Saturday, March 31, 2007

lions and tigers and bears ...

come on ... i know you want to say it. say it! please say it.

for almost a month i've been smoking barefoot on the deck. sometimes it is a little chilly and i have to roll into a sitting fetal position for seven minutes, with my toes curled into the hem of my hoodie. but more often, by noon or 1 p.m., the deck has already warmed to the low setting on a heating pad.

yesterday it was raining when i woke. rain is just another reason to not wear shoes. i opened the door, took a step and slid about a foot and finally break danced to a stop.

what the ...
ice?


the deck was coated in a thick slippery sheet unlike anything i saw all winter. since i'd already made my commitment to my cigarette, i tiptoed to a corner and hopped from one foot to the other until my feet got a headache and i stubbed the fucker less than three drags into it.

i sprinted back inside, my feet ringing, screaming shit-shit-shit-shit and jumped back into bed.

for the rest of the day, i had to navigate the streets of duluth like a blue hair rehabbing a broken pelvis. its the friggin' novemberist march i've ever seen in my life.

i can't wait to hear the weatherman, any weatherman, pick a weatherman, say: march, in like a lion and out like a ... lion. because that is the sort of thing that weathermen say.

Friday, March 30, 2007

tastes like burning ...

a standard white cardboard pizza box burns more slowly than, say, a colorful digiorno's box. the former takes longer to ignite, the latter sizzles quickly and implodes until the logo looks ready to burst. a ripe white head against the bathroom mirror.

pieces of the cremated pizza boxes will swirl around you and the ashy dandruff will get caught in your hair and dust the entryway. when your boyfriend burns pizza boxes on the grill, his apartment will smell like he spent march drinking 40 ouncers and charbroiling his cold, sandy tootsie on superior point.

***

"what are you going to do today?" i asked chuck.
"hmm," the student of leisure mused. "i'd like to burn pizza boxes in the grill."
i laughed. i thought he was kidding.
he gave me a blank no-nonsense look.
"and maybe i'll make turkey burgers over the flame," he added.
and i knew he wasn't kidding. chuck doesn't kid about turkey burgers.

***

chuck doesn't, like, collect pizza boxes. they are just something that happens. like, how when i was in my early 20s i woke up one day and realized i had an entire bookshelf filled with frog figurines and frog windchimes and frog tea sets and frog beanie babies and a frog that burped a christmas song. later i'd make myself a frog-themed bathroom. not much later than that i decided that if i ever received another froggie gift i was going to be hoppin' mad. i dismantled my display. (i can only assume those beanie babies are worth about $6 by now).

now, not only do i not collect anything, i think people who do are losers who favor elastic wastebands and wheel of fortune, the home version.

"what do i get to do?" i asked him. i wanted in on this.
"hold the bucket of water?" he suggested.

***

chuck broke the boxes down to squares that were small enough to fit in his grill. he lit a corner and we watched the small flame slowly gnaw away at the box. it wasn't very satisfying. he added more small squares and eventually he had a real rager on his hands. i fed him boxes and he fed the fire. twice it seemed to teeter on the brink of danger, forest fires and 911 phone calls and skin grafts.

i backed into the house and grabbed his arm. he kept his left hand inches from the top of the grill, in case he needed to suddenly shut down the hilarity.

"you're scared of fire and water," chuck said.
"and earth and wind," i added.

***

"is this illegal?" i asked him.
"seems like it," he said.

when all the boxes were gone, we watched them melt into something containable and he put the lid on the grill.

***

he made turkey burgers on his stove.
"you were squealing with delight," he said of the fire.

***

late last night we were sitting on chuck's couch watching tv. i was dirty. i'd not showered, and i'd gone for a run at the ymca and i was still wearing workout clothes. i unzipped my sweatshirt and he laughed when he saw my shirt.

old navy, circa 2003. a vintage fourth of july t'shirt bearing an american flag and their not-good-enough-for-gap-crap logo.

"i just grabbed a t'shirt," i said. "i knew it was ugly when i put it on. but i didn't think i'd end up wearing it out-out."

he continued to eye the shirt.

"it's not even mine, technically," i explained.

i didn't buy this shirt. it belonged to hockeyrific, a guy i dated not very seriously and not very well in the early parts of 2004. he had left it at my house after a weekend visit and when i thought it may be true love i continued to sleep in it because i liked how it smelled. and other things that make me laguna beach's target market.

then i realized he couldn't say a sentence that did not involve the minnesota gophers.

but i thought maybe that was endearing.
then he dropped me off after a date and said "keep in touch."
and then i thought "yeah, well, you never shut up about the freakin' gophers."
so i washed it and folded it and put it in a drawer and began running in it.

i tell chuck this.

"it's ugly," he says. "i'm going to burn it."

***

in the time since the first pizza box burning, chuck had finished off leftover pizzaman and its smaller cheese bread companion. there were two new boxes waiting for incineration.

around 4 a.m., he started a small corner of the box, then more and more pieces. i took the shirt off, stood in his entryway in a sports bra and he tossed the shirt into the fire.

"i'm burning this because it is ugly," he said. "not because it was an exboyfriend's."

i nodded.

"is it still against the law to burn the flag, though?" i asked him.

***

chuck found me another shirt, also with an american flag, to wear to sleep.

***

i get the feeling that this summer, things will be burned. i think all the fire stoked chuck's inner pyro.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

jock jams. seriously. ...

one of the best things about aquiring a used laptop is the 2,000-plus itunes that came with this brick o'dell. the seller, one of my favorite people, managed to wipe out any indication that he wrote a paper at his fancy schmancy university in washington, dc. were i to use this laptop to gauge the past four years of his life, i'd say he spent a lot of money to download rap.

scrolling through someone else's itunes is like reading their mental health chart. "butterfly" by mariah carey makes me cry, he defended himself. pussy, i thought.

i have had this computer for more than a year, yet -- until yesterday -- had not really scrutinized his collection. there were times i was excited to come across something i liked ("no ordinary love" by sade or "it's tricky" by run dmc) but to let the computer randomly play was a hate-crime to my sensitive ear hair. because while i like snoop, i'm not so into coolio. and other things that differentiate me from 23 year old boys.

i am a tosser. i don't keep, collect or horde. i throw everything away. when this laptop finally explodes, i won't lament the lost pieces of writing or the dream journals or the incomplete workout charts. but throwing away someone else's stuff makes me skittish. it's not like he is going to send me a frantic email asking me to send him his "hootie and the blowfish," but it seems like a lot of work went into compiling this library. work that i feel badly about undoing.

lately i've been trying to reignite my lost love of music. high school found me jotting jesus & mary chain lyrics on the phone book, then tracking down cds at broadway records and face the music. i made mixes and mixes and mixes. then i'd harrass my friends "did you like it? did you like it? what did you like? why, why, why?" i'd exchange tapes with an acquaintance whose locker was next to mine and be like, sweeeeet. they might be giants. or i know just how natalie merchant feeeeeels.

by college i had stopped doing this. i lazily began accepting whatever the radio people wanted me to hear.

when i still had a roommate, i used his computer to download songs i heard on "grey's anatomy", "the oc", and "one tree hill." frou frou, deathcab and fallout boy. then i started liking anything zach braff says to like.

then i went to a john mayer concert and wept through "your body is a wonderland" and realized i should probably just suck it up and perform a home appendectomy with a dirty butter knife and dish soap.

so i'm getting serious about the mission again. streaming "the current" and jotting down songs. sampling and downloading and reconfiguring the personality of this laptop's itunes.

erasing this 23-year-old's gangsta rap influences and bringing sexyback.

some of it, i've never heard of: yellowcard, donnell jones, craig david. i kept these for further review. i will discard them today.

some of it, i hit delete so fast and with such glee that i almost poked a hole in my keyboard: jock jams, collective soul, hootie, gloria estevan.

some of it assured me that this child and i will never be able to go on an extended car ride together: there were three or four songs from disney movies.

the worst -- songs from the center street singers. the center street singers, to people who did not graduate from lourdes high school, sashayed around rochester wearing big hair and tulle. holding hands and swaying and sitting on their partner's bent knee. acapella farkle narkle bullshit, then accompanied by the school's zit parade jazz band -- the hi-lighters. they performed in church basements and elementary school gyms and sometimes for actual events. these people made jokes like "she thinks she's a soprano, ha!" while the highlighters' always seemed to be sucking on reeds.

i suspect the previous owner of this laptop wanted to make out with at least one center street singer, but was powerless without a saxophone.

i like to picture him wandering the streets of st. paul, grooving to his ipod and then bursting into an amateur tenor along with their rendition of "bridge over troubled water."

i deleted all of his eric clapton, except "wonderful tonight." but that is just because it was a homecoming theme in 1991. i deleted belinda carlisle despite my feelings for her, just because i have her completed works.

i did not delete g love and the special sauce or iron and wine. in fact, i may download more. they are the only reason i am still talking to this laptop's previous owner.

***

in other news: last night, for the first time since i was 10, i got a round brush stuck in my hair.

***

today i got to say: my soul is the braille that you rub.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

just a cry for help ...

i have found that for most of my deviant needs, alcohol will do just fine. i am rarely surprised by the effects, be it snoring that registers on the richter scale or a topless interpetive dance to "love cats" on your coffee table. i know that i will wake to dirty hair, clutching a bottle of fierce grape powerade and drool my breakfast.

i know this. i accept this.

two nights ago i felt a bit nasal and popped some benadryl before going to bed. i cozied into my duvet cover, opened a book, read four pages and conked into la la-blahler land.

i woke approximately 1 hour later to toonses clawing and meowing outside my bedroom door, his standard reminder that it is 6:30 a.m. and he is still alive and would prefer whap my face with his crusty cat tail than cuddle with his own girth on papasan chair.

i had been having a fantastic dream. a party at my brother's house. a disgruntled dj who refused to play unless we tipped him so i gave him a dollar to play the song "read my mind" by the killers; my high school friends coming in hordes through the front door. me wandering from group to group reminding the guests: shhhh. ... please remember there are little girls sleeping here.

i wandered groggily from my bed, my eyeballs still mid-REM roll, bulging and white. my hands extended, feeling my way toward the doorknob. toonses lept in joy; i checked his water and food and then completely lost all my free will. five minutes later i realized i was sitting pantless on my living room floor plundering the crumbs in a box of better cheddars, lapping at my fingers and thinking "mmmm. ... salt."

i became a version of awake, threw down the box and went back to bed.

i slept until 2 p.m.

the rest of the day was foggy and quiet. every movement was accompanied by a sort of slow motion, underwater accoustic: "do do do do do. na na na na na. tee tee tee tee tee."

later, at chuck's, i explained my grogginess and the better cheddars and how none of my limbs would move unless i scolded and mocked and bullied them into compliance.

"blah blah blah ... two benadryl," i said slowly. enunciating like a judas priest record played backward for satanic messages.

"TWO benadryl?" he said.
i nodded.
"TWO?!" he clarified.
i nodded again. but it would take time lapse photography to actually see the movement.

apparently two is too many. apparently i almost OD'd on OTC meds. typical. i thought they were like ibuprofin, which as a former athlete and former crippling cramp-haver, i have ate times eaten like popcorn.

truthfully, i'm not much of a pill person. probably because i've always suspected what i now know. pills affect me. once i took a 10-day dose of cipro and found myself running terrified from a public bathroom, certain that if the walls did not cave in on me i would maybe drown in toilet. my feet attempting to take hold of the dirty lid, being tugged hair-first down the stained drain.

this was actually preferable to the other side effects i found, which included something like "may consider killing someone else (or just yourself)."

today i woke relatively early. celebrated the combination of warm sun and cold breeze with the first cigarette of the day. "let's practice getting up early tomorrow," i'd said to chuck before we went to sleep. he had readily agreed. i climbed back into bed, telling him about the world i experienced on his deck. he got up. i fell asleep for two more hours.

this benadryl really took. two days later, it has staying power. i'm going to need an exorcism.

Monday, March 26, 2007

can i take your order, please ...

there was a time when i lapped up chaos like it was the last bit of guacamole in a hard plastic tin super potato ole graveyard. (there was also a time when if you googled "super potato oles" my blog was two of the first four results). i welcomed adversity with a freckled game face and gap-toothed nonchalance. a negative balance in my checking account was just a reason to dig deeper. consider rolling up my sleeve and sipping pulpfree orange juice while i watched vial after vial after vial fill with my milky plasma. moaning along to a barry manilow instrumental under flourecent lights and pleading: "is that all you want? take more! take more!" my pupils replaced by neon bar lights in the shape of dollar signs. for instance.

i never felt more alive than the day my car was towed. my adrenaline had its own zip code. i saw it coming. i wasn't surprised. expired tabs and my own special file cabinent filled with parking violations, library fines and just plain old bad fashion sense. the day took me from the DMV to city hall to the police station and back to city hall. eventually i found myself in the sweaty back seat of a cab with a duct taped door handle, being driven by a man who wanted to tell me something special about every building we passed. we wove through the neighborhoods of duluth, like he was writing my name in cursive with his car. i watched the meter as he dotted the "i" and felt like my coin purse had fallen on a broom handle.

once at the impound lot i nearly slipped on a sheet of ice. i was wearing the impractical boots that i had purchased instead of tabs. the irony was not lost on me. but the irony was a pretty kick ass piece of footware and so i laughed all the way home, admiring my feet at stoplights.

i liked waking knowing that i may get drunk that night. or i may run a marathon that morning. i may finish my novel or get my taxes done five minutes before midnight, high-fiving the other tax slackers on my way out of the post office. i could finish an entire book or i could eat hamburger helper for three meals and dessert. i may whomp the crap out of you in a best-of-five series of ping pong.

even i didn't know what i would do.

but lately. ugh. lately i crave predictibility. patterns and pedestrianisms. order and a bit of a structure. knowing that when i wake, my fully tabbed and insured and legally parked car will be waiting for me. that i could use the items in my refrigerator to make a meal with more than one ingredient. that i did not, in a manic fit, finish a 300 page book before finally going to sleep at 9:30 a.m. and that if i have to get up early, i will probably go to bed relatively early.

and i'm doing this with the same manic gleem in my eye that i used to get when i woke you up with a sloppy phone call at 3 a.m., repeating myself, mumbling swear words and cackling you awake.

likes: streaming the current for six consecutive hours, the new yorker, spooning and mozzarella cheese. the newest killers' cd and veronica mars. blizzards and rain and duluth. freshly shaved legs, clean tube socks, a made bed. the fact that i can see the end of my debt, and it is within the year 2007.

dislikes: the hole in the crotch of my favorite jeans, losing at golden tee 2007, losing at totally 80s trivial pursuit, knowing that soon i will lose at scrabble, doing shots, bald tires, my chipped molar and the smell of my own dirty hair.

my life is gaining order, and i credit orthotricyclen lo.

for approximately 20 years i was in the clutch of my body's whimsy. i could go 32, 74, 86 days with no regularity. sometimes i went so long between that i would be surprised when i did. frown and wonder if i was dying before harkening back to that day in sixth grade and remembering: ah. i'm a woman wearing a woman's body. if, twice in two months, things unleashed according to some sort of schedule, i would go three months without a trace. convince myself i had been impregnated by air molecules, a toilet seat or from the sneeze of a stranger. my moods fluctuated and sometimes pms reared for years. binging, weight gain, puffy parts and sobbing. back pain, hilarity, nausea and the spins.

now everything bodywise goes according to plan. a plan so well-plotted that i've considered charting my life into 28 pieces, pieces which are quartered. making notations on moods and cravings and how alcohol or excess salt will affect me during each sector. filing these findings, comparing them month to month until a pattern emerges. then passing out wallet-sized codes to my friends and family. my body as its own personal science fair, where you all win the blue ribbon and trip to the state level.

hmm. day 24. afternoon. she looks like she needs french fries and the movie "beaches." done and done.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

cheese (product) whiz ...

today premenstral syndrome and double duty hangover required:

fish sandwich from mcdonalds
drinkable cheese

it was the drinkable cheese that was the more pronounced craving. i wanted to blow bubbles in it with a straw. i wanted to mash my face in a bowl of microwaved cheese product. i wanted to coat my tonsils with it. i wanted it to slosh in my belly when i walked. i wanted it to squirt out of my nose when i laughed. i wanted to lap it off lime flavored tortilla chips and out of my fingernails. i wanted a neon orange cheese mustache.

not brie, not moz, not even cheddar or swiss. just the fake stuff. i needed a jar of glorified cheese whiz. or long strings of squeezy cheese aimed at my esophogus.

i wanted something, anything, con queso.
and then i got it and it was good.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

for two strange days ...

i come to you with pickled kidneys and an atrophied liver. i have spent the past two days steeped in liquor. kicking it bgtc style. beaded necklaces, lamp shades and no pants. nights ending in cab rides i have forgotten that i took. having eaten ghetto spur bean and cheese burritos, with only wrappers and gastrointestinal evidence that i consumed them.

readers, it has been two very sweet days.

it started with a holy mission on thursday night. to drink until my mouth's muscle memory conformed to the shape of a 32 ounce, five pound beer mug. i settle into the corner spot at the pio and waited for hilarity to ensue. chuck across the table, matching me gulp for gulp. seadawg to my left, furtively stealing cigarettes. bubbles chomping ice chips and gurgling water shots. jcrew basking in bacardi with pretty hair and eye rolls, playing the role of proctor's dance line captain: you're blog is boooooooring now, she screeches. stop writing about the '80s. i didn't even finish that post. my landlord in a different section of the room, pouting: i wanted to sit with you guys, but no one would make room. the greeter hugging and close talking. exaggerated gestures and a booming voice. when we turn to observe the zoo, he growls: I'M TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION! moptop quietly absorbs the scene.

we talk about grilled cheese and using machettis to weed a garden. but this is merely metaphorical. a visual to accompany an entirely different topic. i tinkle as i laugh. my stomach twists in delicious disgust.

chuck and i take a cab home. make our driver fritz stop at the ghetto spur. chuck towers over the gas station hotdogs and licks his lips.

uh uh, i say. i'm getting a burrito.
his eyes glow. you get the burritos, i'll get the gatorade.
right on, i say.
we meet at the cash register.
you pay for this, and i'll get the cab, he says.
deal, i say.

"we were like a finely oiled machine," i muse the next day.
"we were definitely lubricated," he says. and by "lubricated" he means "drunk."

***

thursday night we plotted how we would spend friday, a rare day where neither of us was encombered by obligation.

we will sleep late, chuck suggests.
(we wake at 3 p.m.)
we will sit on the deck and drink coffee! he says.
(we do this. he does a crossword puzzle and i read the style issue of the new yorker).
will shall have sushi! he proclaims.
(spicy tuna roll, zen roll, salmon nigiri and a disgusting deep fried appetizer.
"this tastes like the county fair," i tell chuck, wincing. "it should come with a free ferris wheel ride."
"and tickets to the warrent concert," he adds. "without the lead singer."
"they should give you a comb for your back pocket if you finish the entire thing.")

we deviate once. let's go there, i say pointing at barnes and noble. he cuts through two lanes of traffic and we browse for an hour and a half.

back at chuck's, he reads and i watch grey's anatomy. then we get ready to go out again.

"tomorrow, i don't want to feel like i did today," chuck says.
"pshaw," i tell him. "its impossible. we drank so much last nite that we won't even be able to catch a buzz tonight."

he gives me a suspicious look.

***

we walk about six blocks to go to a party where bands will play and one of chuck's friends will strip down to his hanes and read his stuff, while perched on a ladder. it isn't often enough that we visit chuck's scene. and on this night, his scene is an explosion of dreadlocks, ear plugs and poetry tattooed on a woman's back. it. is. surreal. it is what i envision before we arrive, but moreso.

downstairs a woman plays the accordian, while another does an interpretive dance in a 60s-style dress.

"this is like laugh-in without the funny," chuck's fannie says.
people are hanging from the rafters to watch. we are on tiptoes in the back row, drinking free lake superior special ale. it tastes like fresh air.
"do you want to get on my shoulders?" i ask chuck.
"yes," he says. "but i'm not taking my shirt off."

a man rants poetry into a microphone.
"i'm not sure why you think i hang out with hippies," chuck says.

we wander back upstairs.
"i wonder if i can smoke here," i ask chuck.
he laughs. around us, no one isn't smoking. the air is thick with the smell of burning rope. i wonder if i will be ostracized for smoking good old fashioned tobacco. my hair is getting stoned by proxy.

i encounter a local writer, who recently wrote a piece on his first sexual experience for a small publication.

"i can't believe that you incorporated duct tape the first time you messed around with a girl," i say to him.
"it was her idea," he tells me. he mentions something about peanut butter.
he proceeds to tell me stunning details that were edited from his copy. one time he coaxed a dog to fruition, he tells me nonchalantly. but they wouldn't let me put that in the story. ... next week i'm writing about the time i was accused of sexual harrassment.

we go back downstairs when chuck's semi-naked friend takes the ladder. i am a bit of a fan of this guy's stuff. within a matter of minutes, you will be, too.

***

another band begins playing, but is stopped short. the police have arrived and we are being asked to leave. everyone files into the street. chuck and i make for quinlan's.

we order shots of sambuca and try to light them on fire. i burn the tips of my fingers, but the liquor never sparks. we sit on stools at the bar and fun comes to us.

"hey, i just bought a pack of cigarettes and didn't realize i had one in my pocket already," qt says.
"i'll take the extra one," i tell him.
he passes me an untapped pack of marlboro ultra lights. not my brand, but they'll do in a pinch.
kerching, i think. it is like i have been handed six dollars for free. i'm smoking them as we speak.

chuck and i wobble to the cab. another night. another drunk. back at my house, we fall into matching comas. i wake at 7 a.m. and barf sushi and lake superior ale. it no longer tastes like fresh air.

i go back to bed.
"lets no drink for a few days," chuck suggests when he wakes.

***

my friend teemo calls arund 2 p.m.
"my friend and i want to come to duluuuuuth tonite," he says.
he is drunk.
"can you show us a good time?" he asks.
"uh," i stammer. by 'a good time' i think he means bars. and this lady is barred out.

he senses my reluctance.
crisis averted.

Friday, March 23, 2007

while you were out ...

make no confusion about what i am about to tell you: i'm going out. tonight. in public. i will begin said night with clean hair and fresh breath. if i remember i'll wear deoderant and if i don't remember, eh ... you won't be able to tell the difference as i'm not really one of those bar perspirers that you typically try to avoid.

i'm going to wear a shirt i found recently at the gap. i liked it so i traded the employee the navy blue henley-like piece for my $9.99. because not only do i want to go out, i want to go out in a new shirt. one that has never experienced disappointment or coffee stains. defeat or accidental bleach. one that creates an illusion of taking six pounds off one body part and redirects it to my chest. there will be a bra. one that is scientifically designed to shoot my breasts to the moon.

but i'm going to wear my new shirt with unfashionably ripped jeans. i welcome adversity in my attire. and it feels like that kind of night.

i will have no fewer than two drinks; no more than five. ish. fiveish. my car keys tucked into the palm of the first person i see holding 12 ounces of water, frequently and boredly refilling with a desire that matches my own. the desire for a blemishless urinary tract and a safe ride home.

i am going to coo and love you. there will be hugs and head nuggies and pecks (with tongue). for each person at the pio tonight will be my "best friend" and i will say it with geniune tears spitting out of my eyes and a front tooth chipped by a 5 pound mug. i would like to embrace you clumsily and let you sway me to "purple rain."

i'm not going to play darts. or pool. or eat popcorn or pickled anything. if there was karoake, i'd sing it (for SURE!) but i bet there isn't, so i will just screech along to the juke box and finally find my falsetto.

i will crumple. bank on it. i'll let jcrew hold my hair and bubbles can hold my purse, or vice versa. i will let chuck hold my person (freakishly strong) and direct me toward the door when he begins to notice that my every sentence inspires eye rolling from even the least judgemental of revellers.

today is your thursday. today is my monday, but kind of like my friday. and like is good enough for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

you can't do that on television ...



chuck and i spent an hour today discussing 1980s pop culture. we do this often and with a level of passion befitting the decade. when we talk about the 80s, we do it with a sort of free association stream of consciousness. his significant interests followed by a story which reminds me of something that interested me and another story.

hart to hart? chuck asks.
hmm, i tell him. a little pre-me.
he explains a complicated plotline: married rich detectives with a quirky butler.

quirky butler, i hem. mr. belvedere?
sort of, he says. cagney and lacey?
ah, i muse. the original indigo girls.

here i hum the opening theme to the a-team.
he laughs.
we used to play the a-team on the playground, i tell him.
hmm, he says. i think you've told me that. and you were murdoch?
i was murdoch, i confirm.
of course, he says. who was BA baracus?
not sure ... i think. bad ass baracus?
uh uh, he corrects me. bad attitude baracus. you couldn't say 'ass' on tv back then.
right, i recall. you know what my first favorite show was?
huh? he asks.
240 robert, i tell him.

and here i have him stumped. he's not heard of this LA-based show. and frankly, all i remember is helicopters and a male lead that made me woozy with as much amore as a preschooler can possibly feel.

i think he was the guy who was on the scarecrow and mrs. king, i tell chuck.
i remember thinking simon & simon and magnum pi were the same show, he says.

but it is 240 robert that has me distracted for the rest of the day.
***

so mark harmon was my original celebrity crush. the dreamy teacher in summer school. dimpled grins and sexual tension with mrs. king. even today, i can see the appeal. what astounds me is that 27 years later my tastes remain the same.

i considered other celebrity crushes from the early 80s, omitting the obvious longing for kirk cameron, the coreys, and christa plus michael j. fox written on a trapper keeper. i begin with mark harmon and make my way through my catalogue of preprepre pubescent fascinations.



victor from the young and the restless. i'm not sure if it was the way he saved nikki from a life as a stripper, or if it was the raspy accent of indiscernable origin. the mustache?



ponch may have been the chips heartthrob, but i was really more into john.



marc singer as mike donovan on "v." all i remember from that show is people ripping the skin off their faces, and this man. i scoured tv guide to find out what his real name was. this was before wikipedia.



alasdair gillis of nickelodian's "you can't do that on television." finally, someone in my own price range instead of these sick television daddy complexes. i prefered alasdair, sweet alasdair, with feathered hair. but mostly it was the freckles and smart ass responses to barfy that killed me. i remember his pucker when he was doused with water or green slime. i knew that was what he would look like kissing me.



pat mastroianni as joey jeremiah on the original degrassi junior high. it was either this pbs show or all star wrestling. i flipped back and forth. joey jeremiah wasn't cool. but he was in a band.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

my so-called life ...

the "facts": my name is christa. i was born at 11:05 a.m., august 31, 1975. i am an american citizen.

this is the truth, to the best of my knowledge. you can only assume that your parents have accurately provided you with your life facts. that these are not merely trivial pieces of fiction invented at an octagon-shaped plywood table in a mustard-colored kitchen. a story concocted in the hours before you were born. or adopted. or hatched. or stolen from vacationing canadians sucking down orange juliuses in the apache mall food court.

"but won't she always wonder why great grandma calls her christy?" my three-year-old brother asks.
"silly boy," my mom responds. "even infants know that old people are senile. now eat your cream peas on toast and be quiet."


i began questioning my life story in grade school. my brother and i had matching christmas stockings which we hung on our door knobs in anticipation of loot. wham! tapes and thick candy canes. love's baby soft perfume. his said "[brother pista], 1972." mine said: "christa, 1974."

"why does mine say 1974?" i asked my mom.
"it's a typo," she said.


but was it? someone -- a relative or a family friend -- had knitted these stockings as gifts. a few arduous days wrapped in yarn, a pattern spread like a map on the couch. bob barker on the tube. counting backward on her fingers to determine the year. a 4 was made instead of a 5 and this person just cocked her head, frowned and thought: eh, close enough. it seemed unlikely.

it became obvious to me that i was actually born in 1974. that my parents had lied. hidden all of the evidence, but forgotten this one single piece of contradictory proof.

but why? in those days i watched enough of the young and the restless to realize i had probably spent a year hospitalized, in a coma. instead of explaining my lost year, my parents pretended it never happened.

or maybe i had been born without skin, my organs exposed like the fluffy innards of an inside out tube sock. or the non-pregnant cow that went into false labor on "little house on the prairie," and gave birth to its own uterus.

perhaps they worried that i was retarded. an extra year of incubation would give me time to become unretarded, so i wouldn't be mocked by the cruel afternoon kindergartners of harriet bishop elementary school.

so be it. in the end, i was glad to, hypothetically, be "born in 1975." i could have never survived among the people a grade ahead of me. they would have mocked me for not being retarded.

***

i've always had a bit of an interest in astrology. i'm not rabid. i don't, like, have my sign tattoed on the small of my back or anything. but i'll read my horoscope. and if i am in love with you, i may read your's, too.

i am told that i was born august 31st. this would make me a virgo. this is what that means: modest and shy; meticulous and reliable; practical and diligent; intelligent and analytical; fussy and a worrier; overcritical and harsh; perfectionist and conservative.

either i was born upside down or i simply am. not. a. virgo.
modest: my favorite photo of me a picture of my own ass with a purple globe-shaped bruise marring my right cheek.
shy: yes. for about 9 years of hugging my mom's leg and leaving slumber parties at 10 p.m. but not since then.
practical: uh ...
diligent: i am unfinished projects personified.
intelligent: i prefer intuitive. i can read your mind, but i can't find pennsylvania on a map.
analytical: nope. creative.
fussy: i've chewed gum that i dropped on the sidewalk.
worrier: let's go with avoider and compartamentalizer.

the one seed of doubt. the inkling that maybe august 31st is my birthday: this means that, potentially, i was conceived on new year's eve. and this explains way more than my sign.

***

rarely in my little life did any member of my family call me "christa." there was "christy" from the aforementioned great grandma. my brother, and subsequently all of his friends, called me "chrissy." my parents went through a long line of nicknames that segued into new nicknames that gave birth to other nicknames. it went like this:

christa.
christa belle.
belle.
lou-la belle.
chrissy lou.
lou.
louie.
lewis.

in fifth grade, mr. k called me to his desk and handed me a permission slip in which my father had spelled my name: christia.

"what is your real name?" my teacher asked.
"uh. christa?" i answered. duh.
"why would your dad spell your name wrong?" he interrogated.
"he's a bad speller?" i suggested.


mr. k seemed suspicious. no one was a bad enough speller to spell his daughter's name wrong. frankly, i was a little suspicious, too. it sounded like a lie to me, the speaker.

coincidentally, my high school cross country coach always called me "christia." possible that he was involved in the great untruth called my life all along?

***

recently i spent time walking among some canadians*. i love canadians. i immediately felt at home and forged easy friendships with these canadians. they loaned me a canadian cigarette and then we laughed about the surgeon general-like warnings on the pack: the charbroiled heart muscles, the lungs recoiling in sooty terror, the child in utero inhaling the turkish blend. skulls and cross bones printed on the packs.

ho ho ho, those kill me, i said to my new friends.
we all laughed.
have you ever seen the canadian public service announcement against domestic abuse? i asked.
ho ho had they?
we all laughed.

these were my people. laid back folk with lengthy vowels. a man who claimed that he liked jack daniels, but he liked his brother jim beam, too. they told me stories of stumbling about their funny little country. we laughed at the snow. we mocked fashion.

***

i don't know what all of this means. my name, age and nationality are nothing more than a spurt of creativity? or am i expected to believe this is all the unlikely truth, brought to me by the same people who insist my brother was an immaculate conception?



*french mexicans

Monday, March 19, 2007

vague threats of bodily harm ...

i've spent a lot of time lately trying to find new ways to express displeasure. i need something clever and violent, yet facetious enough that people know i am not serious. years ago i was satisfied with a simple expression: i'm going to jump off the bong bridge. that worked for awhile. expressed angst and kept it interesting for the locals.

"why not the high bridge?" i have been asked.
but if you have to ask, you don't understand humor. at. all.

later i adopted jcrew's clever credo: i'm going to shoot myself in the effing face. i like this, too. it is specific and vaguely funny with tints of sad proctorism. it suggests harm only to myself and stops short of the steaming bullet wound, imploding skull visual.

as jcrew became more sophisticated, she began spouting: i'm going to slit my carotid artery. while i like this, the delivery is dulled by my inability to confidently pronounce "carotid."

on sunday i told my dad that i was going to drop my toaster in the bathtub. he paused ... thought it through ... and laughed. i like this one. but the stall between delivery and listener response does nothing for my need for immediate gratification.

"could you use 'jumping off the bong bridge?'" chuck suggested.
"that's the original," i told him.
"hmm. how about sticking your head in an oven?" he wondered.
"i think jcrew uses that one. she's really into sylvia plath," i said.

i want something involving a garage and exhaust fumes, but i haven't found a way to say it concisely without going into a lot of details involving rubber tubing and ignition keys and AM talk radio.

today i was at cub foods. i picked the shortest line, which was unfortunately behind a coupon horder who hears "buy two get one free" from 14 miles away. she had a calculator in her cart, so i wasn't surprised when her total came within 20 cents of the projected total. i was surprised when she left the line to go find a new box of cinnamon toast crunch.

she returned six minutes later. the line behind us grew. she chatted with the cashier about an upcoming trip. she filled out a check slowly and deliberately.

i stood there, gripping a small handbasket with approximately 40 dollars of food, alternating glares at the woman and her partner in crime, this cashier.

finally i turned to the woman behind me and said: i'm going to kill myself in about two minutes.

definitely not my best work. but she laughed. i guess sometimes you just have to keep it simple.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

experiments in bravery ...

i think it is perfectly acceptible to wear a white wife beater and black bra. but not in public. only on the internet.


snow bunnies ...

two men were wrestling in the snow. it looked like friendly fire. the kind of frivolity that happens after a few pitchers of beer and fresh powder and years of friendship. they spun and rolled and tugged and smashed each other's faces into the drifts and a shirt came up over a head, exposing a hairy beer belly and there were ass cracks everywhere.

that's when the police showed up. three policemen tried to rip the men apart. but if you've ever tried to break up mating dogs, you've probably had better luck. eventually they got them separated, but one was a bit more frisky -- kicking and shouting and so they tossed him around a bit. the other guy seemed to disappear.

by now i had my nose pressed up against the window. i was chomping on an orange in the front row.

they threw him onto a bench. then they cuffed him. then they led him to the back of the police car and he yelled and swore the whole time.

"what time does this place close?" i asked someone.
he shrugged.
"what time does this place close?" i asked someone else.
he shrugged too.
"what time does this place close?" i asked another guy.
"what time is it now?" he asked.
"2:11 a.m.," i said.
"hmm. ... in awhile," he said.
"can you be more specific?" i asked.
"just in awhile," he said.

later we were talking about the incident with the men and the police.
"i got it all right here," i said, pulling out my camera phone. "the whole thing is documented."

"that's sick," he said. "let me see."

he looked pretty disappointed. i never said i was a good photographer. later i realized he had been looking at photos of the john mayer concert.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

road rules ...

i'm feeling like i have been flagged as a high-risk guest. i've been avoiding elevators and skulking about in staircases. mostly it is paranoia. there are a lot of rules here at this hotel. notecards with suggestions, taped to walls. stuff mentioned with one raised eyebrow and the "we're not mad, we're just disappointed" voice. i feel not so much like a guest, as a person who is trying out to play the role of guest.

for one thing, i believe they have branded me a smoker. and if there is anything this hotel, nay this town, hates ... it is a smoker.

when i checked in, i signed three pages of paperwork promising that i would not smoke in my room. then i initialed it to assure them that i had, in fact, signed it. then i left a lock of hair so they could match my dna to any cashed cigarette butts they find clogging the drain of my bathtub.

fine. i don't need to smoke in my room because i can smoke outside. as you know, outside is just a giant smoking section. like they used to have at fast food restaurants before i could appreciate it. smokers caged in a palpable haze of blue cancer, behind a glass pane. a suicide zoo. tin ashtrays dented with phlegmy enthusiasm.

when i realized my room had a balcony, i prepped for a celebratory smoke upon it. pinched a camel light between my fingers, snagged my lighter and a coat -- then i saw this sign:

[the staff of this hotel] work hard to make your stay as pleasant as possible. part of that task is maintaining a smoke-free environment. please extend the courtesy of not smoking in this guest room or on its balcony/patio. should evidence of smoking be found, a $200 cleaning fee will be assessed, as the room will not be suitable for the next guest.

so much for the world as my ashtray ... but it gets worse. i walked out the front door, the main door, and saw another sign indicating that i needed to be at least 50 feet from the entrance if i planned to smoke. so i heel-toed my ass times 50 to the sidewalk and finally lit up.

it was cold outside.

as a person with a bag filled with smoky clothing, i've now become paranoid that they will mistake my natural essense with a breach of the contract. a funny mistake. but, potentially, an expensive mistake.

***

the mugs next to the coffee pot are pretty standard hotel fare. forest green with the name in a golden serif font. at no time did i consider pitching one into my bag, but apparently some people do. next to the condiments was this note:

these mugs are here for you to enjoy during your stay with us. you are welcome to take them home. if you choose to do so, a charge of $5.00 per mug will be added to your account ...

and now i'm worried a mug will accidentally fall into my bag and a mysterious charge will appear and, once home, i'll have to introduce this mug to my own collection and love it extra. this mug is not that hot.

if i don't pay attention, this trip could cost me an additional $210 dollars.

***

i have perfected the extended hotel stay and developed wants and needs that only exist in this scenario: i like to crank the heat to about 108 degrees. i like to fall asleep to a real world marathon and wake to vintage dawson's creek. i like the curtains closed and to make sure i keep things orderly. i throw everything away and keep my clothes organized. most importantly, the "do not disturb" sign hung perminantly on my door.

while i admire that someone wants to douse my tub with bleach at 7 a.m., i just cannot allow it. i'll use yesterday's towels. i'd have to really concentrate to get through an entire roll of toilet paper in 24 hours. i don't need housekeeping. and i definitely don't want housekeeping.

this, apparently, did not rub the staff right today. i received this note. while friendly on the surface, i sensed a clenched teeth tone:

dear guest: we are sorry we didn't get in to do your room today. you had your 'do not disturb' sign on your door. hotel policy does not allow maids to enter a room when this sign is on. if you put your maid sign out in the morning, your room will be serviced as soon as possible. clean towels have been bagged for you. sorry for any inconvenience.

also attached to my door was a plastic garbage bag filled with towels, toilet paper, shampoo, lotion, conditioner, soap and coffee. it was like a very practical christmas gift.

the things i carry ...

yesterday, very briefly, i misplaced approximately 45 pounds of my stuff. a black duffel bag on roller blade wheels packed with five days worth of abercrombie and express and gap, a straightning iron, an electric toothbrush, running shoes.

a proper amount of polite panic was expressed by everyone but me.

i had my laptop, cell phone, identification and money in a backpack affixed to my body. also affixed to my body: stocking cap, black gap turtleneck, zip sweatshirt i found at the pioneer, jcrew cords circa 2003ish, boots, white fleece.

losing this bag suggested inconvenience. but with a scissors, soap and creativity, i figured i could make do. i would have to buy a toothbrush. despite my pretty solid plan B, i looked for the bag anyway and found it. wheeled it to safety. contents intact, although i realized i forgot my flip flops and that was the most angst i had all day.

later, when i was asked if i'd found my stuff, i was like: huh? oh. yeah.

i can't decide if this means i am extremely low maintanance. or maybe i welcome adversity. maybe i wanted to turn these cords into shorts. or maybe all of this is just really, really sad.

i travel and live pretty light. i don't really have stuff. no ipod, no flat screen tv, no sidekick. and the stuff i do have, i could take or leave. sometimes i wander through my apartment and fantacize about ditching all of it. cruising out of apartment 2 at 90 miles per hour, settling somewhere new as soon as my car breaks down or i hit an ocean.

the old tv, the laptop with more viruses than the dumpster behind st. luke's, the three disc cd changer and the blow dryer.

granted, toonser would probably try to tackle me at the door. caress my head with his little paw and mew "love me" into my ear. but its time for him to establish a little independence anyway.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the risque factor ...

there are five customers when we walk into the bar-formerly-known-as-the-pio last nite. i know two of them, two of them i don't care to know. one is the bartender, who i will know in 45 second increments as she fills and refills my trough o' honey weiss.

they're calling it "heroes."
we're calling it "zeroes."
although jcat suggested "serio's?" and i like that the best.

the juke box is silent. the tvs are muted. the lights are bright. it feels like we arrived two hours early for church basement bingo. it seems cleaner, but it would have to be cleaner. i wonder how much clorox bleach it took to scrub the hpv off the floor?

exposed brick, someone told me when i asked them how the old girl looked. i'd not been to the bar-formerly-known-as-the-pio in weeks. maybe even a month. by "exposed brick" i believe they mean "someone is trying to tear down the drywall veeeerrrrryyyy slooooowwwwwllllyyyy, one chunk at a time."

it now has a unisex bathroom. not to be trendy -- like luce or the independent in uptown. mostly just out of convenience. it is hard to tell your male customers: i'm afraid you just cannot use the bathroom until we get all the fecal matter off the sink. so they've rerouted them to our space. this eliminates the risque factor in bathroom romances. now it would be more risque if they did not occur.

"you gonna hit that?" i ask jcrew each time a man walks toward the bathroom.
"no," she says.
"you gonna hit that?" i ask her again later.
"NO!" she says.

unless i'm gassy, i like a unisex bathroom. the potential for hilarity is limitless. a calloused male hand passing you a wad of toilet paper; dualing mirror time with masculine abercrappie-anados; all the bathroom mysteries of the opposite sex revealed by an innocuous lean against a stall with a faulty lock. both stalls, i should add, have faulty locks. and i, dear readers, have just the innocuous lean.

i always wondered if he wore boxer briefs?
ah. she does have her period. that explains the zit and the angst.
whoa. how much corn did you eat last nite?
hmm. bulemia? i always took her for an anorexic.
that's not going to flush.


"i feel sorry for you girls," chuck says. "maybe you didn't know this, but men don't lift the toilet seat in bar bathrooms."

"that is bad news," i tell him. "because i always sit directly on the toilet and i never look first."

"you should probably start looking," he suggests.

"yeah. i'd hate to get pregnant," i muse.

"and if there is a line," chuck says, "some men will pee in the sink."

"who doesn't?" i wonder.

Monday, March 12, 2007

half the man i used to be ...

around midnight friday i developed a pretty solid hankering for old school debauchery. teetering on unsafe shoes through the streets of duluth drawn dim-wittedly to neon bar lights. pores oozing windsor like white heads pinched between thumbs in front of a bathroom mirror.

i was an hour in the future, in a time zone where it was not unusual to share an elevator with a dark-haired man who drops his 'r's: "fouth flooah, please." then stare blankly into his reflection of the double dooahs.

"let's go out-out tomorrow," i cooed to chuck into my cell phone. he had spent the night living my dream and was drifting off to sleep with the key pad of his phone making freakish square imprints into the side of his face. "i hope you didn't blow all your fun mojo."

i didn't sleep well. i spent a few hours basking in the glow of viva la bam, and an internal debate: do i love bam margera or do i loathe bam margera?

LOVING THEE
bam margera, somewhat easy on the eyes, is paid to have fun. during the opening credits of his show, he skateboards up to the camera and announces something like "i'm bam margera, and i can do whatever the hell i want." a spontaneous trip to the bayou, an elephant in his living room, he replaces the front door to his home with a draw bridge.

not to mention my natural affinity for skateboarders. my first boyfriend was a skateboarder, vuarnet t'shirts and teal converse high tops. tones calves and flippy blond skater hair with longish bangs and his part spiked. kissing him was like eating bananas without using your teeth.

and the world, it seems, is bam's personal skate park. he is friends with tony hawk.

LOATHING THEE
bam margera, while easy on the eyes, is the quintessential playground bully. he is a 27-year-old sitting in the back of a classroom with his feet on a chair and a bic pen hanging out of his mouth. he is peer pressure. he surrounds himself with a weak-willed posse that follows his whims. he alternates practicing sadism on each of them. they will let him fill their bed with live crabs, knowing that tomorrow someone else will get it and that bam will pay for it and about 75 percent of the time it will be fun.

on a road trip to mardi gras, even tony hawk looks like he has had enough.

still, i can't not watch.

when i get back to duluth soil, i've had little sleep. fun and debauchery and neon lights screech like fingernails down my soul. "fun" sounds like scooching two-deep onto the couch and back-to-back episodes of anything.

chuck seems to want to go out. i tell him i can rally, i can rally, i can rally. i spend the day dozing, my nap interupted by about 25 phone calls -- my cell phone constantly vibrating under my pillow.

we have a late start and my gin and tonnie goes down slowly. we play a best-of-three series of bubble hockey, consecutive losses distracting me further from my drink. my center and right winger are a strong combination and we beat chuck's goalie with a few one-timers. alone, my center is pretty worthless. my defense is quite key, thwarting chuck's wingers time and time again. he finds success with his center, a somewhat selfish player who parks himself in front of my goal. around 1:45 a.m. i realize i am going to have to get serious about getting fun.

i order two shots of tequila.

"i don't want rail tequila," i tell the bartender. "i want something delicious."
"jose cuarvo?" he suggests.
"fine," i say.

i take the order back to our table and set it aside for dessert. chuck downs his quickly and gives me a greenish grimace.

"that was gross," he says.
i eye my drink. salt my hand. grab a lemon wedge. shoot it.
the second it goes in, it bungies back out and splatters on the floor.
"that's not puke," i tell chuck. "but this is going to be."

i sprint into the bathroom and heave violently, ridding myself of any trace of tequila, my gin and tonic, pizza man pizza and some loose stomach lining. i swish water in my mouth and return to the table.

"you can't do shots anymore," chuck says. "you used to be able to drink me under the table," he adds.
i stare sadly at the puddle of tequila on the floor.

back at chuck's and still unscathed by the drink, he serves me green apple soda mixed with swedish vodka. the only thing better than how it tastes is how it looks. i have two.

i wake with a headache. i'm moaning and groaning and feeling way crappier than the night's intake would suggest. eventually, chuck has memorized my reenactment of a shakespearean death scene. he climbs out of bed and returns with two aspirin.

"is this hippie aspirin?" i ask him.
"no, its real aspirin aspirin. old school aspirin," he says.
"so its not hippie aspirin?" i ask.
"actually," he says, "its soybuprofin."

it hurts to laugh.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

last night's bout of insomnia sponsored by ...



thanks, bam margera. thanks, mtv, you marathon whores.

don't know what you've got (til its gone) ...



imagine a place eerily similar to duluth in temperature, cubic inches of snow, and great lake tallies. now, subtract coke cola. i am here. picture me parched.

A HISTORY OF A COKE DRINKER
early 80s: i am born into a pepsi family. my dad plays for a pepsi-sponsored softball team. my dad's best friend from high school married my mom's best friend from high school and they have a son my age who is pretty hot shit. while not related, we all share the same last name. mr. non-related pista works for pepsi. he drives a white pickup with the pepsi logo on the side. so do most of his other friends.

their home is teeming with pepsi products and pepsi gear. when we visit, we are served pepsi and diet pepsi and mountain dew and diet mountain dew. there may have been some root beer. it comes with three ice cubes in plastic pink glasses. at softball games, non-related mrs. pista sits in the bleachers on a pepsi seat cushion and uses a pepsi cozy to keep her diet pepsi cool. her visor says pepsi.

we looooooove pepsi. we are the pepsi generation.

our pista family doesn't drink much pop. and when we do, we have to ask, beg, plead for a can. we would have more success asking if we could please, please, please put the fork in the light socket or play with the toaster in the bath tub. but when we do drink pop, we drink pepsi.

we are encouraged to give pepsi up for lent.

mid-80s: my mom is grocery shopping at barlow's. my brother and i are tagging along for the pizza samples, pretzel skewered cheeses and a desperate hope that just this once she will buy a sugar cereal.

one kiosk is conducting the pepsi challenge. to those cursed to be born post-1990, this involves drinking a dixie cup of pepsi and a dixie cup of coke and then telling a woman with a clipboard which you prefer.

mom: mmmm ... this one.
woman: tadahhh! its pepsi.
brother pista: mmmm ... this one.
woman: atta boy! that's pepsi, too!
me: mmm ... this one.
woman: (frowns) hmmm. that one is coke.

i'm stunned. i ask if i can try again. the woman shakes her head. i stumbled from the research lab feeling alienated.

"i swear i like pepsi better!" i tell my mom.

early 1990s: i start drinking dr. pepper. i can buy a 12 ounce glass for 40 cents in the commons of my high school. almost simultaneously, i discover slim jims.

"when i go to college, i'm going to just drink dr. pepper and eat slim jims for every meal," i tell my friend betsy.

mid-1990s: before i leave for college, betsy pulls me aside with a concerned frown.

"remember when you told me that you were going to live on dr. pepper and slim jims in college?" she asks.
"no," i say.
"well, you did say that," she reminds me.
and i guess it wouldn't surprise me if i did.
"anyway," she says. "i just want you to know that if you do that, you'll probably get really sick."

once i begin college, i ingest hearty daily doses of coke. sometimes three or four cans a day, with small glassfuls at meals in the cafeteria. i make friends with like-minded drinkers: red lipstick always has a stash of coke beneath her bed, while another friend always has a stash of diet coke, which she drinks from a can with a straw. (we eventually lose touch).

no matter how many cokes i have in a day, every time i crack a can i listen to it hiss, take a sip, smile, turn to red lipstick and say: hmmmm heaven in a can.

my sophomore year, pepsi gives my college a shitload of money for exclusive rights to all soda fountains and pop machines. i scribble an irate letter to the editor of my college newspaper, but never send it.

2000s: as an adult, i taper my intake a bit. enjoy a 20 ounce bottle per day. it is one of few instances of product loyalty and it makes me feel better to have this well-honed, carefully studied, scientifically proven preference.

i sit in front of my computer with an idea. instead of sending complaint letters to people and places that wrong me, i will send love letters to companies that improve my quality of life. coke gets one. (as do the doritos people, the slim jim people).

i'm hoping for coupons or free samples.
coke sends me a frameable certificate that recognizes my years of loyalty. i put it somewhere, but i don't remember where.

current: these days i only drink coke on occasion; i'm more inclined to drink powerade or gatorade or water or coffee. sometimes i'll have a coke two or three days in a row. sometimes i won't have a coke for a week. and sometimes i'll have one, but it will be diluted by whiskey so it doesn't count. and while i don't crave it or neeeeeeed it, i like knowing it is an option.

last night: i notice a pepsi machine on the floor of my hotel.
today: even the convenience wall in the lobby has just pepsi. i trudge toward applebees with a heavy heart and order a coke with my lunch.

"is pepsi okay?" the server asks.
"why is there no coke in this town?" i ask.
"why is it so cold in this town?" she laughs.
"no. no coke. why no coke?" i correct her.
she gives me a puzzled look.
"can you put grenadine in my pepsi?" i ask.
"yes."

twice more i am overwhelmed with a need for a coke.
twice more, i'm in a place wearing the red, white and pepsi blue.
and thats when i start noticing that pepsi machines are everywhere. in front of every building, on every lawn.

i notice it so much that it starts to get freaky.
and i start to get thirstier. for a coke.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

four alarm day ...

today is a four alarm day: it takes one chirping cell phone, one vibrating cell phone, one boyfriend with the self-proclaimed internal alarm clock of champions, and the intrusive sound of my cd player immitating a garbage truck in reverse. hours later i will nap, though. my stocking cap against a plastic window. i'm sliding all over the window like i greased the sucker. i wake each time my head shanks into the arm rest. this is to say: i wake every 15 seconds.

***

i pick up a lunch-to-go from applebees. one thing i like about applebees is the predictibility. you always know that whatever you get will be tasteless suck that no amount of salt can fix. a song by mariah carey is playing as i wait for my order. a middle aged man with a middle aged woman can't keep his eyes off the bar tv. and i think: holy CRAP! so THIS is what mediocrity looks like.

later, i will be reminded what mediocrity tastes like. it will be called penne pasta rosa.

***

"d'jya see this?" a man asks me. he's sitting at a table in a cafeteria.
"i don't know what i'm looking at," i tell him.
he points to a photo of sharon stone.
"she was here! she was here!" he says. "they didn't tell anyone she was coming. prolly cuz of security and stuff. but she was here! if ida known, i'd have gotten her autograph! that's my hobby. autograph getting. i got charlton heston, you know charlton heston? that one cost me 10 dollars. i won't usually pay for it, but i kinda got tricked into it. i said to the guy taking money, for THAT price i should get your autograph, too!"

here i back away slowly, keep my hands in plain view and try not to show fear. they smell fear. autograph collectors. remind me to never become a rabid hobbiest.

***

i'm running on a treadmill and watching "south park" at a volume so obscene that it makes a mockery of actual deaf people. i like to think that with a treadie and cable in my living room, i could get myself back to my birth weight. but chances are, i'd just get hopped up on the hooch and use the conveyor belt to wing shit at my cat while hanging upside down from the handle bars in a sports bra and watching "the hills."

so i'm running. studying my reflection in the window. i absolutely love to watch myself run. with each gust of flailing arms, my skin moves to reveal buried muscle mass. its like slow motion and a gumby doll with a collar bone. i'm a bionic something or other, underneath it all.

i think if you chisled away at the meat of the matter, really got deep down in there and worked toward my core, you would find a 24 year old italian male professional soccer player. and he would be hungry.

meanwhile, cartman has unearthed a bus filled with aborted fetuses and he is trying to pimp them to stem cell scientists. they keep trying to low-ball him with the price and cartman says: much like these aborted fetuses, i wasn't born yesterday.

here i absolutely explode, hiccuping enough to change tides. cackling and running and cackling. and when he says: i think you're making a fetal mistake, i laugh myself into an appendectomy, i'm draped over the treadie and i can't breathe.

i love this new day and age where people -- especially the animated sort -- can say anything on tv.

this is about the time a man walks into the workout area. surveys me. then the tv. cringes at the volume, then the content.

"you don't like south park, do you?" he asks.
i've never met him, but i get the sense that right around the time he turned 33 he stopped finding comedy central anything more than the quickest route to the history channel and his 9:30 p.m. warm milk, puppy pj bedtime. but man. i bet if you dug out the photo album from spring break 1991, you would see a different story. he's clearly been fun-sucked. so i humor him.
"um," i lie. "i don't know. i've never seen it before."
he gives me a funny look.
"i don't have cable," i say.
"well, terminator is on channel 26," he says.
so i turn it to channel 26.

when it is over, he gives me a 12 minute diatribe on the wonder of all things terminator and keeps interjecting "you know, if you like that sci/fi stuff."

luckily, my workout is ending. i bionic my way to the exit. bionic. now that's the kind of sci/fi stuff i like.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

single white feline ...

true story: when i woke this morning at 7:45 a.m. toonses was outside my bedroom door meowing in 2 second intervals. this is pretty standard. he used to do it at 11:30 a.m., then two weeks ago it was 9:30 a.m. ... now he starts around 7 a.m. very soon it will begin and end before i go to bed. and then, soon after, we can only hope he will die of natural causes.

so i get up. check his water level (fine, why he still chooses to drink out of the toilet and my powerade bottle is beyond me) and his food level (also adequate for the little fat pucker). against my own wishes, i leave my door open so he can climb into bed with me. this is what he wants, even though ever other surface of my apartment is more hospitable than the one he will be sharing with me. he'd find more affection from the open flame on my gas stove.

when he gets too close, i threaten him with a bottle of fabreeze. you have to speak his language. he is anti mountain breeze.

he needs to be close to my face. when i open my eyes, his evil green darts are trained on mine and it is like sleeping with a stalker. when i shift, he takes his paw and caresses the back of my head. plays with my ponytail. also like sleeping with a stalker.

i woke again and he was running his paw down my arm. repeatedly. like he was trying to soothe me. like he was trying to pet me. all of this really creeps me out. i don't know where he learned to pet. its not like i've ever done it to him.

sometimes i am convinced that he is a reincarnated someone. and that reincarnated someone has it bad for me.

this is why i won't let him see me naked. the idea of him making a hopped up lunge for my naked breast scares the beejeebees out of me.

one time a friend of mine said: why do you hate the people who love you?
i should have said: i don't. unless they're cats.

i'm holding out for a hero ...

first the pioneer ran out of cigarettes. not even a stray menthol to be found. this was fine, it saved me six bucks. i hate buying cigarettes at the bar because you feel that, at six dollars a pack, 30 cents per heater and two cents a drag, you are obligated to celebrate the life of each tiny cilia you are choking.

ambivilance comes at four dollars a pack.

i thought it was a weekend thing. a bunch of smokers pillaged the pio on a saturday, fought over who got to sing their raspy rendition of "betty davis eyes" and smoked out the entire stock. monday, tuesday, wednesday came and it wasn't replenished and this was fine because, like i said, bar cigarettes are expensive.

and then the liquor began to disappear. the bottles lining the back shelves emptied, then recycled but not replaced. new drinks were invented: apple pucker, peppermint schnapps and bitters, anyone? the kegs were emptied. pitchers of white foamy drool consumed.

the last time i went to the pio i could have a 12 ounce mug of guiness or a 12 ounce mug of wild turkey at room temperature. i opted for the guiness under the false assumption that the darker the beer, the higher the alcohol content. and that drinking wild turkey was the equivilent of a back alley tracheotomy with a dirty knitting needle.

i drew a shamrock with my finger in the foam, raised my glass and said "salut!"

but this was getting ridiculous, so i asked the bartender the specifics of the drought. how much longer and why? new ownership, she said. old ownership doesn't want to restock before the bar changes hands.

the bigger question was: why are we continuing to hang out there? forge a night out of white zin and pickle juice. gnaw on aged turkey gizzards instead of bar pizza. we were returning out of habit and convenience and familiarity with the eight top table by the door. afraid that if we left our abusive bar, we wouldn't find another to berate us when we burned the meatloaf.

yet, it seemed that any minute the owner would throw the keys to my landlord and say:

"finish off the supplies. turn off the lights when you leave and lock the door. i'm outtie."

on saturday i heard my landlord call the pio to confirm a rumor.
and no one answered.
whatever. now we go to quinlan's. or we don't go out at all.

***

back in the day, the pio had the comfort level of a friend's rec room in his cool parent's basement. rules have never really applied. on the fourth of july, jcrew brought in her own bottle of champaign. we used to stay well beyond closing time. i've poured myself drinks and made popcorn. i've had some of my least aesthetically appealing days at the pio, running a hand through my greasy hair and validating myself with: eh. it's just the pio. those effers are lucky they even get to look at a girl in this slop hole.

when the owner replaced the floor near the pool table with a rubber mat, it made it more safe for hank and i to explore our bar tricks: the one where i ran at him, bounced my pelvis off his, then catapulted my body into a handstand above him. graceful dismount. or the one where i did a back flip over his outstretched arm. or the times he just gyrated against a stool, trying to impregnate it to the song "pope" by prince.

jcrew and my unemployed friend, clutching, swaying and weeping to "tuesday is gone." daisy singing "love shack" and moccassins rapping along in a deep barotone.
hank riding his bike in the back door, then ekeing to a stop at our table and removing his headphones.
my landlord being named customer of the week -- which we dubbed athlete of the week -- at least once a month.
its where one of my most low-key mellow friends picked a fight with the pioneer trool because he had unplugged the juke box.
once i got drunk there three times in the same day.

its where the vixen met her boyfriend.
its where i got trapped in the bathroom stall with a regular and had to scooch out under the bathroom door on my belly.
its where my former roommate celebrated his 21st birthday by barfing into an unflushed toilet.
its where they burned the drinks and the pizza.

it was the back drop for 90 percent of my former blog.

***

tonight my former roommate called to tell me it had reopened. now its called "heroes" and they tore down the walls to reveal exposed brick. painted something green.

"and they actually have alcohol," he said.

when i got home to the duplex i saw my landlord pull up in front in his girlish convertible. scrubs and sneaks negotiating between snow bank and shoveled area as they teetered toward his car.

they were going to test this "new" bar. heroes, indeed.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

bruised and broken ...

i yank my pants down to thigh level and i'm inspecting my leg.

me: i think i have a bruise.
chuck: from what?
me: hmm. i don't know. maybe i ran into a pool table.
chuck: last night? when you displayed exemplary motor skills?
me: yes. last nite when i spoke clearly and concisely. without repetition.
chuck: last night, when you had keen hand-eye coordination?
me: yes. last nite when i showed all-around solid judgement.
chuck: last night? when you remembered everything that happened quite clearly? even that we went to the twins bar?
me: yes. last nite when i was a beacon of moderation.

shot to the heart ...

whenever i hear gunshots, i always look at the clock. like i just did two minutes ago. 12:17 a.m. sunday morning. nine shots. first eight in succession, then another after a delay.

i've always wanted to be on a witness stand. but i don't want to be the bad guy or know the bad guy or see the victim or their brains splattered against my garage. i just want to be the crazy woman with a cat wearing a wrinkled pant suit from walmart who says: i heard the shots. it was 12:17 a.m.

i'm unsure if the perp was wobbling through the back alley or taking aim at the washington center, though. so my time on the stand will be hardly worth the part where i take the oath.

very briefly in my young little life, i considered becoming a lawyer. i was enamored with the idea of my glasses sliding down my nose, stapling packets of official paper. the sound of expensive pumps clipping across a marble floor.

once i was on a jury. i was the 23-year-old forewoman because i raised my hand the fastest when they asked "who wants to be the foreman." this meant little. i was able to deliver the verdict after two hours of deliberation and a free mediteranean salad from papageorges. we found that the 90 year old plantiff did not have a case against mercedes benz. that the reason his car caromed out of control through a church parking lot had more to do with operator error than the lemon law.

"i hit the brake and the car accelerated!" he warbled.
"i think he hit the accelerator and it accelerated," i told my peers.

one of the men on the jury worked in a small locally owned shoe store that catered to people like my grandfather. that is to say, people with a classic taste in apparell, a hankering for vodka tonics, and figurines carved from wood. an office that smelled like sharpened pencils and eraser dust and musk. toothpick models of boats built inside a bottle. an understated tendency to hobnob. now that he is gone, i try to remember him as jay gatsby.

this man from the shoe store and i spent a decent amount of time sparring. sometimes people do not like me. we are like mismatched cogs and there is friction. in my head, i'd linked him to al bundy and i wondered if when he went home from work his hands smelled like sweaty black dress socks ... like my grandpa's feet.

the rest of the jury seemed to like me, though. even though i found it very hard to stay on topic during the deliberations. law, law, law ... hey did any of you see "friends" last night?

i thought i was flirting with the baliff. throughout the testamonies, i'd scan the room and occassionally make eye contact with this cop. in those days, i needed to have someone to flirt with everytime i walked into a room, or the day was considered a ruin.

"i hope you guys deliberate into dinner time so we can go out to dinner," the baliff said to me.

i thought this meant he wanted to eat with me. a passive aggressive proposition. i thought i was pretty cute. i was sure he thought i was pretty cute. i didn't realize that he was just hoping for another free meal. i told my dad that i was flirting with the baliff and that the baliff was flirting back. my dad told the baliff, who set him straight: he wasn't flirting with me.

i felt stupid.

on the last day of the trial, i woke 15 minutes before i was due in the jury box. i was still wearing a makeshift toga. fannie and i had thrown a toga party, then constructed our costumes from elaberate swaths of material and safety pins. mine was teal and it shimmered and it was a two-piece that exposed my stomach. i was blocks from home. i scampered through the streets barefoot, past my old elementary school and church, past the high school and into my apartment. i quickly washed my hair, threw on a skirt and unmatching shirt, and sped to courthouse. i took my shoes off and ran three blocks to the building. i arrived looking wet and mangy.

i avoided eye contact with the baliff, the shoe salesman and the plantiff and later we delivered the verdict.

not only do we not find in favor of the plantiff, we think you should revoke his liscense.

Friday, March 2, 2007

conversations with pizza people ...

scene: 3:55 p.m. and there is a general aire of hunger permiating the squalor of apartment 2. our heroes have been holed up for days, months, years. hunkered over laptops, all necessary supplies within reach. the current streaming one good song after another via computer. one hungover feline, who ransacked the remains of two abandoned whiskey cokes in the wee hours of the morning.

she: chicken with peanut dipping sauce and rice?
he: that would be the fifth day in a row that you've eaten chicken. and you hate rice.
she: with enough soy sauce, i'll eat anything. the idea of me making chicken scares you.
he: a little. pizza?

(little do they know that ordering a pizza in the aftermath of a snowstorm is difficult)
***

EAST LOCATION
she: i'd like to make an order for delivery?
pizza girl: address
she: blah blah blah west fourth street.
pizza girl: (pauses) oh. we don't deliver to west addresses.
she: um. oh.
pizza girl: try our west location.
she: oh. kay?

***

she: they don't deliver to west addresses.
he: but they're like a mile away. the west location is on grand!
she: uh huh. can i have the phone number for the west place?

***

WEST LOCATION
she: um. i'd like to make an order for delivery? but, see, i live like a mile from your east location. but they say they don't deliver to west addresses.
pizza man: do you live east of mesaba?
she: (thinks 'never eat shredded wheat' and deduces ...) yes. yes i live east of mesaba.
pizza man: try our east location.
she: (sighs)

***

she: can i have the phone number for the east location again?

***

EAST LOCATION

she: um. i just tried to order a pizza for delivery, but you told me you wouldn't deliver here? but i only live like a mile from you. and the west place doesn't deliver east of mesaba.
pizza man II: where do you live?
she: seriously. just off lake.
pizza man II: please hold.

(she holds. and holds. and holds.)

pizza man III: hello?
she: um. i was on hold?
pizza man III: yeah. i'm a totally different guy. what do you want?
she: i'd like to order a pizza for delivery. i live like right off lake. can you deliver to me.
pizza man III: (sighs) i guess.
she: okay, i'll take the howdy pizon without mushrooms.
pizza man III: (sighs) i'll get there when i get there.

(she hears the tail end of the dr. phil show playing in the background as she hangs up)

snot (is inevitable) ...

for my first three years in duluth, i kept a running tally of my favorite duluth moments. and when i hit five, i'd reevaluate and knock something off the list. but today, today is the best duluth day. i'd say the perfect duluth day, but that is so trite.

i love when something has exceptions. special plans that deviate. when my brother played traveling hockey, i'd sometimes get out of school early to travel to his tournaments. i always liked thinking: you suckers are going to have math. i get to leave after art.

today, all of northern minnesota, maybe even all of minnesota was under exception. everything. i mean EVERYTHING closed. it looked like this from my window:




chuck ditched his car on a random road when he got tired of spontaneous 360s and the taste of bile. when he got to my house, he seemed a bit. um. snowy. i decided he needed a drink. we may be here a few days. he warned me against driving to the liquor store. but, honestly, how could we play scrabble for two consecutive days without whiskey? that, my friends, is asking a lot.

i called loiselles, they were closing.
i called last chance, they were still open.

driving there with zero visibility, nearly being reduced to manslaughter in the name of the drink, i thought to myself: here is the fundamental difference between us. chuck has common sense. me? i like to taste death. it tastes like chicken.

first i almost got stuck. then i found the entire staff drinking in the employee lounge. then i told them they may have to push me out of a snow bank. then they told me that is not in their job description. i gave them 30 dollars anyway.



chuck asked me if i had any pants he could wear. ??? um. not any fashionable pants, but if you want to wear a pair of capree track pants, i have just the thing for you.

so i did some stuff. he did some stuff. and he wore my pants. frankly, it ups the pants' resale value. bidding starts and $99.95.



i have little food. this isn't, like, a bomb shelter. so i offer chuck flavorite mac and cheese or kraft mac and cheese in the shape of scooby doo characters. he opts for scooby doo and then tells me it tastes funny.



later, twice, we go out into the snow. we bring beer. because we are defiant and we know that this place has turned into a mardi gras where no one showed up. we drink. we wander. we encounter random two-somes or one somes walking and we are having a kickass time. it's not cold. it is just windy. and there deep drifts for jumping games.

chuck takes this totally kickass photo.



we go back outside a few hours later and it is even better. we bundle. we jump into drifts. we make out in a snow pile in front of my house. all of a sudden i see a woman with a fancy swooshing hairdu approaching. except its my landlord in a funny hat and i'm just not wearing glasses.

he does not respond to the fact that we are in a liplock and long underwear.

eventually we all took turns jumping off the railing of the porch and into the snow piles.

honestly. best. duluth. day.