It's not about the house.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting To No

I have a hard time turning people down.

It's why I was the Asperger kid's best (and only) friend in elementary school. Why I learned to drink hard at an early age. Why I wound up going to graduate school, sort of, and why providence alone kept me from catching something gross or getting the Looking for Mr. Goodbar blur when I dropped out. It's also why I wound up marrying my Richard Gere.

2010, though, was going to be my Selfish Summer. Of the two old ladies whose beck-and-call I've been at for thirteen years, one went round the bend; the other died. I had no job, an easy book to write, and Richard "Goodbar" Gere kicked to the curb. I would disappear into the woods of Maine and come out a published author, all psychically rested and rejubified.

(It's not a word. Don't bother googling. I made it up.)

But then Things started to Happen.

And no matter how Selfish you're intent on being, you can't say no to one of your best friends when they tell her that she has to have her tits off. You can't say no to Richard Gere when he asks you to participate in your divorce. You can't say no to the summer camp that raised you (or, actually, taught you how to raise yourself), or to the now-diabetic cat who's been your friend for sixteen years (he was there through all the Goodbar years; he just might talk). You can't say no to your dead mother's dog whose ear's infected, or to your car that shit the bed on 95. You can't say no to family that comes to visit. And you sure as shit can't say no to one of your best friends when she goes back to work with her new, smaller tits and gets laid off.

Now here's a pop quiz for you: It's the end of August. All you've done for yourself all summer is shoot pool. The book's only 3/4 written, you're risking your last chance to be a published author, and you are feeling neither rested nor rejubified. (Still not a word. But go ahead and look it up. I bet it brings you right back meta-here...) When your sister and brother-in-law remind you of your promise back in April that you'd babysit while they go to Foxboro for opening-day -- as you've done for every home game since your niece was born six years ago (which is how she earned the nickname Football Buddy), but somehow managed to forget about till now -- do you:

A.  Immediately begin making arrangements to kennel the stank-ear dog and diabetic cat for that weekend, so they can both get the care they need while you go down and tend to Football Buddy.

B. Immediately offer to jet down there to pick up Football Buddy between cat-shots and dog-ear-cleanings, and have her as your guest in Maine for the weekend.

C. Immediately figure out a stepped-up work schedule to start making up for soon-to-be-lost time.


D. Burst into tears and wail "Writing is really hard, and I never get any time to do it, and if I don't sell this book I'm going to have to work at Wal-Mart, so why won't everyone leave me alone?"

I, personally, think B. is the most selfless option.

But nobody said this was supposed to be a selfless summer, after all.

I think Mrs. Reagan would be proud. 

P.S. I really am knuckling down on the bookwork. I really don't want to work at Wal-Mart, after all. It's why I haven't been around here much these days. I'll be done by mid-September -- October 1st at the drop-dead latest -- and when it's done I've got a couple yeses lined up as rewards. One I promise to tell you about when it happens... 

But the Hershey's Miniature is just for me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Four Nuns Die And Go To...

This week, I realized anew just how crucial it is for me to get the new book in the can, like, yesterday. Meaning literally a week and a half ago. Which naturally sent me into such a tailspin of writer's block that I actually slept. And cleaned the bathroom. And went to Wal-Mart. And mended my fine-booty Ralph Lauren jeans that finally tore.

I like the way those jeans came out, though. Wanna see?

I've really got to get the camera set up on this computer. 
The BlackBerry may be very useful for many things, 
but every picture I take with it looks like ass. 
And not fine-booty Ralph Lauren ass, either. 
Just ass.

The jeans tore because I shot pool in them, which I knew would happen if I did, which is why I was taking care not to wear them to shoot pool. But I didn't plan on shooting pool that night, it just kind of happened. I was on my way to the grocery store (see above, re: writer's block. I've found an excuse to go to the grocery store every day this week as well. Desperate shaving cream emergencies, you see. And dishwashing-detergent ones. And beer. This time I think I may have been after a Kit Kat bar), and then suddenly I was in the parking lot of my new local.

Oh! I finally found a local! Found it about a month ago, actually, but it only really became my local just this week.

It's a real one, too. Not one of these pussy-party bars for horny 20-somethings and middle-aged folks who are (as they say around here) "upta camp," but a real, live, honest-to-god local bar. With one pool table (in the front, thanks very much), a jukebox (it's digital, but they all are these days, so I forgive it), Sam Adams on draft (not my first choice of beer if I've got one -- which I do: they have about a billion more kinds in the fridge -- but at $4 for a 20 oz draft, I'm not complaining), and a full menu to boot (this is a novelty for me, and all I've tried so far are the brownies, but let me tell you, after five or six Sam Adams drafts, they fucking rock).

It's called Hawg Heaven.

It's one of these places that feels like it's been there forever, but it turns out to be just eighteen months old. Owned and run by a married couple (it's the second marriage for them both) whose names are Don and Kathy, but they'd like it if you'd call them Mom and Pop. Kathy tends bar and makes brownies and mothers everyone; Don cooks food and smokes cigarettes (not in the kitchen, don't worry) and shoots a killer stick. He says I'm good enough to beat him, if only I'd get the idea that I can't out of my head. I think he's just being nice 'cause he's the owner, but I appreciate that he's not shy to kick my ass.

I actually did beat him last time I was in there, but only because I got fed up banking the eight. Which we'd gentlemen-agreed to do. So that was Chelsea of me. Doesn't count. And Kathy was there for me the night the jeans tore. She offered to go get the duct tape, but I like the jeans too much to do that to them. Besides, the place was dead that night, so there was no one to bear witness to my ass.

The only problem is that for a local, it's really not so very. I found it because I was driving around looking for a place, decided I had gone too far, and it was where I pulled in to turn around. It is literally as far as I am willing to go for a drink. It takes me a half an hour just to get there. Which also means it takes a half an hour to get home. So now that I've officially established myself as a regular, I'm going to have to be not so very regular myself. Until the book's done, anyway, I've decided to go there just one night a week. On Fridays. Like I hear real people with real jobs often do.

Maybe also Wednesday, though. If I've been very good. Because there's a nice bunch of people who are always there on Wednesday nights, and a girl can never have too many friends.

And, well, every other Monday is free pool...

Oh! P.S. Plus also! I finally got an answer as to why everyone up here assumes I ride a bike! Because everyone up here does. Simple as that. Everyone at Hawg Heaven thinks it's weird that I'm only getting my M-Class now, at 41. I sure as shit hope I pass the test...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Don't Believe In Peter Pan*

The registration form for my motorcycle-driving class asked me whether I could ride a bike. As in bicycle. I imagine it asks everyone, but I took the question a little more personally than perhaps it was intended. I mean, I haven’t been on a bicycle since I was in high school, for crying out loud, which was nine months shy of a quarter-century ago, so--

Oh my god.

I am very, very Old.

Hey, did I mention I’m getting hit on by boys that weren't even born the last time I was on a bicycle? Hot ones? As in, like, Underwear-Model Hot? Yep. One of ’em went so far as to text me a topless picture. (Oh, like you wouldn’t give your cell phone number to an Underwear-Model Hot 28-year-old. It isn’t like I gave him my address, for god's sake. Tell Jiminy Cricket to get back in his box.) I’d love to share the picture with you, but even Underwear-Model  Hot 28-year-olds are Private People, after all. Besides, if I showed it to you, you’d pass out, and then you’d miss my funny, funny story…

Now where was I?

Oh that’s right: I’m Very Old.

I did take my trusty blue ten-speed to college with me in 1986 because they said I could, and spent the next four years moving it from one dorm basement to another till I graduated, upon which point I’m pretty sure I left it there. Haven’t had a use or desire for one since. Not sure I’d be able to do it anymore if I tried. I mean, I know they say it’s like riding a bike and everything, but a quarter-century is an awfully long time. Except, you know, in Underwear-Model years …

But that registration form asked a lot of questions that I had to answer “no” to. Did I own a motorcycle? Had I ever been on one? Not even as a passenger? Could I at least drive a stick? Didn’t I have a learner’s permit yet?

Christ. By the time I got to the last question I felt like such a loser I just impulsively checked the box that said “Yes. Yes! I can ride a fucking bicycle, okay?”

Then the course material came in the mail. And in the course material it says you have to be capable of balancing on a bicycle or you’ll be sent home in a dunce cap with the words “I’m a Pussy” tattooed on your forehead.

Don’t you think they could have mentioned this before they took my $350?

Fortunately, I seemed to remember having seen a bicycle kicking around this house somewhere when I was cleaning, and since I think I’d recall having carted it off to the dump, I was pretty sure it must still be kicking around. Probably in the basement – because, again, I think I’d notice something as incongruous as a bicycle in the bathroom.

And sure enough, when I remembered to look for it two weeks later, there it was! Right next to the standing freezer, behind the rocking chair, covered in sawdust and with tires almost as flat as Debra Messing.

Hey, I’m sorry for the bush-league boob-joke, folks, but seriously…

…that girl is frigging concave, for crying out loud.

Fortunately again, the little store around the corner (which I really don’t go to all that much, because it’s for sale, so the inventory is spotty and odd at best, and at worst musty and stale. Except the beer. They always have Old Thumper. Speaking of which—hang on one sec, I’ll be right back.

Okay, sorry. This ought to go a little smoother now) has an air pump I’d just noticed the other day. So I dusted off the bike, called Dad to ask him what the pressure should be in the tires (his answer? “I don’t know, what does it say on the tire?” Der. Thanks, Dad), and pushed it the quarter of a mile to the store. Where I filled them to the manufacturer-recommended 40 lbs and then realized I was about to mount a bicycle for the first time in 25 years right in front of God and truck drivers and the clerk who sells me Old Thumper and everyone.

I said a quick “Oh Elvis who art King” under my breath, threw a leg over, and…

It really is just like riding a bike!

I was a little wobbly at first, sure, but I was careful to mount up behind the 18-wheeler so nobody saw, and I had my sea legs under me in a matter of yards. Whee! Easy!

You know what’s hard, though?


And there’s a lot of ’em around here.

Well, not real hills. It’s more that the whole area is kind of moguly, with lots of gentle sloping up and down (I may never have been on skis in my life, but yes, I do know that moguls are small bumps; I’m extrapolating a metaphor here, people, work with me). And this bike is not a real bike – it’s what I think they call a touring bike. The kind that always reminds me of the Muppet Movie.

Whichever Muppet Movie that scene's from. 
They’re all the same.

Point being that it's only got one gear. And it’s just a little bit too small for me. And I couldn’t figure out how to raise the seat. So the uphill-parts, with my knees around my tits, were ass.

The downhill-parts were fun, though!

I rode almost 8 miles on that first day, and had so much fun that I went 13 miles the next. Then my morning workout started sucking and I like that too much to risk it, so I quit. Maybe I’ll pick it up again someday, but in the meantime here’s a summary of my recent Tour de Maine in five quick points:

1. I can still ride a bicycle. So the pussy-tattoo-threat level holds at green. For now.

2. A bike is like a horse: whichever way you turn your head, that’s where it goes. At least (as Dr. One Friend pointed out) to someone who doesn’t so much know what she’s doing yet. So until you do, it’s best if you keep your mind on your driving, keep your hands on the wheel, and keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead.

3. But how the fuck are you not supposed to look at peacocks!? I shit you not: peacocks. In somebody’s front yard. Fortunately (again), they were across the street from me, so when I swerved, I swerved into the middle of the road instead of off it. And fortunately (again) there were no cars around.

4. Hey, Dad, remember how you said you wouldn’t worry about me if I rode Mom’s bike?

5. Oh, what the hell:

It not as if his face is in it, anyway.

*But I might be getting ready to accept him as my own personal savior...

Monday, August 16, 2010

...And Red All Over

Remember how my trip to Massachusetts started as a day at the summer camp I used to work at, painting or banging or screwing something or other? Well I guess the banging and screwing must be reserved for counselors (when camp's in session, at least), because it it turned out our job was to paint what used to be the kitchen when we worked there. It’s not the kitchen anymore, because the old dining hall burned down and all that’s left of it is a concrete slab and fieldstone fireplace:

Sad, huh?

But the old kitchen is still standing somehow, and from the state of it I'd say they use it as a staff room or something, because it’s gross. Full of cobwebs; dirt of who-knows what origin in every corner; nasty, puke-colored hand-me-down upholstered furniture with moldy-looking cushions; and just generally decorated in the nouveau-crack-den style. I can’t believe the unsanitary things we used to do to one another in conditions just like those. Everyone but me, of course, because back then I used to be a good girl.

But we weren’t there Saturday to do the inside. Last weekend some other folks power-washed the outside of it, and we were there to hit it with a coat of brown stain and white trim.

"We" turned out to be four of us, spanning two camp-generations – meaning there was less than five years’ age difference between us all. Camp generations are shorter than real ones, see, because at camp you’re teenagers, and to a teenager eighteen months feels like a thousand years. So when someone you meet at reunion, for example, tells you they thought you were two generations older than you are, it doesn’t mean you look like Betty White. You’ve just got some grey hair and he’s drunk, is all.

Of the four of us that were there on Saturday, Ann and Yvette are both one camp-generation older than me – they weren't there when I was, and somehow I didn’t meet them at reunion -- and Rickie-poo’s a half-generation in between. I knew of Rickie-poo when we were there more than I actually knew him, although I will admit I had a crush on him just like every other pulsing teenaged girl. In fact, if you went to or worked at camp, then you probably had a crush on Rickie, too -- he was the cute, blonde, tan one with the guitar? I think it’s mandatory that every camp-generation everywhere must have one. Oh, and nobody called him Rickie-poo back then. I started doing it this year because it makes me laugh, and now I think it might be catching on. Sorry, Rickie-poo!

Now, before I go any farther, I would like to state for the record that I was told by Rickie-poo himself: “We'll be starting at 9am but get there when you can.” And that is a direct quote from a facebook message. Well, I mean, the italics are mine – you can’t put italics in a facebook message, and I do gravitate toward the dramatic, after all. But the point is I was told I didn’t have to be on time.

And I wasn’t really even all that late. I left Dad’s house at five past nine, detoured to Dunkin’s, and pulled in at 9:37 sharp. Spent a few minutes gathering shit out of the car and trying to untie the damn grocery bag full of CDs I’d brought along, and was hollering hello at quarter of.

By which point Ann and Yvette had finished scraping.

Well, good. Because I fucking hate scraping. Actually, I fucking hate painting, too. It’s a measure of how stirred-up, bat-shit, Shining-crazy I’m starting to go in Maine that I was willing to drive two and a half hours down to do this with three people I don’t even know. I know them now, though. Boy, howdy, do I know them now...

So anyway, we painted, blah blah blah.


...and after... a gratuitous shot of me doing something paint-related. 
Not as proof of my efforts so much as because it's hot.

See? We really did. But that isn’t the important part at all. The important part is our discovery -- and it's not much of a revelation, really -- that people who work at camp are good people, no matter what camp-generation they belong to. A little of this happened while we repaired the kitchen, but most happened afterwards, when we repaired ourselves to a local establishment called the Black & White.

The Black & White was where we always used to go for burgers and ice cream on nights out. Well, not always. As Rickie-poo pointed out, once you had a car -- or a friend who had one -- you went anywhere else but. Because even to a camp-starved, growing teenager, the Black & White was a thousand generations removed from anything that could be called gourmet. The burgers had knuckles in them just like the ones at camp, the fries were worse, and what I remember most about the ice cream was its distinct sawdusty mouth-feel. Blech. But it was close enough to walk to by way of a trail in the woods, and they even kept a hitching post out back for those of us who rode.

I gather that the Black & White has been closed for a while, but it recently reopened with the same name. And, this time around, it has a bar

The food’s better this time, too, if you don’t count the baggy-tie Yvette got in her burger. But the manager apologized for that profusely, comped her meal and a whole round of drinks. It just so happened that was the round we weren’t sure we were going to have, but once we did it seemed like a good idea to have a couple more. The conversation turned to things you talk about at camp, which means I’ve promised not to reveal any of it here...

But (maybe because I do gravitate toward the dramatic, after all) I can't seem to stop myself from showing this:


Yes, it's what you think it is, and it wasn’t just for giggles. It was illustrating a Very Important Point someone was making (okay, me. But for those of you who know me, don't despair: I wasn't talking about anyone in particular. If it looks familiar, then that's all on you). Rickie-poo drew it (which, quite frankly, put the nail in the coffin of my teenaged crush because, I mean, look at that thing!). And Yvette for some reason (extra-credit studying later, perhaps?) tucked it in her purse and took it home.

There is a teeny-tiny chance that none of us should have been driving by the time we got the check – which was really embarrassingly small. I do know, however, that we all got home okay. I also know that we were there so long I was hungry again when I went by Hot Dog Annie’s on my way home, so I stopped and had myself another meal.

And, last but not least, I know I really, really wish that one of my new friends had thought to make me lock the damn BlackBerry in the trunk of my car!

I was feeling so warm and fuzzy inside after that fun day and my long-anticipated Annie’s hot dog, see, that I decided I just had to share it with a New Potential Friend. But I got the NPF's voice mail. And the voice mail kept cutting me off after three seconds. “Hey, it’s Erin, Iclick.” “Me again, I just got disconnected, and I—click.” By the third or fourth time I called back I wasn’t feeling warm and fuzzy anymore. I was feeling like a flustered jackass and wishing the ground would open up and swallow me whole. And, naturally, that’s the moment NPF's voice mail chose to let me jackass-blather on...

It’s okay. The person I jackassed all over was pretty well convinced I’m psycho anyway, so it’s not as though there’s any damage done. I may have lost my New Potential Friend for good there – I hope not, but at this point there's no more this drama queen can do. If NPF's out there and interested, however, I do have three New Actual Friends willing to vouch that I am "crazy, but in a good good way." And that's another direct facebook-message quote. But if not, well...

By my New Friend count, I’m up by two.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Beautiful

I'll be very busy for most of today, and since I'm heading back to Maine tomorrow I might not get a chance to write about it for a while. So if you'll forgive a little self-indulgence on my part (which I know you will, otherwise you wouldn't still be hanging out here ), I'd like to take this August moment to present a bit of classic EGE.

In lieu of a regular post, and apropos of nothing in particular (if you'll pardon my French on both counts) except as a reminder in the midst of all this hair-shaking and table-talk -- a reminder, not least of all, to myself -- of who I am.

For reals.

For those of you new to this game: that For reals up there is a link, to the post I'm talking about, which I want you to read now. Please. It's also here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Permission To Learn

All right, I promised I'd write my learner's-permit story, so here goes. I have to warn you, though, there really isn't that much of a there there...

I haven't studied for anything in twenty years. More, actually, because I dropped out of grad school after six weeks, and I don't think you can call what I did my senior year of college "studying." But for simplicity's sake, let's call it a pair of decades and move on.

I didn't want to. I was never a bad student when I was one, but now that I had to be one again, I didn't want to. So what I did instead was find a practice test on line. I found a few, in fact, but they all came out with the same result. It's a 25-question test, you have to answer 18 correctly, and no matter how many different tests I took, I scored 18.

It didn't help, of course, that the questions I got wrong were the ones about, you know, riding motorcycles. Because I didn't know jack shit on those. "Groups of riders should arrange themselves in what sort of formation?" I don't know! A flying-V?

The ones I got were dumb ones about stuff that's been ingrained in me since the late '80s. Road signs. Flashing lights. Yellow lines. The tests were mostly those, in fact, which is the reason I kept passing. But only by the skin of my teeth (or face, I guess, or clavicle); I couldn't risk it. So I found the Massachusetts Motorcycle Manual on line.

It's 72 pages long, but 8 of those are taken up by the Table of Contents. Another three are about the RMV. And then the last 4 are filled with charts about Junior Operators and Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. Plus two pages for front and back covers. So we'll call it 55 in all.

I decided that I didn't have to study it (mostly, of course, because I didn't want to). I decided that the sorts of multiple-choice questions on the test were things that I'd remember if I merely read it once or twice.

For now, I'm saying. When I actually do get on the bike and risk my brain-pan, I will make damn sure I know what's what. Because I'm rather accustomed to my brain's current locale, thanks very kindly.

I read it once. And then the manual to my Harley course arrived, so I read that. Most of it. About three-quarters of it, actually, before I decided to leave Maine on Tuesday and thought it best to leave the manual (and its accompanying paperwork) up there. Because I am an idtio, and if I brought it with me there was a decent chance I'd forget it, and I don't want to have to come back down before the course.

I was so wrapped up in my busy Bay-State schedule that it didn't even occur to me I hadn't really studied for the test until I finally found the RMV. Speaking of which: let me take this opportunity to reiterate that Google maps are fucking ass. Southbridge Street to Hammond Street to Main Street to get there, man? Suck my balls.

Anyway, I didn't have time to get nervous. I only waited about seven minutes for my turn. The man behind the counter -- who, although a little twitchy, was quite nice -- seemed impressed that I was going for my M-class at my age, and apologized profusely for the system's insistence that he test my eyes.

They passed.

Then he apologized for giving me the same speech that he gives "the young kids." "You and I know this," he said, "but I tell them." About taking your time, about not leaving a question blank and all that jazz. Because of course most people going for their learner's permits have not been subjected to so much as a Standardized Achievement Test yet at their tender age. Which I also haven't been for quite a while at my hard one.

It didn't help that there was a pillar between where I stood and the permit-test room, so when he pointed it out to me I couldn't see it, and it took the assistance of three bystanders before I did. The last bystander, who had just come from there herself, I don't think she'd even taken her Apgar yet...

For those of you not in the know: the Apgar Test is a measure of newborn vitality. I'm saying she was a fetus compared to me, okay?

But I decided to treat the whole thing like it was a spooky horse. Take a deep breath, sink my weight into my seat, and face what comes with confidence and calm.

It worked real well, too. Right through pressing "go" and choosing a language. Right through "did-I-understand-the-rules" and "was-I-really-really-ready-to-begin." But then the test started. And the first seven questions were about Junior Operators and Penalties for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs!!!!


Well, despite what the Very Nice Man said when I asked him, there was a "come-back-to-this-question-later" option, so I chose it. Over and over and over and over and over. Until I started getting dumb ones about street signs and intersections, with answers that I actually knew, plus a whopping two about motorcycles.

I knew them both: try to straighten up if you have to stop on a curve; and if a chain breaks the back wheel will lock and skid.

I was trying to keep count on my fingers of how many I'd gotten right, so I could know if I had to bother answering the baby ones when they came back around. But I lost track. It wasn't till I got through and the skipped ones started over that I noticed the machine was keeping score. It said I had 18 correct, which I knew meant I passed even if it didn't say so, but it didn't give me the option of checking out. So I had to sink into my seat and face what came...

I totally guessed.

What's the penalty for being seventeen and speeding? A. Definitely A. How long do you lose your license for a drug offense? That'd be C. And all the other stupid questions that they asked? D. B. A. A. Q!

I already knew I'd won, but in the end I passed with 23 answers correct.

As the old men who taught me to shoot pool used to say...

It was almost like I knew what I was doing!

But Does He Have Beer Pong...?

I don't have a lot of time this morning -- motoring down to New Haven to placate the Rock Star -- but I wanted to report that I did not, in fact, drink alone last night, okay?

No, I don't actually have a friend or anything. And I didn't belly up to some random barfly. I just finally caved and went to the Oxford Tavern, is all.

I'd been avoiding it all week, because the last time I went it was the sort of dancy club that has an under-21 night, and I haven't been that sort of dancy girl in 20 years. But everyone kept telling me it has two tables, and when I was a dancy girl, the sorts of clubs I went to didn't have them. But then again, I was usually the only real girl in the sorts of clubs I went to, if you know what I'm saying. So it's possible that I'm no sort of judge.

Anyway, after I drove all the way across town to the North End Pub, only to find out that it's now the Roadside Bar & Grille -- and after the hostess there directed me back to the Tavern, I surrendered. I went back to the center of town, parked across the street from it, and watched. The first person I saw go in was middle-aged and dorky, so I went.

It turned out he was the janitor, but still.

The table I played on was new, and it took both bills and quarters. After a sucky game or two I hit a streak, played it out for a few hours, and knew enough to lay my cue down when it died. The bartender turned out to be the 21-year-old nephew of the boy who played Santa to my Mrs. Claus in the Nursery School Christmas Pageant.

They have beer pong there, too. Tonight. I saw it written on the dry-erase board. But it's okay. Dad's coming home this afternoon, and he has a pool table in the---

Hey now.


Has a pool table.

In the basement.

Oh, I am a fucking idtio.

Yes, that was a typo, but it made me snort my yogurt, so I left it there. You're welcome.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

One Step Forward, Twelve Steps Back

I went back to Sinni's last night.

There was beer pong.



I've never even seen it in real life before. It isn't pretty. And I had to walk right through it to get out the door. At least I managed without getting any on me.

Sheesh. Tuesday night must be special Old People night in Crazy Town or something.

I left after a hour, reeking of Axe Body Spray, drove to North Oxford and back in search of another place, then came back to Dad's and ate two bowls of Chocolate Frosted Mini Wheats instead. I don't know why I had to have the second bowl. I was in a kind of fugue state, I believe. From the cologne.

Today I have to go to the AssVac and deal with divorce-related Crap. I plan to walk on the beach when it's over to clear my head, but then I'm having sushi with my Stand Up friend -- who, in that way the universe has of handing you the entire pile of shit at the same time, was the lucky recipient of yet more bad news this week. I really feel like I ought to bunk up with her again, but the dog and cat are here at Dad's house, so I can't.

I will need a stiff drink when I get back to Oxford tonight, that's for sure. And after the Beer Pong incident, something tells me I'll be having it alone...


I got my M-class learner's permit yesterday. That's "Motorcycle Class" for you non-Massachusetts residents out there. I'll write the whole story later -- maybe tonight when I'm drinking alone -- but the point for now is that on the way home from the RMV (that's "DMV" for you non-Massachusetts residents) I stopped at the Harley dealership in Auburn and bought myself a helmet, shades and gloves.

Maybe I'll practice wearing those around the house tonight while I'm drinking alone.

The gloves and goggles are easy, it's the helmet that's giving me lip. I keep putting it too far back on my head like it's a real hat, and the chin strap gets my fingers all confused.

But the Rock Star hair-shake when I take it off?

I've got that down.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Go Ahead, Give It To Me

I'm in Oxford. Already. I panicked and came down a whole day early. I had my reasons. By now they're null and void, but I did have them. I usually manage to make up at least one for every slightly crazy thing I do.

See, I had houseguests in Maine all weekend. Since Thursday. The last one left on Tuesday morning, and I when she did I sat back in my once-more lonely house and thought to myself: "Hell. Why bother to get back in my routine for just one day? Why not pack up the damn Routine and take it South? Then I wouldn't have to get my hair cut and my permit both on Friday. And I'm sure I could get just as much writing done down there. Or just about..."

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this decision had more to do with the idea of a fresh pool table than anything else. But you are wrong. Because it also so happens that houseguests bring all kinds of food that you've sworn off of, plus part of a hostess's job is to drink beer, so after five short days you find you can't fit into those breeches anymore.

So I swore-swore-swore that while in Oxford -- since I have no friends and no plans and no idea where to shoot pool, anyway -- I was going to live like a monk. No beer. No pool. No fun. Just writing and lettuce and chicken breasts and water. Maybe seltzer water, if I've been very, very good.

And then I opened the door to Dad's house.

He closed up when he left on Sunday (this is, apparently, a Thing that Grown-Ups do), and in Oxford today it was 95 degrees. I opened that door and knew exactly how Patsy and Edwina felt when they first hit Morocco. Sweat dripping down my neck so bad I had to change my bra before I left.

Yeah, that's right, I left. It took me all of fifteen minutes to unload the car, throw the dog and cat in the basement (where it's cool) with food and water, suck down the single Budweiser I found in the fridge, and venture out.

Since all the places I know in town are off the table, and since I'm now used to wandering and choosing blind, I picked a direction I haven't gone in twenty years: where the street I grew up on turns right and heads into the town it's named for. I usually take the left up to Route 12, but this time -- while on the radio (I shit you not) Robert Plant sang "There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on" -- I took that right and stayed on Old Webster Road.

I knew where I'd come out eventually, but I'd forgotten how much nothing there is along the way. At 9:00 on an August Tuesday night, it looked like this:

But it still did dump me out on Main Street, Webster, just like it always used to, and at the stop light there I took a left.

Actually, that isn't true. At first first I got a bit confused and took a right. But a mile or so later a sign told me I was entering a third town -- a town I didn't want to enter uninvited, lest the nice young men in their clean white coats mistake me for a basket-weaver and take me away -- so I knew that I'd gone wrong and turned around.

My plan was to drive the mile and a half down Main Street to Worcester Road, assess my choices, then turn around and pick the likeliest-looking bar. I hadn't ever noticed any down that way before, but then, I'd not been looking. This was Webster, after all -- we used to joke that people only lived in Webster if they couldn't figure the way out. A place like that has to be shot through with barrooms. Right? Maybe not ones a single girl should wander into by herself on pitch-black nights, but I'm not stupid. I wouldn't pick just any seedy joint. Are you not listening? I said I'd pick the likeliest-looking one...

But there was nothing. Nothing! Can you imagine? A mile and a half of Dunkin's and McD's and pizza joints and Friendly's and grocery stores -- even an actual restaurant or two -- and not a single likely-looking bar. Not a single bar at all, for that matter.

And just the other day I had the nerve to call this "civilization."

So I turned left at Worcester Road to make a big wide circle back towards home. If I kept going I'd wind up in the center of Oxford, but I already knew what I would find there and it's not my cup of tea. Besides, I had cooled off a bit from the quick drive in the car -- I hadn't sweated through my second bra, at any rate -- so maybe I wouldn't keel over dead in Dad's house, after all.

On a whim, though, I pulled into the Whistle Stop. I knew they didn't have a table, but I asked the bartender if there was anyplace around that did -- she was a young, not-unattractive woman, so I knew she wouldn't send me to Big Dan's. She said she knew of several, actually, and named them.

"Day's End, in the center of town, has a table." I know the Day's End. See above re: things in Oxford Center being Not My Cup of Tea.

"The Oxford Tavern, kitty-corner across from Day's End, has a few." Know that place, too, see: ditto.

"And then, if you want to go to Webster -- oh, no, not Webster," she corrected herself. And then she named the third town. The one that I'd just turned and hightailed out of.

"The best place around," she continued, "not just the most tables, but the best place around, is Sinni's. You go up Old Webster Road [the exact way I'd just gone], straight through the light at Main Street [at a four-way intersection it was the one direction that I hadn't gone], and it's right there."

Well, I'm sorry, but if the bartender at one place is telling me another one's the best around, I don't give a hoo what town it's in. I'm there. White coats be damned. So I went back down the long, black road, this time with Tom Petty singing "There is no sense in pretending, your eyes give you away. Something inside you is feeling like I do, we've said all there is to say..."

My pint of Harpoon IPA cost $2.75.

There were four pool tables, all empty and waiting.

And when I asked the bartender for quarters, he said I didn't need 'em, they take bills.

They what?

Turns out that only two of them really do, but at 9:30 on a Tuesday night I had my choice. I didn't like the one right in the doorway, because my game's been a little touch-and-go lately, and what's the point of having the whole pool room to yourself if anybody can look in and watch you suck? So I chose the other dollar-bill one, in the corner. Didn't even notice it was disco-clear with a rotating ball inside and flashing lights till I stepped back to watch the rack fall down...

Okay, so Sinni's loses a point for the pussy table. But you want to know something? That pussy table liked me, a whole lot. It was a bit embarrassing, quite frankly, especially when she had a little hissy fit and I had to ask the bartender to come in and cheer her up. But after an hour I ran out of singles and played my last game on a different table with four quarters I found in the bottom of my bag. And that other table? Oh, my. I don't know if it'd been standing quietly at my elbow in the dark, waiting patiently to have a go with me all night or what, but by the time I turned to it and bent over, it was so worked-up hot for me, it shook.

It asked me to come back tonight for more. I think I will. Tomorrow, too. Every night while I'm down here, in fact, if it'll have me -- and if I don't do something nuts and scare it off. Knowing me, the chances of that are 50/50. But I don't care. I will take the damn boots off and tiptoe if I have to. Because although I've played a lot of tables and I've handled a lot of cues -- from Boston to Istanbul to Liverpool -- a girl simply does not forget a run around the green like that one. So I've got to chase the dragon, if I can.

Of course, nobody saw me. Just like the one and only time I ever ran the table cold, in Amsterdam. Ah well, what can I say?

Apparently I thrive in Crazy Towns.

Monday, August 9, 2010


I’m going back down to the Bay State next weekend. Meaning this coming one. Meaning August 11-15. Or possibly 16. There’s been some confusion about the dates, so I thought I’d qualify. And yes, I know that’s technically more than a weekend. Technically, I know, it’s practically a week. But what was supposed to be a day trip won’t stop growing…

That day trip was to be to paint a fence – or bang a nail, or stain or screw something or other, I don’t know – in Spencer, MA, at the summer camp where I used to work. We had a big reunion a couple months ago, and instead of paying money to rent the place it was agreed we’d pay in sweat. Nobody's obliged – in fact, most people won't be able to make it – but I had more fun than I expected in the twelve short hours I was there, and I'm starved for social intercourse. So a donation of my bodily humor seemed to me to be the perfect trade.

My original plan was to leave Maine at some ungodly hour of the morning, bring the dog, and head straight back up here when the work was done. Easy-peasy. Less than 18 hours tip to tail. But then I decided to get my motorcycle license. And before I can get a license I have to get a permit. Since my current license is in Massachusetts, I have to get my permit there, so I might as well go ahead and do that while I’m down. And while the Registry of Motor Vehicles does appear to have Saturday hours, I'll be sweating through them, so I don’t.

That’s how my departure switched to Friday morning.

It would still be easy-peasy. Less than 36 hours, tip to tail. I’d get my workout in a little earlier than usual, shower, dress, and motor down. Drop the dog and Boy Cat at my dad’s in Oxford (don’t feel bad for Dad, he’s out of town), then shoot back up to the Worcester RMV and take my test. It’d be fine. Plus it’d give me Friday night in actual civilization, to see friends or, failing that, at least shoot pool with people who don’t rack ’em up in alternating lines...

But then I noticed my Rock Star hair getting a bit out of control. If I don’t do something about it soon it’ll be trashing hotel rooms, snorting my mother's ashes, and waking up married to Heather Locklear. So I should probably take care of that while I'm down there, too. But "down there" means something completely different to a Rock Star: my hairdresser is in goddamn New Haven.

So that’s how my departure switched to Thursday night.

It would still be easy-peasy. Less than 48 hours, tip to tail. I’d still work out earlier than usual on Friday, I’d just do it in Oxford. Then shower, dress, and be in New Haven by noon. Get a quick trim and be back up in plenty of time to hit the Worcester RMV before it closed. It’d be fine. Plus it’d give me a whole extra night in civilization. To see friends or, failing that, at least shoot pool with people who don’t take credit for the shot they double-kissed…

But then I talked on the telephone with Johnny. And although I’m not getting into the details of that, the point is I have some business to take care of at the house I wish I didn’t own. And since I have to go to Weymouth anyway, I can take the opportunity to have dinner in Quincy with the friend I Stood Up for the last time I was down (she’s Standing Up just fine on her own now, thanks for asking, and talking about getting Jolly Roger tattoos in lieu of the standard kind. Don’t I have the best friends in the world?).

So that’s how my departure switched to Wednesday night.

Deep breath…

Easy-peasy. Less than 72 hours tip to tail. Wake up in Oxford Thursday, work out, etc., be in Weymouth by noon. Get Business done in plenty of time to suck down an early raw-fish dinner with My Girl, and be back in Oxford to give the cat his 7:00 shot less than an hour late. It’ll be fine. Plus it’ll give me a whole ‘nother night in actual civilization. To see whole other friends. Or, failing that, to at least shoot pool with people who won’t ask if they can combo off my ball…

They can’t, you know. The answer’s no. Even when I’m trying to be nice. You can hit mine in the middle if you think you can pull off a three-way, but if you could do that, you wouldn’t ask. You have to target your ball first, friend. Them’s the rules.

And I just this minute decided to spend Saturday night, too, because after a week like that and a day of painting and banging and staining and screwing (and, hopefully, drinking), I don’t think I’ll be in any shape for nighttime driving unless I want to finally meet the Piscataqua up close for real.

That's pronounced piss-CAT-ick-uh. 
Don't ask me why.


So I’m up to 96 hours now, tip to tail.

Been trying for days, but aside from dinner with My Girl I  haven’t managed to make a single plan. (Don’t I have the worst friends in the world?)

Been looking on line for days, too, and can’t seem to find a local bar near Dad’s to shoot some pool. Every place I used to know is either closed, under new management, or relocated to South Carolina. And Google searches for “bars with pool tables in Oxford, MA” keep turning up dance clubs, sketchy street corners, or MySpace pages full of puking 20-somethings. And while I may be many different things to many people, to no one am I a sketchy, puking, 20-something exotic dancer.

Not in public, at least.

Not anymore.

Really. I'm not. The title of this post's just a coincidence.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quicker, Picker-Upper!

I’ve never been a paper-towel user.

Not out of any sort of tree-hugging inclination (you really ought to know better by now; I drive with the windows open and the A/C on, for heaven’s sake), but just because it's not how I was raised.

I’ve said before that we were poor when I was little. Those horseback riding lessons I mentioned the other day? My mom scrimped and saved so I could have them because it was something that she always wanted, too, and never got, but we drove to a different state to do it because at Sunny Croft it only cost eight dollars for a three-hour group lesson, and I had to quit when they went up to ten. We were poor. Plastic-money poor. Welly-cheese poor. My parents pulled themselves out of it by their bootstraps – as evidenced by the fact that I am now happily ensconced in their nothing-to-sneeze at second home. But back then, we used to pass a dishrag around the kitchen table on fried-chicken night.

Paper towels. Feh.

Since we never had them when I was little, they just weren’t something that wound up on my grown-up grocery-radar. Like fabric softener. I don’t understand it. My clothes are clean, I never noticed them feeling particularly hard when they come out of the drier, so why do I need to add another item to my list? Same goes for paper towels. I can wipe up spills with a damp sponge, I can dry things with a real towel, so…


I don’t understand these commercials for them, either. I mean, seriously: if you’re scrubbing the stovetop with something and wringing it out to use again – neither of which I actually believe are possible, mind you, but if they are – then why the hell are you throwing it away? Just use a sponge! And while you’re at it, get the hell off of my lawn!

Paper towels. Feh!

Don’t go mewling to me about germs, either, okay? Just save it. Please. If you leave a little soap in your sponge and wring it good when you put it down, it’s fine. Trust me. Don’t think I don’t know from sponge-phobia, because I do.

But paper towels…

Here’s how feh I feel about the situation: this house came equipped with them, and still I couldn’t bring myself to tear one off. When I got here, there was a roll in a dispenser on the counter, a few more rolls in an open pack under the sink, and I could name for you the three I used in the first month. I won't, though, don't you fret. It's bad enough I'm writing an entire post on paper towels. I wouldn't want to cross a boring line.

But then I cleaned out the bathroom closet and found a whole unopened pack. And then Dad bought another one instead of toilet paper by mistake. So now, for the first time in my life, I am positively flush with paper towels. There are currently fifteen rolls in this house – sixteen, if you count the one on the kitchen counter. And I still have to force myself to use one, every time.

Actually, that isn’t true. I go in spurts. Sometimes I get a wild hair and start tearing them off all willy-nilly. Like, I’ll be putting away dishes and think “Oh, this one’s not dry yet, I better wipe it with a paper towel!” Or my pint-glass of iced-coffee will be sweating all over my desk like it is now, and I’ll stop writing and run downstairs to get a paper towel. Two! Folded in quarters! Work almost as good as a real coaster! Whoop-de-do!

And then I get a pang and think: “But I have real coasters. And they work better than this. I don't care what Mr. Whipple wants to squeeze.”

Yes, yes, I know: Mr. Whipple squeezes Charmin. And I know Charmin is toilet paper. And I know he doesn’t want to squeeze it. But he does. And he’s funnier than the Brawny guy. He plain old is. So let me get my ha-has out, okay?

Because this morning, for the first time since I got here back in May, I had to start a brand-new roll of paper towels.

And that’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in a week.

So feh.

That fucking Brawny guy is looking better every day, I tell you what... 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hear Me Roar

Someone gave me a bit of money recently. Not a big fat load of money, but more than I deserved – which was fuck-all – and less than I felt I had to embarrass us both by driving two and a half hours back down to Massachusetts to return it when I realized she hadn’t just been tucking my Blackberry into my back pocket after all. It was for something I did that you’re not supposed to get paid for – and no, you gutter-heads, it wasn’t sex. If it was then I would return (and, I might also add, deserve) every last cent.

But so I’ve had this wad of money in the secret zip-pocket of my Coach bag for a week, deciding what to do with it, and—

Hang on.

Have I told you about my Coach bag?

Oh, honey.

I bought it for myself the last time someone pulled this kind of money-tucking stunt. Because my theory is that when people give you money for doing things that any decent person would do anyway (which happens to me a rather lot, I don’t know why) then it behooves you to return it if you can, and if you can’t (or if you just know it would be nicer for the other person if you didn’t), then it’s a moral imperative to spend it frivolously. No filling the gas tank or paying the electric bill with cash you got for helping an old lady cross the street, or you’ll find yourself at the business end of her metaphysical umbrella faster than you can get off her cosmic lawn.

So like I say, the last time someone did this, I bought myself a bag that is as close to underwear-model-hot as an inanimate object can possibly get. I’ll show you:


I don’t know what turns me on more, the chains or the D-rings or the for-my-(and-now-also-your)-eyes-only purple satin lining. It did cost way too much, but like I said, I paid for it with found cash, and it will save me money in the end. Because with this hot underwear-model slung over my shoulder I look dressed, even in a ComfortSoft tank top, my 16-year-old boots, and a hacked-off pair of Goodwill button-flies.

Which reminds me of my point:

This time, I’m going to take that pocketful of cash and learn to ride.

The nearest Harley dealership that offers classes is an hour away in New Hampshire, but it’s worth the travel time because a four-day course with them gets you your motorcycle license in the end. They run one every weekend through the summer – three hours each on Thursday & Friday evening, plus Saturday and Sunday all day long.

I’m busy for the next few weekends, and was three-quarters of the way through registering for August 26-29 when I realized it was for women only, and there really isn’t any point in that. So I signed up for September 2-5.

Now here’s a little story that I swear is related to the rest of this, if only in my slightly-fevered brain:

When I was five years old, I started riding horses for the first time at a place called Sunny Croft in Thompson, Connecticut. Because I was five years old, and a girl, they automatically assigned me to a Shetland pony. But I put my tiny little foot down.

“I don’t want to ride a pony, Dad!” I whispered (I didn’t put my foot down quite so vehemently then). “I want a horse.” So Dad spoke up on my behalf, and they reassigned me to a 15-hand roan mare named Nutmeg.

Fifteen hands is just two inches over pony-size, but it was enough. Dad had to put the saddle on for me and lift me up, but I had a ball – obviously, or I wouldn’t remember the old girl’s name 35 years later. And when she stood on my chilblained foot for seven minutes at the water trough afterwards, grinding it into the sawdust while she drank her horse-sized fill, I clenched my jaw and took it like a tiny little man.

Point being: I’ve never been the kind of girl who sits around waiting to get thrown over a bitch seat. When I want something, I’ve always gone and got it for myself. These days I want to ride a bike, and so I’ll ride one. When I’m confident (and perhaps a bit more flush) I might just even buy one for myself.

I don’t know what model yet – although I have always been partial to a Fat Boy – but at the very least I know it will be used. Because of the cash-flow thing, and the Destructo factor. And I know it will ride low. Because Hogs aren’t the same as horses, after all. And it’ll be black. Flat black. "Black Denim," I think the color’s technically called. I even dreamed last night I bought the thing, and that my virgin ride was to an actual place I know called Hot Dog Annie’s for lunch.* Which is strange, because I don’t remember the last time I wanted to eat a hot dog in real life. And now the idea is second (or maybe third, if you count the motorcycle) on a short list of things I can’t stop thinking about...

Coincidentally, I’ll be driving right by Hot Dog Annie’s on the 14th. And I’m pretty certain I can swing a four-for-a-dollar lunch with the spare change I've got rattling around the secret purple bottom of my hot Coach bag. But if I want the rest of the bike-dream to come true beyond the learning-how part, I’m going to have to keep on being nice. Underwear-model nice. Anna-Nicole-Smith kind of nice…

No. I’m kidding. Really what I’ll do is make a rule that I’m not allowed to attend the classes I signed up for in September unless I first finish writing the damn book. Or at least get very, very, very close. Because I’ve already been looking, and you can get a starter used bike for a couple thousand dollars. Not the one I dreamed about, but one that would at least still be three-dimensional when I woke up. I’ve been working so hard at this writing-dream for so long, I deserve to spend a little frivolously if it comes true, don’t you agree? After all, it’s not like we're talking about retire-to-Belgium money, anyway. If it does sell, it will probably fetch just about exactly buy-yourself-used-motorcycle money. So I could get a Harley, or I could wind up being forced to pay the mortgage on a house I hate that I don’t even live in anymore…

Which one fits more nicely with the “get what I want for myself” philosophy, do you suppose?

* Hm. Now that I’ve Freudian-slipped that little R.E.M. phase out in public, I’m not entirely sure any of us ought to think about it anymore…