Buttermilk, Bread Crumbs, A Week In Review, Part 1

Trout is truly a nice person. Mamie and I agree there’s no way Trout would ever do something deliberately to hurt anybody, so we think she hangs around with us to tarnish her karma a little bit. When I met her, I was 14 and trying to stuff my whole body into a 24″ gym locker. She was 17, busty, topless and making smutty jokes. I like that in a person.

On Tuesday nights, my girlfriends – some of whom lack a critical X-chromasome – gather in a restaurant with a fireplace to eat dinner and hoot like monkeys about the intervening week. Lala’s daughter’s wedding date is nine days after Miss Sasha’s. Both our families are undertaking interracial weddings. Both families include members the outside world regards as *so nice* but we know they’re ruthless, controlling bastards. Neither of us can keep our mouth shut.

We should hire a film crew.

“You can’t beat the food club prices for pudding!” says Mamie, gesticulating like a Sicilian traffic cop. “Or cheese slices! You can’t beat those!”

“Can’t you get pudding and cheese at the grocery store?” I ask, because I’m both lazy and driven, and grocery shop once every four weeks at midnight on weekends for Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, and myself. I see the same cashiers on a monthly basis. We’re very close. They think I have six kids and a petting zoo.

“In the grocery store, you get six for $3.89. At the food club, it’s 18 for about $2. Three times the pudding for half the price! That’s THREE TIMES THE PUDDING! And cheese – “

“Some of us like to poop,” Trout chirps.

“I was going to say ‘If you like American, the food club pack means you can have a slice for three months,” Mamie says, staring, arms frozen in mid-gesture.

“That’s it,” I howl, getting a pen and paper. “What did you just say?”

“‘Some of us like to poop,'” Trout chirps again for the home audience.

“Some…of us…like…to poop,” I say and write on the back of a list of windshield glass replacement companies. One is coming to my car in a university parking lot Monday morning, hopefully before the graceful tilde-shaped crack implodes the pretty, pretty auto glass into a big pile of shiny art supplies. I have a bucket of the stuff collected off the streets of New Brunswick. I’d rather have a car windshield than a second tub. Lala hasn’t skipped a sip of clam chowder. I’m still holding a pen. “Where’s your daughter registered?”

“Bloomingdale’s,” she sips. “Crate & Barrel.” Lala has a metabolism and she knows how to use it.

Trout has a gift for wicked understatement. Once she sidled up behind me in a bar and whispered provocatively in my ear. “Did you know musicians make the same faces when they’re playing music as when they’re having sex?” She’s a musician and she’s dated musicians, so I know she’s telling the truth. Just that second, I was watching my brother play one of the blistering guitar parts on “Radar Love.” I went completely spastic and spent the rest of the evening with a beer in each hand, facing the back of the bar. I couldn’t finish a sentence. Audrey, dating my brother at the time, sprained a shoulder pointing at me and laughing. I say, “This is like that time you said guitar players – “

“Fuck like they play,” she purrs. “Only: dairy products.” Lala made for the salad bar. Finally, all the girls were eating, while the restaurant’s waiters and waitresses were squeezing one another’s young, firm bottoms at the bar, which is to say directly behind Trout and Lala. College basketball was on the differently color-balanced TVs behind Lala and Mamie. I’d eaten at home. Everyone was chewing as if her life depended on it except me. This was not their first mistake.

“So Mamie and I went to the bridal shower and I so wished you two instigators were there,” I say, as if putting out fire with gasoline were an original idea. “My dad catered the event, which means the food was really good. Sister #1 set up the banquet table and displays, so it was really beautiful. Colorful. Rustic.”

“Rustic?” Mamie frowns.

“Yeah, there was bread coming out of EVERYWHERE.”

Mamie slaps her forehead. “She’s right! There was bread coming out of EVERYWHERE. And she had stands and risers so the food was at all different levels.”

“Sister #1 is a professional. Also: Sister #2 and Sister #3 made a really sinister-looking room very nice with a bolt of orange tulle and some safety pins or something. It was a miracle.”

“The room wasn’t…so nice?” Lala ventures, spearing a grape tomato.

“You had to walk through an old man bar with a disco ball to get there. Or down three flights of wooden dune stairs. Keep in mind we’re all carrying giant serving dishes in lovely floral designs that turn into shrapnel on impact.” Mamie dips cauliflower in cream sauce, as foretold by the prophet Atkins.

“Ooooooooooh,” breathe Trout and Lala together.

**************************************************

Continue to part 2

Advertisements

Road Trip, "Bagdad Cafe"-Style

Johnny’s a man on the move:

You must remember this. Because I don’t. Remember. This. Here’s your proof. You can’t outrun them. You have to kill them with a stake before they bite.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7209312/?GT1=6305

Furthermore, I had to switch from juno to earthlink, and I’ve lost all my Favorites, like your blog, which I can’t seem to find on google, maybe I’m just a retard, I can only find altrok, and I, like, KNOW where altrok is.

Cal’s dad got us a AAA TripTick, which is a spiral-bound notebook of maps for our whole trip, from our door to Santa Fe, with our routes highlighted. It’s fagulous. I’ll be seeing places out of a Boys Don’t Cry/In Cold Blood/Thelma and Louise nightmare, like Laramie, like Amarillo. Ama-fucking-rillo! My greaser cowboy past coming to life before my eyes! Don’t look!

Marcello is a sweet and mellow fellow, Giancarlo too. They don’t even seem to have noticed that their mummy cut their balls off. Cal jacked them up with something called Kitty Magic, which is morphine, ketamine, and something else, but hey, this already sounds like a pretty good menu. Rather than waking up slowly and thrashing around for a while and then being torpid for days, patients flying on Kitty Magic Airlines come back in a few hours, happy as me on a poppy farm. I’m heartbroken that apparently it really doesn’t work as well on people, although I’d like to know, did they actually test it on people? I’ll volunteer. As long as they don’t cut my balls off. Again.
********************************************************************************

Hot damn. I’m going to need a grad student to take all this down for posterity.

Spring Cleaning, Bouncing Back

Monday morning, Sean – whom I haven’t seen since last August – quacked from his obscenely expensive home at an undisclosed location somewhere near the Jersey Shore that he had strep. I swear I hung up the phone and didn’t just run but sprinted a fever. He cursed me. Within an hour, my hands on the keyboard on my desk were the only part of me still moving. My eyes were closed but I’m a touch typist so illness did not interrupt the constant stream of scathing and mostly unintelligible email Mamie receives from me all day, every day. At work, I only *seem* quiet. Monday, I looked like a wax museum statue with an axe to grind.

Monday night, I lay on the couch, eyes closed, listening to the TV. To my complete and absolute shock I fell asleep before 11 p.m. This should have been my first clue that I’d caught a truly vicious plague, and that prompt medical attention would save me days of saying, “We’ve known one another since I came to work here in the eighties, and yet I don’t remember hearing you had a twin. Wearing the same outfit, even…” No, I was an idiot and went to work Tuesday morning. We’d suddenly received performance appraisal forms Monday, and I’d really tried my best to form sentences. I may’ve written words like “I’ve risen through the ranks to become Interplanetary Cancellation Potentate, striking fear into the hearts of publishers on three sides of the Atlantic.” Tuesday morning, I wrapped myself in a Joe Boxer blanket and became an embarrassment to my department in the staff lounge. Over the course of 85 minutes, no fewer than twenty people saw me sleeping in a baby blue microfibre blanket in a reasonably public place and asked, “Are you okay?”

It is important to recall that people mean well even as they’re asking the dumbest question you’ll hear all day two dozen times.

Anyway, the reason I didn’t leave work was that my car was a doorstop in my parking lot at home, and one of my co-workers offered to drop me at home halfway through the day. Besides the ride, I was hoping my mind would clear long enough for me to read my appraisal and find out *how* unemployed I’d be next week. The proofreading didn’t go so well. The co-worker dropped me off at my driveway and turned around because the next block was barricaded. Police cars were parked as unspeakable angles. It looked like a patriotic Christmas light nightmare. I went upstairs, called Miss Sasha and demanded she and her fiance come over, jumpstart my car and drive my nemesys to the mechanic. Curiously, she didn’t tell me to fuck off. She’d call when they were nearby. I fell asleep. Probably.

Sometime later, the phone rang. I stumbled down to the parking lot with my clown-red hair pointed toward magnetic north. The hood was already up. I opened the trunk and took out the cables. They were easy to find in my miniscule trunk because they were red, black and I couldn’t tell if I was seeing double. He started the car. She drove it to the mechanic’s. I’d taken out the radio so she stood a fair chance of arriving at the mechanic’s without an arrest record because her attention span is shorter than mine. Which is seconds long, really. Safety first! As I turned to stumble back into the building, the super’s path intersected with mine.

“Know what that police pileup is?” he asked. Fuzzy, I said I sure didn’t.

“Hostage situation,” he said. “They’re not letting anyone past the cars.” I didn’t just laugh, I BARKED out loud. Oh, come now. In New Brunswick? The police seemed pretty convinced and convincing. This event turned up on CNN. Later, it turned out to be a bi-polar child molester in Texas and her chat room friends making 911 calls for fun. People do plenty of low-level crap to one another in this town but the city’s accumulated felonies don’t hold a candle to one day in Newark or Jersey City. All afternoon, a helicopter hovered directly above my window at a height that guaranteed the rotor noise was louder than I could turn “General Hospital.” Tuesday night, I called a cab and went to the mechanic’s.

See, late the week before, I’d driven over to Mamie’s and couldn’t figure out why the interior lights wouldn’t go off. My car is not like yours. It’s a 1992 LeBaron Convertible, and it has – thankfully – a real minimum of buttons and gadgets I would be nervous about touching anyhow. Paulie bought me this car so I could go to work without catching fire. I love this car but it’s not so sure about taking our relationship to the next level. Mamie and I combed every inch of the dashboard and couldn’t find a way to turn off the interior lights, which none the less flickered seductively and sometimes went out. It was just a matter of time before my car turned into that doorstop and Monday morning, it did not disappoint me. Tuesday afternoon, just over the rotor noise, the mechanic called and said a plastic piece in the door was displaced and he’d moved it. I love that man. At the mechanic’s I found the teenage boys who love the same bands I do and asked where my car was. They gave me the keys and I drove off. I thought my fever had gone but I was wrong. The cool evening air temporarily made me lucid. Minutes later, I realized I was a danger to myself and others. Fortunately, I was on Route 27, with all the other drivers who were routinely a danger to themselves and others, so I got home okay and swore next time I’d take a stunt owner.

I once again fell asleep at least an hour before I ordinarily would’ve thought about brushing my teeth and complaining about the hours of tossing and turning ahead of me. Honestly, I should’ve just checked into the hospital I can see from my bathroom.

All Wednesday, I lay on my couch with my eyes closed. Often, I said, “Blubb…” but as you might imagine, of course I was unbearably attractive. My drink of choice was NyQuil, and again, I slept through the night. No wonder I was confused Thursday and went to work.

Fortunately, it was performance review day, and my brain was full of soda. In the seventies and very early eighties, I used to pay to feel like my feet were a mile from my brain. The people I work for went on a bit about how fab my year was, work-wise, and I pooh-poohed their efforts to pretend I might earn a living wage because we don’t want to embarrass one another.

Naturally, I didn’t sleep Thursday night and Friday, I wondered if I’d hallucinated the whole week. Pink elephants? Car trouble? Friday night and Saturday, I stripped my bed, scoured the bathroom and bleached my apartment to within an inch of its life.

If I’d had orange juice in my fridge, my insomnia might still bat .1000.

Just Between Us

It’s you and I, you know.

By “you” I mean you. You know who you are. You can wear that sombrero and stick-on mustache six days a week but on Sunday, you’re up against it. The truth is you may not remember who used to wear the hat.

By “I” I mean me, and I could be anyone. I’ve got a personality to match every sweater I own and a couple I’ve got my eye on. Since we’re here, get the door and don’t step on my cat. He’s black so you won’t see him until he’s sitting on your chest, issuing demands. Don’t worry. He’s a hustler. When he sees you have nothing he wants he’ll leave you be.

Any plural pronoun forms the basis for misunderstanding. “Let’s be patient,” I might say. The pronoun is hidden in a simple contraction; the anxiety would be clear. The risks are great in any human interaction. You’ve come a long way. For a moment you didn’t recognize my face and when you did, you hesitated. You know who you are. I could be anyone. The cat doesn’t trust you. Take off your shoes.

Pinto-A-Go-Go

Johnny pops his head in and blurts:

I slid on some ice last week and hit a curb, breaking my drive shaft. The car was damaged, too. Repairs proceed, but in the meanwhile, all the agency had was a Jeep Cherokee 4 x 4. This is another case of learning how cliche’d expressions got that way. I climbed into this monster and I immediately felt like I was driving a tank. I have to admit, it’s a masterful, invincible feeling, looking down at the tiny little cars. I can see now what a gnat I look like to people driving these things. They said I could come by today and see if anything smaller had come in off the road and give back the Jeep. I didn’t go by.

OJ inoculated me against American justice. I just laughed when Robert Blake got off with that preposterous yarn about going back to the restaurant to get his gun. Balls big enough to tell that one, maybe he deserves to walk, besides which, if I were him, I would have shot Bonny Lee a lot sooner. A few miles away, it’s heartening to see that Scott Peterson could sell bullshit for a living but not to a jury. I don’t care how much of a prissy pain in the ass she was. Get a divorce like the rest of us hapless bastards. Fry, you stupid asshole. Fry!

*************************************************
I’m not a lawyer, but as your attorney, I advise you to get a divorce and pretend you’re Oscar Madison, not Billy Madison. Grow up!

Love and Lupini

Not a single member of the family has both oars in the water. Miss Sasha’s bachelorette party plans to cruise the side of New Brunswick where I spent fifteen years at, under and behind the bar. Ordinarily, I’d say mine was a problem with prepositions but I might have to mame my drinking buddies for drooling on the beautiful girl who looks like a miniature, blond, girlie, smiling, youthful version of…okay, she looks nothing like me. If there were a resemblance, the barflies might figure it out and cower at the other end of the room. Geez, I know my friends. I would have Miss Sasha dusted for fingerprints Sunday morning if I hadn’t issued strict orders to the cousins that the group stay out of my local.

My kitchen looks like Mario Batali’s briefcase exploded in marinated mushroom and garlic breadstick shrapnel. Serving bowls and platters, squeaky clean, are stacked on even the smallest bit of surface space. Dad, via email, growls about the hour at which bread can be purchased, and why no one knows where to find a decent Italian bakery outside of New York and Philadelphia. Sisters #2 and #3 have remained calm, but #1 is going to have an aneurysm if I tell So-And-So that I know what happened with You-Know-Who, and #1 can’t be blamed because nobody would trust her and she’ll never tell me another secret if I blabb. If I don’t hem a pair of pants tonight, nobody’s going to say to me tomorrow, “She’s going to make a lovely bride.” No. They’ll say, “Tata, darling, you look lovely but, um, where are your pants?” and, “Blue’s not your best color, dear.” I hate to wish away twenty-eight hours of my life but I can’t wait to survey the wreckage of a rented hall, all the tulle a party of 30 could swing from and the ruins of meringues and vegetable kebabs and gasp, “I meant to do that…”

Oh God, I hate bridal showers.

Our Wild Animal Friends

In California, the world’s only captive great white shark is swimming around an aquarium tank. She’s got a bruised nose from bashing the glass. She’s recently made fresh sashimi of two tankmates. The marine biologists who take care of her have the nerve to stand in front of news cameras and act surprised. I immediately thought of catnip.

Like many of our former stray friends, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, is an indoor wild animal. I used to enjoy discovering he’d foraged in the garbage can and torn apart chicken carcasses as I slept. It made me think his sojourn among the outside cats might have been filled with slow-moving pigeons, possibly in orange sauce. Still, he’s not tame. One night I gave him some catnip to roll around in. About fifteen minutes later, I remembered that catnip makes him crazy. My memory is terrible, but it improved temporarily when I looked over the side of the couch and took a claw to the face. See, *I* may forget who’s bent on stealing my soul, but like Pepperidge Farm, the little black cat remembers. So yes, my hair is a vivid red and since Friday my wild ideas feel smarter and wilder than they have in ages. So here’s one: some creatures by their very natures do not belong to us. We live alongside them and forget to our peril that they’ve got their own lives. Next time I dish out the catnip I’ll keep one eye on the cat. The shark belongs in a deep ocean, scaring surfers and making little sharks – or on a Japanese menu, if you will. From this we might also learn that our own lives are best conducted without tourists and voyeurs. You know. Unless they’re tasty.