I'm hosting my book club at my apartment tonight. I've never hosted before and I'm a little nervous. I want everything to be perfect. I'm a little embarrassed of where I live (and now thanks to you people, of my rug too) because everyone else lives in big, nice houses. They also all have kids. We had to suspend book club for two years because everyone except me got pregnant. But I decided to be brave with my childless self and offer to host book club in an apartment. I think it will be fine.
Hosting book club caused me to obsess over the cleanliness of every square inch of my apartment. What if there was pee under the toilet seat? What if there are hairs on the bathroom floor or something looks grimy in the kitchen and people think I'm dirty? To avoid this and to calm these thoughts, I cleaned and cleaned. Last night, by the time I was done, my apartment looked like it had been on one of those shows where they take messy people's houses and throw out all their stuff and rearrange their furniture.
This morning, I cooked all the food and went about organizing for the evening's event. Then I saw it.
I don't know how I missed this, but there was a condom under my coffee table. I don't know how it got there. I don't really WANT to know, if you know what I mean and there's a distinct possibility that I DO know how it might have gotten there and don't want to admit it. I don't know how I cleaned my whole apartment and missed a condom under the coffee table.
Can you imagine? What if I hadn't seen it? How awkward would that have been? I bet everyone in book club would have noticed it and been to polite, or mortified, to say anything. Then, on the way home, they'd all call one another and be like "OH MY GOD did you see the condom under her coffee table?? What is she doing? She can't be in book club anymore. No wonder she doesn't have any kids like the rest of us."
I would die, DIE, if my guests had found that. Thank God I caught it in time.
I like to try to find meaning and messages hidden in everything. There is a lesson in this for me. In fact, there are a couple.
1. Get a new coffee table because that thing is so big that you can't see condoms under it.
2. Stop using condoms and get over your pathological and irrational phobia of pregnancy and things like this won't happen.
3. Eww, that rug really is as ugly as everyone said it was and looks even worse in photos. Get to IKEA immediately.
1. I am writing you a story about a woman who has clear teeth and who claims she spent 50 grand on her daughter's hair extensions. You know you love these stories about all the South Florida freaks I know. You know you need your fix of rich white people stupidity.
2. Today I discovered a blog with which I am now madly infatuated. It's Bye Bye Pie. I immediately added it to my links. It has everything - Southern-ness, cat pictures, drag queens and pictures of people with mugs. Hell, it even has a book club. I discovered it because its author June left me a comment on a post I wrote forever ago about stupid Miss Disappearing Doxie, who has gotten a cat after a year's disappearance and then gone and disappeared again.
OK 3 things.
3. I am so sick of looking at my stinking living room now. I am donating my stupid, dust collecting carpet to my husband's co-worker's office and I'm going to IKEA this weekend to get a new, plain sisal one. The Internet may now celebrate. And I assure you that when I get more money, one of these days if that ever happens, that I am getting myself a larger place to live in and I'm going to get very teeny furniture to put in it and none of it will be upholstered. It's just that sometimes when you aren't wealthy and you don't want to go in debt, that buying new stuff isn't an option and you have to accept what others give you and do your best with it. You should also be really damn thankful that someone gave you something, which I am, and take really good care of it, which I do. And don't think that I will ever show you my bedroom. You would probably just die if you saw it. My husband put the sheets on the bed after the last laundry and when he does that, he just kind of goes into the linen closet and picks the first things he sees whether or not they actually go together. I actually do have matching sheet sets, but right now we have a duvet with no cover on it, a red sham, a green sham, a purple flannel pillow case, a beige pillow case, beige sheets and a white coverlet. But who cares? I was just thankful I had a husband who changed the sheets at all.
I know this because as a student, I once drove him to the beach and I purposely took the long scenic way so I could keep him in the car a little longer. I guess you could say I kidnapped Dinty W. Moore for about fifteen minutes. I could tell he was getting a little uncomfortable because at one point he asked me, in a concerned tone, if I had remembered that I was taking him to the beach.
"Yes, of course," I said, "But I'm taking you to the good beach and it's a little further."
All of our beaches are the same degree of good. I lied.
I should also add that my friend Emma was with me and we were both stunned at our own good fortune to get to be riding in the car with Dinty Moore - A FAMOUS WRITER. We were (ok I was) so excited about this that when Professor Moore put his bag in the back of my Saturn Vue, I was so flustered that I left the back hatch wide open and drove off down the road, somewhat in the direction of the beach with a large number of my probably important papers flying out of the back of the car like a flock of doves that someone had set free at the end of a cheesy wedding ceremony.
Halfway through the long way to the "good" beach, I noticed that the car felt unusually breezy and realized that the back of the car was wide open. I had to stop the car, get out and close it at the next red light. Now of course when one needs a red light, all the lights are green, so we drove down the road for longer than I would have liked with all of my papers flying out the back of the vehicle with me trying to act as if I wasn't the least bit concerned.
"Oh, those final research papers from my Comp II class? No, I don't need them. It's no big deal that they're now plastered up and down a strip of A1A and floating in the Intracoastal canal. Really, they weren't important."
In Professor Moore's own essay about driving George Plimpton around, he writes these words "As is so often the case when one picks up a famous writer, I didn't know what to say, but I couldn't stop talking." So let's just leave it at that I hope Professor Moore can forgive me for doing the exact same thing that he did. God only knows what foolish blather came out of my mouth. It is no wonder the man asked if we were almost there yet or if I had forgotten where we were going. About four blocks from the beach I gave up all hopes of ever being published in "Brevity."
Emma and I dropped Professor Moore off at the beach. I asked him if he would like a ride back from the beach in a couple of hours and he declined, in spite of the fact that he was now a good six miles, or perhaps more because I just HAD to go the long way, from his hotel, and it was over 90 degrees outside in the late afternoon. Riding in the car with me was so frightening that the poor man opted to walk six miles in the brutal heat and humidity of Florida just to avoid having to do it again. We told him it wouldn't be a problem to come get him again later, but he insisted upon walking.
As we drove away Emma and I considered every possible disastrous scenario in which Professor Moore could come to harm and it would be our fault.
There was a well known serial killer in town at the time. We imagined the headlines that would follow.
"OHIO PROFESSOR MISSING AFTER BEING DROPPED OFF BY AIR-HEADED GRAD STUDENTS. SERIAL KILLER SUSPECTED."
Uggh. Then we'd have to be interviewed over and over and perhaps even be considered "Persons of Interest" in his disappearance, thus ruining both of our writing careers forever. We'd always be known as the girls who lost Dinty W. Moore.
"How good of shape do you think he's in?" Emma asked.
I'd been thinking the same thing. What if he had a heart attack or heat stroke? Then we'd be known as the girls who KILLED Dinty W. Moore, not just lost him. I imagined a scenario in which the director of our program would pull us into her office.
"What we you thinking letting him walk six miles in the sun by himself in a strange city? Now Professor Moore is dead and it's all your fault and if you think your thesis committees are going to overlook this, you are both sadly mistaken!"
Emma would never get into a PhD program having been an accessory in the death of Professor Moore. I wasn't even going to apply to one.
Emma and I went out to lunch. After lunch we became so concerned about Professor Moore's well being that we decided to drive around town and look for him to make sure he wasn't passed out in a ditch or that he hadn't been carried off by the serial killer or a group of Speedo-clad German tourists wearing socks and sandals on the beach. We couldn't find Professor Moore.
"Let's just hope for the best and see if he is in workshop tomorrow," I said.
Luckily, Professor Moore was in workshop the next day. This just happened to be the day that I, suffering from an epic case of senior-itis and PMS, in addition to being fiercely irritated by some of the other people in the workshop, had a meltdown in class. Everyone in my MFA program had suffered in-class meltdowns that semester. Everyone. Many were far worse than mine. Except, none of them had been in a workshop with a visiting famous writer. Because when I do something, well, I do it on a grand scale people. If I'm going to make an ass out of myself, it's going to be memorable. So, I'm not even going to try to write anything short ever again, because I will NEVER be published in "Brevity" now. In fact, I might start my own online literary journal to compete with "Brevity" and call it "Endless Ranting." Aspiring writers can send me their longest and most incoherent pieces. There will be a 75 page page minimum per essay.
After my meltdown, the whole class went to a Mexican restaurant. Afterward, I hung around trying to get the nerve up to get Professor Moore to sign my copy of his book, which I had read in one sitting on a plane from Philadelphia to Florida and loved. It was then that he noticed the gashes and scratches on the side of my car and inquired. Having ridden with me the day before, I bet he was thinking I regularly crashed into things and having been in class with me during my meltdown, I bet he thought some of the things I regularly crashed into were live human beings.
"My car, " I explained, "has been repeatedly attacked by wild peacocks who live in my neighborhood and try to fight their own reflections that they see in the car door."
This made him laugh. So if there was no "Brevity" in my future there could, at least, be some levity. At least I had made Dinty W. Moore laugh and making people laugh is what I'm best at. I may never win a Pushcart or a Pulitzer but I will die absolutely knowing that in my life I have made a lot of people laugh and I'm ok with that.
Professor Moore ends his essay many years after his first encounter with George Plimpton. The two run into one another again at a signing. Mr. Plimpton remembers Professor Moore and I won't ruin the ending for you because you should read it yourself. For a moment, Professor Moore is "thunderstruck" at being remembered as the kid who drove a famous writer to the airport. We all want that, we who drive famous writers around. We all want the famous writer to have remembered us as the brilliant, shining star of the week-long workshop and not some fool who left the hatch back open or cried in class. We want to know that maybe we meant something to someone who means something.
I don't know if Dinty Moore will remember me or if I will ever run into him in the future. If I do, I doubt he will point at me as he approaches and say:
"YOU! You drove me to the beach!"
And I doubt that after that he will say that my essay about my grandmother surviving the Holocaust moved him to tears and that he never forgot it. I don't expect that.
What I do hope is that if Professor Moore and I ever cross paths again, that he will look at me, maybe across a bustling room at some conference or crowded book signing, trying to figure out how he remembers me and that it will suddenly dawn on him.
"That's it. You are the girl whose car was attacked by peacocks!"
Today is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary. You may recall a couple of weeks ago when they suddenly renewed their vows at Lupo Lama's wedding (he's still honeymooning by the way. I can't wait for the stories when he returns). I can't believe it's really been 30 years and that it all started at Denny's back in the winter of 1979.
I want to write a novel about all this one day. I think it's the best story ever how my mom lost custody of me and became a drug dealer to get the money to hire a lawyer to get me back. Then she ended up in Florida during the heydays of Disco, met an Israeli, fell in love, converted to Judaism and got married. My parents' story is one of the best stories I've ever heard, but for some reason, no one else I've spoken with about my idea to turn it all into a book thinks it's a good idea. I took a novel writing class and the teacher thought the story was ridiculous and when I told him it was all true he said that I should change the story. I said that I couldn't change the story and that it was fantastic as it was. The teacher said that I was too committed to the truth to be a writer. Now come on. I thought this was so stupid. But at the same time, the rest of the class didn't really like it either except the two girls who were my friends, so I got discouraged and sad and gave up on it. The whole experience in that class really pissed me off, but deep down I know that my story is good and that it would be a best seller and if it isn't, well, I'll just write it in installments here and there for you all because blog readers definitely appreciate these tales.
But all that aside, I love the story of how my parents met. I love how all my life whenever I've begged my mother to tell it, she has. Over and over I've heard the story like a fairytale. I never get tired of it. Some people (writing teachers ahem) may think this isn't believable, that this could never happen the way it did, but it's all true and I think a lot of the reason why I love this story so much is because it makes me feel like there's a such thing as fate, that true love is real, that we all have a true love. When I was alone and sad I would think of this story and it reassured me that there has to be a higher power out there somewhere and that the way love and the Universe and everything works is beautifully, magically mysterious.
So here's the story. Now my mother hates when I talk about her drug days. I wish she didn't because the drug stories are the absolute best and of course she hasn't done or seen or even thought about drugs for 30 years, so I think it makes her ashamed. She shouldn't be ashamed. She should be glad she had a writer for a child because I can appreciate good, wild stories when I hear them without thinking she was a bad person. My mother wasn't a bad person. She was simply the creator of great stories.
My mother was 23 and Aunt Kiki was 18. The two of them were a mess. They lived in Millpond and my mother had established a veritable drug selling empire all in the name of making enough money to buy a house and a car, and a canopy bed and a Snoopy Snow Cone maker for me along with a full length fur coat for herself. Once she had those things in place she could also hire a team of lawyers to regain custody of me. She believed that with money her problems would be solved and in a remote, rural place like Millpond, where the best paying jobs (which were still low income) were both seasonal and miserable, the only way to make enough money to get these things quickly enough was to sell drugs. I will gloss over the part about how this plan didn't exactly work as she'd imagined it. I guess I'll put all that in the novel one day.
Due to the booming drug trade and a disdain for Millpond, my mother escaped Millpond for the key lime pies and Coppertone of Florida. She took Aunt Kiki with her and the two of them got makeovers, partied in Discos, shopped and generally had too much of a good time. In fact, it was the best time either of them had ever had. It was like when Pinocchio went to Pleasure Island. They started off living at a beachfront motel, but quickly made friends here in South Florida and ended up staying with them, where they'd sleep all day and party all night, every night. They were having the life, rolling in fast, easy cash and spending up a storm. But no matter how much they spent, they still had more because that was just how lucrative selling drugs was in 1979 (I guess it still is, but I have no idea as I know no drug dealers now thank heavens).
One morning my mother and Aunt Kiki stopped at a Denny's in Hollywood, Florida to make a phone call. Drug dealing must have been a pain in the ass back then, before the advent of cell phones. Everyone had to constantly stop at pay phones and scrounge up change to make a call when away from home.
I don't know whom my mother had to call. I've never had to ask. Maybe she was calling her fiance Sal, whom she'd abandoned back in Millpond. I don't know. What I do know is that she had to call someone and that she couldn't figure out how to use the phone.
Right when she was having trouble getting the phone to work, a small, scrawny guy with gigantic sunglasses, a shaved head and a velour leisure suit, rolled up in a big, flashy car, got out and helped her. He asked her why she was barefoot. She thought he was the most ridiculous looking man she'd ever seen in that outfit with that shaved head. She must have imagined what people would say if anyone came to Millpond looking like that. People in Florida were so crazy, I bet she thought.
But the man showed her how to use the phone and then left. She made her call and went off on her way.
A couple days later in an entirely different part of South Florida, quite some distance from the Hollywood Denny's, my mother stopped into a 7-11 for a Pepsi. A couple minutes later in walks the stupid looking guy who had helped her use the payphone at Denny's.
"You must be following me," he said.
This annoyed her.
"You're obviously the one following me, because I was here first," she said.
She bought her Pepsi, he bought his cigarettes and they each left.
Now, the very second, the very instant, that they step out the door of the 7-11, the sky opens up, unleashing a monsoon. My mother ran and jumped in her car and the guy ran around to the other side and jumped in her car with her!
Well it poured and poured and poured. It did not stop raining and my mother was so stunned that this strange man had jumped in her car that she obviously didn't go anywhere. She couldn't just pull out with some weird man that she didn't even know sitting in her passenger seat.
The first thing he asked her was why she never wore any shoes. Then she began to tell him about Millpond and how in Millpond most people went around barefoot. He couldn't imagine such a place, so he asked her more about it. Then she wanted to know why he had an accent and he told her about Israel. Before long that had sat in a parked car, in front of a 7-11, in the rain for seven hours.
"I have got to go," she said.
He begged her for a date. She said no and explained about her fiance Sal back home. He begged some more. Finally he asked for her phone number at the place where she was staying and she relented and gave it out.
"Just to be friends," he said.
"Just as friends. I am not dating you. I am an engaged woman."
He called her for six weeks and begged her to go on a date. She refused. She'd see him out here and there, but she wouldn't go on a date with him.
"I told you! I AM ENGAGED!"
By March, he broke her down. She agreed to one date. Just dinner. AS FRIENDS though.
They haven't been apart since and on January 19th, 1980 they were married.
So there were are with our pepperoni slices and White Zinfandel in plastic cups when Lenny Conn walks in.
Immediately my mother begins to recount every horrible, asinine thing this man has ever done. Then he adds another one to the list.
"I can't believe you never invited me to your daughter's wedding. I had to hear about it through the grapevine and I've been waiting for an invitation to your new house for five years."
"Lenny do you not remember when you wrote 'Return to Sender' on the invitation? How about when we personally all came to your house to beg you to come and you refused saying you had 2 weeks to live?? That was 5 YEARS AGO! Obviously you're fine," my mother replied.
I was afraid someone was going to hit someone.
"Well, I was dying but now I'm not."
Ok. Whatever that means.
Everyone else just stood around in amazement wondering who the hell this man with those ridiculous teeth and the frightening plastic surgery gone terribly wrong was.
"He looks like a Jim Carrey character," my husband said.
Then about five of us stood around trying to remember which one before someone remembered Fire Marshall Bill and that just did us in for the rest of the night. After that no one could keep a straight face.
Lupo Lama herded the twelve or so guests over to his family room where he was to be married in front of his faux fireplace.
But before I get into the ceremony, I have to quickly note the decor in Lupo Lama's house. He has a magnificent house. It's enormous. It used to be the biggest fanciest house on the block and it kills him that now there are other fancy, grand houses too. He's a bitter, jealous man who is obsessed with competing with his neighbors. For instance, due to a design mistake my parents had to get their driveway redone. The same week, Lupo had to get his driveway redone even bigger than theirs. One neighbor bought a Hummer. Lupo immediately went out and bought TWO. A red one and a yellow one. Just last week another neighbor bought a convertible Jaguar. Literally, the next day, Lupo went out and bought the exact same one. Now get this. HE DOESN"T EVEN HAVE A LICENSE. He can't drive because he is mentally and physically unable to operate a vehicle. We think it's possible that Lupo felt he needed to have a wedding at his house because my parents had my sister's wedding at their house. Except he has no friends and we do.
But anyway - Lupo's house is quite grand and fussy. He has a real, taxidermied lion. The whole house is columns and marble, gold, brocade and statues. Many years ago he visited Caesar's Palace in Vegas and it left such an impression on him that he designed his house to look like it. And it kinda does which is fantastic because everyone should live in a house that looks like a casino. Now because he is such a wack job and a paranoid freak, he had the house built with no windows on the sides. There are only windows in the front and back and these he keeps covered with hurricane shutters year round. At night he covers the front door with a big, metal thing that looks like a garage door. The house is a full three stories dedicated to gaudiness, however from certain angles the rooms do look pretty in an 80s inspired, Caesar'ish kind of way. You just have to see it to believe it.
Lupo wanted to be wed in front of the elaborate faux hearth. This was actually a good decision, being that it's next to the high-lacquer, white baby grand piano which was being played by a man who definitely believed he was Yanni Live at the Acropolis. No, I kid, I kid. It was pretty. They had even decorated with a weird mix of flowers that we all commented looked like they were from a funeral. And that is because THEY WERE. I mean, you don't have wreaths on metal tripods at a wedding. Lupo's latest business venture involves something about recycling unused, half wilted funeral flowers that the families of the departed don't take. He swears there's a goldmine waiting to be had in reselling unwanted funeral flowers. So I guess he was demonstrating this principle at his fourth wedding. I don't know. It was odd.
The ceremony was brief and it would have been briefer had Lenny Conn not decided to make it into the Lenny Conn Show. Mainly it wasn't a ceremony. It was Lenny Conn talking about himself and then the couple kissing. They didn't even exchange rings or vows. Lenny yammered. Lupo stood there and looked around as if he were hallucinating bugs flying around his head. He tic-ed and jerked and grunted like he does. The bride looked absolutely stunned the entire time because this is the only expression of which she is capable.
Halfway through the Lenny Conn Show, the neighbor's daughter whispers something in my ear.
"Check out the past wedding photos on the mantle," she said.
And oh my God there they were. Lupo was getting married in front of a fireplace whose mantle held portraits of his past three brides. I could not believe it. Wouldn't you think SHE would have taken them down? Did no one notice this ahead of time? My God. Really.
The happy couple then kissed on the cheek, but no. Lenny wasn't ready to be out of the spotlight. He then decided that an impromptu renewal of my parents' vows was in order.
Now I commend him for this. Their 30th anniversary is next week. What are the odds of Lenny being there and it being their 30th in a week? In some ways it was a nice idea. The thing is I knew Lupo would be enraged. He likes to be the center of attention. Remember I said he was competitive. He can't stand anyone showing him up. He would see this as stealing his thunder and it kind of was. He's so bad that whenever my parents have a party, he throws a party on the same night and tries to get people to come to his house instead. His argument is that his parties are the "classy parties" except that they aren't and whenever he throws one he bosses his guests around, makes them continually rearrange their seating, then makes them all clean up and forces them to watch his Andrea Bocelli dvds until he decides it's time for them to leave. It's not a good time.
So my parents not so much as renew their vows as they stand in front of Lenny and listen to him talk about how he swore it would never work and how they are the only people to ever prove him wrong. But in all honesty, after that he did say some touching things and it was a sweet moment that everyone loved and it worked. Lupo must have taken his meds because he didn't pitch a fit about it.
Essentially that was the wedding. When the ceremony ended, people all milled around some more avoiding the eggplant rollatini, which looked as if it had scabs, and wondered at which point it would finally be polite to leave.
Unfortunately there was a terrible British woman with a Cockney accent who was drunk and sloppy and held everyone hostage, declaring that no one could leave. Apparently she is the bride's best friend. Can you say Hot Mess? She was about 55 with a snarled rat's nest of dyed black hair and she had herself crammed into a most inappropriate and unflattering turquoise, spandex mini, tank dress. My grandfather used to have this saying and upon seeing this woman it popped into my head. She looked like ten pounds of crap stuffed in a five pound bag. Bless her heart.
But she stood and blocked the exit from the kitchen and if anyone tried to escape she grabbed them in a headlock, tried to make out with them and slurred loudly about how they needed to come back to England with her. She was like some monster out of The Odyssey. We found the secret though. You had to throw a box of wine of the opposite direction and then when she went for it, you had run for it. Tragically, the women all made it out and over to my parents' house. My dad, the neighbor's husband and my husband were stuck with her for another hour. They didn't toss the box of wine far enough I guess. I don't know how they made it out alive. By midnight I was scared we'd have to send a rescue crew to the International Terminal of Miami airport lest she really try to kidnap them to England.
But Lupo Lama got married. If it will last, no one knows. Perhaps she is Lupo's last, best hope - a real chance at love for someone who really needs a caring, compassionate influence to heal his deep wounds. Perhaps she is just another South Florida gold digger looking to make a quick million off an old, insecure, mentally ill rich man or perhaps she will come back from their Bali honeymoon ready to get the whole business annulled. Only time will tell. I can't make a prediction. I already lost my bet when I said it wouldn't happen. How long do you give it?
When we last left off we were mulling around the cold cuts right before Lupo Lama and his bride's wedding ceremony was about to start when a six foot five African drag queen strolled in, stopping all conversation instantly. Now when I say "Drag Queen" I mean just that. This is not a slur against transgendered people. I don't even know if this person considered herself transgendered. This person was all show, like with a sequined gown and boa and the whole deal. There was theatrics. I thought she was entertainment and expected a cabaret style rendition of something from "Dream Girls" any second. But no. After she made her dramatic entrance we heard the most annoying, grating voice in all of South Florida shrieking in amazement that my parents were there. It sounded like Gilbert Gottfried on crystal meth and there is only one person on earth who sounds like that - Lenny Conn.
First we heard his voice and then we saw his teeth. Lenny's teeth arrive before the rest of him. They're about seven sizes too big for his withered, sunken jaw and shriveling head and they're as white and square as bathroom tiles. The man is all teeth.
"LENNY CONN!!!" my mother begins gasping in horror.
Everyone looks at her confused, because they don't know this man as Lenny Conn. To them he is only Leonard Wilmont Barrington III, Esquire. That's because they didn't know him when he was younger. Back in the 80s Lenny became a laughingstock around town after getting in to some trouble. People called him "Con-Man" and made fun of his name. I think they even called him that on the news. He disappeared and then made a dramatic come back after legally changing his name to "Leonard Wilmont Barrington III, Esquire." I think he thought that name sounded very aristocratic. Like maybe people would take him seriously. It really is hard to take someone named Lenny Conn seriously. I get that. After the name change, he took on some minorly high profile cases and I think he was on part of an episode of the Richard Bey Show or maybe Rolanda Watts once. Do you remember those shows? Didn't think so. So to me and my parents, he will always be Lenny Conn and I've known him since I was five.
My dad met Lenny Conn in 1974. They were both in their 20s. South Florida was a crazy time back then. You ever see "Scarface?" That was pretty much how it was. Lenny and my dad were good friends because my dad is so easy going that he can be friends with anyone. He is probably the only person who can stand Lenny. When my parents met in '79, Lenny was furious. He couldn't stand my mother and did everything to prevent my parents' marriage. After my mother was busted and ended up in jail, she called Lenny to bail her out. She had to call collect from the jail, but Lenny, because he is cheap, refused to accept the 25 cent charges and let her sit there. She says she's never forgiven him and she never liked him in the first place because back in the day he used to take advantage of my aunt and sleep with her and give her drugs when she was just a teenager.
Lenny hit the ceiling when my dad told him he was marrying my mom in 1980. All three of them were at Lenny's townhouse. He was standing on the top of the stairs while they were on the landing.
"YOU CAN'T MARRY THAT C---!!!" he screamed and with that, as if pushed by some supernatural force, he fell all the way down the stairs, nearly breaking his tailbone.
After that he swore my mother was a witch.
Somehow they got him to officiate their ceremony, which was planned in one day and at their apartment. Come to think of it, it sounds like Lupo Lama's wedding plans. Now why my mother would allow someone to perform her ceremony who had just called her the C-word, I don't know. You'll have to ask her. I think they couldn't find anyone else.
Then, my mother looked at her wedding license and saw that Lenny had stamped it with an expired Notary stamp in an attempt to make the wedding invalid. He swears it was an innocent oversight, but we tend to think he did it on purpose. That's just the sort of thing he does. They made him re-do it, so yes, my parents are actually married.
After that, we didn't live in Florida until the end of 1989. By then I was 15 and when we moved back my parents reconnected with Lenny Conn, who had changed his name by then and was driving around town in a garish pink Porsche.
I forgot to mention that Lenny is/was friends with my Evil-Ex fiance's father, Mr. Electric Shock Treatment himself. Lunatics tend to congregate, especially in South Florida, so that explains that. Were it not for Lenny Conn, I would never have been engaged to a man who got another girl pregnant and then sued me and stole my house. So thanks Lenny Conn, because I apparently needed to experience that level of devastation in my life.
Lenny Conn back then shared our love of Morrisson's cafeteria. He liked it because it was cheap. He had 2 restaurants he'd go to. Morrisson's and this Italian joint. We went to both places too. Lenny'd go to the Italian place and order a veal parm sub without the bread because it was fifty cents cheaper than the veal parm dinner. Then he'd try to complain to see if he could get something for free. He did this at Morrisson's too. If we saw his car, we'd go somewhere else, but then he caught on. I think he stalked us to Morrisson's I swear. We'd be in there enjoying our meals when he'd come in and act like it was a shock to see us there. He'd sit down uninvited and make a big display like he was going to treat us to our Morrisson's Cafeteria dinner. Then he'd get up to the register and create a big scene because "Oh My God, you won't believe it, I've forgotten my wallet!! Can you guys just do me this little favor and get it this time and let me owe you one?" Of course we were on to him. After a couple times of being put in this awkward situation my mom rifled through her purse.
"Oh My God Lenny, what are the odds? You'll never believe it. I forgot my money and credit cards too. What'll we do? Go look in your car and see if your wallet's in there."
And of course his wallet miraculously rematerialized. This is why Lenny hates my mother. That's how Lenny became his very own verb. Whenever someone was cheap or selfish or tried to get out of paying we'd say there were "Pulling a Lenny."
Lenny was just such a jackass. He was rude, annoying, cheap and selfish and vain. A perpetual bachelor with no kids, he hated women and was just insufferable to be around.
Around 2000 when I moved back to Florida after Evil Ex ruined my life, we ran into Lenny at the bagel shop. He was getting deep into his plastic surgery addiction by then and had just had work done. Both of his ears were tracked with stitches and his face was pulled tight as if he were standing in 200 mile per hour winds. This is when the bathroom tile teeth made their first appearance.
Now being a vain jackass, Lenny Conn could never admit to having plastic surgery. No.
"I'm so glad to see you guys," he said, "I nearly died. You won't believe what happened to me. I really almost died."
"What Lenny?" we asked.
"I was in Costa Rica last month and was in a terrible taxi accident. We were hit so hard that my ears literally flew off my head and they had to be sewn back on. And all my teeth had to be replaced."
OK. His ears just FLEW OFF HIS HEAD from the force of the collision. Because people's ears fly off all the time.
We're still laughing over that one.
For a while after that we kept seeing him at the Greek Diner on the Island where he'd eat pancakes and sausage every night.
"I'm trying to kill myself eating this," he'd say despondently, "I know I look so trim and fit and young but on the inside I'm rotting. I have heart disease. I'm dying so I'm eating pancakes to accelerate my death. The doctor gave me two months to live."
My mom and I fell for it once and felt all sorry for him and sat with him for two hours and talked until it was time to pay and then the jerk had the balls to try that forgetting his wallet crap on us again!
We felt it was right to invite him to my wedding. I also wanted him to go so he could tell Evil Ex's Dad about it and then Evil Ex would also know. I know that's immature. I know it is, but you'd do it too. Shut up, yes you would.
Lenny sent the invitation back!
With my parents, we drove to Lenny's house which is the very same townhouse where he fell down the stairs 30 years ago after call my mom a C. We went to implore Lenny to come, to let him know that in spite of the fact that he is one of the biggest idiots in South Florida, that he still holds a special place in our hearts and our family history. We sincerely wanted him there.
"Can't do it. No way," he said.
"Why Lenny? Why?" I asked.
"Because I'm dying. I won't be here in a month. I won't make it to your wedding. I will be gone. I just hope you'll come to my funeral. It's been a long, hard road and I'm ready to go to God now. I'm so frail. I know, I know I don't look it. I look fantastic don't I? I really do. But I'm a dead man. I may die in my sleep tonight. You know, I died on the operating table already. So now I'm just trying to decide who I want my organs to go to. You know how charitable I am, so I want to donate, but I want to see the people on the organ waiting list. I don't want my corneas in some fat bitch."
So we promised Lenny we'd be at his funeral, but no notice of his death ever came and he did not attend my wedding.
We never heard from Lenny Conn again. We thought he really did die and no one had told us. Of course, he really didn't look like he was dying and he is a gigantic drama queen, but you just never know. We didn't even see him around town, which was highly unusual.
We didn't see Lenny until he came to perform the wedding ceremony of Lupo Lama and the woman who looks exactly like a blow up sex doll. We didn't know he'd be there and he didn't know we'd be there. You can imagine how that went.
Tomorrow we'll resume the wedding festivities.
Many people have asked me if anything went crazily awry at my sister's wedding. I have to say that it really didn't. Yes, we had our usual, colorful group present. Nothing went wrong. At the last minute I switched out to flats, thus making my dress too long, but I felt steadier on that staircase. I didn't fall. I didn't have hysterics upon seeing my sister as a bride. It was lovely. The whole thing. The only things that were even remotely problematic were my addict relative, pre-rehab, causing a general scene and directing all of the attention to her stupid self as usual and making several other relatives have a bad time because they were babysitting her. Other than that, Velva Haux, our friendly neighborhood hooker/ escort service owner, who has been divorced at least four times, literally attacked my poor Orthodox cousin, knocking her viciously to the ground during the bouquet toss. Velva went after that bouquet like an angry Grizzly and ripped it from poor Miriam's innocent, never wed, virginal hands. Luckily, Velva didn't harm the poor girl, but the bouquet itself didn't fare so well. Petals shredded. There was an awkward moment afterwards, as you can imagine.
Other than that, the wedding was perfect. Boring even, at least in story-telling terms.
I went to a wedding last Friday you would have liked much better.
Friday afternoon my sister came over and we (ironically) were watching a marathon of "Platinum Weddings" when my phone rang.
"Did your mom tell you?" my husband asked. He called from work.
"Lupo Lama is getting married."
"Oh dear," I said.
Lupo Lama is my parents' neighbor. He's an eccentric, old millionaire. He's curmudgeonly; deeply mentally imbalanced on good days and totally bat-crap, sick in the head on bad days. He looks exactly like a wolf man with a lot of moles and a dreadful dye job that looks like he brushes his plugs with shoe polish. It isn't cute. You may remember Lupo from last Thanksgiving when we discovered an insane woman in the middle of the street in front of my parents' house. He'd met her online and flown her across the country only to have her freak out on their first date and assault a cop, which landed her in jail for two days. It was a mess.
Since that, Lupo has dated several other women. His usual profile is Latina women in their 50s and naturally they all have to be nuts. He's departed from this a couple times in the past year, once dating a 37 year old, ruthless gold digger who broke his heart. Over the summer he flew a woman up from Brazil who looked 50 but said she was 34. Lupo said he was going to marry her. She spoke not a lick of English, so my husband showed them how to communicate via the Babel Fish translator. I know. They used to stand in front of the computer for hours trying to translate a conversation. When she translated that she wanted several thousand dollars to send back to Brazil, Lupo translated that he wanted her to cook and clean for him. This arrangement lasted about a month before he either threw her out or she got fed up and left.
In September or so, Lupo met a new woman who was not Latina, spoke English and was age appropriate. She is in her 50s and has grown children. She looks exactly like a blow up sex doll. The woman can barely move because she is inflated with so much collagen and Juvederm. Her eye job made her eyes look big and round. In fact, everything on this woman is big and round. The Botox gives her its signature look of perpetual shock, as if she is at an endless surprise party. Her breast implants look like beach balls. It wouldn't surprise me if she also has butt implants, because her behind is also big and round. Everything else on her is frail and tiny. Lupo bragged when they first met that she had zero body fat. Is that even possible?
By November Miss Blow Up Doll was sporting a huge rock on her ring finger. Lupo had gotten engaged. His kids were livid. They're shockingly normal. I'm friends with his son and his boyfriend and they're great. Being normal, the kids were not pleased that their dad, with his long string of relationship catastrophes and three other marriages under his belt, had gotten engaged in all of 6 weeks to a woman who looks exactly like a blow up sex doll. They believe she is a gold digger. I tend to agree with them because no woman could ever possibly put up with Lupo Lama without getting a ton of money to do so. The kids wanted a prenup. They worried about their inheritances. But Lupo was in love.
We had heard through neighborhood gossip that Lupo and Sex Doll were flying off to Bali to get married. At New Year's I took tasteless bets with his kids about how long the marriage would last. I went all for it and bet that it wouldn't happen at all. Alas, I was wrong.
Then, this past Friday at about 4:30 or 5 in the afternoon, my husband calls to tell me about the wedding.
"So I guess I lost the bet," I said, "They're still going to Bali?"
"No, I mean they're getting married at 7," my husband said.
"Yes, and we're invited."
Is it sick to admit that I was excited because I knew I could write about it?
It was a small affair at Lupo's house. He'd invited all the neighbors on my parents' block. He had chicken cutlets and cold cuts, along with a nice box of wine as his wedding feast. None of his kids were present, which is sad really, and all of neighbors who don't even like Lupo were standing around the cold cuts, sipping their White Zinfandel awkwardly wondering what on earth to do or say. Because Lupo Lama doesn't have many real friends.
Luckily, a six foot five, African drag queen walked in and broke the tension.
And the six foot five, African drag queen was the date of none other than Lenny Conn, one of South Florida's most insane and notorious lawyers.
Lenny Conn married my parents almost exactly 30 years ago. He was officiating over Lupo's wedding too. It would be only the second ceremony he had ever performed. Lenny Conn, unbeknown to anyone, is Lupo Lama's lawyer.
My mother, who hates Lenny Conn, almost fainted.
The rest tomorrow, as Lenny Conn has so much back-story that he needs his own post.
You've already figured out who the Wolf Man and the Blow Up Doll are in the picture. So who is Fire Marshall Bill? Why, it's Lenny Conn, the spitting image of Fire Marshall Bill and the reason why cosmetic surgery is generally a terrible idea. I'll get into that and Lenny's long history with my family tomorrow. Hope you're enjoying this so far...
Please read "Just Humor Me." The bit about the iguanas dropping out of trees is all true. There are iguanas all over the ground. I can't tell you how many I've seen and it's the weirdest thing. Apparently they are ok, but they do look awfully dead. Lord knows, I've wished the iguanas much harm, especially when they ate my attempts at gardening and then pooped their toxic, salmonella filled waste everywhere on our dock, but I hate to think of them in actual suffering. Maybe I should start a charity that knits little sweaters for them.
Since you all couldn't be at the wedding, I wanted to share with you the speech I gave as the maid of honor. I hope you like it. I'm dreading the video where I have to see myself giving it because I was so choked up and high pitched and people kept clapping like they wanted me to end it already. You know how people do that when someone is a train wreck on stage and they want them to get off before they humiliate themselves even more? It was like that. So, the part where I say he is a hero for our country is true. My sister married a military man who jumps out of planes and diffuses bombs in Afghanistan and got dysentary and saw his friends killed. He's incredible and I wanted to subtly mention that in the speech. Also, I have no idea what happened with the font and the spacing on this post. I can't figure it out. It's all double spaced. Jeez. This is what happens when I try to copy and paste. Disaster. But here's my speech:
"Four years ago, after my wedding, which many of you remember, the first thing I said when it was all over, was that I couldn’t wait for my little sister to be able to experience a day as beautiful, magical and wondrous as mine. At the time, I don’t even think she was dating anyone, but all I could think about was how excited I was for her to one day be a bride too. I wanted her to feel that same sense of elation and joy, that feeling of celebration, all for her and her fiancé. But really, it was more than that. What I truly wanted for her, was not just a big party with champagne, cake and gorgeous flowers. I wanted her to feel loved and protected.
Sister and I are almost nine years apart. I had been an only child until she came around and I really took my role as big sister very seriously. I’ve always believed it was my job to protect her and to keep her safe; to show her the right way. Now sometimes I defined “keeping her safe” as dragging her down an icy hill by the hood of her coat to make sure she got on the bus to kindergarten. Other times it meant helping her with her homework, dressing her up for Halloween and making gingerbread houses with her out of graham crackers. I even taught her how to talk and how to read. Unfortunately, there were a few things I couldn’t protect her from such as extremely bad 80s hair, an enormous pair of blue horned rimmed glasses and a New Kids on the Block bedspread. Believe I tried, but I was no match for Joey McIntyre. When we got older, keeping her safe was giving her advice (often unsolicited) about relationships and school, and I never ever gave up that role as the over-protective, worrying big sister. I just couldn’t. I always felt like she still wasn’t completely safe in the big, adult world, like someone might hurt her, like something might happen that would prevent her from living her best and happiest life.
Last Spring, when Sister told me she’d met someone, I bristled. My big sister instincts kicked in. Who was this guy? Where was he from? What did he do? What did he want with her? I was suspicious. That is, until I met M. The first time I met M, he sat down and talked to me about books and food, my two favorite things in the world. He listened to all of my crazy stories. He was attentive to my little sister. He looked at her as if she were the most beautiful thing he had ever seen and then we cooked together. That first time the four of us (me and Husband and Sister and M) BBQed, I instantly felt like we were family. I told Sister the next day that she had to marry him, that he fit and that he felt right.
I used to worry that Sister was working too hard. Sometimes I worried that she wasn’t eating enough or sleeping enough or that she was lonely. I worried that she might get sick or hurt and not have anyone right there to help her. I even worried that she had to carry groceries up three flights of stairs. I used to even worry about her cat. Then, towards the end of summer, I realized, kind of by accident, that I had unconsciously stopped worrying about her.
I stopped worrying because I knew she had found the right person in M – a man who was strong, who had integrity and character, a man who valued family and all that comes with it. She had found a man who is a true hero, both for our country and also for her. I don’t have to worry anymore, because I know Sister is safe with M. I know that she is loved and protected now.
I also know that M has a princess and I am overjoyed for them both. I am truly celebrating both of them today.
Let’s raise our glasses and let them overflow with best wishes for a beautiful, happy, healthy life together. We have so much to be happy for.
To M and Sister!"
I have been in a horrible rut and I've also been extremely exhausted. I'm talking exhausted to the point where I just can't even move. Yesterday I got off of the couch and went to the kitchen to pour a drink and I was actually out of breath and tired from that. School started this week too, which hasn't helped. I feel like I had no vacation.
Since my birthday, my life has been in a state of constant, total chaos and I just physically can't keep up with it all. We had so many relatives in town and then, two days after Christmas, I drove up to Orlando for three days to stay in my aunt and uncle's timeshare and go to Disney. It was a lot of fun, but added to my exhaustion. I've just been doing too much and on top of that, I feel a constant sense of overwhelming anxiety and sadness that I can't shake. My husband thinks something is wrong with me and that I need to go to the doctor because I'm sleeping too much, so soon, when I can get the energy, I'll make an appointment. It could be my thyroid, except I actually lost weight, so I doubt that. It could also be the lupus because that can definitely make you fatigued. The only way to know is to get some blood work done and see. It could just be that I overdid it for a long time and it finally caught up to me.
So this is going to be one of those rambling update posts where I explain what I've been doing.
First a Twitter update - I do not like Twitter. I think it's hard. I don't like the limitations. I want to be more concise, but 140 letters is a bit too concise. Still, my month isn't over yet and I did say I'd do it for a month, so we'll see how I feel on the 17th.
Next on a more serious note - We've been dealing some extremely difficult family situations. In my writing I tend to err on the side of privacy. I don't like to over share. I don't like when other people over share. I get very uncomfortable reading about the current and ongoing personal problems of other bloggers. These things tend to not have the distance required for coherent writing and are best written about long after they have ended. That said, let me over share a tad and break my own rule about writing about problems while they are happening.
A close family member of mine is an addict. The person has been abusing her family as well as herself. It has been extremely painful for everyone involved. Twice since my birthday this person has overdosed and ended up in the hospital. No amount of begging or reasoning has been able to even make a dent in this person's denial about her addiction. We know this family member is going to die.
Last weekend we staged an intervention with an outside expert. It took hours and was emotionally devastating to everyone involved. It was exactly like everything you've ever seen on TV or worse. The family member repeatedly refused rehab over and over and even told us she would rather live on the street and continue to use than to ever go to rehab. After many long hours and a private talk with the expert, the family member finally gave up and said she'd go. My parents drove this person straight to a rehab facility at midnight and checked her in, but she was extremely angry about the whole thing. Two days ago we heard from one of the counselors and he said that she has been very hostile in therapy and group sessions and this is to be expected, especially during detox, but that's all we know. This person can't have any contact with us for a long time. We don't know how long it will be. The whole thing has been more terrible than I can even explain. It's something I won't be able to step back from and write about for a few years and at this point, we don't even know if the rehab will work. We just hope that she will stay, although with no possessions or money, I have no idea where she'd go if she walked out. All I can say is that it is truly a miracle that she even went at all.
Remember when I mentioned I had some family problems around my birthday? This was a part of what I meant.
Another big problem that I've been having is my phobia of having children. I don't want to share any more about this right now but it boils down to the fact that my husband really wants children and I really do not. I feel exactly like Elizabeth Gilbert in the beginning of Eat, Pray, Love where every month when she gets her period she secretly celebrates even though her husband is sad. I feel like a terrible person, but I just can't get over my fear of pregnancy and babies and the possibility of having a disabled child. And all of that makes me feel guilty.
The Refrigerator - Over Christmas my old refrigerator died. It happened the weekend of my sister's wedding, so of course I wasn't home for four days and when I arrived back at my apartment it smelled like someone was stashing dead bodies in my ceiling. I guess the fridge had died on Thursday as soon as I left. It was a major ordeal and I was so mad to lose all that food. It killed me. I hate food waste and I especially hate cleaning up what I can only describe as a gumbo of decay. I'll spare you the details. So then my husband and I had to go get a new fridge, right at Christmas when there was no delivery and we hadn't budgeted for any major appliances. Hello credit card debt. This pissed me off too because I never have credit card debt and now I owe 650$. Oh well.
So my husband and I have very different shopping styles. I, having no patience, find a store, go in and buy the thing I need. It takes about ten minutes. My husband first looks things up on the Internet for hours and prints things out and makes elaborate files. Next, we visit seventeen stores, take pictures, cross reference the files we made earlier, come home and look at more things on the Internet, then visit twelve more stores, try to bargain with several sales people and show them papers from the file folder and things we've taken pictures of. This can take months, people.
In the end, I went in to Sears alone (the first store we visited anyway) with my credit card and just bought a refrigerator. This is where my husband becomes a true hero though. In real Claymation Christmas Saving Spirit, he and a friend borrowed a truck and drove to the distribution center and picked it up for me, since there was no delivery available Christmas week. I was so happy I almost wanted to have unprotected sex with him. Almost.
But I know you want to know all about everything since my birthday.
Here is a small chart of what my past two months have looked like:
Birthday Party with Horse, Fireworks and Belly Dancers with Swords
My Anniversary - such a nice, calm night. We went out to dinner. Nothing dramatic. It was great.
Wedding Planning Frenzy involving making 200 Christmas ornaments as party favors and no one fitting in their dress.
Finals Week at 3 schools.
OH MY GOD THE WEDDING IS HERE
Here is what the wedding looked like: picking up people from the crowded holiday season airport, losing everything important and trying to find it, a monsoon rainstorm with flooding 2 days before the wedding, getting trapped in a sex shop searching for a garter for an hour during the monsoon floods, getting diamonds on my fingernails against my will and being teased about it for the whole weekend, more people in from out of town, writing my speech the day of the wedding, having a hair tragedy the day of the wedding because I was too cheap and impatient to go to a salon like everyone else, rehearsal, more people, THE WEDDING, my speech, a bunch of pictures, people trying to make me dance and Wow!! there is a tent covering the entire backyard at my parents' house, three people face planting on the dance floor, one guy sleeping in the grass and someone puking on the driveway, post wedding BBQ and then we're back to the fridge situation. Whew!
The day after the wedding we had to go Christmas shopping since we hadn't earlier because we were busy wedding planning.
Here is what Christmas week looked like:
Crowded mall, wanting to kill people at crowded mall, boxes, bags, wrapping paper, running out of tape every five minutes, cooking, eating, Christmas Eve, stray cat in the house Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Catchphrase until 3am. A lot of people. Too much fudge.
The day after Christmas our friends had a Boxing Day party and I stupidly volunteered to make 3 dozen mince pies for it. So more cooking and people and getting dressed to go places.
On the 27th I went to Orlando and ran around at theme parks in the cold for 3 days and ate at Red Lobster.
By then it was New Year's Eve and although my parents said they didn't want a party, a party showed up anyway. I'm pretty sure some of the guests were hookers. On New Year's Eve my relative overdosed, so that basically ruined the evening.
New Year's Day - we cook a big traditional Southern meal and more people come over. At some point I wonder where my vacation went.
Then OH MY GOD!! School starts this week! I have to make syllabi and about 750 xerox copies and lesson plans and class rosters and a three hour meeting on diversity and behavior and team building exercises. Somewhere in all of this I reflect for a moment on how I had just wanted to see a movie.
And did I forget to mention, yes I think I did, that in the midst of all of this, I caught a virus? I tried to deny it for a few days, but I had a sore throat, a fever and body aches during all this too. It was fantastic. I highly recommend being sick both on vacation and when you're in the midst of constant activity and social obligations.
Then we had the intervention.
After that I had to get rid of the Christmas tree. I am still finding needles in the strangest of places. The kitchen cabinet? In my bed? Floating in the toilet? How do these things travel like this? My God. I see why people prefer fiberglass.
Then I started school.
Then it got freezing cold and snowed in Florida, although by me it just looked misty and not even remotely like any snow I've seen. So yes, we are all wearing the coats we bought five years ago for the vacations we took to New York in February and haven't worn since and all the rich socialites get to wear their furs in earnest.
I think that catches us all up now. Right?
Do you see why I'm tired?
I think I'll go back to bed now.
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