Friday, May 28, 2010

Bombaclaat's Discovery - Scroll Past the Pictures for the Story

Pork Grease - Hair Gel for Dogs

Trash Dog

Bacon Grass - The New Dog Treat

I spent my whole day learning how to smoke pork butt with my Uncle Bull. For the occasion, my parents had been going to rent a smoker, but when confronted with the allure of black cylindrical fire pits, they broke down and just bought one. Now, they are leaving for their summer RV adventure next week (or so) so I can pretty much tell you how my summer is going to go. My husband will never not smell like smoke and that's all I'm going to say about it for now. I'm predicting that he will try to smoke everything. We'll have smoked Cheetos, smoked candied nuts, smoked pasta, smoked pineapple and possibly even smoked lizards.

But at least I know how to smoke a pork butt now. Isn't that something every woman ought to be able to do? I mean, I can't make a bed properly. Hospital corners elude me, but at least I can say that while many domestic tasks aren't my strong suits, that I can smoke a hunk of pig.

Step 1 - make sure the beer's cold. That's the first thing I learned, except in this case the beer is root.

We made a fire, got the coals right, soaked the wood chips and dry rubbed the raw meat. It was quite elaborate. Then we pretty much put the meat in the smoker, closed the lid and went in the house to BS and cuss for the rest of the day while looking at old pictures.

During this time my parents went to Costco to get supplies for the BBQ Fundraiser we're having tomorrow to support wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital. I stayed my lazy, pregnant ass home because of course I had to oversee the smoker.

Well, by and by I noticed that the big dog was asleep on the kitchen floor but that the famous Bombaclaat was nowhere to be found, which is highly unusual.

Bombaclaat, the aged mini-pin, has been through a considerable rough spell. To begin with, he is probably equal to about 117 people years. He's a mess. About six weeks ago he got really sick. He already takes a pharmacy of medications for his various ailments, but nothing was working. He started attacking people more than usual (meaning he even attacked us now) and he wouldn't get out of bed. Turned out he had a bad infection in his paw which had spread into his bone and blood and it was making him feel miserable. Most of the paw had to be amputated. He wore a cast and it took about a month to heal and in the past two weeks it's like Bombaclaat is a new dog. It's like he's found the canine fountain of youth. Suddenly he's full of vitality, playing, eating and having a good time.

But he still wasn't having such a good time that he'd go missing. I looked all over the house and he wasn't in the usual places, so I went outside eventually and found Bombaclaat manning the smoker, by which I mean he was furiously and frantically licking the grass under the smoker while hot grease dripped on his head. Bombaclaat had sunk to a new all time low.

This dog has had an eating disorder for as long as he's been alive. We're convinced that he could eat us all under the table. He's like a piranha when confronted with anything edible, and to him, edible has a very broad definition. Cat turds are an exquisite delicacy in his world. This dog though, if left to his own devices, would do nothing but eat. Once he connived his way on to a guest's lap, just so he could jump on the table and eat a whole pumpkin pie in seconds flat before someone noticed. Another time he stood in front of our groceries and growled at us when we tried to put them away. He has intimidated the other dog, who is ten times his size, so that they can't eat together. The big dog is terrified of him. He turns into a raving maniac when there is food to be had.

Earlier, we had shuffled the pork butts around and had inadvertently spilled a bunch of hot pork fat in the grass and all down the side of the smoker. A lot of it was still dripping off the sides and it was blistering hot. Did this dog care? Of course not. He had found flavored grass. Greasy, smoky, pork flavored grass. It was heaven and he was bound and determined to lick every morsel of flavor from every last blade of grass. I mean, regular grass is pretty good as is. He eats grass all the time. But this...this was Bacon Grass. Bombaclaat, I could tell, wondered how on earth he got so lucky when the other dog didn't even have a clue this wonderful treat was outside in the yard. The Bacon Grass was all his and he wasn't going to miss any of it.

I tried to chase him away from the smoker, but he tried to attack me. When it started to rain, his licking only became more frantic. He licked in a panic and then began to rip clumps of grass out of the ground before the rain could dilute the delicious pigginess of it all. I had to put a stop to it. I made him come inside at that point.

You should have seen that dog's head. It was pure fat. Bombaclaat looked like a 50s greaser or better yet, like he had one of those gelled to hell, Jersey Shore blowouts. And once I got him back in the house, he sat and licked all the taste off of his paws, silently cursing me, I'm certain.

By then my parents had gotten home from Costco and my mother attempted to clean him off, but plain water wouldn't cut through it. She had to use Joy soap like he was one of those poor animals caught in the Gulf oil spill and he was just livid the whole time because he liked smelling like Bacon. Smoky lard is like the finest cologne to dogs. That smell, to them, is even better than the exotic raccoon poop both of the dogs have been rolling in for the past week. Well actually, now that I think of it, hickory smoked pork butt is even better smelling than raccoon poop to people too, but you know what I'm trying to say here. Bombaclaat didn't want to smell like a clean pile of lemon scented dishes. He wanted to bathe in grease and he was so mad that my mother cleaned him off, that when no one was looking, that crazy dog tore open a trash bag from when I had cleaned out the fridge and attempted to climb completely inside it. I am not joking. The dog wanted to immerse himself in expired condiments and rotten produce.

Well, at least he's feeling better, right?
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good Fortunes

Girl, October

First of all, I have to thank all of you for your many, many kind, loving and encouraging words of congratulations. Baby Lawns thanks you too because all of the positive energy makes her wiggle.

Someone asked if I could feel her move yet and the answer is yes. She is definitely her father's child because, like him, she is always flitting around. I wouldn't describe it as kicking at all, but I can feel a lot of activity and she responds to noise. The other night we got caught in a huge rainstorm. Husband dropped me off close to our door and then went and parked and I had to stand under the eaves to wait for him to come back and open the front door. There was a big thunderclap and she jumped. She also really seems to like music and dances around inside of me when she hears it. She especially seemed to respond to Crystal Bowersox on American Idol the other night. I kid you not. Even if I eat certain things, it makes her move. When I laugh she flutters around too. It's very cute. I don't know if I'm being New Agey, but I swear they can feel what we feel and respond to positivity, which is partly why I am so insistent on surrounding myself with happy pretty things.

The first time I ever felt her move was after we ate at PF Changs. I am a huge fan of PF Changs. This child is going to love her some Americanized Asian food let me tell you. They say that babies can taste the foods their mothers eat and learn to like certain flavors because of that. If that's the case, this one's going to be really into gingery, sesame, Szechuan peppery things. And watermelon, but we'll get to that. Lettuce too. But anyway, we ate at PF Changs and we each got our fortune cookies. On the backs of the fortunes they have a word in Chinese that you can learn. Husband got "October" as his word and I swear to you, mine said "Girl" and this was before we knew what she wasWe thought it was a sign.  So after we got home I was sitting in a chair staring into space and I felt a bunch of popping and fizzing going on and I thought "Oh my God this PF Changs gave me terrible gas or something!" Then I thought, maybe that's the baby moving. Then I thought, no, it's just gas.  But then it kept happening and I realized that really was her moving around! I guess she was trying to say "HEY! Yeah! It's ME. I am a girl and I am coming in October! And I like dumplings so eat some more!"

Someone else asked me about genetic testing. It's amazing what they can test for now. I think it's also fairly standard procedure too. Most of my friends have had what I had. Mainly it entailed two blood draws several weeks apart and two invasive ultrasounds. Based on those results and your family history more tests can be recommended. Baby Lawns is an overachiever and got the best possible results. I did not want to have an amnio for several reasons, one being that I saw the needle. The main reason though was my RH issue. If I had amnio I would have needed to get an extra shot and I want as few shots as possible and I want to create no scenarios where her blood and my blood can mix.  Still, if she had been a boy, I would have had the amnio because the genetic counselor explained that while girls can be carriers of many conditions, that these conditions are more often expressed in boys. Boys are more delicate when they are developing too. Since she ended up being a girl, the doctor told me he thought amnio was an unnecessary risk. I was relieved. The needle is huge.  I hope that answers the question. Oh, another thing is there is a procedure called CVS that can be done very early and I didn't have it. My doctor said that every woman he has ever sent for this procedure has had a miscarriage, so he no longer recommends it. At the same time, a friend of mine had it and now has a healthy six month old, but she said the procedure was scary and painful. That's about all I can answer because Husband and I were pretty genetically clean. Obviously they can't test for alcoholism, insanity, believing in elaborate conspiracies, strange political and religious ideas or extreme eccentricity because in that department my family history would make me dangerously high risk.


People keep asking me about cravings. I have no idea why. I can't figure out why people care. Last night my ex-boyfriend of all people asked me about it. Again, I have no cravings. I would sort of like a craving I think because that would mean an appetite.


But just because I haven't had cravings per se, doesn't mean my eating habits haven't been odd. I find I can no longer eat a normal balanced meal. I have to pick and graze. I can't stand the sight of eggs or pasta and I have unwittingly turned into a mostly vegetarian by accident.  Baby Lawns is going to be a raw vegan. I just know it and it will be my pay back for making fun of raw vegans. All I want to eat is raw, plain fruit and vegetables and nuts. I also eat cooked beans, but they give me a stomach ache, so mainly I eat dry salad. It's the weirdest thing. I have also developed a new appreciation for prunes. I mean, I always loved prunes, but I avoided them because of their, umm, laxative properties, but now I eat them every day and they don't have that effect on me.  I also eat considerable amounts of watermelon because that doesn't make me sick either, and I like these frozen fruit popsicles. In fact, I now eat everything cold and find myself compelled to chew ice as often as I can get my hands on it. Frozen grapes and blueberries are good too. I'm not sure where this strange need to eat everything frozen has come from. My theory is that the cold food soothes my stomach and because it has less smell than hot food it doesn't make me queasy. It's also textural. Ice is crunchy and anything creamy makes me go BLEHHHHHHHHH.  In the beginning when I had the hypermesis, Husband's best friend the Gyno, who is not my doctor, told me to drink smoothies and milkshakes because these would soothe my stomach, give me some calories and nutrition and because they would be easier to throw back up. My doctor agreed, so I lived on these for a couple months. Thank God for Jamba Juice. Smoothies and shakes were the only things I could throw up without getting an aversion to, so I think my frozen liquid diet in the beginning also influenced my current ice obsession, though I have stopped drinking them now because of sugar and calories.


Did I mention the smell thing? I knew about this, but I couldn't quite imagine it before it happened to me. In short, I have turned into a cadaver dog. The police should hire me to find missing people and dead bodies because I could really do it. I'm convinced. I can smell anything at any distance. So if the Body Farm needs any help for the next four months, I'm available. 

My sister just called me and she's on her way home from the doctor. Baby Cousin is doing nicely and is healthy and well. My sister and I did plan to have babies together, if you are wondering. We want them to be close and to always have each other to play with. We have discussed at length the trouble we predict these two will get into at some point. I'm sure these cousins will provide us with years of funny stories and I know they'll give us a hard time, but I think they will make me laugh more than anything.


So in other, non-baby related news, which there is shockingly, my Uncle Bull is here all week. This weekend, my parents are hosting a fundraiser at their house and 100% of the money raised will go directly to the wounded troops at Walter Reed Hospital. The money will be used to buy them gift cards, necessities, plane tickets for their families to visit and anything else they might need. The money goes straight into the soldiers' hands, not the hospital, so I think it's a really good cause and I'm proud of my family for organizing this. It's going to be a big Memorial Day themed BBQ and my uncle is catering the whole thing. You might remember he has a BBQ catering business (The Slap Your Eyeball Rib Co.) and is a political activist.  This should be an interesting event as all of the freaks will be there on full display, but we're hoping to raise a lot of money and have a good time doing it. I'll write all about it and take pictures. Should be an interesting night.


And that's about it for now. I'm about to go to my parents' house because they are setting up the smoker and I need to be involved in that. I want to know how to smoke things!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coming Clean

Dear Readers, this has been weighing on my mind for some time and I've finally decided to come clean to all of you about a secret I've been keeping for some time. I'm just going to throw it on out there.

I am pregnant! (Almost five months if you'd like to keep track.)


Remember the last time I had a pregnancy scare? Well, it wasn't a scare and it wasn't exactly an accidental or unplanned pregnancy either so don't get all wild on me and talk about how I should have used birth control.


There are several reasons why I didn't mention it until now. I was scared and horribly sick at first. I had some complications and I honestly didn't know if everything was going to be ok. I didn't want to tempt fate. I also had a lot of my own issues with motherhood to work through and I needed a lot of time to think things over alone before I wrote about it or announced it publicly.


To be totally honest, I was also scared that people would say mean things to me. My readers are kind and compassionate people, but you know, there's the occasional jackass that strolls through and for a while I was so emotionally delicate that I couldn't bear to read some mean comment about this. I'd still really rather not. I'm trying to surround myself with positive influences, and I don't want to read mean things about my baby.


And let's just get it out of the way right now that I have zero intention of being a Mommyblogger. I am indifferent to Mommybloggers and always have been. I read a couple here and there.  I don't identify with them. Mommyblogger is not how I see myself as a writer. I write about my life and I don't want to write about my child's life. If she wants to grow up and write about her own life then great, but I'm not going to make that choice for her. She must be on her own path and must have her own privacy. Plus, writing about diapers and poo does not interest me. I have enough other stuff to write about.


I would, however, like to reserve the right to occasionally write about pregnancy as I experience it and about my family's response to it because some of this has certainly been interesting. At some point I want to share my story about my reluctance and fear of being a mother and of being pregnant and how I got over it or more importantly, WHY I got over it. I didn't want to talk about that at first, but now I feel ready.


Another reason why I didn't share was because my sister is also pregnant. She is exactly two months behind me. I didn't want to steal her thunder in the beginning. Then we had a really big scare where her doctor thought her pregnancy might not be viable and we had to wait in agony to see if the baby was growing and if there was a heartbeat. It was terrible. Finally we got good news that her baby was ok. But see, if it hadn't been, I couldn't stand to be talking about or writing about my own pregnancy. It would have felt wrong and cruel to do that to her.


After that I had to have an extensive round of genetic and chromosomal testing. We saw a genetic counselor. I had a million strange things done to me - things I never even knew existed and it took over a month to get it all done. I have to go to three different doctors too now. Last week we finally got all of the results and had a long meeting with the doctor, who assured us that our baby was in every way perfect. I'm not perfect, but she is. And yes, he told us that she is a girl and at that moment I felt like this huge burden of terror and worry was lifted and that everything was going to be ok and that I could do this. But most of all, that was the moment that I really felt like I loved her for the first time and I had been really scared (irrationally) that for some reason I might be incapable of loving my child and that I might damage it psychologically. And I think part of my fear was that if I allowed myself to love her that something awful might happen and that I would lose her.


But I don't worry about that now.


Baby is perfect. She is healthy and growing and even sucks her thumb!


I'm not perfect though. Oddly enough, I have never felt compelled to write about my health problems in any detail. It depresses me. It makes me anxious. I don't feel like I have anything to say at length. I have chronic illness. It could be a whole lot worse than it is. Sometimes it's annoying. I'm thankful I have this instead of something else. It isn't a danger to the baby. The danger is more to me, but that's ok too. Before I even considered having unprotected sex, please be assured that I had extensive blood work done and discussed the possibility of having a child with several of my doctors, all of whom assured me that it would be fine and that in fact, I SHOULD have a baby. They also made it very clear to me what would be in store for me so I knew if I chose not to use birth control what I was getting myself into. I was not being irresponsible with my health or anyone else's.

Still, it hasn't been easy. There were things I had been prepared for. I knew I'd have to go to the doctor all the time and I knew I'd have a lot of blood draws. That's already my normal though, so not a big deal. I did not know, however, that I would suffer from something called hyperemesis (insane throwing up) or that it would turn out that my husband's and my blood types are in every way incompatible. I didn't even know that happened or was possible. Luckily we have dealt with both of these issues too. Everything is ok now.  I'm not throwing up and I have to get some sort of shots for the blood thing. Today I just found out that my poor thyroid finally died and now I have to take medication. I knew this day would eventually come and really, is taking one pill every morning a big deal? No.


Being pregnant hasn't been all bad though. My autoimmune illness has been so suppressed that all of my symptoms disappeared. People are suddenly trying to force feed me. In the beginning I lived off of milkshakes and actually lost weight. A lot of people are really happy and excited for this baby and that makes me feel surrounded by love and positive energy much more so than I noticed before. My skin and hair look nicer. I don't have to clean the cat box any more and people no longer try to get me to eat sushi. I got to get new clothes. At some point I will have a party with cake.


For the past week I've been feeling really good and because I finally, after so long, feel good and like everything is going to be fine, I wanted to share this news with you too.


But wait, I think some of you might want details. As I said, the baby is a girl. She will be here on Halloween. My sister's baby will be here on Christmas. We like holidays apparently. She doesn't know the sex of her baby yet and has chosen for now not to find out. My baby will be another Scorpio in the family, as if there weren't enough already. I have a little teeny bump going now. My parents are going out of their minds at having their first two grandchildren arriving two months apart and I will write about that because it is pretty funny. Every single person I meet asks me if I have cravings and the answer is NO. A strongly worded NO NO NO. I wish I had a craving. I don't eat much at all. I don't have a big appetite and have only gained four pounds. While I don't have cravings, I have certainly developed some strange eating habits, but those will have to be their own post.
Monday, May 24, 2010

Diego and Nury's Wedding - The End

So I wore the pink taffeta with the crinolines and the low heeled pink pumps. I made it down the aisle and stood during a wedding ceremony where not a single word was uttered in a language that I could understand and then we all drove back to our house and had a pool party. Mostly I remember the food. I remember eating a lot of yellow rice with chicken and green peas in it. I remember wanting to like the raspberry jam and buttercream filled wedding cake much more than I did. We'd ordered it from a real french bakery and it was beautiful, but it didn't taste good. I remember everyone changing into bathing suits and jumping in the pool and the salsa music. Then Diego got out his guitar and sang Nury a song about giving her his corazon forever and everyone cried in Spanish.

I wouldn't change out of my dress and into my bathing suit. I didn't want to take my corsage off or mess up my hair or my eye makeup because this was the night that I was, in my mind at least, becoming a woman and I wanted it to be special, so that meant wearing a fancy dress and having flowers.

Some girls do it on their wedding nights. I was going to do it on A wedding night. Many more girls I suspect, lose their virginity on prom night, all arustle in stiff, uncomfortable dresses. I would never have a prom night, so looking back, this night was the best I'd get. It really was special, if a little clinical.  At the time, it was not as romantic as I've made it in retrospect. Here is how the dialogue went:

Me: Ok, let's just do it and get it over with.

Him: I want you to like it.

Me: Oh, I'll have plenty of time to like it later. Just do it. OWWWWWWWWW!

Him: No, I'm not doing it if it hurts you.


Me: Shut up and just do it.


Me: OWWWWWWWWWWWWW!


Him: Nope, not doing it. I don't think it's supposed to hurt.


Me: Of course it is. I read about it in all of my grandmother's romance novels. It hurts for like a second and then it feels great and then there's like swooning and sighing and explosions of some sort.


Him: Are you sure?


Me: Well that's exactly how it happens in every single one of her books.


Him: We should just make out because I'm getting kind of nervous.


Me: Cut it out. Come on. I just want to get it over with.


Him: I think we need music. Look, I brought my Peter Tosh tape.


Me: So we're going to listen to "Legalize It?"


Him: Yeah.


Me: Ok fine. Would you please just do it already? I'm moving in like 3 weeks and we don't have a lot of time.


One minute later.....


Me: OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWOWWWWWWWWWW!!! This is NOT how it happens in the books AT ALL!!!!


Him: Oh my God, there's blood everywhere. I've hurt you. I'm so sorry, but you said you wanted to do it! I didn't mean to. Oh my God am I going to have to go to jail now?


Me: OWWW! Jail? For what?


Him: I don't know, hurting you. You're 15.


Me: You're 16. OWW. It hurts when I move. Oh crap. That IS a lot of blood. Oh, oh oh. What do we do? There is blood all over the sheets. My mom's going to find out.


Him: You can tell her one of my piercings ripped out and it bled everywhere.


Me: And then at the exact same time, I got a freak nosebleed out of nowhere.


Him: Yeah.


Me: Is it ok if we never do it again?


Him: Yeah.


Me: I wonder if there's any chicken and yellow rice left.


I felt so cheated. On one hand, this was all my doing. I hadn't been coerced in the slightest. My boyfriend loved and respected me (we're still friends 21 year later) and most of the girls I knew weren't so lucky to have someone as nice as I did for their first time. At the same time, I expected a little better. It was awful. Why did people do it at all? How could anyone find anything pleasurable in THAT?


Then there was all the blood.  I spent most of the night with a bottle of Simple Green and a kitchen sponge trying to scrub it out of the sheets and I have to give the Simple Green some credit. It did the trick enough that the bogus piercing ripping story was at least slightly more credible.  But the blood wouldn't stop. The next morning when I got up, it still hurt and it was still bleeding profusely. Peeing felt like someone was putting a blowtorch between my legs and my whole side and stomach hurt so badly that I felt like I had been torn in half vertically.


That was it, I thought. Nothing could just go smoothly for me like it had with all my friends. Nope. Of course not. Of course I would be the one who would try to indulge in some adult intimacy only to suffer internal (and external bleeding) and some kind of traumatic injury. Naturally, I thought. I was probably going to die from this and then I'd end up as some awful cautionary tale spun by abstinence promoters. I could hear it already - Once there was this girl and she was in a relationship and thought she was in love, but she insisted on fornicating and she ended up dead from it after only one time. Yup, I was going to die tragically at fifteen years old. On my death certificate it would list the cause of death as a hymen hemorrhage or something equally as humiliating. I envisioned myself dead in my casket and in my mind I saw myself laid out in that god awful pink dress, only it was soaked in blood like something out of a horror movie.


It took me less than three minutes the next morning to work myself into a frothing panic attack over what I'd done. In addition to being dead, I also convinced myself that, although we'd used plenty of protection, that I was also pregnant. With twins. That's what happened to my grandmother after all. She'd done it once in the back of a car in high school and ended up pregnant with twins.  That'd be just my luck too. Dead and with twins and wearing that stupid dress.


Ok, I thought, I'd give it until lunch and then if the bleeding didn't stop, I'd have to do something. Until then, I would avoid my parents, because I just knew if they saw me, they'd know and then they'd ask me and I wouldn't be able to lie. I am the worst liar on the planet. I can't keep a story straight and I stutter and turn red.


But it was a Sunday and my dad had bagels and after we ate them we had to clean up the gigantic mess from the wedding and as sore as I was, the last thing I could do was haul garbage bags out to the curb in 89 degree heat and humidity. Yeah, I was about to die. If I didn't bleed to death, my parents were going to kill me anyway. Either way, I'd be dead by sunset.


I didn't stop bleeding by lunch. I decided that I needed to tell my mother and it was nearly impossible to get her attention.


"I need to talk to you," I said.


"About what?"


"Something."


"Can't you see I'm busy? I'm not letting this mess sit here until tomorrow."


"No, it's REALLY important. I need you to take me to the hospital."


My mother, alarmed, stopped. She'd never had to take me to the hospital.


"Why? You look fine. If you needed to go to the hospital you wouldn't be walking and talking."


"I'm telling you. I need to go to the hospital. I'm having a hemorrhage."

"Excuse me?"


"I'm bleeding to death."


"From where. I don't see any blood at all. If you were truly hemorrhaging there'd be blood everywhere and there isn't so you don't need to go to the hospital. You're just trying to pull some crap because you don't want to clean this mess up."


"No, you can't see it. I'm bleeding from, um, from...from my thing. There's blood coming out of me. There."


"Are you having your period?"


"No."


"Maybe you just got it early. That happens."


"No. It's an, an, umm. It's from an injury. I harmed myself."


"What in God's name were you doing to yourself?"


And now my cause of death was officially going to change from bleeding to death to mortification.


"It wasn't me. Exactly. I wasn't doing anything to myself. Exactly."


"Well who was dammit? Would you just tell me what the hell happened to you?"


"Umm, umm, last night, well, umm, we sort of like, kind of, a little bit, umm did it."


There was silence for a very, very painfully, uncomfortably long time.


"Are you kidding me?" she finally said, "You want me to take you to the hospital for that?"


"Yes."


"You don't need to go to the hospital for that. You do not have internal injuries. It hurts. It bleeds. It takes a little while to heal. You are not going to bleed to death. Take a Tylenol if it hurts that bad. Nothing's going to happen to you. At least not from that. Now DO NOT DO IT AGAIN until it heals."


Did she just say "until it heals"?


"And you better have used protection because the last thing I need to deal with is a baby or you getting AIDS. And you better NEVER do anything without protection. Do you understand me? If you do you will ruin your life and end up like your Aunt Kiki."


That was about enough to make me want to join a convent.  I assured her that I would never touch a boy ever again in my entire life without wearing something akin to scuba gear and a full body wet suit.


"So I'm not going to die?" I asked.


"Jesus Christ you are a neurotic child. No! Now get them trash bags out to the curb."


Obviously I don't need to tell you that I didn't bleed to death, get knocked up or die of AIDS. In fact nothing happened and I was so traumatized that it took me almost a whole year before I'd get brave enough to try it again, and luckily it was with the same person, even after I'd moved to Florida.


And guess who decided to move to Florida with us? Nury and Diego!
 
Sunday, May 23, 2010

Diego and Nury's Wedding - My Bridesmaid's Dress


I decided that this story really needed an illustration, being that zero, and I mean absolutely zero photos exist of Diego and Nury's wedding. This is so unfortunate. I don't know how someone didn't take any pictures. I know Diego and Nury did but I have no idea where they are now. Lord knows where they ended up, but I hope they are still together 21 years later. In any case, this is the get-up I wore in their wedding. It was pink taffeta, with a sweetheart necklines and several layers of stiff pink crinoline under the skirt so that it pouffed out far from my body. I looked like a bell. The whole thing was very early-Madonna, but by this point I think Madonna had moved on to corsets and burning crosses. The dress's fabric was hard to draw. It was all one color, but yet it was polka dotted, as if the dots (of varying sizes) were woven into the material itself. The dots were more textural than a print. I wore candy pink pumps with a low heel. I had never worn heels before so I swore I was going to fall down in the church, but I didn't. My badly dyed, purple, spiral permed hair was swept into a side pony tail and tied with a pink bow and instead of bouquets we got big, stiff, itchy corsages of pink and white carnations with lots of ribbon. Ohh, I wish I had some photos of this day.
Thursday, May 20, 2010

Diego and Nury's Wedding - Part 1

The rest of the summer of '89, after Clarice the sullen exchange student went back to France, took on a sense of urgency. There was always the feeling of time running out that summer because soon we would be gone. We were moving to Florida in August and we had promised Diego and Nury that we would throw them a wedding. Of course the promise had been made before my parents fell victim to an advanced fee scam and lost all of their money, so that we could no longer afford our huge empty house, our car or my private school tuition. The money they did have left we had to use for our move and the money we lived on came from the work we all now did helping my grandfather sell produce out of the back of his pick-up truck. But still, we had made this young couple a promise and they expected and deserved a wedding of some kind. We just had to figure out how to make it happen. Certainly, we had to sell a lot of produce. How many cantaloupes would it take to pay for a caterer, DJ and a cake?

Selling produce was how we found Diego and Nury in the first place, so of course it was fitting that we'd work overtime to sell produce to give them a wedding.

I'd spent the previous summer at Aunt Kiki's house in Millpond having a fabulous time (by the way the friend in that story was Faith Hill and The Boy was the boy in the Prada Shoe Story all grown up). Unfortunately that summer (the summer we all made cut off jean shorts because we wanted to look like Baby in Dirty Dancing) had to end and I had to go back to New York and start tenth grade. The problem with this was that my parents were really busy and were spending long periods of time in Chicago, New Jersey and Florida buying loads of close-out merchandise and trying to turn them over for a profit. They started this immediately after giving up part ownership in their closeout store Jumpin' Junk to their Persian partners Farheed and Farsheed. I was fourteen, about to be fifteen and they couldn't just leave me alone. Someone had to be in the house with me. By that point, we had been through six different caretakers/ nannies/ live-in babysitters or whatever you'd like to call them, for me in three years and none of them had really ended truly well. Nonetheless, out of necessity, it was time for Number 7.


It was Fall 1988 and my grandfather was selling the last of summer's harvest. Apples and potatoes were coming in now. My grandfather covered an impressive amount of territory all over Rockland, Westchester and Orange counties just peddling out of his truck. His best customers were in the hoods of Yonkers and the slumlike enclaves of Monsey and Spring Valley, where the Chassidic Jews lived, and he had just expanded to the Puerto Rican ghetto of Haverstraw, upriver from our fancier town, Riverbank. This is where my grandfather found Number 7.


My grandfather, much like my mother, could fit in anywhere on this planet. Just get him around people and he'd have them laughing in minutes. People remembered him. People knew him, remembered his name. He remembered their names too and their kids and somehow he managed to learn and remember all the intimate and intricate details of the lives of the people to whom he sold fruits and vegetables. There was something about him that made people open up to him and to the people whose neighborhoods he wound his truck slowly through, he was more than a vendor. He was a true friend. It didn't matter that he was an old, rednecked white man and they were black, Puerto Rican, Orthodox or whatever.


Because he was this way, it didn't take long for him to become endeared to the Puerto Rican community in Haverstraw, nevermind that most of them spoke broken, little or no English whatsoever. Pretty soon he had the word out that if any young girl needed an easy job living in a big house in Riverbank, doing some light cleaning and making sure a teenaged girl got to school and ate something and didn't end up raped, dead or in prison, that they should let him know as soon as possible. Word spread and pretty soon Poppop June came home with Nury, who spoke all of sixteen words of English, rocked a Latina mullet like no one else and never talked without her hand in front of her mouth. She was a tiny thing - maybe four foot eleven and she was satisfied staying home, watching the Spanish channel and making me a different flavor of rice and beans everyday.  I rather liked her because she wasn't intrusive in my life and because I enjoyed eating rice and beans everyday. I still do.


One thing though was that no one in our family could pronounce Nury's name. We couldn't get the hang of the r-rolling at all. My grandfather called her Ethel, my mother called her everything from Nudy to Nardy and I pronounced her name so that it rhymed with "slurry." Every time one of us would try to say her name, she'd put her hand over her mouth and giggle.


Another thing was that Nury couldn't drive. Luckily we solved this issue and I got to school and to the grocery store thanks to Nury's boyfriend Diego. Diego was a Baptist and worked construction. He spoke more English than Nury, about 30 words instead of 16, and he drove a white work van. He also played an acoustic guitar and wrote songs, all of which contained the word "Corazon." He'd come over after work, eat rice and beans and then serenade Nury and me all night with his 57 Corazon songs. Did I also mention that Diego was 6 foot 7?  He was the tallest person I had ever known. Nury was one of the smallest.  It used to boggle my mind how they could possibly get along in the bedroom with such a disparity in heights, but, as my grandfather said, when you're lying down, it all lines up. I wouldn't know because my husband and I are barely an inch apart in height.


We all came to really love Diego and Nury. We loved them so much that my parents suggested that Diego move in with us too, but being a Baptist, he wouldn't do this unless they were engaged. I don't know why that would matter to him because engaged wasn't married and they already spent most nights together in the same bed anyway, but for some reason Diego decided being engaged would legitimize things in his head. Nury was ecstatic and they started planning a wedding. They set a date, July 29th, 1989.


When they set the date, my parents still thought we were going to be bazillionaires, so they generously offered to throw the wedding and we all imagined something very grand. Pretty soon, it was apparent that there was no money to pay for something very grand and we had to come up with a solution so that they could still have a memorable, meaningful and beautiful wedding that wouldn't cost a lot of money.


We decided to throw them a pool party in our backyard! Thank God Diego and Nury were simple, sweet and easy going. Both had come from poor backgrounds and never expected to have any kind of a wedding at all, much less a grand, formal affair. Because their perspective was so different from ours, it turned out that they didn't know there had even been a change in plans. To them a pool party in our backyard WAS a grand, formal affair.


Nury's mother made her dress and my mom would work all day at the flea market or on the truck and take her day's profits and go pay for one more thing for the wedding, until little by little we'd hired a baker for the cake, found an inexpensive Puerto Rican caterer to provide, you guessed it, rice and beans, arroz con pollo, pernil and tostones. What more do you need than that? My mom even scrounged up money for a few flowers and enough to go to the party store and get some decorations. Diego's friends would provide music and they would have the ceremony in the Puerto Rican Baptist church in Haverstraw. Before you knew it, we had a real wedding planned!


My mom and Nury decided that I should be Nury's bridesmaid and I was beside myself with excitement. She had a few bridesmaids - cousins, her sister, Diego's sister and then me, the teenage Gringa. I was the only person in the wedding party who spoke English and no Spanish, but who cared? 


Well I have to confess that I cared a little when I saw the dress Nury picked for me, but hell, it was pink taffetta and had a crinoline. I could deal. Plus I'd get to wear flowers.


This wedding, I decided, was the perfect opportunity for me to cross off Number 2 on my Summer To-Do list. Do you remember that list? First I wanted to go to France and I had miraculously gotten very, very close to that goal before it slipped away. The other goal was to finally part with my troublesome virginity.  I had a boyfriend. He was sixteen and what sixteen year old boy would turn down that chance? We had done just about everything else and I had wanted that moment to be special. What could be more special than a wedding night? You were supposed to do it for the first time on a wedding night. I overlooked the fact that people who said that meant it was supposed to be your own wedding night, but who cared? A wedding was a wedding. It would work. I'd have flowers and be wearing a pouffy dress. It was close enough and so I announced to my boyfriend that we were going to do it on Diego and Nury's wedding night. Do you think he objected? Of course not. He was a sixteen year old boy.


The rest tomorrow...
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nasty Assed Recipes - Spruance Street Edition

I really agonized over whether or not to call this a Nasty-Assed Recipe because I loved it so much as a child, but ultimately I realized, in spite of myself, that a cake poked with holes that were filled with multi-colored Jello drizzles and topped with nothing more than Cool-Whip had to qualify. I really considered making this today. I really did. I'm on a crazed cake baking binge which started with the Mother's Day Watergate Gate, which I couldn't stand after daring myself to take a bite. After that I made a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and then yesterday I made a carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting for a friend's daughter's graduation. Now I have book club coming up on Friday and I have to make another cake for that. I seriously thought about a poke cake, but then I realized two things. First, if I took something like that to my book club they'd probably throw me out. Second, I don't think I would really like Poke Cake as a grown-up. Every now and then I get a wild hair and decide to retry some romanticized food from my childhood that I swore I loved and then when I taste it as a grown-up I'm all like "EWWWW Gawd how did I eat THAT??" Spaghettios and Nutterbutters come to mind as examples of foods I've attempted to reintroduce with no success. I liked Poke Cake as a child because it was so pretty to my young eyes with all those colors. Back then I liked Cool Whip too because I didn't know that real whipped cream existed. I actually mean that. I thought there was only Cool Whip. Until we got the ice cream maker, I also didn't know that cream period existed, whipped or not. If you would have asked me I would have said it was a powder that comes in a brown can and grownups put it in coffee (and I would have been referring to Creamora). So I think if I went to all the trouble to buy a bunch of boxes of Jello, most of which I would end up wasting anyway, and make a whole cake and then even if I made real whipped cream, I just don't think it would work for me anymore. So I decided I could let it go. It was a Nasty-Assed Recipe. And for your delight, here is the recipe, should you be braver than I am and want to make one:
JELLO - POKE CAKE 
1 white cake mix
1 sm. (4 oz.) Jello mix, any flavor
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. cool water
Make cake according to package directions. Cool cake 20 minutes. Using utility fork poke cake at 1/2 inch intervals. Make Jello using 1 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup cold water. Pour Jello slowly over cake covering all holes. Chill 3 - 4 hours. Spread with Cool Whip.

Thank you Cooks.com for the recipe and above photo courtesy of Kraftrecipes.com (theirs of course looks prettier than a real one and is probably made from Styrofoam, drizzled with ink from a color printer and iced with joint compound).

We Gonna Rock Down to Our Above Ground Pool

When we were little my grandmother had a hobby of refinishing old trunks and selling them. She made one for each of us and in them we keep old keepsakes. When I started The Great Scan Project, my sister was inspired and went in her trunk and started scanning her share of the old photos and lo and behold she came up with a photo of the above ground pool. And here it is. That there is my sister on the raft with one of her two oddly named puppies. It was either Buckles and Needles or Hearts and Sausages. I wrote about our family's affinity for bizarre pet names here. The red dog on her other side was my threadbare Pomeranian Toots Louis. The man standing in the pool is my grandfather, Poppop June, the one I'm named after and no, my name is not June.  But the real star of the photo is the above ground pool, which represents the very best part of a white trash childhood. I'm pretty sure Jeff Foxworthy has included above ground pools in his criteria for being considered a redneck. The above ground pool is right up there with a big, fallen in, rusty trampoline in the front yard and if you are super-redneck you have both the above ground pool AND the trampoline and chances are one of your male cousins would have attempted to jump from the trampoline and into the pool in "Jackass" fashion and would have needed a trip to the emergency room, which would then result in prescription painkillers, a subsequent addiction to them, life on disability benefits from the accident and injury and somehow that would lead to him also starting a meth lab in a trailer. That's how it goes in the country.

This was our second above ground pool and this one was located in the backyard of my grandfather's duplex on Green Drive. Our first above ground pool had been the previous summer when we lived on Spruance Street. I remember that summer as one of the best summers of my entire life and I don't know what year it was, but I remember that summer by the food we ate and the music we listened to. It was the summer of the Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now" and Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" (best 80s song ever probably). We loved the Eurythmics and Human League that summer too along with Talking Heads. The good music never stopped playing. My favorite song was Madness's "Our House."


I've written about the Spruance Street summer in this post. I'm thinking it was 1982 or 83. I'd have to look up when those songs came out to know for sure.


Everything was just so good. Life hadn't gone to hell for me yet. My father hadn't married Louise. They'd just met I think. It's weird how I can't remember the years of anything, but I can remember when things happened by music and movies that came out. My father and Louise got married when "Back to the Future" came out. I know this because my grandmother took me to see it when they left for their honeymoon the day after their wedding.


But that summer, the Spruance Street summer, when all that good music came out and my mom went to Ames and bought that above ground pool - nothing compares to that summer. My grandfather's second wife Flipper, who was barely 20, hadn't left him yet, though she would soon. I remember her being there because of her cooking. She baked all the time and after the above ground pool, my mom went back to Ames and bought a hand crank ice cream maker and a box of rock salt and we made peach ice cream almost every day, while Flipper made Jello Poke Cakes. Some people cheaped out and only used one color of Jello in their Poke Cake, but Flipper used so many the cake looked like a rainbow under a cloud of Cool-Whip. Even after everything that happened after this summer, the one good thing I remembered about Flipper was that she used all those flavors of Jello in her cake.


We were one of only two white families on Spruance Street. We lived in an all black area, which was no problem for any of us, though I know the entire six weeks I spent there with my mother that summer, the Hollands were gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands over the idea of me playing with "coloreds."


The kids on that street never had anything. None of them ever had a pool and my mom knew that and she didn't care what color a little kid was or where he or she came from. She knew what a pool meant to a child in the middle of summer's stagnant heat when no one had any AC and no one knew anyone with a pool or had a car to take them to a public pool. I know my mom got that above ground pool, and it was small because that was all she could afford, for the whole neighborhood, not just us and she never said no when a child wanted to get in it. Most of the time it was so crowded that there was no room to swim and kids just stood there in the soupy water, just happy to be wet. She'd stand outside of the pool and spray us with the hose so we could wet our heads and because the hose water was a little more refreshing than the pool water and we would scream and squeal.


My mom did this because she remembered what it was like to grow up and not have anything. The kids across the street from her when she was growing up were brats and they had a pool, which they knew everyone else was jealous of and being mean, horrible kids they'd make the neighborhood children go through pure torture before they'd let anyone swim in their pool. Most of the kids wouldn't do it, but my mom wanted to get in their pool so badly that she would actually let them put sticks up her butt. Can you imagine? Children are so rotten and sadistic. The best part is that my mom said she didn't consider it that big of a trade off to get to swim. To me, that is just desperation. I'd rather be hot than have a stick in my...well, whatever.


But that's why we let anyone and everyone swim in our little pool. And that's why it was so much fun.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
For the love of God, I can't figure out why my blog looks different. I can't get the old font back and no amount of editing or messing is working. It's all different now! I hate change!!

To some people who saw my last story in their readers, etc. and now wonder what I did with it - I changed my mind about writing it and the spacing was messed up and it drove me nuts and well, I just decided to tell that tale at a different time. I have some better stories for you anyway. Trust me. I'll be back tomorrow.

Inconsistent.

Someone left me a comment and for the life of me I can't find it now to respond, so I'll respond here. I should have done the sort by post thing, but I wasn't thinking. The comment said something to the effect of that my constant BS and embellishing my stories is annoying and that there are many inconsistencies in my stories because at one point I said I was a good kid who never got less than a B in math class and then somewhere else I said I was really rebellious. That is the general theme of the comment.

First, there are probably inconsistencies in all memoir writing, especially the informal kind I do here. This is because memory is, by nature, inconsistent, skewed, biased and dreamlike. I try my best to remember things accurately. There have been a few times where I've messed up and a relative or friend pointed out my error and I've had to fix it. In grad school we had endless discussions about truth in creative non-fiction and it's generally believed by non-fiction writers that it's impossible to ever retell the exact truth. We have to do our best to recreate the truth as accurately as possible without any intent to lie. There is a scene in Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty where she recounts attending a reading given by her best friend Lucy Grealy who has just written a book that became a massive success (Autobiography of a Face). Grealy was approached by a fan who asked her how she remembered conversations so accurately that she could write them down in her memoir word for word. Grealy responded that she didn't have that great of a memory and she didn't remember the conversations word for word. She was a writer and she wrote the conversations. I can relate. My memory is great. I can remember sensory details and I can really remember how moments felt, sometimes with an accuracy that feels to me like I've stepped into a time machine. Other times I check with friends and relatives on events I'm fuzzy about. Then I recreate and I never have the intention to lie or embellish. (By the way these two books are amazing, but I liked Patchett's better and would read that first. Grealy's memoir is grueling and intense and harder to read, but I don't think you can just read only one without the other.)

But I don't think that's the real issue here. I think what the commenter really responded to, whether he or she realizes it, are not the inconsistencies in my writing, but the inconsistencies in my personality. It's not my memories or stories that are inconsistent. It's me.

For my entire life I've moved between different identities. I've had to a a survival skill. Now, as an adult, mostly I've managed to fuse together all of the aspects of who I am though I still compartmentalize. As a child and especially as a teenager, I struggled with my sense of self a lot. I had two distinct personalities (not like Sybil, I was aware of them and they were both me). I know exactly where this came from and I had some idea of it even back then.

My biological parents are complete opposites. Growing up until I was eleven, I lived with the Hollands, my father's family. The Hollands are regimented, strict and ordered. My grandfather was a National Guard General and his house ran in a military fashion. We went to church and did nothing that wasn't planned. Little ever changed in their lives and we had dinner at exactly 5:30 every single night. Life ran on a schedule and never deviated. These people were conservative, God fearing and government loving. Their expectations for life were that kids went to school, got good grades, went to college, graduated, got married, went to church, had kids of their own and lived in the same house for fifty years. Of course my father threw a wrench into this system when he married my mother and then divorced a year later and came home to live in the basement and then things changed a little more when he married my stepmother Louise when I was nine and became a raving Jesus Freak.

So that was my life most of the time. Then on certain weekends and for six weeks in the summers I went to live with my mother and stepfather who had no order whatsoever, never planned anything, did everything spontaneously, had no idea what a schedule was and lived by no rules. They were rebellious. They hustled. They moved all the time and made deals and got into trouble and ran with wild crowds. They were decadent, impulsive and wildly fun and interesting. At their house I could run naked and eat ice cream for breakfast. I could watch what I wanted on TV and stay up as late as I wanted. Nothing mattered like it did when I was with the Hollands.

In short, I moved between two totally opposite worlds and I learned to conform to each world when I was in it. I learned to become what I was around. The problem was that when I was with one side, I was often wishing for the other because the extremes were too great. With the Hollands, I wished they would lighten up and have some fun. With my mother, I wished she'd settle down and get some order.

It was like I could never achieve balance and I kept trying to figure out which side I was or wanted to be and it was extremely confusing.

At eleven, when I went to go live with my mother in New York, I was a traumatized mess. I had been through hell with my father and Louise and I was deeply, emotionally scarred. Add to that the horror that is puberty anyway, and you can understand that I was a disaster. I constantly struggled to figure out who I really was. Was I a wild child like my mother or was I uptight and orderly like the Hollands? I didn't know, so I vacillated wildly between two extremes of behavior. Sometimes I was really really good and other times I flirted with being wild and rebellious. Another problem was that I never knew what my mother wanted me to be. I wanted to be what she wanted. Did she want me to be like her or did she want me to be a good girl? I didn't know how to read her signals. Sometimes she noted that I was uptight and smug like the Hollands. Then I'd try to be rebellious and get punished, so I couldn't figure out what image she'd prefer me to have. I couldn't figure out for myself which I was.

Another issue at hand was that I was never great at being truly rebellious. I've always been a scared person. I'm scared of everything, so I've always had deep, dark fears of being truly bad. I have still never been drunk, not even once in my life although I openly confess that during a short period when I was 16/17 I was led to experiment with drugs (and I'll write about that) but I was so traumatized by the experience that I ended that behavior very quickly. I never smoked. I had one boyfriend all through high school. I wasn't promiscuous compared to any of my friends, though I thought I wanted to be, which leads me to how I managed to be rebellious without actually being rebellious.

I was rebellious by proxy. I always had two sets of friends. I had my goody-goody friends for when I was in my Good personality and then I had my wild and crazy friends for when I was in my Bad phase. The wild friends were always more attractive to me and they allowed me to be around all kind of bad behavior without actually engaging in most of it myself and when they would cross a line and freak me out, I could go running back to the safety of my good friends, just like I did with the two sides of my family. See the pattern?

Here's the thing though. Sometimes you don't have to engage in the bad behavior to necessarily get into trouble. Sometimes being around the bad kids caused me problems and got me punished and look, I was a teenager, I had poor judgment a lot of the time. One of the times I switched schools was because I had developed a toxic friendship with a girl who was deeply troubled and she sucked me too far into her problems to the point where my parents wanted me away from her. Another time I had been in big trouble in school for cutting class with some boys, which sounds bad on the surface until you learn that all we did was go across the football field to get an apple pie at McDonalds. And then of course I got expelled for difficulties in gym class when half of my class was dropping acid and having group sex and one girl had just had an abortion. I got caught for the dumbest stuff.

Being rebellious by proxy didn't always work. There was a lot of peer pressure. A lot. The bad kids didn't understand why I'd hang around them and then be too scared to do the things they did. What was the point in being their friend, they wondered. Why was I scared? Why didn't I just run to my good friends?  Just try it, they'd urge. Try doing something. Stop being so weird and uptight.

But I never totally fit in with the good kids either. Sometimes I got bored with them. I felt like I was missing something even though I felt safe. They weren't as exciting. Often I wasn't good enough for them.

Most of my bad behavior was in my head and manifested itself through my taste in art, music, film and especially books. It still does. I love an edgy, violent book filled with sex, drugs and rock n roll. I'm reading Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby right now. Lord have mercy. There have never been any limits on what I would read. I'll read anything, the crazier the better and this is because in the world of a book, I can safely experience anything with no consequences and if it gets too much to handle, I can put the book down. End of story. I can control it better than real life.

So from reading controversial books and watching films most parents wouldn't allow, I developed romantic notions in my head of all sorts of decadent, outrageous behaviors that I admired but ultimately was too afraid to try when confronted with their reality. Then I would feel badly about myself for not trying them and letting fear hold me back. This is still a theme in my life and this theme is very apparent in the Spam story. The commenter accused me of BS and he or she was right in a way. I'm not BSing my readers as an adult and as your storyteller. There was a ton of BS in that story, but it's more nuanced and the commenter picked up on it and just interpreted it differently. The teenage me, the main character in that story was ultimately BSing herself most of the time and when I wrote that story, I wrote it that way intentionally. At 15, I didn't know I was doing it. 20 years later, I understand how I deluded myself with romantic silly ideas, as most teenage girls do.

The commenter brought up an issue of my grades. Again, I switched back and forth between being a perfect student and not being able to hold it together academically. I think I recall writing about this before. I would start off each semester or each year swearing I was going to do it right this time and then I couldn't maintain that momentum. I had a lot going on and I was by nature constantly disorganized and very dreamy. I didn't mean to be a bad student and sometimes I was a great student. I wanted to be a good student. I did well in English and History without really having to put forth much effort. I struggled terribly in math and science. I went to several different high schools and I always felt like I was behind and couldn't get caught up until eventually I gave up and dropped out halfway through 11th grade, but I never got bad grades on purpose. There were points in my life when I got better grades than others. When I was younger and lived with the Hollands and they rode my ass constantly and forced me to do my homework, I got good grades. When I lived with my mother, I didn't have that and my mother didn't get involved with my schoolwork because she had her own stuff going on usually and my schoolwork was my own responsibility. That meant that I would become disorganized, procrastinate, forget and get lost in a novel when I should have been doing math problems.

When I got to college I did much better and if you'd like a breakdown of my college career I can give it to you. After dropping out I spent 1 semester in a community college here. Then I moved back to New York with my boyfriend (same one) and spent a semester at community college there. He was applying to real colleges in Boston and I decided on a whim to apply to a real college too. I got in to a very prestigious New England college, went in the Fall of 91 and left right after Thanksgiving because I couldn't hack it and because I had some social issues. Two years later, back in Florida after Atlanta I tried two semesters at a different community college here. Now, I got As and Bs in all of my college classes except one ill fated computer class. I was able to pace myself better in college. By then I was with Evil-Ex. We moved back to Atlanta and he went to college there. I couldn't get in so I just gave up on getting a college degree and worked. In 2002, living back in Florida I went back to community college, got excellent grades, graduated, went to state college and got even better grades, graduated, went to grad school, got a fellowship, won awards and got my MFA last summer.  Got it? Shoot, I can barely keep track of it myself.

So that's it. My entire life has been a struggle to determine who I really am. Which side am I like? Am I good or bad? What does good or bad even mean when it comes to complex human beings and their behaviors? I still wonder how do I reconcile the need for order, structure and planning with the need to experience all aspects of life, to break free, to live without fears, to live with wild abandon. How do I find approval from both sides of my family who each think I am like the opposite so that I never really fit in with either and how do I resolve the inconsistencies within myself?  I'm still trying. I'm doing my best. I'm still writing and this is my truth the best way I can tell it.
Monday, May 17, 2010

Signature Look of, well, 1990 - Body Suits, Crystals and Wide Headbands


During what would have been my senior year of high school, had I not dropped out in the middle of 11th grade, I discovered black eyeliner and proceeded to abuse it thoroughly. Ancient Egyptians would have felt I was overdoing it a little. By this time I hadn't outgrown the spiral perm yet, but I had dyed my hair purple and then tried to dye it black on top of that, resulting in a purple-black tie-dye effect, which was less than attractive. This was also the year that everyone I knew became obsessed with shopping at the Salvation Army and Goodwill for old jeans and body suits. Body suits were big in 1990 and I must have had 17 of them, most of which were black and all purchased at various thrift shops and were leftover from someone's "Let's Get Physical" days. I used to go thrift store shopping with Aunt Kiki back then. Her then mother-in-law was both senile and a hoarder and we would take her to the World Thrift on senior discount day so we could get 50% off. She'd buy a ton of crap to hoard in her house, Aunt Kiki'd buy baby clothes as she was pregnant with her third daughter and I'd buy old jeans and body suits. It all worked out quite well.  I'd wear my body suits with baggy jeans, still pegged (that hadn't quite ended yet, but would by the next year), held up with wide, witchy looking belts. Big square buckles were in - the Pilgrimier the better. I still wore scrunched down socks, but they weren't the size and thickness of a sweater anymore and as you can see in this drawing, I was still really into the lace up black shoes from 7th grade. I alternated these with some Payless slip-ons with huge silver buckles that would have made Miles Standish proud. Now during this time, I was in the 16/17 age range, I really, really felt that my true calling was to go Wiccan and move to Salem, Massachusetts where I would join a coven and perhaps work in an herb shop. I had spell books and professed to celebrating Samhain, but really the only thing I actually did was wear crystals. I loved crystals. I carried a bunch around in a little pouch, as did pretty much everyone in 1990. I was big on the rose quartz to attract love and I liked amethyst because it was purple. I had a bunch of quartz crystals that I wore on black silk cords around my neck and one of them hung from a silver crescent moon (the celestial motif was about to explode) which I got at a new age store and thought was the absolute shit. Now, in addition to really wanting to be Wiccan, I also really really wanted to be Lady Miss Kier. I mean, every girl did. We were obsessed with Deee-lite and groove was definitely in our hearts, along with witchcraft and while it seems that those things would clash, somehow they didn't. To complete our Lady Miss Kier aspirations, most of us girls in 1990 wore super wide, stretchy black headbands right at our foreheads. I also confess to having purchased two catsuits at the World Thrift. One of the catsuits was full length and the other was short shorts with gold braid trim. I also bought some platform soled boots that were a little too small to wear with my catsuits and wide headbands. Being on the modest side, I never ever worked up the nerve to actually wear any of these get-ups outside the house, but oh, how I wanted to. I used to put them on, squeeze into the painfully tight boots and press play on my World Clique cd and dance in front of my mirrored closet doors when I was all alone. I've never admitted this to anyone until now, but I did. Looking back from age 36, I totally should have worn those outfits out in public. I could never get away with it now. My 17 year old body was five feet and six inches tall and 112 pounds. I would kill to have that body back. I couldn't fit one thigh in a catsuit or for that matter a body suit these days, but we never know what we have until it's too late and we're desperately hoping empire waists never go out of style.

Signature Look of the 80s #3 - Head to Toe Large Floral Print

One of the things I swore I would finally get done during my vacation this year is the sorting and scanning of various old photographs. They are from all sides of my family in all eras. There aren't a lot of them. As I've lamented before, we didn't take an awful lot of pictures and many of our photos aren't great quality, but I do have some. Today as I was going through the envelopes full of photos, I ran across the closest picture I have of my famous mullet. You can read the story about how I ended up with the mullet here. It's very tragic. This photograph also highlights some of the worst 80s fashion ever to grace my poor, pubescent frame - the rose patterned stirrup pant, over-sized sweatshirt outfit.  I was head to toe, pink cabbage roses. I had just turned twelve years old. I suffered from a hideous haircut and this is how my mother dressed me. It's no wonder I grew up to become a writer. Now what really brought this outfit over the top was, as I mentioned before, the stirrup pants. Please don't let these ever come back in style Dear Lord. Please. I'm praying. Of course with stirrup pants, one had to wear large, scrunchy socks OVER them. Mine were pink to match the roses. I also wore pink and grey, high-top LA Gear sneakers that looked like they'd match a space suit because they were so padded and quilted. (Pink and grey was huge in the 80s. Note the decor in the restaurant we're in.) Everything about this outfit was dreadful, yet I'd wear it to school every week and just hide between classes when this big Italian girl named Stephanie would come looking for me to slam me into the lockers. It's no wonder I look so depressed in this photo.  And if you're wondering, that's my dad, my mom and my sister on the other side of the table. My sister's sporting the bowl cut there. This is before my mom, in the throes of perm-mania, got ahold of her too.
Friday, May 14, 2010

Ads

By the way, I am putting ads on the blog. Remember last summer when I considered it? I decided to do it now finally because every summer when I don't work I become convinced that I'm going to end up living under a highway overpass and then I get excessively anxious and overwrought. Hope no one is offended.

Signature Look of the 80s #2 - Ridiculous Pants


For Christmas in my ninth grade year, my parents bought me some new clothes at The Limited. I was beside myself with joy. OUTBACK RED!! I got some Henley shirts! I also got one pair of army green Z Cavariccis (real ones!) and two pairs of Outback Red pants in the Z Cavaricci style. One pair was black and white checkered and the other was solid black. My mom thought these were the hottest pants on the planet. For my subdued tastes they were a bit wild, so I preferred the somewhat toned down style of the Outback Red version, which had only half the buckles and loops of the real version. Still, I was very fond of the real Z Cavariccis and wore an enormous black, roll necked, ribbed Forenza sweater to hide some of the more elaborate waist embellishment. I couldn't get away with this around my mom though. She liked the Z Cavariccis in all of their glory, so she preferred me to wear them with a tucked in, button up shirt, puffed out as much as possible. The shirt seen here was a red corduroy shirt that I wore with everything during tenth grade year. I wore it with acid washed jeans (tucked in of course), the checkered pants, a prairie skirt, the army green pants and the black pants.

Getting into a pair of Z Cavariccis was like fitting the lower half of your body in a straight jacket. There were so many buckles and loops and straps on these pants, none of which served any actual practical purpose whatsoever. It took at least fifteen minutes to make sure they were all fastened and arranged just so. The pants were in no way flattering to any body type. With snug high waists, excessive pleating, balloon like proportions through the thighs, tapering down to pegged ankles, there's no way these pants could look good. But try telling that to anyone lucky enough to score a pair back in 1988.

But we weren't satisfied with just wearing the pants as is. No way. You had to roll them up. And you had to roll them up the right way, which means as tightly and as close to cutting off the circulation in your calves as you could come. We accomplished this (with all pants, especially jeans) by pulling the pant leg out in the front and then folding it over and then rolling it very slowly. The cuff had to be very narrow. You were a loser if your cuff was too wide and both legs had to be identical in every way. We practically got a ruler out to measure our cuffing and the height of the roll on each leg. It had to be exact! People would make fun of you! You would never get invited to sit at the right lunch table if your pants weren't rolled up properly!!

Naturally we wore our rolled up pants with huge, scrunched down socks. I had these in every color and I always coordinated my socks to my shirts. In the above sketch, if the top were red the socks would also be red. Then, on my feet, a pair of what we called Eastland Hikers. I lived for these shoes. I lived in these shoes. But again, they had to be worn a certain way. You couldn't just lace them up and tie them. No. Alas. You would be pariah in all social circles if you did that. You'd be known as eww, the girl who ties her shoes, gross. The shoes had to be laced a certain way and left untied with the excess laces knotted neatly into two symmetrical coils that resembled tiny beehives or tiny nooses. We had also done this with the laces of Docksiders, but no one in their right mind would wear Docksiders by this point. Those were so sixth grade and totally out of style along with Bermuda purses and again, ewww. The laces always gave me a problem. I couldn't do the cool coil thing. It caused me endless anxiety. My friend A tried to do it for me, but she too had trouble. Finally, my dear friend Faith Hill (once thought to have been in a persistent vegetative state which turned out to be a nasty rumor - she's perfectly normal, yay) came to the rescue. Faith Hill was popular, but more than just regular popular. Faith Hill was absolutely stellar and radiant with popularity, so naturally she knew how to do up some laces for me. On my next trip to Millpond I had her hook me up and she made the coils so tight that they lasted longer than the fad itself.

Now to complete the whole look - Outback Red top, Z Cavariccis properly cuffed, slouchy socks to match my shirt and Hikers with coiled laces - all I needed were two wrists full of friendship bracelets. Everyone made these and gave them away and if someone gave you one, YOU COULD NOT REMOVE IT EVER. We showered in them and everything. They frayed and faded, turned grey and we would not take them off. I adored my friendship bracelets. Naturally, just like with the shoelaces, I couldn't figure out how to make them, so I had to rely on the generosity of my friends. Once again, Faith Hill came to my rescue and spent a whole day trying to teach me how to make them. Once I got the hang out of it, you couldn't keep me away from a skein of embroidery thread. I was dangerous. I even developed a signature color scheme - periwinkle, rose, yellow and lime green.

The look you see above lasted me a while. I wore this for the second half of ninth grade, well into tenth grade until I got in a world of trouble and had to go to the Waldorf School, which I then proceeded to get expelled from within six months.The Waldorf school though marked a change in my fashion identity. I moved away from my preppy/ popular aspirations. As a Waldorf student, I suddenly became...an artiste.

Signature Look of the 80s #1 - The Purple Dress


A few weeks ago I got into an elaborate discussion with my friend regarding some of our fashion choices from high school back in the late 80s. Hilarity ensued as we remembered some of the more ridiculous attire we coveted, begged our parents to buy us and then proudly wore. I looked in vain through the few old pictures I have, and couldn't find any photographic evidence of some of my better outfits. Unfortunately, we just weren't really big on picture taking back then. It's such a shame. So, I got out my sketch pad and just drew some of my old outfits. Lord knows I remember every detail of them. Once they were done, I scanned them in for your viewing pleasure.

The first outfit was the uniform I wore, without fail, once a week in ninth grade. Sometimes I wore it on the weekends too. I loved it that much. Yes people, I loved a shapeless, drop-waisted, puffed sleeved, crayola marker purple dress with a 3 tiered ruffled skirt. Come on! It was from the Limited Express!! It was rayon!! This dress was bad, but the way I accessorized it made everything worse. In 7th grade, when my feet stopped growing, my mother had purchased for me, at Bradlees, a pair of plain black, pointy-toed lace up shoes which I proceeded to wear for at least the next ten years. I wore them with the purple dress and with big, scrunched down socks. If it was cold out, I wore thick white tights. This dress was purchased during my scarf phase, so naturally I had to tie a gigantic, white, chiffon bow on the side of my head. I had several chiffon scarves of the sort that old ladies wear to cover their heavily sprayed coifs. I bought these scarves at Woolworths and they were all under a dollar apiece, so I thought I had really scored myself a deal. I wore one in my hair every day. Sometimes before school, I'd have to tie and retie the bow to get it just so on the side of my head. The bow couldn't be on top. It had to be on the side to properly highlight my spiral perm.

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