Saturday, November 29, 2008

More on Thanksgiving

So when I left off yesterday we hadn't even eaten yet and the hookers hadn't shown up. Hookers are usually late like that anyway.

Abe Kirchner came. Ive been talking about him for years. He always has a lot for me to write about, being perpetually involved in situations he shouldn't. He's in his sixties. His ex-wife the whore Brazilian Gabriella also came, but they weren't together. Before I continue, I need to give a little recent backstory on each of them.

Since the summer Abe has had the hots for my sister who is 26. He hangs out at her bar. He asks her to dinner, texts her. This will be important to the story later.

Gabriella on the other hand, is newly single, having broken up with her divorce lawyer Andre Lefkowitz whom she lived with for three years following her divorce to Abe. She is currently working as an escort but won't admit it, though it's pretty damned obvious. Gabby doesn't bother me that much. She's extremely cheerful and stupid and entertaining. My sister though, hates the ground Gabby walks on. This situation is made worse by the fact that Gabby can't remember my sister's name and inexplicably calls her Melanie instead. This enrages my sister. I think it's funny.

Abe brought his daughter Tiffani with him. She lives in California, is 23 and looks exactly like a young Pamela Anderson, complete with the boobs and all. She's the sweetest girl in the most tragic way. When you look at her you can just see how her only role models were the whores her dad brought home and how she turned herself into one of them because she knew that's what her dad admired. Perhaps though, I am the only person who sees these things. Tiffani is a wild, partying maniac and Abe, a wild partying maniac in his own right, can't stand to see all the traits he loves in other women, reflected back at him in his own daughter. This makes for disasters whenever the two of them are together.

Tiffani and my sister had been doing shots all night and were approaching Dutch Pickens levels of tore-upness.

At one point my dad, who had been grilling lamb (I know on Thanksgiving, right?) felt like he needed a quick shower to get the smoke off. He announced that he would be back in ten minutes, that he was going to take a shower. Tiffani heard him wrong and thought he said "take a shot" to which she replied that she'd take one too. Abe just about near came unglued, because he had heard my dad right and thought that his daughter was going to take a shower with my father. As if my mother wouldn't have knocked the shit out of her before the water even got hot.

A scene followed. Abe threw a fit and dragged his daughter out the door (not exactly literally) and said the night was officially over and that he wasn't going to have his daughter taking a shower with his friend. The absurd irony was utterly lost on him. Recall that he has been hitting on my sister, a mere three years older than Tiffani, and the daughter of his friend too. So what the hell? Perhaps he holds his own daughter to a different standard. My best explanation is that people I know are fucking crazy and that's all there is to it.

By then the hookers were finally here and we could dig in to the buffet.

Readers, I am pleased to introduce you once again to the lovely Velva Haux. Go read about her, and then come back.

Velva Haux lives across the canal from my parents in a grand, Key West style mansion. She runs an escort service and claims to be a former Playboy bunny from the early 80s. When we first met her last year she was married to a violent, abusive juice head named Tony, but now they are in the middle of a nasty divorce. In the past year Velva and my parents have become better friends because when Velva left Tony she ran to LA and entrenched herself in Kabbalah, like Madonna. She called my parents and started hanging out with them in LA when she wasn't studying Torah and keeping kosher. To show her devotion she got some Hebrew tattoos on her neck and always wears a red string.

Now I'm not going to dis Velva Haux too much here, because she's grown on me and I, surprisingly, don't usually judge sex workers as much as I judge everyone else (there are exceptions though). Velva doesn't get on my nerves as much as she used to because she's calmed down a lot since she's gotten rid of Tony. She also has a new boyfriend named Thor who looks exactly like a Viking superhero. We are all (male and female, gay and straight alike) totally in love with this man. Thor may well be the nicest guy in the world. He is a social worker who deals with addicts and he doesn't drink or smoke or anything. Plus, he rescues pit bulls from dog fighting rings. My parents have been helping him socialize a severely abused dog, but that's its own post. It also doesn't hurt that he looks like a better looking Matthew McConaughey. I don't care about that though. Thor is just a damned good person and you can tell it as soon as you meet him.

Thor and Velva brought a battalion of hookers and their boyfriends with them. There was a lot of lips and tits, collagen and silicone bouncing and jiggling around our Thanksgiving table. All the straight guys got excited and all the gay guys didn't notice because they were too busy drooling over Thor. It was hysterical.

In addition to all this, we had my orthodox cousins and grandparents here and my grandparents brought a Morroccan caterer with them who made lamb tagine and a dump truck's worth of baba ghanoush. It was her fault I got that freaking green, stench assed hilba all over my hands. I didn't mind the woman. She was really nice and so was her smoked eggplant spread, but hilba is this horrible green shit they eat in the Middle East that stinks so bad that I really can't describe the odor. I googled it and the only description I could find was that it was a pungent herb. Pungent my ass. A broken down subway car, packed with construction workers at the end of a long day, in hundred degree heat, smells a lot better than hilba. And I got it on my hands. I nearly washed my epidermis off trying to get rid of the smell, but I still reek.

The best part of our Thanksgiving though was the banjo player. Thor's dad is a very famous banjo player and he was down, so he brought his banjo and gave us our own private show, complete with folktales in between and stories about the history of the instrument and the music he plays. It was beautiful. It sounded like the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack. I have to admit that I have a deep, deep love of Appalachian folk music. It reminds me of the grandfather I'm named for. It reminds me of driving through the mountains in his truck, so when I heard the music it was like he was visiting from the afterlife for a little while, like his spirit was coming out of the banjo.
Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving at Casa Dei Sogni 2008

Our guest list changed somewhat from last year. Aunt Kiki and her family were struck down by a stomach virus, so we told them to stay the hell home with that mess. The last thing we need is puking and diarrhea around here. We have enough of that from alcohol. Also this was good because we didn't want to worry about her murderous younger daughters trying to poison the cranberry sauce or slipping our credit cards out of our wallets when we're not looking.

My dad's best friend Howie Lipshitz and his one-eyed, mean mother didn't come either because Howie is having romantic troubles and his long distance girlfriend in New York gave him an ultimatum of the sort that made him hop the next Jet Blue to LaGuardia and leave his mom to eat Thanksgiving dinner at her condo's clubhouse.

Lord knows where Mini-T and his mother were this year, so our holiday was not as diverse as usual and it was distinctly lacking in Villa Jo Quinn's sweet potato pie.

But who did show up at the Lawns' home, you ask?

Well, of course we had Star the massage girl who talks openly about her love of the shower massager, but this year she has dumped The Environmentalist from Newfoundland in favor of a nineteen year old (she's 35 like me). Star showed up with several nineteen year olds who called themselves pagans and they came here from the Rainbow gathering raw vegan/ foraged potluck. I tried to be nice to them but one of them sneered at me and walked away. I think I heard him muttering something about me being a capitalist. This didn't stop any of them from eating our food which was about the opposite of raw vegan.

I can't win. Either people think I'm a stuck up, rich white girl (when I'm dressed up) or they think I'm my parents' Guatemalan housekeeper (when I'm dressed normally). My beloved hairdresser joined us and late in the evening he came up to me, put his arm around me and said:

"Sweetheart, it's been a good holiday hasn't it? I haven't seen a single person asking you to get them anything in loud, slow, broken Spanish."

The hairdresser has been embroiled in some intrigue lately as he may or may not have been at some point possibly romantically linked to an extemely famous athlete. Apparently it was in all the gossip rags and all over the Internet but I didn't check. It's too scandalous for me.

In addition to Star, the scandalous hairdresser, and a group of young moon goddess worshipers, one of my mom's old friends from Millpond rolled up in the biggest, reddest truck I've ever seen. My mom and Aunt Kiki have known Dutch Pickens since they were kids. He works construction when he feels like it and lives over in Cape Coral now and he decided to stop in on his way to the Keys, so my mom made him stay for Thanksgiving. I knew we were in trouble when I walked in and he said to me:

"Y'on'tmemmermed'ya?"

Which translates to "You don't remember me do you?"

Aunt Kiki kept in touch with Dutch because of their unique relationship. She drunk dials and he drunk answers. The man is pickled. He woke up yesterday morning and my dad asked him if he'd like a coffee and he answered that he'd just as soon have a 40. And he did. Then he busted out the Crown.

Dutch is such a bad alcoholic that he boasts how he has made a full set of pajamas, a set of drapes and a car cover out of Crown Royal bags. I wonder how many it takes to cover a twenty year old Firebird. While he was here I managed to score three for myself, which I'm thinking about maybe using to sew a small throw pillow or perhaps a lovely violet vest for Canela. If he'd have stayed a few more days I may have had enough for a nice scarf, since I'm going up North in two weeks. I'd have been the envy of Millpond in something like that.

As the day progressed Dutch got so tore up that when he spoke it all came out in a long line of consonants with maybe one long vowel at the end. At one point I turned to my husband and said I had no idea how I could ever write dialogue for this man. It would look like this:

"GrrrrrHmthwrjjjjkkkkhhhhhggcccGAAAAAWWWWWWWWW."

Really. I don't think Dutch even bothers to open his mouth when he speaks, except periodically to breathe through it. He was so drunk that he didn't even notice when the hookers showed up. My third cousin twice removed/ free loader from Israel was all about them though.

Boaz showed up last week. Just like that. He just showed up. He's Uncle Ben Yusef 's grandson and he's 24 and as I commented to someone over dinner, Boaz looks like he dug himself up out of a grave; like he's a zombie. I expected one of his arms to fall off into the kosher turkey and I maintained a safe distance lest he bite me and then I too might turn into a zombie, which would be terrible since I just signed up for thesis hours and I really want to graduate.

Boaz comes from the bad side of my Israeli family. In Israel they have this very elaborate class system, which is kind of stupid and which I won't get into on here right now, but my grandparents come from the very privileged class. Uncle Ben-Yusef, who is a wack job, is my grandfather's youngest brother. He married someone from the lowest class. It would be like if an old money WASP married a girl from the rusted trailers of Appalachia. From then on, his side of the family has been trashy, like many of my Millpond relatives, except Israeli. Boaz is 24 and had this brilliant idea that he would come to America and work in a mall kiosk selling Dead Sea hand creams and salt scrubs at the largest outlets in the world, which are here. His grandmother told him that he could just show up and stay here at my parents' house and drive my parents' car and it would all be great. So he believed her and did just that. Except my parents didn't know about and weren't so keen on the idea and then once he got here he realized he didn't have a job after all. So for the past week he has slept all day and spent all night on my parents' computer, onto which he downloaded all kinds of bad stuff, including a Trojan Horse virus, which practically destroyed the whole computer. When my husband tried to fix it, and subsequently cut off his Internet access, Boaz threw a fit. Like it was his computer! Then he tried to act like he didn't have any money and tried to guilt my parents into giving him money. When that didn't work he got mad again. Then he decided that he was going to travel the world, going to techno shows, so I guess he really had some money after all. We made it so inhospitable here that he booked himself a ticket to Peru and left early this morning. But I think he really enjoyed his first American Thanksgiving. It was all about those hookers, but I'll get to them in a minute.

So Husband and I have this friend who we are convinced is gay, but who will not come out of the closet. We think he is in denial to himself and that he doesn't think it's ok to be gay, and that it is causing him much strife. We hatched a plot to get him over here and show him some good, gay role models, which is more subtle than my original plan to just come right out with it and be like:

"Dude, just admit it, you like the cock and that's totally ok."

We wanted to get him together with the hairdresser who is not a stereotypical, effeminate flamer, to show him that gay stereotypes weren't true and that you could be gay and still like sports and things that other men like. We wanted him to know that gayness comes in all packages, not just the sparkly pink kind. We think that's his problem ultimately - that he believes he isn't gay because he thinks all gay men are interior decorators who scream shrilly and listen to Madonna.

The plan went terribly awry in a most unexpected way.

Our closeted friend ended up really taking a liking not to the hairdresser, but to disgusting Boaz. They disappeared into a dark, upstairs room together, doing God knows what, then left together and spent the whole night out so that ultimately our friend ended up taking him to the airport to catch his flight to Peru. We certainly hadn't foreseen that coming because Boaz, in his vileness, didn't seem gay to us. He told us he had a girlfriend in Peru (do not ask me how he got a girlfriend in Peru). Maybe he's bi? Maybe he was lying?

In any case, we were really disappointed that our closeted gay friend turned out to have horrible taste in men.

But wait, Boaz was really into the hookers. I'm just as confused as you, readers.

I'm going to have to continue this in a little bit as my hand hurts and your brains probably hurt from all this information.

In our next installment - Abe and Gabby, Abe's daughter, the return of the fabulous Velva Haux, a Morroccan woman and how I couldn't remove the smell of hilba from my hands no matter what I did.

My Thanksgiving

It's 11:30 am. I just woke up. I want to go back to bed. I think everyone who had Thanksgiving at our house feels the same way right now, except Husband who had to go to work. I will explain it all later, though a short list seems to be in order now as that's all I can muster.

Our Thanksgiving:

Hookers, Madams, Morroccan Food, No Nasty Casseroles, More Hookers, Pagans from a Rainbow Gathering, A Banjo Player, Two Enormous Black Dudes that looked like they might have been someone's bodyguards though I couldn't figure out whose, some Orthodox Jews, a lot of Pumpkin Pie Martinis and a man who makes curtains, car covers and pajamas out of Crown Royal bags.

Now the landscapers are outside of my building with weed whackers and leaf blowers and I'm about to go outside and start hollering:

"IT'S ONLY NOON!! PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING!!!!"
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have wonderful Thanksgivings and that none of you are forced to eat bad casseroles or dry turkey.



For your enjoyment, read last year's Thanksgiving post:



Last Year's Thanksgiving Post



and



Last Year's Guest List
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Carrots and Horseradish, More Nasty-Assery

I have terrible childhood memories of being forced to eat this winner which was a favorite of my stepmother. Remember, the woman was evil. Only someone evil would cook this recipe and force a child to choke it down. She used to take this dish everywhere. Now, it was bad to begin with but she actually made it worse. As this was the early 80s, during the advent of the microwave, she fancied herself very chic and cosmopolitan by trying to cook everything in the microwave. Including this.

CARROT CASSEROLE

2 c. diced, cooked carrots (make even grosser by using canned)

3/4 c. mayonnaise (but really you should use Miracle Whip)
1/4 c. onion, grated
1/4 c. horseradish (because this goes great with carrots!)
Crushed Ritz crackers (of course, how could we leave those out?)

Combine all ingredients. Place in buttered 1-quart casserole and cover with crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Or you know, you could just zap it in the microwave until its unevenly cooked and even soggier, because that's great too.
Monday, November 24, 2008

Nasty Assed Recipe Week!

Readers, it's almost Thanksgiving. You know what that means around here. Nasty Assed Recipes. All week long I'll be tracking down the worst offenders and I want you to contribute as well. The rule is that any Nasty Assed Recipes you share must be real things that your family or you or someone you know really makes and eats. You may also give links to blogs that have nasty assed recipes on them. Tell us about them in the comments section. Every day this week I'll be posting my favorite Nasty-Assery as I find it. Unfortunately, I don't have any new recipes from my family because I wrote about them all last year. My family isn't really big on changing up the Thanksgiving menu, so it will be exactly the same as last year, given that someone doesn't go rogue on us and show up with some new combination of Jell-o, cream of mushroom soup or crushed Ritz crackers that we've never seen before.

In honor of the start of Nasty Assed recipe week we begin with an absolute horror encountered by a dear friend of mine at his in-law's house. My friend is a California boy all the way and he married a girl from the hot dish capital of the US, the midwest. To be specific she is from the part of the midwest that pronounces their o's like Sarah Palin. One year, my friend and his bride had Thanksgiving at one of her relative's homes and had a side dish that gave me nightmares just hearing about it. It contained olives and Jell-o. Do not ask me who thought those two things went together. Hmm, sweet and artificially fruity combined with salty, vinegary and bitter. Yum! Of course those two things go together. Both my friend and his wife were disgusted and of course they had to call me immediately to tell me all about it. They described the "salad" in detail and I was able to find a close facsimile of it on Cooks.com, which is where you can find every bad recipe. It's like a clearing house of white trash cooking over there. For some reason, and I can't figure out remotely why, this recipe is called "Under the Sea Salad." It contains no seafood. Maybe when it's all nicely congealed it looks like a seascape?? I think that's a big stretch though.

UNDER THE SEA SALAD

2 pkgs. lime Jello
3 1/2 c. hot water
1 sm. can crushed pineapple (which everyone knows goes great with olives)
1 sm. bottle Stuffed olives, sliced (why is Stuff capitalized?)
1 pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese (wonder what would happen if you used store brand?)
1/2 c. nuts (what kind??? what kind of nuts? Because that would make all the difference you know!)
1/2 c. salad dressing (I guess this means Miracle Whip, oh God help me)

Mix Jello in hot water. To half of the above liquid, add 1 can crushed pineapple and 1 small bottle stuffed olives. Put in pan in refrigerator to set. Let second half set also, then whip it and add cream cheese, nuts and salad dressing. Spread this over first layer. Cut in squares, serve on lettuce. (Watch your guests vomit like Linda Blair.)

Is anyone brave enough to actually make this? Has anyone ever had it or anything similar? Can anyone offer me a rationalization?

A Strongly Worded Message

A good friend of mine has a new beau. She was fixed up with this guy. We'll call him Steve. Steve was decent looking and outgoing. She liked that he was funny, sarcastic in a way that I hate and she likes, confident and that he really loved to go out and have a good time. He took her on several dates to nice places and they had a wonderful time whenever they went out. He talked a lot. They laughed together and he took charge of the situation when they were together. This is also something that she likes and I hate, but to each her own I guess.

Well inevitably they got tired of heavy petting and he took her back to his place one night where they became more intimate. It was in the dark. She noticed he had a tattoo on his stomach, but didn't think much of it.

The next morning she woke up in his arms. She snuggled up to him while he still slept and as she moved the sheets from his bare torso she saw something she didn't expect. Tattooed across Steve's stomach, in large Old English font were the words:

FUCK
THE
WORLD


On his body. Permanently. It looked like a gang tattoo which was unusual because Steve is a pretty clean cut guy who works in an office rather than a chop shop or something that you'd expect from someone with a tattoo like that. She woke him up immediately.


"What is this?" she demanded.

He explained that once, in college, he had lost a bet. That was it. He lost a bet. Somehow this caused him to permanently ink these words into his skin in what is at least a 48 point font, possibly larger.

To me, this is right up there with herpes. You need to prepare someone for this sort of thing if you're going to have sex with them. All I can say is thank God it wasn't me in this situation because I wouldn't have been so kind or accepting. And it's not so much that I'm anti-tattoo. I'm not a fan, but a lot of people have them and I would possibly tolerate something small and hidden or at least artistic and interesting. But "Fuck the World" on one's abdomen isn't subtle. That really sends a message and you have to wonder what sorts of bad character traits this implies. Or do you? I mean really, do you have to wonder? Isn't it pretty obvious? Hmmm. Anger, aggression, bitterness come to mind. Impulse control possibly.

I understand that people do stupid shit when they're young. He said this happened in college. I guarantee alcohol was involved, but still. Still. It's there forever now. This is a guy who didn't think of the future. How will he take his shirt off in public? What about around kids and grandkids one day? What if he goes to meet this girl's family and they have a pool party or go to the beach? Her family has a boat. Imagine the awkward moment when he takes off his shirt to get some sun in front of her parents. Any dad in his right mind would load the shotgun.

Then I thought, well, maybe he's making a statement. Maybe he's making a political statement about globalization or something. Maybe it was supposed to be "Fuck the World Bank" or "Fuck the World Trade Organization" but he ran out of skin and money. I don't know.

I don't even think there is a moral to this story. I just found it an interesting combination of horrifying and hilarious. I'm glad it wasn't me in this situation. My friend is far more forgiving than I am. Personally, I'd never be able to have sex with him. Imagine being on top and looking down and seeing nothing but that. It would be incredibly distracting and would be a definite deal breaker for me. But what the hell do I know? I'm judgmental.

What do you all think she should do?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peppermint and Licorice

A lot of people have been asking where to get the enteric peppermint and the DGL licorice. I don't think you can get it at the regular drug store, but I know they have it at Whole Foods and places like that. I got mine at a local supplement store that we have here called Life Extension. I don't know if they have stores at other places, but I'm sure any healthy grocery store type of place like Whole Foods carries them. Both can also be ordered online from a variety of sources. I checked.
I am wildly crabby right now. Crabby with a passion. I haven't been in this bad of a mood in ages. I honestly fear what I might write and hope that I can control myself enough to not write something I'll regret.

Everything is on my nerves period. Everything. And I just want it to be Thanksgiving so bad so I can have a few days off to eat and loll around. You just have no idea.

It's the end of the semester. It was a long and stressful semester. I took three classes and taught three classes. Never again people.

Here is a list of all the things that are getting on my nerves:

1. Canela is currently sticking her paw in her water dish and flinging it at me. On purpose.

2. The humidifier makes too much noise while I'm sleeping.

3. I have one more paper to write and I haven't read the book.

4. I have read more bad writing this semester than I have read in my entire life put together.

5. Speaking of bad writing, all my girlfriends are in love with "Twilight." I am not. I tried. I tried for them. I could not read this book. It was like bad undergrad creative writing class stories. And I can handle trashy, bad writing as long as it's juicy and suspenseful. "Twilight" was not. I'm going to give you my redneck book review of "Twilight." It's essentially about a whole lot of not fucking. The author is a mormon. It appears to me that she's translated her teenaged mormon angst into a vampire metaphor about not fucking.

6. True Blood is over next week. Speaking of more bad writing. I started reading the Charlaine Harris books which inspired the show. They are very badly written. Painfully so. However, they seem to know they are badly written and are campy, funny, strange and have lots of sex. So it works a little better for me. The show is also campy, mostly stupid, not as funny as the books, but full of hot men. Clearly this was a show written by a gay man as all the women are ugly and all the men are good gracious Lord, hot. This also works for me. It helps take my mind off of school.

7. I feel ugly. Every time I look at myself I think I am old and ugly. I'm hoping this is a phase and that I will get better looking soon.

8. My students are as stressed out as I am and I think some of them are acting out. Lately I've noticed a general trend toward students not using their words for the highest good. They're writing a lot of mean, violent and/ or immature things and I've never seen this before so it's making me curious as to what's going on with them. It's also getting on my nerves.

9. Classes until ten. I hate this.

10. Facebook. This is all my friend JDogg's fault. He was like a drug pusher who gives you a little for free to get you hooked so then you spend all your life savings. He let me use his account one night to see if I liked it and now I'm spending all my time chatting with some kid who rode my bus in third grade. On the positive side I was surprised at how many people from all the different schools I attended, actually remembered me and cared what I was doing as an adult. I also refound my childhood best friend who I used to play Breyer horses with and we're going to meet over Christmas, so ultimately this was a positive thing and all the Millpond people I went to elementary school with have been very helpful at digging up old memories to help me write more memoir stories about. This is good. Not good - I was already unfriended because apparently middle school drama doesn't end when people are nearly 40. I also learned that my old friend A, who I wrote about over the summer, was extremely upset that I joined and that we have a mutual friend and she has no desire to ever patch things up with me. As I've reflected more on this, I've also concluded that perhaps I was too hard on myself in that piece and that she should share some responsibility too. Still, it got on my nerves. Also not good - the updating status thing. I am really boring. You would not believe how uninteresting I am. I must never join Twitter because I never do anything witty or interesting and I can't think of ironic one liners to say I'm doing. Mainly I just read or grade papers or write or clean the house. And why the hell would anyone care what I'm doing anyway?

I have more, but I have to go to school until ten again. I am so over this readers.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Strip Club Kitty


The other day my mother mentioned to me how lucky I was to have such a sweet, personable, milk ring fetching cat. She said that Canela was a kitty sent from Heaven and while this is extremely corny, I think it's kind of true because she just appeared out of nowhere as a kitten in a strip club parking lot at a dark, lonely time in my life when I had lost everything. I didn't even want a cat. I was only going to keep her for a few days. I already had a home lined up for her and everything. Her birthday is some time within the next month and she'll be eight, which I hope is still pretty young for a cat. She seems quite spry and although I strongly suspect her in the recent death of a Siamese Fighting Fish (lots of circumstantial evidence, no actual proof) and in spite of the fact that she is extremely demanding and also terrified of the humidifier/ cat killing machine that I recently brought into my bedroom, I love the hell out of this damned cat and I really am lucky to have found her. I wanted to show you my favorite picture of her because I feel it really captures her fuzziness well. Tomorrow or the next day, when I have time, I'll tell you the story of how I found her and how she managed to convince me to keep her. Now, I'm off to grade papers.
Monday, November 17, 2008

My F-ing Stomach

I hardly ever talk about my health. It's not always great. That's probably why. I have no interest in writing about it because it sort of reiterates it for me to see it in writing and since I don't enjoy my health issues I don't particularly enjoy writing about them either.

Some of you may recall my woe and despair over my stomach at the beginning of the summer. My stomach was in a bad way for a long time and I wanted to give you all an update because the apparent (so far, fingers crossed) cure for it was something so simple and so easy and so doable that I just wish someone had told me about it earlier so I didn't have to suffer for so long. I hope that maybe some of you might be able to be helped by what helped me, freaking FINALLY.

I've had stomach problems since I was about ten. I've been to many, many doctors over the years and they all said I had IBS. I've been tested for everything from parasites, to bacteria to gall stones and it's never anything. I began to think I had celiac disease earlier this year. I went for a test. Guess what? Negative. I have an autoimmune disorder which is at the moment unspecified. I figured my stomach issues were related. My rheumatologist said not really.

"You have IBS, accept it," she said.

Still, I believe that the IBS is related to the autoimmune disorder in some way, but no one will listen to me, so whatever.

Still, I know that I get violently ill whenever I eat any grain except rice and some things that have grain products in them but aren't grain. And I'm talking more than wheat. Don't even ask what happens with corn. It's not pretty.

My stomach problems got so bad that I started having panic attacks. I was afraid to be away from home because I might get a stomach attack and not be able to find a bathroom and I might be in an embarassing situation. IBS is humiliating and gross and extremely inconvenient. For me the embarassment part was the worst. Combine that with school bathrooms and I needed an IV drip of valium to get through the day (not literally). Anxiety makes IBS worse. IBS causes anxiety. Bad vicious cycle here.

Finally I found a new doctor who is a general practitioner. I've been to him before. I go to him to get my flu shots because he orders the mercury free ones. He's a real doctor but he's a bit of a renegade. He sees things a little differently and tries things that other doctors might not think of. He is honestly the best and most thorough doctor I have ever been to. The man is miraculous.

He read my blood test results and admitted that I was negative for celiac.

"However," he said, "Lot's of people have it and it doesn't show up on the blood tests. Plus, many people have grain and gluten intolerances, especially those people who have autoimmune disease. So if it makes you sick, get strict and stop eating it."

That simple. So I did. And I felt better in two days.

But that's not all.

He also told me to take two, easy, over the counter products that are absolute miracles. Look, I've taken every hard drug out there for my stomach and nothing really worked. Most made it worse. Others made me foggy and sleepy.

The two things are enteric peppermint capsules and DGL licorice tablets. I know this sounds like some stupid quack shit that your mom's new agey friend who went to a year of Chiropractor school before dropping out to move to Sedona and channel her dolphin spirit guide, might tell you. It's not. Trust me, I was doubtful that some licorice and peppermint could help my stomach, but it did. I swear. I also looked it up and these two things have been proven to be more effective in treating IBS and stomach problems than the hard drugs. And I love me some hard drugs.

So I just take the enteric peppermint capsules and chew up the tablet about twenty minutes before I eat and then...I'm normal. Totally normal. For real.

In three days the aches and pains and soreness in my stomach went away. I started to go to the bathroom like a normal human being. Nothing hurt. I wasn't dehydrated anymore. I'm calming down. I can sleep without being propped up on pillows because of the reflux. I almost feel like it's too good to last. I keep thinking it will all come back, but it's been a full week of normalness and painlessness. All from some peppermint and licorice and also totally, one hundred percent, eliminating stupid grain from my diet. I know that part sounds hard but honestly I was so miserable I was about ready to eliminate food from my diet. Just food period, because everything made me sick.

So look, this might not work for everyone. I'm also receiving some other treatments for my autoimmune disease and that could be what's helping too. It might be the gluten-free diet. I don't know, but I've tried being gluten free before and I didn't get better like I have since I started the peppermint and licorice.

In any case, licorice and peppermint won't hurt you, so it's worth a try if you're suffering like I did. I wish someone had told me about it sooner. Just remember, if you want to try it that the peppermint has to be enterically coated or it could make your stomach worse and that the licorice must be chewable DGL because whatever the GL is, can be poisonous, so make sure it's not in there.

Let me know if any of you try it and it works for you too. That would make me really happy.
Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Happened to Faith Hill

After the sixth grade election that I won, by the way, Faith Hill and I became very good friends. At the end of that year, I went to go live with my mother and moved away from Millpond to New York, but still Faith wrote and called and when we visited Millpond, I always saw her. During the summers I used to go stay in Millpond and Faith and I always spent the night with each other, went to the beach and rode our bikes around town. One night we snuck out of Mommom Jewel's house and wandered the streets of Millpond until the sun rose. We got caught because we left our wet Keds on the back step, but we didn't really get in that much trouble. One summer she went on vacation with my family and got a terrible sunburn. My parents took us to Disney World in Florida and one night at dinner Faith and I broke a soft serve machine at Morrisson's Cafeteria.

Faith's mom dumped Mike and they moved out of the shack and closer into town and she lived in a nicer house with her mother and sister and things started looking a little better for her. Faith remained hugely popular, except she was actually popular and not just one of the elite. People from every clique like Faith Hill and she was genuinely nice and friendly to everyone. She had an odd relationship with the other popular girls though. I think they were jealous of her, so sometimes she'd be their friend and other times they'd hate her and honestly she didn't seem to care. Once she got to high school she made friends with the older kids. In 9th grade she caused a sensation when she dated a senior who was a life guard and actually had sex with him. She was the first girl that was openly sexually active.

The next year, Faith, was could really sing and act and loved theater, also made Millpond history when she was the only sophormore ever given the lead in the high school spring musical. She was Sandy in Grease. It was a really big deal because the lead always went to the seniors and Faith had beat them out. I was really proud of her.

There are things that I will always be thankful for Faith for doing. One of them is being my campaign manager in sixth grade. As we got older she taught me social skills. I will never forget the times she sat me down and literally put me through her version of charm school.

"You have to look people in the eye when they talk to you," she would say, "Smile and nod, act like you're listening."

I was honestly a big social retard. I've always been a bit awkward and I think a lot of that had to do with my not being very good at reading other people. A lot of times growing up I remember just not knowing what to do in situations and just needing someone to tell me straight out to do things like look people in the eye. I wasn't good on picking things up by observing. I needed lessons and Faith gave them to me.

She also taught me how I should act if a boy kissed me, how to make shorts out of old jeans after we saw "Dirty Dancing" and how to put makeup on and do my hair. She was always giving me makeovers and saying she wished she was tall and skinny like me. Faith was only five feet tall and was one of those girls who always thought she was fat so she exercised like a maniac and never ate and of course she wasn't really fat at all. She was beautiful.

"Make sure you put your lipstick on again after you eat," I remember her telling me, "and always ask people how they are. Always think of other people before you think of yourself."

During Faith's senior year in high school things seemed to be going exactly as she'd planned. She was homecoming queen. She got accepted to Princeton. I think she got a scholarship. She was on track to be the valedictorian and once again she got the lead in the spring musical of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." I was so excited for her.

During a Saturday performance, I'm pretty sure it was the matinee, as Faith was on stage, a large section of the set fell on her and hit her on the head. She was severely injured and from my understanding of the situation she had brain damage. I wasn't there and I didn't hear about the accident for a while. I was having my own problems when it happened. My family had moved to Florida by then, but I had fled back to New York to live with my boyfriend. By then I had dropped out of school myself and was trying to go to college. I realized I hadn't heard from Faith in a while and tried to contact her with no luck, but then a mutual friend told me what had happened.

Faith couldn't go to Princeton. She was paid a pretty big settlement, according to the stories that were going around, but who knows if that's true. She recovered physically to some extent, but she wasn't the same. She tried to go to the state university and is rumored to have dropped out. In the 90s I heard she worked atThe Limited and then I heard that she waitressed in a pizza place. Last year Mommom Jewel told me that she heard that Faith had a baby, but was pretty sure she wasn't married and that she lived a couple hours north of Millpond, but there was no other information available.

She lost touch with everyone. People who ran into her said she wasn't the same person, that she wasn't friendly anymore, that she didn't make eye contact and avoided social situations. She didn't fix herself up or dress cute and then there was a huge rumor circulating that she had serious mental problems and had some kind of nervous breakdown. I've heard a lot of rumors and theories about Faith over the years. Many of us who knew her growing up have looked for her with no luck. She doesn't seem to want to be found. But it's possible that none of the stories are true. I don't know, and I would love to find out. I hope that she's ok.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Dad on Dancing With the Stars

My dad flew out to LA this morning to do some work and he got a surprise. He was invited to see Dancing With the Stars. He'll be on in a few minutes and hopefully they'll show him so you can all see him. He'll be with Brooke's husband.

Yeah, Definitely Old

Last night, during the last hour of my birthday I heard a ruckus outside which sounded something like an Old West gun fight was going on on my street. Because I would be the first person to get killed in a horror movie, I decided to go outside and see what the mysterious noise was.

The kids across the street, for some ungodly reason were on their roof (about 8 of them) throwing lit firecrackers off the roof and into the street. As soon as I saw this I noticed that one of my neighbors was on her balcony looking at the kids do this.

"It's firecrackers," she said.

"At 11:30 on a Monday?" I asked.

"Yes, can you imagine?"

And then I launched into a long, a very long, diatribe about how if I had done something like that when I was young that my mother would have whipped my ass for it and when I was that age kids didn't do stuff like that because we had respect, but these kids now didn't have respect anymore and look at why. Because their parens let them throw lit firecrackers off the roof at 11:30 on a Monday night and what is the whole world coming to and then the neighbor and I started yelling at the kids to knock it off that people were trying to sleep.

That was when I realized that I was officially, now, old and that I sounded exactly, startlingly like my grandmothers.

The truth is that while my mother would have whipped my ass for that, that at the same age I would have totally wanted to throw lit firecrackers off the roof of my house and I would have had just as much fun doing it as they were. In fact, I'd probably enjoy it now. The difference is that when I was a kid, I would have made sure to do it on a Friday and not a Monday.
Monday, November 10, 2008

35 Years Ago


This isn't a very good picture, but there are so few pictures of me as a child or a baby that this is mostly all I have. That's my mom when she was 18, if you've all ever wondered what she looks like. Exactly 35 years later I look a lot different, but I still wear a lot of red. I'm feeling extremely old today. And also glad that paneling went out of style.

Election Day, Part 4, The End.

Ok, I'm not going to be cruel and leave you with a cliffhanger for very long.

Faith said yes. Or rather, Faith circled yes. And she gave me her phone number, starting a friendship that lasted many years even after I moved away. Her parents used to let her come to New York and stay with us when no one else in Millpond would ever let their daughters spend the night with me when I was with my mother. I've been on Facebook all weekend looking for her and enlisting some of my other old, Millpond friends to search too, but no one knows where she is, although there are rumors of her waitressing in a pizza place.

With Faith as my campaign manager and vice secretary, I had credibility. If someone as popular and smart as Faith Hill took me seriously enough to support my candidacy, I had to be for real.

Of course this caused major outrage amongst the popular kids. Faith had betrayed them and in all honesty she probably just did it to get back at them, or maybe she did it because she wanted a friend that she could actually invite over to her house, because I ended up spending the night with her when no one else did. Maybe she sensed that I somehow knew and understood what her life was really like because my life was pretty crappy too. I have always suspected that Faith was sexually abused in some way. I have no evidence or proof of this at all except a gut feeling and the fact that she just sort of acted in the way girls act when they've been harmed in this way. But for all I know I could be wrong.

Faith had a drive and ambition unlike anything I've ever seen. At almost twelve years old she had a plan to be successful and to get out of Millpond for good. She wanted to go to Princeton and she was starting in sixth grade to get everything in order so that she could get a full scholarship. She wanted to do something powerful in foreign relations and work for the government. I was in awe of this. I didn't even know what foreign relations were at that age and college was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to win the election. My goals were very short term.

Faith and I made posters. We enlisted some of my other friends. I had three other friends to be exact and I'm still friends with two of them now. Their moms helped out with paper and supplies and together we made hundreds of posters saying to vote for me, which we taped up all over the halls of Millpond Middle. Everywhere you looked there was a poster for me and we made sure to put two of them next to every one of Dawn Biggs' posters. I wanted my name to be the most familiar on the ballot and I wanted to have so many posters and signs that it made me look like I was more important than Dawn.

The next thing I had to do was to secure the black vote. The black kids hated the popular kids and never ever ever mixed with them ever under any circumstances. Our school may as well have been segregated for the way kids acted. But I knew a lot of the black kids and had some black friends. I bonded with all the kids who were poor and had fucked up lives, so that encompassed almost every black kid at school and since I was desperately lonely I had no problem whatsoever playing with the black girls, who liked to braid my long, straight hair. I let them do it because I liked to be touched and I thought their hair was so much prettier than white girls' hair.

One day at recess I asked one of the black girls who she usually voted for and she said Dawn. I asked her why and she said "she's popular and she always wins everything." Well, this could not be. That was no reason to vote for someone - by default, just because she always won anyway. I told the girl to vote for me because at least I played with her.

"Dawn Biggs hates black people," I said.

And it wasn't starting a rumor, because it was true.

But then I enlisted Tyvon. Tyvon was a sixth grader who was bigger than all the teachers. At twelve years old she was probably about five eight and two hundred pounds and all the white kids made fun of her because she was big and ugly. The thing was, that Tyvon was smart and kind and although she was huge, inside she was a little girl and actually quite innocent. Her outside didn't match her inside. Tyvon was a lot like Faith. She had plans to get out of Millpond and not get trapped in the cycle of poverty, unwanted babies and welfare. She was also extremely outgoing and although I wouldn't exactly call her popular amongst the black kids, she was something of a leader. Everyone respected her because she was one of the only black kids in the smart classes and she worked hard and got on the honor roll. I googled her and she did get out of Millpond and graduated from a good college, out of state. I bet she's a huge success now. I'd love to see her.

I scheduled a meetining with Tyvon on the playground and let her braid my hair while I convinced her to vote and campaign for me. It wasn't hard.

"I was going to vote for you already," she said, "Dawn Biggs is a nasty girl and you're nice. Plus, it's about time someone else won something around here."

"Thanks," I said.

"I'll get every black kid in this school on your side," she promised.

And with that Tyvon set off on her own mission to overthrow the elitism which had governed Millpond Middle for probably a century.

The day before the election there was an assembly where all the candidates and their campaign managers had to give a speech that they had written themselves, in front of the entire school. I was a nervous wreck. I had diarrhea for a week over it. I couldn't imagine me, ugly, scrawny, smelly, ratty haired me, getting up in front of the entire school, in front of all the popular kids in every grade, and giving a speech.

And then my biological father did something so uncharacteristically nice that to this day I wonder if my memory is off, although it isn't. I have portrayed my father, I think, as being all bad and all sick and horrible. I think I do this partly out of allegiance to my mother and partly because it's easier for me to dismiss him as a villain in my life. The truth is more complicated. My father had good qualities, although most of the time they were overshadowed by his horrible qualities. If he had been able to control his own need to control and dominate, and if he had been able to quell his obsessiveness and fanaticism, if he could have tempered his intensity and learned to understand nuances and subtleties, at the same time overcoming his terrible pride, I think he had some good qualities that occasionally came out. He could be very funny at times though those times disappeared when he met Louise, who was not ever funny at all. He was also smart and responsible and extremely creative. I have creativity on both sides, but I think I got my artistic abilities from him. He was good at drawing and making things with his hands.

And this one time, something good came out of him and he, in the middle of two years of unbearable cruelty, did something uncharacteristically nice for me. My father went on his own and bought me a dress to wear the day I had to give my speech.

The dress was bittersweet. It gave me false hope and made me think that my plan was actually going to work - that if I won this election that my life really was going to get better. The fact that my father did something nice for me just because I was even running was proof that I was right and if I could be good enough and if I could be a perfect child that everything really would get better. My father had bought me a dress.

I loved the dress. It was from Leggett's. I don't even know if that store exists anymore, but it was our one fancy department-like store in town and I always dreamed of one day being able to run in there, all casual like, and getting an outfit for no reason. The dress was made to look like a shirt and a skirt. The skirt was grey and the top, which looked like a button-up shirt with a collar, was pink and grey striped. It had a pink and grey cloth belt that fastened with two metal loops, and the best part was that it had a pink, skinny necktie that you didn't have to tie. It looped under the collar with an elastic band. He also got me a pink, silky hair band. Hairbands were big back then and this was in the days of Madonna's youth when she had popularized wearing a big bow flopping off the side of your head so that you looked like a sloppy birthday present. The hair band had a bow that never came untied. The outfit was absolute perfection. It was the most stylish thing I had ever seen in my life and it looked perfect with pink, opaque tights and black patent leather mary janes. I swear I wish I had a picture of this outfit because we'd all have a good laugh over it now, I'm sure, but in the early 80s it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in all my life. And my father had given it to me.

I took a long time getting dressed the morning of my speech. I had spent a long time writing the speech and perfecting it. It was about how the popular kids didn't speak for the majority of the school and how we needed a Student Council based not on who had money and good looks, but on fairness for everyone. We needed leaders who would make a government for the students, by the students and who really cared, not student leaders who just cared about advancing their social agenda. Although I didn't use the words social agenda back then. I probably said something like we don't need popular kids who want to run just to be more popular. But I meant advancing their social agenda.

I remember getting up on that stage in front of the whole school and giving my speech. The lights were hot and all the teachers were watching and probably thinking terrible things about me because of what Louise had told them. Louise was there too but I have no idea what she was thinking. It was hard to see the audience so I wasn't scared once I got up to the podium and began to speak and I read my speech the whole time hoping that all the teachers would shake their heads and say to each other:

"That girl there, she's going to be somebody. She's going to be something one day. That girl up there is a star."

They didn't. But I did.

After my speech ended and everyone clapped for me, a sense came over me and I knew without question that one day I would be famous and that one day, no matter what Louise did or said, or how fucked up my life was, that my destiny was ultimately much greater than all of it and that I really was meant for something very special. I still know it. And then I sort of didn't really care if I won that election or not.

The next morning in homeroom we filled out our ballots and turned them in and it was a Friday so I'd have to wait all weekend for the results, but I didn't care. I think I cared more that my father had bought me that grey and pink dress. That meant more.

Monday morning in homeroom again they announced the results over the loudspeaker.

Now I could be a real jerk here and make you wait, but, as today is my birthday, I'm feeling generous. I will not keep you in suspense.

I won.
Sunday, November 09, 2008

Election Day, Part 3

I needed Faith Hill as my campaign manager. I had no hope without her and Faith Hill was popular.

She also sat next to me in fifth period Language Arts, though it was not her first choice. Faith was different than the other popular girls though. For one, she actually deserved to be popular, because she was sweet, thoughtful and outgoing. She wasn't as catty and spiteful as her friends. Secondly, she was poor, but none of her friends knew it. I knew Faith's secret because my mother (my real mother, not my stepmother Louise) knew Faith's parents, who were divorced. Her mom worked in a flower shop and was married to a mechanic at the time. They lived in a tiny, shed of a house way out on the highway that went to the beach. It was desolate and she didn't have friends over because she didn't want anyone to see that she lived in a two bedroom hole with her sister and her stepsister and her mean stepfather Mike who was an alcoholic. On the weekends Faith and her little sister Jolene went to visit their dad who lived with his mom. On her dad's side, Faith had an rich aunt who had married well and had no kids of her own. That aunt spoiled Faith and Jolene and bought them expensive, trendy Esprit clothes, Docksiders, pin striped Calvin Klein jeans and outfits from The Limited. These clothes, plus Faith's assertiveness and cuteness (she looked like an eleven and a half year old Marilyn Monroe when she was still Norma Jean if you can imagine that) bought her a seat at the popular lunch table.

Now as a digression from the main story, I'd like to add in that Faith Hill played a very large part in who I am now and that Faith's existence ended tragically. She is still alive, though not in exactly the same way, I am told. I know that sounds mysterious, but one day I'd like to give Faith Hill her own post because she was really important in my becoming the person I am today and because her story is so extraordinary on its own. I've lost Faith and I've tried to find her but no one seems to know where she is. The fact that she shares a name with a popular country singer makes Google totally impossible and I had no luck with Facebook either. But I would love to know what became of her.

But back to the story at hand. I needed Faith to be my campaign manager and she was my only hope.

Lately there had been infighting amongst the popular girls. They were always being jealous of someone, ostracizing someone else and being generally mean and abusing their power as popular. Faith had recently come under their scrutiny because she had let a boy go up her shirt at the Middle School dance. Those things were huge and all sorts of drama took place to a soundtrack of "Let's Hear it for the Boy" and "When Doves Cry" followed by "Puttin' on the Ritz." One of the other popular girls liked the boy and had slow danced with him at the dance the month before (they were once a month and I sold candy at them), so there was a major situation going on, not to mention that no one had ever let a boy go up her shirt before.

But Faith did everything first. She was a sexual trendsetter. She had frenched a boy in fifth grade, went on to french several others by sixth grade and then let a boy go up her shirt. The next year she'd go out with an eighth grader and he would go down her pants, causing another major controversy which branded her a slut early. The reputation would stick through high school.

So the other popular girls were bickering with Faith. Dawn Biggs and Faith were rumored to be in a fight and not speaking though they still sat together at lunch. I saw this as my in.

In Language Arts I slipped her a note. I've always found writing easier than actually speaking to people anyway. In the note I asked her if she was mad at Dawn. She circled "yes." I asked if she was voting for her and she shook her head and rolled her eyes when the teacher wasn't looking and then wrote back: "I hate her."

"Will you be my campaign manager?" I wrote. "Circle yes or no."

Faith held the note for the rest of class. She worked on her vocabulary words and did a grammar exercise. I was going crazy to get her answer. I've never been patient anyway, especially not with things as all important as winning this election and without Faith I wasn't even allowed to run.

She left with the note in her purse. That year everyone was carrying these round cloth purses with wooden handles and wearing Members Only jackets. The covers of the purses could be switched out and most were reversible too. They had a row of little buttons under the handle where you buttoned on the new cover and they looked sort of homemade. I can't remember what they were called and it's been driving me crazy. I loved these purses so much and they were so trendy that even I had one, which is a miracle because I never had anything trendy. Mine had a purple corduroy cover. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? But anyway, Faith had one of these coveted purses and my note was folded up in it.

I went on to Science class and at the end of the day when I was going to my locker Faith passed me in the hall and handed the note back to me and walked away.

I took it to my locker and carefully unfolded it. She had practically turned it into a piece of origami.

To be continued (it's my dad's birthday and we're having dinner, sorry)....

***EDIT*** Talula was kind enough to find the answer for me. The things are called Bermuda Bags. I could totally see these things becoming hugely trendy with the ironic, retro hipster crowd. If you'd like to see one, here's a link to one on a blog. I remember these ones with little embroidered crabs and whales were quite popular. I also remember the kelly green, navy blue combo as being big.
Friday, November 07, 2008

I Temporarily Interrupt My Story...


I wanted to participate in Candid Carrie's favorite photo Friday. This is one of my favorite photos and for several reasons. In this I am sitting in the chair with Mommom Jewel who is holding Bella when she was a baby. I am holding our other cousin and we are at my aunt and uncle's house. It must have been a special occasion judging from my mary janes, but I don't know what it was. It was definitely in the late summer or early Fall judging the the age of the babies who were born at the end of May and beginning of July. Also note my brown-ness, another indicator of summer. One other thing that cracks me up about this picture is that it was almost 29 years ago and my aunt and uncle still have the exact same carpet, furniture and decorations. They haven't changed anything. That chair is still there in the exact same place. I was thinking it would be hilarious if this Christmas we restaged the picture and all climbed in that chair again. Except we definitely wouldn't all fit in it now and in fact, might break it. If I manage to get that done, I promise I'll post the updated version for you too.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day, Part 2

* I don't have a lot of time, so this installment might be short. I have to go to class until ten tonight.*

Once I got off that chair I was filled with remorse and regret. What the hell had I done? What came over me? What had I been thinking?

It spread all over school before fifth period. By the end of the day everyone knew it and as we met in our homeroom before school was dismissed for the day my homeroom teacher asked me if it were true. If we wanted to run for Student Council we had to let our homeroom teacher know and they would put us in the race.

I almost said no. No, I wasn't running. It was a mistake. I wasn't doing it. But the same thing came over me and I couldn't control myself.

"Yes!" I told my teacher, "I'm going to run for Secretary."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"I'm sure."

"Ok then," he said, but I could tell he didn't think it was a good idea.

Each afternoon I met my stepmother Louise in her classroom and from there we drove home. Since she taught at my school I didn't have to ride the bus. I never looked forward to seeing her because my teachers, all her friends, gave her reports all day long about how poorly I was doing. She had poisoned them against me. She spent her planning periods in the break room bemoaning her plight as the poor stepmother that the daughter was jealous of. She told them an elaborate story about how I wanted my father to myself, how I was a spoiled brat, how I was lazy and didn't apply myself and they all sat and shook their heads and listened to her and vowed to not let me get away with my crap in their classes. They promised they'd set me straight when I was with them.

So I ended up being treated cruelly by everyone in my life. My father, my stepmother, my teachers and the other kids at school. The world was literally against me.

I even had to go to the school psychologist. She and Louise had gone to college together and were great friends, so during our sessions she'd accuse me of lying when I tried to tell her what was happening and then she too would tell me how bad I was, how selfish and how disrespectful. She told my father and Louise that I was one of the most defiant, stubborn children she'd ever seen. I may even have schizophrenia. I was deeply troubled.

I have a lot of anger looking back at all of this. I feel like my caretakers all failed me. I blame some of this on the fact that we were in a small, isolated town. Mostly it was Louise's fault. She really was that conniving.

But anyway, that day when I met her in her classroom I knew she'd having something to say about my running for office.

Now at the time Louise was newly pregnant and was really playing it up. She was one of those drama queens who wears maternity clothes after she pees on the stick and sees a plus sign. She had morning sickness all day and night. She talked of nothing else besides her pregnancy and her plans for the baby which was going to be born perfect in every way and be the complete opposite of me.

Oddly enough I didn't have animosity for the baby. I knew it wasn't the baby's fault. I was petrified of what my life would become once the baby arrived, but I didn't hate the baby. Of course everyone said I did. Louise said she feared I would try to kill it.

"I heard you're running for office," she laughed, "Is this some kind of stunt to get attention because your jealous of me and the baby? Is that what this is?"

"No" I argued.

She sniffed. She always sniffed.

"Well good luck because you don't have a chance at winning. And who's your campaign manager? School rules say every student running has to have another student to act as campaign manager."

I thought about it for a second. The campaign manager was sort of like a vice position. Once a candidate got elected the student who served as her campaign manager was like an understudy, filling in if the officer couldn't attend a meeting of fulfill her role in office. I couldn't run without a campaign manager. It was against the rules.

"I don't know," I said, "I have some ideas."

"Sure you do."

That night I lie and bed and hatched a plan. If I were really going to do this, I had to pick someone who would increase my chances of winning. I had to really think about it intelligently.

What I needed to do was to infiltrate the popular people and bring one of them over to my side. It seemed impossible, but for the past year I had sat close to their lunch table. I overheard their internal struggles and dramas and I had someone in mind. If only I could get her to talk to me long enough to convince her. If only she'd be seen talking to me. I had a feeling she might, but if I handled it wrong, it would result in total social catastrophe.

But that was ok because I had nothing to lose.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day, Part 1

The bangs made everything worse. Not that things weren't already bad. They were. They were horrible even before my biological father married my stepmother. I knew she was bad within a few months of their courtship, and once they got married and we moved to the farmhouse, miles away from town - from anything really - my life just deteriorated. I went from being a happy little girl who lived with her grandparents and played dress up in the basement with her friends and many cousins, to a sad, lonely thing who sat in her room, imagining that every creak in the old house was a ghost, or worse, staring out of windows where the glass was so old that the view was forever distorted and rippled as if I were looking through someone else's glasses. I didn't eat. I slept poorly because I was afraid all of the time. Louise (we'll call her that because she needs a name here) never helped me comb my hair. She didn't wash or iron my clothes and I was only ten so I wasn't great at doing my own laundry. As a result I wore dirty clothes and my hair always looked a mess; full of tangles and hanging unkempt. I probably smelled musty from the dirty clothes and dank, old house we lived in. It was probably true when the kids at school teased me and said I stunk.

I didn't get to play with my friends. Louise grounded me constantly. She said I gave her dirty looks, that I talked back to her, that I didn't do well enough in school. Only A+s were acceptable. I got grounded if I got below that. She made me take piano lessons and she punished me when I didn't practice long enough or well enough to suit her and nothing suited her.

My father, who was a tyrant and a control freak and a fanatic went along with it. When we lived at my grandparents' house I think he knew he couldn't get away with acting like that. His parents would have never allowed him to mistreat me in their house and that caused a power struggle between them. He felt like my grandparents' spoiled me and he was jealous because he was their youngest son and wanted the attention and us living there with Mommom and Pop created a dynamic where we were treated more like brother and sister than father and daughter. It was like we were both my grandparents children and they liked me more than they liked him, which was easy because he was arrogant, condescending and vindictive.

When my father married Louise my grandparents wanted me to stay with them and to this day I've often thought that the reason he wouldn't allow that was to spite them and punish them. To further punish them he didn't let me see them. This was Louise's idea. Of course, I didn't understand any of this at the time.

Looking back from an adult perspective, and having discussed this at length with other family members, I see now that Louise had a very genius and complicated plan and if you are to understand her treatment of me and to believe it, you have to know where she was coming from. Louise imagined herself to be very high class. She wasn't at all, but she thought she was. She went to college and so did one of her brothers. Her father had come from a family that was once very rich although they weren't anymore. She thought she was worldly and sophisticated and knew everything. She was also a middle school teacher and taught at my school which added to the hell I was already living in. I could not get away from this woman.

Since Louise had this high class ideal she had a life planned out for herself that was very prim and proper and would be better than everyone else's life. She would have dinner on china every night and be a virgin when she married and then she'd have five or six children who all had very old Anglo-Saxon sounding names and they'd all play the violin and speak foreign languages from birth and grow up to be Ivy League professors. She would be a revered, upstanding and prominent member of society. I think she pictured herself as the matriarch of some sort of dynasty.

But then she met my father who had this kid and this ex-wife who was a drug dealer and married to a Jew and the kid had been spoiled by his parents and her no good mother and the kid hadn't been properly trained and the kid was really a wrench in her plan. The whole idea of a divorced man with a kid was extremely low class and wouldn't look right at all and it completely messed up her ideal scenario. She wanted a clean slate so her kids could grow up perfect and not exposed to me and my mother and our brand of trash. So Louise had to get rid of me, but she had to do it in such a way that she would look good and retain her holy reputation. She had to execute this plan perfectly or it would be disastrous and she would look bad, like the evil stepmother who was cruel to an innocent child and sent the child away. She couldn't have people saying things like that, so she decided to turn herself into the martyred victim of the situation, the sweet, caring woman who tried everything to make it work, but just couldn't because the child was too far gone. She was such a bad kid.

She had to get me to live with my mother, but this was not an easy task at all because my father hated my mother so much that he would never just let me live with her no matter how much he begged. He was still, a decade later, punishing her for leaving him. I was his property that he could use like currency to punish and manipulate those who wronged him. He wouldn't give that up so easily. Louise had to make it look like living with my mother, who was conveniently in another city, was my idea. She also had to make me look like I was such a horrible child that my father would want to be rid of me and that the wanting to get rid of me would override his wanting to punish my mother and grandparents by not letting them see me.

Then I could go and live in another state, they could never talk to me again and her children would grow up innocent of me and my polluted ways and she'd look like an angel in all of it and people in Millpond wouldn't think poorly of her and call her names behind her back.

This was Louise's plan and it worked. She made my life for the two years I lived with her into endless weeks and months of abject misery. I can not even write on here some of the things that this woman put me through. At first it was when my father wasn't around, but soon she convinced him how bad I was and how much I needed punishing and the two of them decided that I had to be put through a process to "break my will." Can you imagine saying that about a little girl? You'll have to forgive me for not going into detail. For some reason I don't want to right now. One day I will write a memoir and in it I will go into detail, but I just don't feel like it right now and I trust you all to respect that. I will tell you that one book got me through it and I read and reread it. It was "A Little Princess."

So my life was not good and had not been good for a little over a year and the bangs just made it all a lot worse. They had been my idea. The popular girls in school had bangs which they curled under with a curling iron and sprayed with Aquanet and I would have done anything to have been friends with them and to have sat at their lunch table. They called me a scum. Not plain scum, but A scum. I was one of the scums, a group of nerdy, dirty kids, most of whom were rotten teethed, white trash farm kids that even I wouldn't be friends with. None of them had bangs.

I wasn't allowed to cut my hair. I don't know why. To this day I have no idea why I was forbidden to cut my hair and I really needed my hair cut. It was ratty and too long for me to manage. I don't know if it was some crazy, religious shit or what, but I was not allowed to cut my hair, though I desperately wanted to.

I also wasn't allowed to see my mother, however, my father didn't have a lot of say about that and my mother went to court and got a order that said I was allowed to see her two weekends a month and for a month or so (I think about that) in the summers. So for a little while the summer between fifth and sixth grade I was happy with my mother where I could play with her dogs and eat and play and stay up late and do whatever the hell I wanted. We were poor as hell and lived in a rowhouse that summer. We were the only white people on the block, but this wasn't an issue with me at all because my mother managed to scrounge up enough cash to take me to see "The Neverending Story" and then to Dairy Queen afterwards. Honestly, I didn't even need that. I just needed someone to be nice to me and pay attention to me and my mother did. I guess I got carried away because I told my mother I wanted a haircut and since she was my mother, she took her only daughter to get a haircut. With bangs.

When my visit was over and I had to return home, with bangs, all hell freaking broke loose. I will never forget it. I think I knew because I remember pulling into the farmhouse driveway, which was crushed oyster shells and I still can't stand that sound. I remember feeling like I was going to shit myself from the fear and the regret. I remember my mother walking me to the door and my father and Louise opening the door, seeing that I had cut my hair and I remember them, one of them, yanking me inside so hard that my shoulder popped out. I just remember a lot of yelling and my mother trying to reason with them and trying to stop them but by then I was inside and she was outside and we were apart and there was nothing she could do because I was inside and she was outside.

I have often wondered what it must have felt like for her to leave and if she had any idea what happened to me. I don't remember. I would probably have to be hypnotized to remember. Once my therapist said I should be hypnotized and I absolutely refused because I don't want to remember. It's odd to try to explain this. I can't remember what happened. I just remember how it felt. And the way it felt was the way I feel when I watch "Schindler's List." There is one scene really. It is the scene where the women have their heads shaved and then where they go into the showers and they've all heard rumors of the poison gas so they know in a second they are going to die in there all bald and naked together. I hope it doesn't offend anyone for me to say this. I'm not exactly comparing myself to the Holocaust. That's not exactly what I mean. I just mean that I had a feeling and it was the same feeling I felt when I saw that scene.

A year later, when I went to go live with my mother it was like clean water coming out of the shower heads and it was just a shower now and not poison gas and I wasn't going to die. I was just going to take a shower after a very long, crowded, hungry train ride.

But I didn't know that yet.

I knew that home sucked and school sucked and the bangs didn't even look good on me. I knew that I wanted to make things better. I reasoned that if I could be perfect and live up to Louise's standards which were now my father's standards too, that they would have to lay off of me. I probably was a bad kid, I thought and maybe I could practice piano more and mind my manners and make more of an effort in school. At the same time, and I realize this is a little contradictory, I had a rebellious streak that said I could outsmart them and that my will would not really ever be broken. I would just make them think it was. And while I was at it, I'd get the popular girls at school back too. I'd make everyone pay all at once and show them all how great I was. As I write this I'm thinking my logic was irrational. On one hand I hated both Louise and my father as well as the popular girls. I truly hated them. One the other hand I wanted them all to love me and praise me. I wanted the popular girls to make me one of them and I wanted Louise and my father to be proud of me. Yet I hated them. The only explanation I have here is that when you're abused and kicked around enough your mind gets crazy and things just don't make sense to you in the same way that they do to healthy people.

But because my will was not truly broken, nor would it ever be, back then that little girl in the red sweater in sixth grade, who had a lot of hope in her 56 pound body, decided it was time for a change.

For years, forever probably, the Student Council at Millpond Middle School had been run by a legacy of rich white kids. Every year the same rich white kids from the same few families got elected into the position of Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President and President. It had been this way since my grandparents were in school and it just kept happening year after year. I'm not sure why this is, because the popular people weren't aptly named. They weren't geuinely popular. In fact, most people hated them. Rich white people are a minority in Millpond which is mostly poor white people and poor black people with some equally poor Hispanic farm workers thrown in.

Scums, niggers and spics the popular kids called us. Scums, niggers and spics couldn't run for Student Council and actually win, the popular kids said. So every fall when we held our Student Council elections no one else would dare even run. Once in a while some nerd might try to run but they'd quickly become a laughing stock and lose quickly. And I think we were all just so beat down, us scums, niggers and spics, that we quit trying. Or maybe we were all brainwashed into thinking we really wanted to be like the popular, rich white kids, even though we all secretly hated them, so we voted for them anyway because it felt like by voting with them for a second we were with them, allied with them in a way. Maybe we just didn't have a choice.

I remember getting the idea to run during lunch. Sixth graders ran for the position of Secretary. The positions went by year, so seventh graders were VPs and eight graders could be president. I sat near the popular kids' table and listened to them. Dawn Biggs, who was by far the most popular girl in my grade, announced her candidacy for Secretary by standing on her metal, folding chair. She was still chewing on a fruit roll up when she did it, her auburn bangs sprayed solid as she told the hushed cafeteria that she was running for Secretary, after a successful run as treasuer the year before in fifth grade. She was seeking a second term and wanted all our help electing her again.

Something came over me. Maybe it was because I hated this bitch with her freckled face and father who owned the fancy car dealership. Louise and my father would have said it was Satan himself who made me do this, but I decided I could not let this girl win and that I would do everything I could to make her lose.

I clamored up on my own metal chair. Lunch monitors rushed to get me down, but before they could, I made my announcement too.

"And I am running against her," I said.

The entire cafeteria erupted in hysterics. Strawberry Quik was coming out of peoples' noses. Even the teachers were laughing. But I didn't care that much because I had endured worse than being laughed at. Being laughed at wouldn't kill you. I just looked down at them all and said it again.

"I am running against her."

To be continued....

If you want another story about Louise for more perspective read this. Louise died last year around Christmas.

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