Tuesday, June 23, 2009


My cousin Stu got home from Amsterdam (most of Western Europe actually) Sunday night and I was kind of pissed he didn't even bring me back a Toblerone. Now, I don't actually enjoy Toblerones at all, but they are the gift from Europe that you can get someone at the last possible second before boarding the plane back home, they're cheap and they require no effort whatsoever. It would have at least been something. But no. I got nothing from Stu. I predicted this would happen over a week ago.

I love my cousin Stu, I really do. I'm sure I've mentioned him on here before, though not in great detail. Our grandmothers are sisters. We grew up together back in Millpond and our birthdays are exactly one month apart. I'm older. I used that to my advantage when we were kids playing in my grandparents' pool. I guess it's not surprising that I was a bossy little kid. As Stu and I grew up we drifted apart. It was no fault of our own, just the result of both of us having chaotic families. He never knew his dad, had a few stepfathers, a usually single mom who worked all the time and drank when she was off. She'd been wild in her youth apparently, and loved Elvis. One of my first memories is of her talking about Elvis. She hung a velvet portrait of The King in her bedroom without a shred of irony. Another memory I have is when Elvis died. She was at our house crying. Aunt Janey and Mommom Jewel were drinking coffee and it was on the news. But that was Stu's life and you already know about mine.

When I moved back to Florida in 2000, Mommom Jewell told me that Stu lived down here too and gave me his phone number.

"You oughta get up with him," she said.

I did and so did Bella, who also lived here. Being younger, she always had a crush on her older cousin Stu when we were little. Back then he had this crazy girlfriend named Nettie who was out of her mind, but in a charming way that cracked everyone up. You could be having a perfectly normal conversation with her and all of a sudden she'd lose it, right in the middle of whatever you'd be talking about and burst out with something like: "Dogs are so cool! Right on. DOGS! Yeah! Dogs Rock. Girl Power! Grrr! WOOOOOT!!" It was very strange. It happened all the time.

When I first saw Stu after probably twenty something years, I couldn't believe how much we looked alike and how nice he was. We have the same distinctive nose which runs (disturbingly) on BOTH sides of my family. I think some of the families in the Millpond area got a little inbred through centuries of isolation. Stu took after the Irish more and with his dark, auburn hair he got bright blue eyes. I look a little more french and have dark eyes. Yes, I look like Anne Hathaway as an adult, as many of you pointed out from the eighth grade picture. She would definitely play me in the movie of my life, but I'm not as tall and skinny as she is. Stu and I have the same slouchy posture, the same Irish tendencies toward melancholy and music and the same artistic temperament that makes us easily bored, easily miserable and always wanting to wander.

For a little while I sold some of my mosaics in a local folk art gallery where I also worked for a short time. I couldn't believe the coincidence when I saw that they were also selling some of Stu's glass. Stu used to blow glass and he made some beautiful pieces, but he hasn't done that in a long time. I really wish he would get back into it.

For all our similarities, Stu and I have some distinct differences. For one, I grew up. I like structure and organization. I am able to channel my creative urges, my moodiness and my short attention span towards productive activities. Mainly though, Jam Bands don't do it for me. Jam Bands are Stu's whole reason for existing on this planet. My cousin is addicted to Jam Band shows.

I love and appreciate all kinds of music. My dad instilled this quality in me from the time I was very young and while I don't listen to Jam Bands, I know that these bands are filled with incredible musicians. I'm sorry though, I just can't do it. Years ago Stu took me to a show with him and except for the fantastic people watching, I almost fell asleep. I think they played one song for the entire show and everyone there was really getting into it, shaking their heads back and forth, air drumming, eyes closed, faces uplifted as if in prayer while I was standing there like "are they ever going to get on with this and start singing or maybe play something different?"

Stu lives to go to shows. He travels all over, follows bands, keeps track of how many Widespread shows he's been to and compares notes with other people he meets. He knows how they haven't played a certain song since Akron '92 and he was there and he wants to be there when they play it again because it will be so awesome and dude, how could you miss that? He goes to festivals, camps out, gets muddy and dances in circles. He gushes about how they played Cosmic Monkey Acid Storm from Mars for forty five minutes straight and then went right into Rainbow Sunrise Galaxy WITHOUT EVEN STOPPING MAN and then how they played that for a half hour before they even got to the words and you know that part in the beginning where they go OOOOHHHHH, well this time they went AAAHHHH and it was so fucking cool and then they teased Chrysanthemum Black Hole Rabbit Winder because they haven't played it since Halloween '98 when they were at Red Rocks, but then they didn't really play it. Dude. For real. You should have been there.

Stu loves Jam shows so much that he works solely to make the money to go to them. If he can't get time off, he just quits, goes to the show and gets another job when he gets back to get him through until the next show. He does electrical work. He's been a cable guy, installed alarms, been an electrician, done construction and been a handyman. Last year he installed sprinklers at my school and I used to see him around, but then he had to go to the New Year's Eve show and well, you know how it goes. I don't know what he's doing now.

It should come as no surprise that my cousin Stu is a huge stoner. That's why it was no surprise when he called me up last week with the news that, dude, he was so psyched. He was going to fucking Amsterdam. I was actually surprised that he hadn't gone sooner. It's like Mecca for his kind. As soon as he told me I decided to say my last goodbyes because I knew as soon as Stu got there he'd never want to come back. Years from now Stu would be hackey-sacking on a Dutch street corner, begging for enough Euros to pack a bowl with some hash. And he'd be damn happy. He's cute, so he'd probably get some older Russian prostitute to take care of him and cook him borscht and they'd be like something out of a Tom Robbins novel. This is what I imagined.

Stu wanted me to drive him to the airport. He wanted to leave his car at my apartment. I agreed.

On Thursday morning Stu called me and said he'd be at my place at 9:30 am. He got there an hour later, which was not my problem. I go outside and open the trunk of my car for him to put his suitcase in it and go back inside. Fifteen minutes later Stu is still rooting around in the trunk of his own car. I go outside to see what he's doing. Turns out, Stu is packing. The trunk of his car is overflowing with wrinkled laundry which may or may not have been clean. I couldn't tell. He was stuffing things into a bag and trying to fit a towel in on top of it all. He didn't want to check anything in. I asked what the towel was for and he said the Youth Hostel.

"Um, Stu man, a lot of those places you have to be under 26. You are ten years older than that."

"No way," he said. I think he was shocked at his own age, not the age limit in hostels.

I then realized that Stu was having fantasies about backpacking around Europe, Lonely Planet 1992 style. A lot of my friends did this when they were in college. I never got to and it used to make me sad. All of my friends were rich, trust funders whose parents paid for their trips and all of them were looking for "authentic" experiences. When they got back they'd compare who got sicker, dirtier and in more trouble with foreign police. I used to listen in awe at these stories and feel sorry for myself for being stuck in a hotel kitchen plating 250 mesclun salads in Banquet while my Ivy League friends hassled with Czech police and slept in a potato fields until the Polish farmer chased them away. I remember a lot of my friends returned with accents and tastes for Belgian beers.

Ultimately Stu decided to leave the towel. I convinced him that they had towels there. Then I drove him to Miami and thought I was done with it.

"If he misses his flight," I said, "he can figure it out."

Stu called me three hours later from his layover in DC. He was flipping out. He had forgotten his and his friend's Eurrail passes (he was meeting his friend who was already there). They were over a thousand dollars. He didn't know what to do. He had left them in the car and wanted me to overnight them to Amsterdam. After much confusion and many phone calls it was established that there is no over night to Europe. It would take at least three days. He didn't know where he would be in three days. I said for him to go to an Internet cafe and email me when he got his shit together and figured it out.

In the meantime, I searched his car for the train passes, which I found along with an envelope of three hundred dollars cash. I waited for the email which didn't come.

Finally, the next night, Stu calls me and says he has arranged to pick up the tickets in Paris. He gives me an address. I ask him if he's missing money.

"DUDE. OH MY GOD. I was looking everywhere for that. I thought it was stolen!!"

I told him I'd use it for the shipping and give him the change when he got back.

Somehow I managed to send the train tickets to Paris. I was highly aggravated by this time. I don't hear from Stu again. No email. No thank you. No nothing. It was at this point that I realized I was not getting a Toblerone. European chocolate was not in my future.

Sunday Stu called me from his layover in DC again to see if I could pick him up in Miami at ten that night. I told him I was too busy and that Husband had a business trip in the morning that he had to be up for at 5 am, which was true. Stu got his buddy to pick him up in Miami to drive him up to my place to pick up his beater-ass car.

They arrive at around eleven and I am in my pajamas. I give Stu his car keys and money and he gives me a hug, says he had an awesome freaking time in Europe and rushes off. Not only is there no Toblerone for me. There is no thank you at all. I am now pissed.

I lock the door and go back to bed where Husband and I attempt some mild romance before hearing noise outside our bedroom window which faces the parking lot. We look out the window and Stu and his friend are digging through his car.

"Oh no, don't tell me the car won't start," Husband says.

"No, I bet he's getting out my chocolate! Maybe he just forgot."

We were both wrong. They were getting out their hidden stash of weed. Then they were smoking it, out in the open, in the parking lot of my building!! Now I was really pissed. All I need is for the condo commandos to jump all over this. My cousin is such an idiot, I thought. But maybe they'd leave soon. Maybe they just needed one hit and then they'd be on their way. A half hour later they were still out there. All hopes of romance were ruined for me. Finally they left.

I still haven't heard from Stu.


Rich said...

"Stu lives to go to shows..." might be my favorite paragraph since I started reading your blog. You nailed it.

DiaryofWhy said...

He probably left your Toblerone in the hostel and is having a friend FedEx it over right now.

Lucky said...

Wow. Aren't you glad you got back in touch with THAT guy?

Nigel M. said...

Your Toblerone is probably melting into one of his dirty tie dyed shirts in the trunk of that car right now unless he ate it when he got the munchies in the departure lounge at Schiphol Airport...

MtnMama said...

oh, my, you nailed it. (LOVED the Red Rocks reference!) After that description, you're right; Stu's affection for the weed comes as no surprise at all. ;)

Jean_Phx said...

I haven't had a chance to catch up for awhile and I love Stu and those like Stu, just can't have them in my life. They just suck the air out of me and have no consideration for the rest of the universe. AHH the joys. Also - I kept looking at your photo and you were just as cute as all of us! I was looking at a photo of myself at the same age and said to my mother - now there's a face only a mother could love. She was angry with me for some time over that comment.

JoeinVegas said...

Our daughter took a year after college and backpacked Europe (alone except for her big dog). Wish it was something I had done. Wish I had the nerve to go do it now.

Jeannie said...

They have adult hostels around the world now too.

bebe said...

We have Toblerone in Australia if you would like me to send you some? You can let me know over facebook if you would like! Bebe :)

Anonymous said...


You have described my BIL almost exactly. Replace 'jam bands' with Reggae and continue the glass blowing and you have my BIL. Also, BIL is super super sweet. I get glass knick-knack for Christmas. Actually, now that I've googled Jam Bands I'm pretty sure BIL would be into those too. He is currently at the Sierra Nevada Music Festival and is considering starting a business selling some weird Mexican sandwich thingys.

Flakey, late to everything and always smoking a bowl are staples of these sorts of people.

I'm a regular poster but going anonymous as BIL knows how to use the interwebs. Sometimes.

gigiofca said...

Awwww, bless Stu.

Love this!

mcgrimus said...

Used to love them as a kid. Found this on Amazon, of course. Didn't know they had a bittersweet chocolate version!

Fancy Schmancy said...

Dude, I was totally at that same show in '92 when they played that song, man. It was either in Greensboro or Atlanta. Just kidding, although in all seriousness Atlanta 92 was the last show I saw while Jerry was still alive. And then I grew up. Sorry you didn't get any European chocolate. I'm pretty sure he spent his last penny on hash.

Anonymous said...

Well, all I can think is somewhere
out there, a very self absorbed
Stu is stoned. stoned Stu, has
a nice ring to it... and if he calls, tell him he needs to a case
of Toblerone to make up for this...
then again, I'm sure he'll take it as a sign that he needs to hop, skip and smoke his way back to
Amsterdam:) great post.


Ayda said...

this is one family member you've written about that i can honestly say exists in every family. except mine because my cousins are all girls. i lucked out.

K said...

Been there, done that, already gave the t-shirts to good will.

Chiada said...

I hate to tell you this, but i can get Toblerones at Trader Joes where i live...

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