.”

I had to go out with Barry Schitt. I was making a sacrifice so that my grandfather could remain in the good graces of 200 and some 95 year olds, most of whom could barely see, hear or speak but still managed to terrorize and police every minute going on in one another’s lives. How did I ever get myself into this?

It happened at Passover. My grandfather forced us to endure the first night of the Seder at the temple with the 200 and some geriatrics, all rolling around in their Little Rascals, pulling oxygen tanks and wondering what everyone else was doing. I couldn’t even walk through the door (frames donated by Hyman Lebenklutz, of course) without being assaulted by a mob of angry old people all demanding to know why I wasn’t married and then speculating on the reasons before I had a chance to answer. Before the sawdust dry, sugar free, matzoh meal cake was served Hyman Lebenklutz took me aside.

“You must meet my great nephew. He’s a chiropractor.” He insisted, as if the fact that his great nephew was a chiropractor would cause me to suddenly swoon at the prospect of having my back cracked for free for the rest of my life if things worked out between us.

A few days after Pesach ended, I received a phone call.

“Hi, this is Dr. Schitt. Barry Schitt.”

Naturally I had long since dismissed Hyman Lebenklutz’s matchmaking attempts, so when I heard the name Dr. Schitt I thought one of my friends was screwing around with me.

“Come on. Dr. Schitt? What are you a proctologist?” I laughed.

“Umm. Excuse me?” said Dr. Schitt. “I think you met my uncle the other night – Hyman Lebenklutz. Basura Bat-Yam?”

“Ohhhhhh. Yeah. Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry.”

“My uncle got your number from your grandfather.”

“Yes, right. Of course. Mmm Hmm.”

“So yeah, I know this is kind of awkward. I don’t normally let my uncle fix me up with girls from his temple, but, would you like to meet up?”

“What’d you say your name was?”

“Barry.”

“Barry?”

“Schitt. S-C-H-I-T-T.”

As if spelling it made it ok. The addition of a C and an extra T made all the difference, right?

I should have spotted red flag #1 right here. He didn’t try to make a joke about his name. If your name is Schitt, first of all you should really consider changing it to something that isn’t a cuss word. Second, if you decide to keep your name then for God’s sakes break the tension by making a joke out of it when you meet new people. You know your name is Shit. They know your name is Shit, and chances are, the new people are feeling very awkward about your name and are wanting to laugh about it, but feeling like that’s not really OK. Barry Schitt should have made a joke. Perhaps he was tired of explaining it, but who cares. Worse yet, I think Barry Schitt took himself too seriously and that is one of the worst character traits that anyone can have. People need to get over themselves and learn to laugh at all the stupid things that make them uniquely funny. We’re all funny, but 99% of us can’t see our own ridiculousness. I think Barry Schitt had no clue that he was ridiculous. When he called, I had no clue exactly how ridiculous Dr. Schitt truly was either. I only knew that he had an awful name, which I pitied, and that he couldn’t make fun of it.

“Why wouldn’t he change his name?” my mother asked.

“Who knows?” I said. “I would.”

Barry Schitt called the day of our date to say he was taking me to a very good, upscale restaurant that I had been to on numerous other occasions. I was glad, because the guy I went out with just before Passover had taken me to a salad buffet because he had a coupon. Now, I’m all about a good salad buffet. I am truly not above the lure of a good salad buffet, especially if they have an additional baked potato bar and a frozen yogurt machine. I do love the salad buffet, but I don’t particularly want to be taken to one on a first date just because the guy taking me on the first date has a coupon and clearly deems me unworthy of a larger investment. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my salad and frozen yogurt, but the real kicker came when the guy who took me there had the nerve to ask me for a blowjob in the car, while still in the parking lot of the salad buffet place. Plus he was five two, ugly and boring. I took a cab home.

You know, Mommom Jewel impressed upon me at a young age that you always have to find something nice to say about everyone. You can always find something. The one nice thing that I could find to say about Barry Schitt is that he had a really nice car. As girly as I am, I confess that I really like to drive. By that I don’t mean that I like to chug along in Miami traffic for six hours with a migraine from breathing exhaust. I like to drive a good car. I can appreciate a well made automobile, and Barry Schitt owned (probably leased actually) a current, navy blue with tan interior, 5 series BMW. I really wanted to drive it. That just happens to be my dream car. When I become rich and famous I will really want to want a Prius, I swear. I will actually want a navy blue, 5 series BMW with tan interior. No amount of Live Earth concerts have seemed to sway me closer to genuinely desiring the Prius.

Barry Schitt came to the front door and I admit, he wasn’t ugly. He was 35 (a little old for me who was 27), very tall, in good shape and had thinning blondish hair. He looked a bit Michael Bolton-ish for my taste, but still, he wasn’t ugly. He also felt the need to carry a 2 liter bottle of Evian from the car to the house, because in the 30 seconds it took to get from the driveway to the front door, a person could really work up a wicked thirst. My mom jumped all over this one.

“Can I get you something to drink?” she asked.

This goes back to red flag #1, but Barry Schitt had no clue that she was making fun of him, and looked at her as if to say “Look you dumb woman, can’t you see that I have a 2 liter bottle of Evian in my hand???”

The Chiro-practuh made himself comfortable in my parents’ living room. My dad was gone, so he made small talk with my mom who told him all about how she hates the government and how big corporations are taking over the world and how AIDS was manufactured in a lab to kill undesirables. Somehow that got into a discussion about pollution or chemicals or some such and Barry Schitt explained his water bottle.

“I take it everywhere I go. You never know when people are going to ask you if you want a drink and I can’t take the risk that they might not have the proper filtration device. I also own a water filter company, by the way. I have some literature in the car if you’re interested.”

He came back with not only the literature about the water filtration device but also a big jar of vitamins and literature about those as well.

“I can tell you have some health issues. If you’d let me adjust you I can figure out which supplements are right for you.”

And my damn mom let him start cracking on her neck and twisting her back until he concluded that she needed to stop eating foods in the deadly nightshade family and take 25 different kinds of supplements from his own personal line of all natural, Chinese inspired, powdered-spider-derived vitamins. Plus, she really needed to get one of his water filters and he promised to give her a deal.

“So, if you have these great water filters why are you drinking Evian?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m not. I’m just re-using the bottle. This is MY water inside.”

Because how would we ever know the difference?

What seemed like hours later, Barry Schitt and I finally went to the restaurant and in his car, I am not kidding you, he was listening to a John Tesh cd. DEAL BREAKER.

Once seated (after the whole incident at the hostess stand played out exactly as I had imagined) he would not let me have any bread. I really wanted some bread. This was one of my favorite restaurants and I knew that they baked it in house and that it was especially delicious.

“Bread is toxic.” Said Barry Schitt. “It’s causing your dry skin.”

Later he asked me about my job.

“I work at the Bubblegum Kittikat. I’m a hostess. I keep my clothes on.”

Barry Schitt perked up. I bet it was because he thought this made me an easy lay.

“I love that place!! I go there all the time!” he said. “It’s really classy!”

OK, no it wasn’t. The Kittikat liked to call itself classy, but that is only in comparison to some of the other strip clubs located off lonely highway exits, staffed by scabby crack whores and frequented by truck drivers who were probably also serial killers. The Bubblegum Kittikat thought it was classy because it had real glasses instead of plastic, an army of juiced out bouncers, and webs of velvet ropes, but no amount of cigars and martinis can make a place where women get paid to stick their twats in the faces of strange men, classy. I’m sorry.

When our entrees arrived, the Chiro-practuh made the server stay at the table while he took both his and my plates and divided the food precisely in half with his knife. He cut my snapper in two, dragged a channel through my mashed potatoes and scraped away all the sauce. Then he counted the asparagus spears, divided by two and placed one half of the food on the unused bread plates. He then sent the original plates away and asked the server to box them up, while I sat in stunned silence.

“I only eat half of my food.” He said.

“Sometimes I eat half of my food too. Other times I eat 3/4s of it. Sometimes I actually dare to eat ALL of it.”

“Well, there you go. And those potatoes are nightshade. You shouldn’t eat them at all.” He said with a little wrist flick.

What exactly was that supposed to mean? Oh, and I totally neglected to mention that Barry brought in his Evian bottle and refused any beverage offered by the restaurant.

In some ways Barry Schitt had a point. Most restaurants do give you monstrous portions that no one person should ever eat and yes, this has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Mostly though, this rule doesn’t apply to fine dining where the portions are much smaller and the food prepared from healthier ingredients. The portions at this place were modest. I was starving. Dessert was totally out of the question.

When we left, I explained my love of Barry Schitt’s car and asked if I could just drive it a little ways.

“No, no I’m sorry. No one drives my car.”

So I had to ride in it listening to John Tesh until we got back home.

I thanked him politely. Obviously we both knew that I would never have to worry about becoming Mrs. Schitt because you couldn’t pay me enough to ever be with a control freak like that with his damned filtered water and only eating half of his food. I couldn’t possibly live with that Schitt for the rest of my life. And when I went inside, I ate the other half of my food.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Italian Wedding Soup Story - A Cautionary Tale

I used to love to put things off until later. I could have won awards for it. I still procrastinate, but not nearly as much as I used to and I’m ashamed to admit how long I delayed even writing this very story. I can find a million distractions from all the things I have to do and the distractions are always far more compelling and entertaining than whatever it is I am trying so hard to avoid. Once I even drove around for an entire year with a bag of clothes for the Salvation Army in the trunk of my car before finally dropping it off. I have no idea why I’m like this. Sometimes I think I’m fueled by stress. I need the anxiety of a deadline to force me into action. Other times it’s probably as simple as that I just want to do what I want to do when I want to do it and the things I put off are always things that are unpleasant or not fun. Of course, in life you have got to do a lot of things that are unpleasant and not fun. If you always avoid doing things you don’t want to do you end up making gigantic messes which turn into major catastrophes involving exponentially more unpleasant and not fun things until you become overwhelmed. This is no way to live.

I learned my lesson about procrastination, at, of all places, The Bubblegum Kittikat. You may ask, how on earth do you learn a valuable life lesson about procrastination while working the door at a strip club? Well, you’d be surprised at where you can learn a good life lesson. Sometimes you have to look at things in a different way. You’d be amazed at some of the places and ways you can learn things. It’s best not to limit yourself.

Because this lesson about procrastination is so important, I implore you to please learn from my mistakes. Don’t do this yourself. I’m serious. I suffered so you don’t have to, and this is the story of how I made a very big, very bad mess.

The house mother at the Kittikat and I became great friends. She was a larger than life, exceptionally glamorous, 500 pound woman with flame red hair, who wore aqua, glittering eye shadow and hung around with gay men who were in theater. Valeria herself, had majored in theater at NYU and because of the two of us, the Bubblegum Kittikat now contained more IQ points than it ever had or ever would.

As House Mother, a job I swear Valeria took, precisely because she loved theater, Valeria had to tend to the dancers and all of their constant issues, fights, tantrums and tirades. Additionally, she did their hair and makeup, snipped off their tampon strings, called their emergency contacts when they OD’d on stage, and even cleaned their still bubbling, champagne puke. To me, it was a thankless job. Valeria loved it.

I loved Valeria because she was the only witty, cultured and intelligent human being I had met since arriving in South Florida five months prior. Whenever I got a break or the door was slow, I headed on over to the back of the house so I could hang out with Valeria, who would have me literally falling out of my chair laughing over some tale of stripper or customer debauchery. We ordered dinner in every night and sat in the back attempting to eat manicotti while the dancers picked toilet paper out of their crotches beside us. That mental image alone makes me thankful I got an education.

Valeria was Italian and prided herself on her traditional cooking. Often, she cooked decadent pasta dishes running with mascarpone cheese, fresh mozzarella and truffled cream. They were wonderful. It was like having a party inside my mouth when I ate Valeria’s food. One day Valeria made enough Italian Wedding Soup, swimming with ditalini, tiny pungent meatballs spiked with cheese and garlic, and ribbons of escarole, to feed all of Rome. I think it had thirteen chickens in it and the pot this woman must have owned to make this volume of soup would have had to have been the size of a kiddy pool. As luck would have it, Valeria gave me my own large, Tupperware container full of Italian Wedding Soup because she thought I was coming down with a cold.

I ended up getting off work at five in the morning. Normally I was home by around 3 or 3:30, but on this occasion Crisis got into a fight with Turmoil because Crisis said Turmoil was looking at her man, who was one of the bouncers. Turmoil said she wasn’t looking at Crisis’s man because he was ugly and she had a rich boyfriend who could kick the bouncer’s ass. Crisis ended up taking off her eight inch Lucite heel and going to town on Turmoil’s face with it because you can’t just sit back while some bitch bad mouth’s your man like that. Hell no. We had to call 911. Both girls wanted to press charges. Turmoil had to go to the hospital. It was a disaster. I had to tell the police what I saw five different times and by the time they let me go and we got everything all cleaned up, I was delirious. Valeria made sure I did not forget the Italian Wedding Soup in the fridge.

By the time I got back to my parents’ house, the sun was rising and I could barely stumble inside to fall into bed.

After that I had two entire days off in which I went to my other job at the pottery shop where I made mosaic hearts and painted plates. I also did a million errands, went to Marshalls, took some shoes back, made a raspberry trifle and had a generally good time all around.

I got back to the Kittikat on a busy Friday night. Turmoil was still out and we learned she would have to get plastic surgery for the scar. The manager bailed Crisis out of jail and she was back at work but wouldn’t speak to anyone and no one would go near her because they didn’t want her opening up a can on their faces with her shoe. I don’t blame them.

I spent my evening selling and cutting cigars, cashing out the dancers and calling cabs for drunk people. My dear manager, whom I adored, would not let me have a break because we were just way too busy. Then some young kid threw up on the floor, three buses pulled up with three separate bachelor parties and all hell broke loose when Temper got a $30,000 tip. $30,000 is a lot of money, even in a strip club where $10,000 tips were fairly common place, so it caused a major ruckus. All the other girls were jealous and were trying to steal it from her, because it was in cash. Do not ask me where this guy got $30,000 in cash. I don’t want to know, but it can’t be good because normal people don’t just go out for the evening carrying the down payment on a house in their money clip. Actually, I think he had about 50 with him because he also tipped his waitress a few thousand and he had to pay his bar tab. Then he had me order him a large meal involving steaks, lobsters and ten dollar baked potatoes from the fancy steak house place. I got a $200 tip just for that. Anyway, the 30 grand caused the entire place to go into a state of hyper-chaos. Everyone was fighting. Two of the bouncers had to escort Temper home but then she was scared because everyone knew where she lived, so they had to take her to a hotel and stand guard outside the door while she counted her money. Temper ended up not coming back to work for several weeks and when she returned it was in a BMW and with a new and improved set of boobs.

So the point of that story, besides its obvious entertainment value, was to demonstrate that I was too busy to get back to see Valeria until it was one ‘o’ clock in the morning. The first thing she asked me was how I liked the Italian Wedding Soup.

OH MY GOD. No. I did not just leave the Italian Wedding Soup in the car for the past three days in the blazing hot Florida sun. No I did not do that. Yes I did leave Italian Wedding Soup in the car for the past three days.

“Umm. It was great!” I said. “I loved it. Best Italian Wedding Soup I’ve ever had.”

“Did you bring my container back?”

“Oh, no.” I said, messing with my fingernails. “I’m not done with the soup yet.”

Shit. I left soup in the car for three days. It would definitely be a poisonous bacteria ridden mess. So what did I do? I forgot it for two more days because soup in a hot car for three days was not long enough. I had to leave it for five days.

By Sunday my car smelled like thirteen dead chickens and a mountain of rotten onions which had been crapped out of an ogre’s butt. I rolled down the windows, sprayed it with Febreeze and planted an entire forest of tree air fresheners. There was no avoiding this. I had to bring the Tupperware container into the house and clean it. Except it was gross.

When I pulled the Tupperware out from under the seat it had become suspiciously swollen from fermentation and the top threatened to fly off , which would then shower me with botulism and I would die, writhing on my parents’ driveway. I held it very far away from my face, carried it in the house and placed it gingerly on the kitchen counter, because I really meant to throw its contents away and run the bowl and its lid through the dishwasher to sterilize it. I really meant to do that. Except it was gross.

So I left it on the kitchen counter for several more days and proceeded to avoid Valeria at work because I didn’t want her to ask me where her Tupperware container was because that would mean I would have to face the mess inside the container in order to clean it out and return it to her and the mess had gotten so putrid that I would have done anything to avoid having to open it up and deal with it once and for all. Anything. I even contemplated just quitting my job there altogether, never calling Valeria ever again and just throwing the entire container in the trash. Then I thought, well no. Maybe I could just explain what had happened and just buy her a new Tupperware. Maybe I could make up for my mistake by buying her a whole entire new SET of Tupperware to show how repentant I was. But then she’d know that I forgot her generous gesture of making me soup and she’d know I lied to her about enjoying it. This chain of thought went on and on until it somehow ended with me homeless and dead on the streets, as all my chains of obsessive thought eventually conclude.

This could only have happened in my parents’ house. Nowhere else in the world could one leave a bloated Tupperware of fermented, spoiled, week old, unrefrigerated Italian Wedding Soup sitting in plain view on a kitchen counter without someone immediately noticing. But at Casa Azul, no one noticed for quite some time. Several people came and went. Everyone just kind of did what they needed to do around the Italian Wedding Soup, but no one thought to move it, open it or otherwise inspect it in any way.

Another week passed. I still avoided poor Valeria who thought I was mad at her, ungrateful and having attitude. She also thought I was a Tupperware thief, some awful, treacherous rat who connived to run off with her quart sized, orange, circa 1975 round container with the pleated lid. And I couldn’t bring myself to just go to her and explain what I had done because I was so ashamed of my misdeed.

Ok, I thought. I will not only go to Valeria and tell her the situation, but I will also confront the bubbling, possibly oozing, definitely extremely poisonous Italian Wedding Soup. Except it was gross and very unpleasant and certainly not fun. Tomorrow, I told myself. I’ll do it tomorrow. But tomorrow came and I didn’t tell Valeria and I didn’t clean up the mess.

Enter my mother – the eternal voice of reason.

“Could you tell me what in the Sam Hell name of Jesus you’ve got festerin’ in that ugly assed orange Tupperware?”

“Italian Wedding Soup.” I said.

My mother gave me a look that is very particular to mothers who don’t take crap off their children ever. If you have one of these kind of mothers, who can be identified by the fact that they never ever put their children on time outs, but instead threaten to skin them alive if they are bad, you know exactly what this look looks like. It is not pretty.

“You mean to tell me that you’ve had a quart of soup sitting on the kitchen counter for damn near two weeks now?”

“Yeah.”

“And what purpose does this serve?”

I went through the whole ridiculous mess and my mother became more and more worn out with me until finally she demanded I clean it and announced that after hearing such nonsense come out of her only blood child’s mouth that she needed to go outside and chain smoke for an hour.

But did I clean the Italian Wedding Soup and end the story?

No I did not. Because I am an idiot.

Instead of just doing it and having the great relief that the story was over, I decided instead to make the situation yet 300 times worse. While my mother was outside chain smoking to comfort herself from the anguish I caused her with my stupidity, I decided to hide the Tupperware container under the kitchen sink. My mother should have disowned me.

I continued to avoid Valeria. She continued to think bad things about me. Going to work began to cause me stress. Instead of looking forward to the antics of strippers and those who loved them, I began to dread sitting on my stool at the door because I could not go back to visit Valeria. And all because of soup.

By and by, a bad smell appeared in my parents’ kitchen. They believed a rat died inside the walls. A rat had not died inside the walls. A stupid daughter hid a container of soup under the kitchen sink. They called the exterminator, who was wildly in love with my mother and took this as an opportunity to stay at our house for seven hours looking for the dead rat. The exterminator traced the smell to its origin under the sink and found the soup. My mother hit the roof. The words she uttered are not fit to print and would make blood come out of your eyeballs if you read them.

“CLEAN UP THIS MESS!” she yelled.

She also made me pay the exterminator for his wasted visit chasing phantom dead rats.

I could not bring myself to clean up the mess because I am such a germaphobe and have such a weak stomach that the only way I could go near the soup was if I were wearing a Hazmat suit and could go into a decontamination chamber afterward. Obviously those things were not possible, so I opted to throw out the entire container. I put on rubber gloves and tied a scarf around my face.

“You follow her out there and make sure she does it.” My mother ordered the exterminator and of course he did it because he was in love with her.

I carried the Tupperware outside to the big trash cans, exterminator in tow. The soup inside had become solid and heavy. If the lid opened, a Pandora’s box of toxin would have immediately erupted killing everyone on our block and killing all of the fish in the Intracoastal canal, so I was very careful. When it was over, and the soup was gone, I had to figure out what to do about Valeria and her now destroyed container.

I procrastinated telling her for another three days. Finally I went back there. She eyed me suspiciously and I told her the entire story. During my endless tale of bacterial reproduction, Valeria looked at me like I was the biggest moron alive. She blinked her green eyes which were ringed with sparkling magenta shadow and she reminded me of some magnificent sea creature. Something about Valeria always made me think she belonged in an enchanted ocean with lots of mermaids waiting on her.

“I’ve heard a lot of stupid things working in this place.” Valeria sighed. “But this is truly in the top five. Now give me a hug you idiot!!”

So of course this whole disaster had been created in my own mind. I made it all up, every bit of it about Valeria hating me and thinking I stole her Tupperware. No one really cares that much about a Tupperware container. They’re meant to be lost. I made up all of the anxiety and I made a gigantic mess out of what would have just been a little mess, quickly forgotten. In doing so, I caused myself a tremendous amount of worry, not to mention that I created a disgusting task for myself out of something that probably wouldn’t have been all that bad if I had tackled it early on.

The more I put it off, the grosser it got and the more I didn’t want to face the problem. The longer I avoided the situation, the more disgusting and poisonous it became. I see people doing this all the time in life, not with Italian Wedding Soup, but with other things – jobs, relationships, important tasks and all sorts of things that if not just dealt with, simmer for years getting worse and worse and more overwhelming.

Whenever I get the urge to procrastinate I think of the Italian Wedding Soup. I remember its eventual dead rat smell and I recall how silly and unnecessary it all seemed when it finally ended. Don’t be scared to face things that are gross, unpleasant or not fun. Just do them and get them over with. Face the nastiest, ugliest, stinkiest things first. Clean them all up and set yourself free, because you know as well as I do that you can’t have any real fun knowing there’s an ugly orange Tupperware hidden under the kitchen sink full of rotting Italian Wedding Soup.
Monday, July 23, 2007

I Find a Most Extraordinary Pink Castle


The other night on the way to the Dairy Queen I made a different turn than usual and came upon a most extraordinary pink castle sitting all by itself at the end of the street where I needed to make a U-turn. It was quite unexpected and I said "Dear God, there is an enormous, pink and turquoise castle guarded by lions and flamingos. Only in Florida."
Because really, could you imagine this house anywhere else besides Florida? People would have a fit. In Millpond, for instance, people would probably drive from three states just to look at it and then they'd burn a cross on the lawn for good measure, because no one can live in a big pink and turquoise castle guarded by lions and not be up to no good.
Of course I don't feel this way. I was very excited to find this extravagant pink house with its flamingo lined courtyard and tower. I imagined a princess imprisoned inside with only that one little window to look out. Maybe at night the lions come alive and bring her Dairy Queen, except, this IS South Florida afterall, and our princesses would consider DQ too fattening. She would probably make the lions go back and forth to the Dairy Queen fifteen times, asking for calorie and carb counts, and then she'd return her order repeatedly because it wasn't frozen enough and then it would come back too frozen, until the lions would just get fed up and eat her.
I have no idea who lives in the house or what they are like, but I like dreaming up stories about them and as much as I complain about South Florida, I really kinda like that here, you can get away with not only having a castle, but painting it pink and turquoise. So thank you people who live in this castle for being bold and playful enough to make your house into something that would seem outrageous and appallingly out of control in most parts of the world, but seems to fit right in down here.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Time I Took An Idiot for a Thousand Dollars

I don’t know where my mother met Kristopher Blake, but I’m about 97% sure it has something to with the night she and Aunt Kiki went out and got so wasted that the valet parkers at the Bubblegum Kittikat ended up driving them all the way home. I think this because my mother would have had to have been wasted to find Kristopher Blake even remotely entertaining and she would have had to have been with Kristopher Blake to end up at the Kittikat, where he was a regular and she certainly wasn’t. At least not yet.

I had been in Florida under a month when one day my mother got up from the computer and actually got dressed in something other than a leopard print towel.

“We gotta go out and see this guy I know.” She said, and since I had absolutely nowhere to be except home wallowing in misery I got up and got dressed too.

“Where does this guy live?” I asked when we had been in the car for what seemed like a long enough time to make it to the Alabama state line.

“Out by the swamp.” My mother replied.

“What is he, like some kind of alligator wrestler?”

“He’s a multimillionaire.”

“What the hell kind of multi-millionaire lives in the middle of the Everglades?”

“The edge.”

“Yeah, ok.”

So, she was right, sort of. Kristopher Blake lived on the EDGE of the Everglades and not in the middle of it, but when I saw the place, I realized that was just a technicality. Everglades is freakin’ Everglades whether it’s the edge or the middle or underneath it.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

I don’t know about you, but I have a totally different mental image of multimillionaires’ houses than what we encountered. I picture, you know, mansions with fountains, gates, maybe some landscaping. SOME landscaping, a little, you know, maybe a tree that has actually been trimmed in the past five years, like once. I also picture pools, other houses perhaps, and although I realize this may be asking too much, I expect there to at least be a driveway, especially if one has two Lamborghinis and a Ferrari just sitting in the front yard. Ok, it wasn’t even a front yard. It was some torn up patches of land in front of a gigantic, though utterly uncared for home.

The gigantic, utterly uncared for home looked like it might have been spectacular back in 1984, which was clearly the last time it had been painted, pressure washed or repaired. Perhaps back then there had even once been a driveway, which had now apparently been reclaimed by the Sea of Grass. You could have scraped the mildew in sheets from the barrel tiled roof and I didn’t know if the house was supposed to be grey or if it had just turned grey. In any event, the house was grey.

“I’m not walking across that yard.”

“Shut the hell up.”

“It looks like where alligators would hide.”

“It does not.”

Trust me. It did.

“Where do you find these people?”

“Do you know how much money he has?”

“From the looks of this house I’d say not much.”

“Do you know how much those cars are worth?”

I didn’t care how much those cars were worth.

“What if he’s a serial killer?” I asked, and I wasn’t kidding, “There’s no way we could escape. There aren’t any other houses.”

“He has to live out here.”

“And why, pray tell?”

“For protection.”

“Against?”

“The government.”

Oh for Christ’s sakes, my mom and her government paranoia crap. This was a great time for it to kick in, when we’re miles from civilization, about to be killed by some lunatic with fancy Italian sports cars and fed to alligators. I could have used some government intervention. And for the record, I’ve always believed that if someone has reason to fear the government, it’s more than likely because they did something wrong. Ok? So yet another reason to fear this Kristopher Blake character.

We trudged through the tall grass and up to the front door with me jumping around like I was on fire because I was being simultaneously attacked by seventeen different varieties of mosquito plus some fire ants and I was absolutely positive that I had at least nineteen ticks stuck to various unseen crevices of my body.

“This is really not ok.” I mumbled.

“SHHHH!!”

We rang the doorbell repeatedly. No one came.

“I know this asshole’s home.” My mom said.

By the time someone answered the door, mosquitoes and other blood sucking parasites had drained my body of 60% of its blood supply and I had become anemic.

“Where’s Kristopher?” my mother asked a seven foot tall Seminole Indian, who led us up a flight of stairs.

I don’t need to waste a lot of time describing the inside of the house do I? It looked as bad as the outside, except that it had no furniture and every square inch of surface was covered in once white, wall to wall carpeting. We went to what would have been the living room (I guess) and sat on the floor, because there was no couch. There were, however, some of those badly framed movie posters that you get at cheap souvenir types of shops, propped up against one wall. The Sopranos glared out of the plexi-glass next to Tony Montana. The house smelled like a drug binge.

“You want an Uncrustable??? ANYONE???” a high pitched, emasculated man’s voice yelled from another room, maybe a kitchen.

“How ‘bout a Nutty Buddy? Croissant Pocket??” said the voice.

“Umm, no thanks.” I ventured.

“OH MY GOD! WHO IS THAT??”

The voice wanted to know who I was.

“My daughter. She just left her fiancé and now she’s down here with me and her Papa.”

“OH MY GOD!! Why do you let her dress like that? Tell her to lose some weight. I would totally take her shopping if she lost ten pounds.”

How did the voice see me? And who did this voice think it was asking me if I wanted a Nutty Buddy and then telling me I needed to lose ten pounds?? This voice needed its ass kicked.

“Excuse me??” I called back to the voice, preparing to kick its ass.

My mother jabbed me in the arm.

“Would you shut the fuck up!”

Who else’s mom tells them to shut the fuck up? Anyone’s? I’m just curious.

The voice belonged to the biggest jackass I had so far encountered in the Sunshine State and since this happened exactly two weeks before the prostate massage guy who stuck his finger up his own ass, Mr. Blake was about to get a run for his money. In the many years since, I have met about a thousand other competing jackasses, but Kristopher Blake still remains in at least the top 10. I’d even venture the top 5.

He was short and around 40, but he thought he was 22 and extremely hip and cool and stylish, but he was tragically none of the above. Kristopher Blake was E. Short, fat, sunburned, effeminate, tacky, addicted to pills and crack and a god damned fucking idiot. Kristopher Blake probably needed to be killed because the world is entirely better off without people like him, who inherited assloads of money from their innocent, naïve parents just so they can proceed to waste it all on whores, drugs, cars and Seminole body guards. He could have at least spent a little of his money on pressure cleaning the damned roof or planting a couple of Areca palms around the front door, but he didn’t because Kristopher Blake had no pride, and what little pride he did have I was about to obliterate.

My mother made me sit there on this moron’s floor next to his Scarface posters while he screamed and yelled on his cell phone to one of a set of twins whom he was dating. I gathered that the twins were 18, were hookers and were taking this guy for as much as they could because he seemed very willing to take them to the mall whenever they wanted. While we visited Twin One got upset because he had fucked Twin Two longer the night before and because Twin Two told Twin One that Kristopher took her coke stash. Somehow it all ended with Kristopher promising to take Twin One to the Versace store. Then, Twin Two called in tears because Twin One told her Kristopher was taking her to the Versace store and Twin Two wanted to go too. He promised to take them both because what good is a slut in South Florida without some gold lion heads on her thousand dollar tank top?

Do not ask me why my mother insisted we go visit this idiot. To this day I have no idea. None. There are some things to which we just cannot apply logic or reason. My mother is infinitely more compassionate, forgiving and generous of heart than I am. She called him a poor soul, whereas you have just read all the things I called him.

When Kris settled the Versace Twin Drama, he opted to show me his snake. No, not that one. Thank God. He had a tank with a python in it and it was one of those nasty, awful looking yellow ones that looks like someone accidentally washed it with the whites and it got bleached. I’m not a sissy about snakes. One day I will tell you about the snake I babysat. I think snakes are actually kind of cool. I get unbelievably excited if I see one in the wild, but this one was gross and at the same time really pitiful in its tank with a fluorescent light, a warmed up snake rock and Kristopher Blake hovering over it smoking a joint. Poor ugly, yellow python. What a horrible existence.

This got me to thinking. How is it that someone can not have any furniture, let his house fall apart, but still manage to buy some posters and a python? How does this happen? And obviously he grocery shopped too because he had a bunch of frozen crap from the dumb ass section of the store, but I just can’t imagine someone like this food shopping, or waking up one day in his furniture-less house and being like – screw the couch, I need a snake. But I also don’t get a set of twins sleeping with the same guy either. These are just a few of things which perplexed me about South Florida back then and which I have now just given up trying to figure out.

A few weeks later Kristopher Blake decided that he needed to take my whole family out to dinner to one of those fancy steakhouses that serves $50.00 steaks and makes you buy a $10.00 a la carte baked potato to go with it. This is one of my ultimate pet peeves, besides having to go to dinner with someone like Kristopher. I think if you buy a $50.00 steak that you should get a baked potato or a salad, or actually both, along with it. Maybe this is the Millpond in me. Anyway.

My Dad thought Kristopher Blake was hilarious because my dad can laugh at any jackass, whereas I tend to laugh to a point and then get irritated. I went from zero to irritated in 3.9 seconds. Kristopher showed up an hour late, causing a scene at the valet when he squealed up to the entrance in one of the Lamborghinis, twins in tow. He wore a royal blue jacket with a tee shirt underneath it, royal blue pants, and pink ostrich boots. I think he may be the long lost son of Liberace. His blonde hair was sculpted into a superbly stupid pompadour. I prayed not to run into anyone I knew.

The twins looked like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. They were Japanese, Japanese blondes, and probably 85 pounds put together and they were each wearing matching Versace outfits complete with gold lion heads, which were stretched out from the force of their gigantic fake racks. If only, I thought, If only I could find a firing squad.

Through Caesar salads, filet mignons, 10$ baked potatoes and lobster tails, I sat there silently and listened to these buffoons talking shit. The Twins didn’t eat, but every thirty seconds they had to go to the bathroom to powder their noses.

“Is she live or is she Memorex?” Kristopher asked my parents. The Twins tittered, as if they even knew what Memorex was. They weren’t even legal drinking age. I wanted to ram the entire bread basket down their throats.

The server came and recited a lengthy list of dessert items. There was no dessert menu, so you had to hope something either caught your attention or you had to ask the server to repeat the list over and over until you decided you were too full for dessert.

“I’d give someone a thousand dollars if they could repeat that word for word!” shouted a drunken Kristopher Blake.

“I can do it.” I said.

Kristopher Blake didn’t know what he was getting into making a bet with me. I’m like Rain Man. I have a near perfect rote memory ordinarily. When it involves desserts, my rote memory is flawless.

“You can’t repeat that.” Said Kristopher Blake.

“Oh yes I can.” Said Me.

Mr. Blake had the server, who had the desserts written down, be the judge. The server didn’t think I could do it either.

“Carrot cake, New York Cheesecake with strawberry coulis, warm chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and Chambord sauce, praline bread pudding with warm bourbon cream, Kentucky Derby pie, apple tart with cinnamon ice cream, coconut banana crème brulee and the chef’s assortment of homemade ice creams and sorbets. Tonight’s signature flavors are Tahitian vanilla, dark chocolate, Mexican cinnamon, mango, passionfruit, peach champagne and blackberry.”

Kristopher Blake almost fainted. The Twins didn’t titter. My dad suppressed laughter and my mom told Kristopher Blake he better start counting out my money. The server confirmed my accuracy.

“Pay her!” my dad demanded.

Kristopher Blake counted ten hundred dollar bills into my palm and I thanked him very much. This was the last time I saw him. That night Kristopher was picked up for speeding on Alligator Alley. Drug charges followed. Last I heard he sat in jail, broke.

So now, one thousand dollars wealthier and having silenced a raging jackass, what do you think I did with that money, dear readers?

Did I save it or give it to charity? Did I buy a pair of panties at the Versace store? Did I pay bills or feed homeless bunnies? No.

I went to Jamaica. And I deserved it.
Monday, July 16, 2007

The Time I Decided to Throw Myself Into the Sea

“I can’t believe a disgusting bitch like you ever worked with children.” Evil ex told me.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t have called him. I was asking for this abuse, but it had been a month and I already received his lawsuits. I wanted to know how and why he could do this to me and I wanted to beg him to stop.

My former neighbors back in Atlanta called me almost everyday with reports of what Evil Ex was doing in MY house while I lay awake all night crying silently in my parents’ guest room. As soon as my flight landed in Florida, Evil Ex’s girlfriend moved right in. She was skinny, my neighbor’s reported. She was wearing my clothes. No, for real. She was wearing my clothes. I mean, why not, since I wasn’t allowed in the house to get them. I guess she figured someone should wear them.

“Remember those black capris with the pink roses embroidered around the hem?” asked my friend Ellen, who lived across the street.

“Yes.” I replied.

“She’s wearing them today.”

I couldn’t fit into the black capris with pink roses around the hem anymore. They were a size two and well, let’s just say that I was not a size two, nor would I ever be. At one point, I was a size two, but it was only for about a week and a half after I had a wicked stomach virus. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that my being a size two was a one time only, very brief fluke.

Picturing this girl, whoever she was, strutting around my former neighborhood in my size two, black capris with pink roses on the hem sent me into fits of self loathing and misery. Thank God this was before I found out she was pregnant, because if I knew that this girl could fit in a size two, while she was pregnant, I might have just flown to Atlanta and burnt the house down with her in it.

Instead of burning the house down, I decided to sit and torture myself. How could a girl move in to some other girl’s house and wear her clothes? Why didn’t he want me? What was so great about her, besides the fact that she was a size two? What was so terrible about me? Why did I let myself stay engaged to someone for over four years who made it clear to me that the only reason he bought me a ring was because my parents pressured him into it because we were living together. He told me over and over that he didn’t believe in marriage. It was just a piece of paper, he repeated when I cried and begged him to set a date.

I had to know, so I called, praying she would answer so I could tear her a new asshole about wearing my pants while I festered in Florida with only a suitcase of tee shirts and flip flops.

“What do you want?” Great. I forgot about caller ID.

“How-”

“How? You want to know how? I’m happier than I’ve ever been before in my life, that’s how.”

“Why?”

“Because YOU were a bitch.”

“Why?”

"You constantly complained, you tried to control everything I did – Maya wakes up smiling every day. You never did anything but work. Maya takes care of me. I can’t wait to marry her.”

“You said you didn’t believe- You never wanted-”

“I just didn’t want it with you.”

I think I could have lived a little better knowing that it really wasn’t me. If I believed he didn’t want to marry anyone, maybe I could have gotten over it, but no. It really was me. He didn’t want to marry me.

“Why?”

“Because you were never happy. You were a high maintenance pain in the ass. Maya and I go dancing. You’ve never danced in your life. You’re scared to death of everything, nothing is ever fun with you. All you want to do is have your perfect little Martha Stewart dinner parties and put up your Laura Ashley curtains. You never even got drunk. You’re such a fucking control freak. You have to be in control all the god damned time. You’re fucking miserable and you were horrible in bed. You know, sometimes Maya just takes my dick out and starts sucking it, for no reason. I had to beg you to suck my dick. It was like pulling fucking teeth to get a blowjob out of you and then you never wanted me to see you naked, you’d never show your tits. Maya sleeps naked. We walk around the house naked. So you want to know why. That’s fucking why!”

“So all you want is some dirty whore to suck your dick and walk around naked and get drunk and go dancing? That’s what you want you fucking piece of shit and that was worth throwing away a seven year relationship for? Some blowjobs? What the fuck kind of person are you?”

“You need to look at what kind of person YOU are, and I don’t need to listen to you talk shit about my girlfriend. You’re just a lonely, sick, little jealous person and you’ll never be happy. I can’t believe a disgusting bitch like you ever worked with children.”

He hung up on me.

Looking back, I see this as more of the manipulative, abusive bullshit that I endured during the seven years we lived together, which he obviously learned from his father, a man, who once in a drunken rage came home and destroyed all of the family’s furniture. At the same time, and I knew this then, Evil Ex told me a cruelly worded version of the truth. His intent had been to make himself feel justified in cheating on me, lying to me, leading me on and then suing me. He meant to hurt me, and there was no doubt about that, but there were shards of truth amid the vitriol. I was lonely, sick and jealous. I was a control freak who had never danced or proudly embraced her own sensual curves. I was a fucking mess and I wanted to die because at that moment I saw no other way out and the dogs were barking, my mother wouldn’t stop smoking, my father forgot to pay the water bill again and my sister was dating a guy older than me when she was eight years younger than me. I hated the entire world, myself most of all. I hated. I cried. I scratched at my thighs. I looked out the window wishing for the comforting shade of ten story, Georgia magnolias and saw only sharp, dry palm fronds whipping in the wind. The hot wind. Florida was so ugly and I was stuck there.

I decided to throw myself into the sea. With a strong and unusually calm sense of resolve, I put on my bathing suit and walked out of the guest room and through the family room where my mother sat at her desk smoking. A leopard print towel wrapped around her body, hair twisted in a faded scrunchy, she played Tetris on her computer, stubbing out her cigarettes in a diet Pepsi can. The dogs fought over a pig’s ear. Papers, business cards, soda cans and mangled stuffed animals littered the room. Dog slobber dried on the green vinyl couch and the dull drone of Fox news hummed from the big screen TV. All they talked about was the upcoming election. Polls, Gore, Bush. Gaining. Falling. Mistakes. I surveyed the scene and confirmed my decision. I no longer wanted to live in this world.

“Where are you going.” My mother asked, not looking up from the falling pieces on her screen.

“To throw myself in the sea.”

“All right.”

My parents lived about three blocks west of the beach. I stalked out of the neighborhood, still sobbing and walked past the neighbor’s mango tree that had mangos hanging from cords all over it, swinging in the breeze. Something about the mango tree stopped me for a second. The mangos were the size of footballs, sticky, velvety and all purple green and orange – colors that should never ever look pretty together, but they did. But mangos were stupid and had sap all over them and they tasted like nasty turpentine. They fell off the tree and rotted on the ground so yellow jackets swarmed all around the roots and stupid mangos were just stupid and I hated them like I hated everything else in Florida and I would be glad when I was dead and never had to see stupid ass, pine-sol tasting mangos ever again.

I crossed A1A, beachfront avenue and I realize this is totally absurd, but I can not think of A1A without thinking of Ice Ice Baby, which always kind of makes me laugh. So there I was crossing A1A on the way to my death, thinking of Vanilla Ice and I realized the pathetic-ness of this whole scene. Vanilla Ice. My last thoughts, which no one would ever know, were of Vanilla Ice. And I hadn’t written a note and I was wearing a red Brazilian bikini and although I didn’t mention this earlier, I carried with me a beach towel. Now, I don’t know if there’s a proper way to kill one’s self. You know what. Yes I do know. There is no proper way to kill one’s self. There just isn’t and there isn’t a good reason to kill one’s self either. But the sobbing, swollen eyed me who crossed A1A beachfront avenue in her red Brazilian bikini with a beach towel, not having written a furtively pitiful suicide note, had not yet learned this lesson. Give her a half hour though.

Still thinking of Vanilla Ice, who also made a mess of his life and ended up stuck in Florida with no money and, I think, nothing but a llama if I’m not mistaken, I walked across the beach. Red flags staked in the sand flapped loudly. We never have waves in Florida unless there’s a hurricane, which at this point in time there had not been in ten years. This day there were waves. Big scary waves with white caps and the sky darkened to a weird night-blue near the horizon. There were no lifeguards and nothing but a man with a metal detector looking for someone’s long lost class ring.

I wanted to die because I wanted pity. I wanted everyone who ever hurt me to feel guilty – my no good, Baptist missionary, biological father who abandoned me and went off and made me five siblings I never met, his wife who made him do it, the bullies in middle school, the red headed best friend who wrote me out of her life quite literally, my mother who said “all right” because she was playing Tetris, and most of all, most most most of all – Evil Ex and the beautifully named, dick sucking, size two wearing Maya. I wanted to do something so drastic that all of them would stop their lives and realize that they had done me wrong.

I said there is no good reason to kill one’s self, but if there were, and there isn’t, I can at least say that the worst possible reason would be over a relationship. Tying for worst possible reason to kill one’s self is trying to make other people feel guilty. It’s self centered, idiotic, overly dramatic and a total, sickening waste of a good life which, although you may not realize it at the time, will eventually improve to the point where you will look back on your own near-sighted stupidity and laugh at how dumb you were. The me of June 2000 did not yet realize this either. Give her about 25 minutes.

It’s a good damned thing that I had never heard of Virginia Woolf when I was 26 or this whole scene might have looked more appealing than it did and I might have thrown myself truly into the sea in a full set of clothes instead of in a red Brazilian bikini, which would have then caused me to sink. Had I read The Waves or Mrs. Dalloway I may not have had the foresight to bring a beach towel, which meant that I ultimately knew I would need it. Luckily, when I went to throw myself into the sea I had no substantial education beyond the tenth grade and nothing but a GED that I lied about to everyone who asked where I went to high school.

Still, I was committed to throwing myself into the sea so I went and stood near where the waves crashed. I looked like shit in the red bikini. My body was going to wash up near the fishing pier looking even more bloated and pale than it already did. I could not get Ice Ice Baby out of my head. I felt vaguely hungry. I was bad in bed. I was a control freak. I never danced. Not only had I never danced like no one was watching, I never danced when no one was watching. I couldn’t even stand to be alone with myself without torturing, judging, nit picking and finding fault with every thing I did. I was even trying to judge my own corpse.

I stood about knee deep in the water, and I did not throw myself into the sea. I just stood there and though about throwing myself into the sea. The sea, pissed off that I was taking too long coming to a dramatic self realization and pissed off that I was standing there thinking like a moron, decided to teach me a lesson. It grabbed me and sucked me in.

One of the things I didn’t know as a new and reluctant Floridian, was what those red flags meant – rip currents. All I can say is that I must have a team of guardian angels who were supervising my George Bailey episode because as the ocean yanked me out to its depths, Ice Ice Baby screeched to a halt inside my head, replaced by a woman’s voice. I think she had an English accent. I’m not kidding.

God did not speak to me, that’s not what I’m saying here. I always wished I was some kind of prophet, where God would appear to me in a burning bush, but this has yet to happen. Unfortunately, no, FORTUNATELY, this voice was the woman from the public service announcement that ran constantly on our local TV channels telling tourists what to do if they are caught in a rip current. Rip currents are a huge problem in Florida and, well, every coastal area. I think I heard that hundreds of people every year drown at the beach because they don’t know what to do and I hope that by writing this, maybe I will inadvertently save someone’s life one day. You never know. The public service announcement, English Accent Lady saved mine. Because…I wanted my life to be saved.

Your brain will fool you. It creates all kinds of nonsense and distractions. Mine made me think a guy, an asshole, who based relationships on blowjobs, was worth dying for. It made me think I was ugly, useless and unlovable too. But come a real emergency and you will be amazed at how fast your brain will cut this shit out and how badly you want to live and how badly you’ll do just about god damned anything to survive. This is another reason why you shouldn't try to kill yourself. You WILL change your mind and sometimes its too late, so just don't even try in the first place.

The rip current really made me feel like I was being ripped. Something about it seemed alive, like it had a consciousness. I see how this makes people panic when it catches them. It’s like something has pulled you on purpose and it means you harm.

“Don’t Panic.” said English Accent Lady.

I instinctively arched my neck to keep my face out of the surf. Stones, sand and shells got sucked out with me, filling my bathing suit, stinging the red, raw places where I scratched my thighs in anguish earlier. Everything was gone from my mind. I forgot ever thinking I wanted to die. The current carried me out farther than I had ever willingly swam.

“Remain Calm. Do Not Fight the Rip Current.”

I held still. This takes some act of will because when you’re caught in the current you start freaking out and trying to fight it, which makes it a hundred times worse. Then you get tired and drown. Never fight the rip current. It will not carry you to the shores of Normandy. Eventually it gets to a certain point and then kind of turns. It’s hard to explain, but the rip current heads out to sea for a little while and then curves and then peters out.

“Swim Parallel to the Shore.”

Ok, I thought, but which way? English Accent Lady didn’t make it exactly clear if you should go up or down, so I swam away from the rip current. I went North and I had to really overcome the urge to freak the fuck out now because I couldn’t touch the bottom, there were waves and I was positive there were sharks who were ready to throw down and have a feeding frenzy on my arms and legs. I swam parallel to the shore for a good ways. I got tired and stopped for a little while and just floated. Remember, people die when they get too tired. Take a rest.

“Swim back to shore at an angle to avoid being caught in the rip current again.”

I tried to do this. I guess I did it right because pretty soon I could touch the bottom again, although I didn’t want to because who knows what sort of things lived on the bottom that could sting me or pinch me or bite me. I started walking and then the waves came and lifted me up. And the waves felt warm and soft as they carried me back to land where I belonged and where my beach towel had been waiting all along. I picked it up and started on my way back home because this is where I lived and where I was going to live and there was nothing I could do about it except just accept it and force myself to stop acting like an idiot.

I did not run shouting down A1A beachfront avenue about how I now loved South Florida. I did not yell “I love you bus bench with realtor’s picture on it!” I did not declare adoration for the sea grape trees, the diner on the corner that ripped me off for my hash browns or the Shangri-La By The Sea motel, with its concrete sea horses. I did not embrace the girl who walked by in a thong bathing suit baring her ass to the world, nor did I blow kisses to the guys in the pick up truck who honked their horn at her. What I did do, was pull one of those mangos off the neighbor’s tree.

I went home, sliced it and ate it down to the pit and it did not taste like pine-sol or turpentine. The mango was sweet.

(And if you need more information on rip currents, go HERE. Be careful when you play at the beach and remember you are very much loved even if you don't think so right now.)
Saturday, July 14, 2007

My New Theme Song

Everyone needs a theme song. Honestly I have like 50 depending on my mood, but I have officially chosen one as my ultimate theme song of ever and now I'm unveiling it to the world. I must confess to you, that this is what I sing in my head when I sit down to write. It gets me going in a way that nothing else can.

This is the song people, that when I am a famous Oscar winning screenwriter, they will play when I come out on stage when I make appearances on David Letterman, Jay Leno, The Daily Show and as a presenter at the MTV awards.

This is my song, dear readers, the song which inspires me to kick ass, and the video is a classic. The video could win an award for best video of all time in my opinion. I mean this one has it all - Germans, leopards, panthers, spandex, hair, a cage, fireworks, vampires and last, but not least, a tanning bed. Do yourself a favor, turn up the volume and see if this video doesn't make you feel like you can just conquer the whole world.
Friday, July 13, 2007

Visual Aid - A Mosaic Heart

I thought you should see one of the mosaic hearts I made. I kept this one because it didn't sell, so it definitely isn't one of my favorites, but I still like it anyway. I have it hanging in my hallway. This heart is all lavender and rose. Sometimes the colors don't show up as true in a photo as they do in real life. In the story below, I didn't mention that I started making my own tiles to break on purpose. I painted designs and pictures and words on them that I wanted to show up in the final piece. This one has words from candy hearts and it is about the size of my two hands together (there's no scale in the photograph). You know, I miss making these. I am starting to feel a serious creative spurt coming on. Who knows what could happen...
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How to Mend a Broken Heart

I’ve always thought I had one of the worst breakup stories ever. My fiancé called me while I was visiting my grandparents and said he changed the locks. On MY house. It wasn’t our house. It was my house that I owned and he moved into. Later I found out he got another girl pregnant either before or shortly after he called to tell me my keys no longer worked. I had to take my return flight. I had to go home to somewhere, but I no longer had a home, so I had to really go home – to my parents’ house in Florida, which was fine for a ten day vacation, but absolutely horrible to contemplate permanent residence. I didn’t have a choice.

You can imagine how upset I was. Upset is a poor choice of words. I get upset when my pants are too tight or the cat barfs on the rug I just had steam cleaned. I wasn’t upset, I was devastated. An atomic bomb went off in my life, obliterating all traces of my former existence. He took my cats, my clothes, furniture, photo albums, books and everything. All I had was a suitcase and a one way ticket from Atlanta to Florida, and who went to Florida anymore? Had it been Spring Break in the early 60s I might have been thrilled, but it was the year 2000 and all I had to look forward to was a collection of strip malls, strip clubs, some straggly palm trees and a tired row of beachfront dive bars.

I had to quit my jobs. Being a workaholic I had two jobs that I loved equally, one in a pottery studio and the other as a kindergarten teacher’s aid in a progressive private school where all the children learned to knit and sing and ate edamame for lunch. Everything in Atlanta had been perfect. Now everything just completely sucked ass and all I wanted to do was sit in my parents’ guest room and feel sorry for myself because I had nothing but a suitcase of shorts and tee shirts and flip flops and I had to live in disgusting, miserable Florida. How could my life get any worse?

A week later the process server brought me a law suit. My Evil Ex decided to sue me for the house, which I, since I was barred from it anyway, had decided to put up for sale. It was my house after all. I could sell it. I know what you’re asking yourself. You want to know how in the hell Evil Ex could stay in the house. Why couldn’t I throw him out and go in and get all my stuff back? Things weren’t so easy.

Evil Ex worked for a fancy law firm in Atlanta. He plotted this for a while and knew he had an advantage over poor, ignorant me who was busy glazing cups and making potholders with five year olds. Evil Ex found an obscure law that made him a tenant and me the landlord and there are all sorts of rules protecting tenants from mean, scary landlords who want to put them out on the street. These laws weren’t intended to protect cheating, lying, thieving scoundrels, but Evil Ex worked the system to his own advantage. Second, Evil Ex had possession of the house and used another legal loophole to say I had abandoned the house while I was away visiting my grandparents, and the fact that I ran off to Florida, he believed, only proved his point further. Of course he left out the fact that he not only changed the locks so I couldn’t come in, but also threatened my very life if I did. He intimidated me with his threats. He was a big man armed with lawyers, knowledge and money. I was a small, thin girl with a dwindling bank account. Intimidation worked.

Evil Ex’s lawsuit stated that Evil Ex actually owned the house with me since he lived in it for the same amount of time that I did. He believed that in fact, the house was more his than mine and that he was entitled to the house or at least the money from its sale. I begged to differ.

So now, not only was I stuck in Florida, my most hated place on the planet, in my parents’ guest room, with no cats, no clothes, no jobs and no anything else, I also had to get lawyers involved and fight the lawsuit and listen to myself be called awful things like “common law wife” which is truly the most trailer trash thing you can ever be called as a woman. Whenever you hear of some crime spree it’s always some guy named Otis Lee Earl and his “common law wife” Tammy. As the trailer trash common law wife I had to basically go through all the horrors and miseries of a divorce without ever having experienced any of the fun of a wedding. There were no tiered cakes, no nosegays or sprays of tulle for me, but there were plenty of settlements, documents, court dates and disputes. I even cried in court. It was like the worst possible Lifetime movie you could ever imagine and by the end of that summer I was broke and gained 15 pounds because in my depths of depression I was somehow able to justify the eating of anything involving sugar or grease. Deep fried ice cream, I recall, was a particular favorite during that dark period. I’m not one of those people who lose weight from stress. If I get upset I feel that I deserve a meal of nachos and chicken wings washed down with a strawberry shake.

By November Evil Ex lost his lawsuit and went off to have his baby with his new girlfriend. The judge said if he wanted the house he had to buy it outright and if he wasn’t willing to do that, he had a week to leave. He begged, borrowed and probably stole to raise the money he needed to get the last word because he knew that nothing would break my heart more than the thought that he lived in my house with a new family. And guess what. He was right.

Evil Ex called that day to threaten me again. He wanted my engagement ring back because he wanted to give it to the pregnant girlfriend. I about died. What kind of woman was this pregnant girlfriend that she wanted some other girl’s ring? That would have been a deal breaker for me, but then again, I also wasn’t the sort of person who’d go and get knocked up by someone else’s fiancé either. Naturally I didn’t give those two assholes the ring and I kept it on principal, but what should I do with it? I hadn’t worn it since I left back in June. I couldn’t even open the box.

The ring represented my lost hopes for an idealistic version of a future which involved the little cottage over which we fought so bitterly. It symbolized my never tasted wedding cake, my unconceived children and anniversaries never celebrated. I took the ring to a jeweler who looked it over.

“This ring is so brittle, how did you wear it? Another day or two and it would have broken and fallen off.” He said of the antique setting.

“I want you to trade in the diamond.” I said. “I want a heart shaped diamond of equal value on a necklace.”

In two weeks I had exactly that. It was my unbreakable heart, made from the hardest substance on earth and it would serve as my reminder to guard my love carefully and not give myself away so easily again. The diamond heart symbolized my strength. The problem was, I wasn’t strong at all.

I tried online dating. I dated like it was my job, all the while wearing my unbreakable heart because dammit, I was strong and I wasn’t going to get my heart broken ever again!! I made sure to tell all my dates this, so they all thought I was insane. I let my breakup define me. I mentioned it over every new cup of coffee and first dinner. I was the poor girl whose fiancé got another girl pregnant and sued her for her house. My mother, with whom I regretfully still lived, called me Poor Pitiful Pearl, and oh my lord, was I pitiful. It’s no wonder the only second dates I got were from guys who were more pitiful than me. But I was determined that my heart would never be broken again. I was so determined that I sabotaged every potential new relationship I had just so I could keep on being the girl whose fiancé got another girl pregnant and sued her for her house.

I repeated it over and over again, clutching my heart shaped diamond – I am the girl whose fiancée got another girl pregnant and sued her for her house. I said it because I thought if people knew that, they would see I had been hurt and would feel guilty about hurting me themselves. What I really said was “Someone destroyed me. Please don’t make it worse. Don’t make me hurt again.” I think what they heard was “This girl is insane, needy and loves to play the victim. See you later Poor Pitiful Pearl.” I ended up creating the total opposite of what I intended because every guy I tried to date ran screaming in the opposite direction except for the guy who had the anorexic ex-wife, the guy who had three kids by three different women and was broke paying all that child support, and the two guys who just got out of rehab. Oh and also the guy who was experimenting with other men because he couldn’t decide if he was gay or not. I ran screaming in the opposite direction from him.

During the time I worked at a pottery shop, which I loved. The creative work and the physicality of it helped me heal, but I still wore my unbreakable heart. I was like the damned Tin Man with that thing, but it obviously wasn’t doing any good because I still didn’t have a boyfriend and the few guys who took me on second or third dates eventually got sick of my PPP routine and dumped me, leaving my heart still broken.

You probably remember from high school art class that sometimes things “blow up” in the kiln. It happens. Sometimes they don’t so much as blow up in the kiln as they get dropped by pottery shop employees who didn’t wash their hands well enough after eating a buttered bialy. We had a lot of broken pieces and many of them came from beautifully, brightly glazed dishes, tiles or vases. The interesting shapes fascinated me, and I couldn’t stand for them to go to waste, so I refused to toss them out. There had to be a use for all the broken pieces, I thought. And there was. I learned to make mosaics.

Now when you do mosaics you have to have some sort of a base to stick the broken pottery pieces onto, so I mosaiced everything from picture frames, to jewelry boxes to walls. I loved it. Making a mosaic is like doing a puzzle, except that you are in control of the final product, unlike in a puzzle where it has to be done a certain way and the only thing you can ever end up with at the end is a picture of a deer in the woods or some old mill by a river. When you mosaic you can make anything you want. Soon I got really industrious and started cutting shapes from plywood, which I then mosaiced over. I attached a wire and some beads and ended up with beautiful pieces of art to hang on the wall. People just about went crazy over them. You wouldn’t believe how many I sold.

And then it was stupid Valentine’s Day. And I still didn’t have a boyfriend. By this point I had added an extra P to the Poor Pitiful Pearl Routine. Now I was Pissed Poor Pitiful Pearl. It was Valentine’s Day. Evil Ex was probably buying roses for his stupid baby mama, although he never bought roses for me, that bastard. And here I was in miserable South Florida, 15 pounds heavier, without a relationship, doing arts and crafts. In order to make myself feel better on Valentines Day I decided I needed to spend some serious cash on something useless for myself. Except I didn’t have serious cash. To make extra money I sucked it up and started making a ton of mosaic heart shaped wall hangings, which I thought were totally cheesy and lame. I mean please, I was a serious artist!

I cut out about 30 little wooden hearts and started sticking on the broken pottery pieces. After about the third heart it suddenly occurred to me that these were broken hearts, except at the same time they were whole. Hmm. Broken… yet whole. I took it a step further. The hearts were made out of what essentially should have been garbage. I had taken all these shards of ruined art, things that resulted from a disaster and I had found a way for them to live on, still as art, still beautiful, just in a different and unexpected way. I was mending broken hearts!! Oh my God! I was mending broken hearts and in a tangible, visible, very real way. There it was, right in front of me.

I began to think of myself in the same way. Sometimes things get broken. They blow up randomly in the kiln and it’s no one’s fault. Other times we get clumsy and careless and drop them. Occasionally, we even get mad, have fits and smash every plate in the cabinet. These things happen. It’s life. Instead of sitting in the mess, no matter how the mess got made, or just giving up and throwing the broken bits in the trash, we have to learn to put them back together.

Mending a broken heart is a slow, deliberate process. It takes time and creativity. You must be patient. Sometimes you have to rearrange the pieces in a mosaic over and over until you get them right, but eventually they will fit, just not always how you expected. In the end your broken heart will become an intricate and interesting work of art, stronger for having been broken and reassembled and more beautiful with all of its cracks.

I realized I would rather be a thoughtfully considered mosaic than a hard, cold diamond that everything bounces of off. I wanted to be open and porous like pottery, even if that meant I could break. Now, I no longer fear breaking because I know that everything can be put back together.
Monday, July 09, 2007

Why I Kinda Like Florida - Reason 12


Streaky Pink Sunsets On The Water
Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cafe Millpond

I'm still working on the next installment of the story and in the meantime I've vowed to write entertaining little snippets for you, so that we don't lose touch.

Currently, Husband, kitty and I are house sitting for my parents who have gotten in their RV and done gone up to Millpond to visit Memere Marie and the like. Miraculously they have maneuvered the hulking RV safely up the east coast once again and have only banged it into one tree and two fences, which is a vast improvement from the time they got it stuck in the mud, tore down electrical lines knocking out power to three city blocks and drove it into a ditch.

Now my father, the Israeli who has traveled the world over, is not much of a Millpond kinda guy at all. They view him as some sort of exotic animal - A Jew. I don't even want to imagine how he views them, but he is a fabulously good sport about going up there and engaging in all sorts of rednecked activities with my mother's relations. My father is only snobby about one thing and that is food. In particular, coffee.

Millpond is not exactly an oasis of culinary mastery. Used to be there was only one restaurant and it was owned by my great grandmother Ethel, whose actual name was Aurelia, but for some unknown reason she insisted that everyone call her by her less attractive middle name. This should be proof of the insanity that runs rampant in my gene pool. Why on earth would a woman with a lovely name like Aurelia demand to be called an ugly name like Ethel? It's pure Flannery O'Connor material. In any event, Mama Ethel owned the only restaurant and it served chicken and dumplings and people went there to sit together on picnic tables and eat chicken and dumplings and it was called Ethel's restaurant because dammit, that's what it was. God forbid someone would call it Aurelia's Restaurant, all hell'd break loose. Mama Ethel got too old and the restaurant closed, so then there were no restaurants anymore until Woody's Ranch House, my mother's former employer arrived. Woody's too was short lived.

Currently Millpond has a record four restaurants, a McDonalds that everyone calls a MAC Donalds, a KFC that everyone still calls Kentucky Fried and a Dairy Queen, but that's only open in the summer and it's the old kind that you order at a window and you can't go inside it unless you work there.

My poor father. He nearly starves. One restaurant is owned by Mennonites and fills the chicken and dumpling void left upon Mama Ethel's death. My mom likes this place. They have decent crab cakes and vegetables boiled to brown mush in fat back. Millpond also has two new places where you can get steaks and baked potatoes and then they have a pizza place that would shame Italians the world over. I swear they use ketchup and Velveeta.

I mentioned my father's coffee snobbery. I did not mention that he needs an IV drip of espresso to maintain the quality of his life. Without coffee I think the man would die. He's been drinking espresso for so long that if he quit cold turkey he might explode. At home he either visits the coffee shop run by real Italians from real Italy or he uses his super fancy espresso maker at home. When he travels he makes do at Bux.

The problem is, Millpond is the only town in the whole US that does not have a Starbucks. The closest one is actually 37 miles away, and my father has been known to drive that far in decaffeinated desperation. In the past my father has kept himself alive in Millpond with an abomination known as instant espresso powder, an ingredient in many fine desserts, though not really an actual beverage option. It is however, a matter of life and death, so he suffers through without his doppio macchiato ristretto etceteras.

This trip something terrible happened. My father in his haste to drive the RV, FORGOT THE ESPRESSO POWDER!!!!! (Note to self, buy him an espresso maker for the RV). He drank regular coffee the whole way. The stopped at Starbucks' all through the deep south and he was ok.

But then they got to Millpond, a wasteland for foodies, and there was no espresso. He's been drinking Memere Maries dreadfully weak Sanka, but he may as well have been drinking muddy water from the big machines that irrigate the crops in the area.

My father had the brilliant idea that you know, Millpond really IS modernizing. It's getting far more hip and progressive lately and it isn't the isolated scrapple factory town of the past. Maybe, he mused, maybe the pizza place, which now serves baked ziti, had espresso. It couldn't hurt to try.

He went to the pizza place, which seemed to be making an attempt at at least a Disneyfied version of Italian-ness with its red checked table cloths, Chianti bottles and plastic bunches of grapes. Chianti!! Chianti was a very good sign. Just last year the only wine to be found in Millpond was Mad Dog 20/20. Surely if they had Chianti, they'd have espresso.

My dad made his way to the counter and the greasy haired girl with two gold teeth behind the counter did not look in any way Italian. Her name was Fay. It said so on her name tag. Fay told people she worked in an I-talian restaurant instead of Italian. You know I-talian, from IT-ly.

"Do you have espresso?" asked my poor, shaking, coffee addict father.

"Umm no. We just got cheese and pepperoni." said Fay.

Millpond still has a little ways to go.

Why I Hate South Florida - Reason # 476



Because people driving big gigantic trucks with mean looking snake faces on them and a bunch of equipment attached to the back think that they can just cross over the median in front of me and I have to let them do it and that is just not OK. This happens at least 57 times a week, though not always with the mean snake faces. Sometimes its a Bentley and the mean snake face is at the wheel instead of painted on the door.
Monday, July 02, 2007

A Little Bit Busy

Unfortunately, I am a little bit busy, which is a good thing.

Lately my stories are taking me longer to write because I am making them better and not just ranting and raving in the span of ten minutes full of typos and bad grammar. I wanted to thank you all for sticking with me and in the meantime, I'd like to offer some reading suggestions. I have for you one exquisitely written article and a few blogs with which I've recently become enamored.

Here is the article, which actually reads like a story and is written by author Tom Wolfe. Trust me, you'll LOVE this article. The only thing Mr. Wolfe forgets to mention is that all the people he writes about also have homes in Florida.

Next, I am completely in love with Crazy Aunt Purl, who is wildly popular and gets hundreds of comments and has a big ass book deal. Somehow I had never heard of her until one of you emailed me and said you knew I'd like her, and guess what? I do! So thank you. You know you all can email me whenever you like especially if it involves food, reading material or pictures of cats. Also, if you have some sort of major life issue I can ask my mom her advice for you, but I wouldn't recommend taking it.

I recently discovered Mommy Has a Headache and she has been cracking me up. Oh my lord. You have to read her Posh Spice post. I was peeing in my pants.

Through her I found Woman of Experience. You just gotta read her.

So now I'm going to do schoolwork, because against the advice of several wise individuals who said I was insane for taking a summer class, I went and took a summer class anyway. You know who the one person was who said take the class? My mom. Mmm Hmmm. See, I said you shouldn't take her advice, except I almost always do. Also, in the class is my friend who last week brought me a bag of homemade cookies. To class. How could I turn down a class with a friend who brings homemade cookies and where I think before the end of class I may get to witness a genuine fistfight between a feminist and an apparent conservative republican?

So that's it for now. I shall have a new story for you very soon.

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