Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dude, you can put your weed in there...

Do you remember that Saturday Night Live skit? It's been done by everyone from Christian Slater to Rob Schneider to Adam Sandler, and it's still funny. Every time I watch it, I laugh. If you haven't seen it, youtube it. Basically, customers go into an antique store, pick up an artifact, and ask the shop keeper, "What is this?" So the owner explains what it is and where it's from then ends the exchange with, "Dude, you can put your weed in there." For some reason, I thought Steve Martin and Bill Murray did the original, but when I looked, I couldn't find any reference before 1993. However, I digress... kind of.

Bear with me for a minute.

Two weeks ago, when we were in Montana for DB's dad's funeral, it brought back memories of when my own father died in 2006. We were very close, and there isn't a day that passes where I don't miss him. He liked a good beer and a bad joke and is the reason that I love Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, and SNL. You see, growing up, if a boy broke my heart, my mom would say, "There are a thousand fish in the sea," and that would be that. My dad, on the other hand, would say, "Was it a Buster Keaton kind of break up or the Monty Python kind?" In other words, was it 'Hard Luck' or 'just a flesh wound?' Regardless, we would sit on the couch and watch something funny, and when I wanted to laugh more than I wanted to cry - the world was alright again.

It's still how I lick my wounds when life has become too brutal. In fact, after my dad's Wake, when I left Pennsylvania and finally got home to the Midwest, my best friend met me at the door that night. We didn't say a word to each other, we just went inside, opened a bottle of wine, and watched the Great Dictator - my dad's and my favorite movie of all time. Then, as "The End" rolled across the screen, TB held up her glass, toasted my father, and added "So that had to be pretty fucking awful." When I finally stopped sobbing, and I actually started laughing, I knew I'd be OK. I also knew that I owed TB a huge favor for pulling me through that night, a favor she's already requested. One that all of us could benefit from.

But, as always, to tell you that part of the story - I have to tell you this part first.

After a death, you have to decide what to do with the deceased person's... stuff, and neither my sister nor my mother could go through my dad's things and decide what should be kept, what should be tossed, and what should be donated. Emotionally, they just couldn't, so the task fell to my brothers and me. Now you should know something, these two men have tortured me all of my life. They are my big brothers. And, even though we're adults now, nothing has changed. No event is too sacred and no person is exempt. We still torment each other, and we still love a good game of, "Would you rather?" Have you ever played it? It's where you provide two untenable scenarios then make the other person pick the lesser of two evils. The best part of which is when they have to explain their choice.

So while going through our father's clothes and shoes and hats and ties and prescriptions, we found ourselves asking each other morally-reprehensible, completely hypothetical questions like, "Would you rather die and have people find out that you liked to buy porn or that you liked to make your own?" And, "Would you rather die and have people find out that you needed Viagra or that you didn't?" Etc. Etc. And, YES - it was WRONG of us. And YES - FOR THE RECORD, had my mother heard us, we'd have been grounded until she died (or we died because she'd killed us), BUT - to paraphrase Churchill ... its better to have vices that you admire than virtues that you dislike.

At any rate, when I was back home, telling TB everything, I told her that we played 'Would you rather' while going through my dad's personal effects. I honestly thought nothing about it. I just thought it was funny. That's when she said, "Oh sweet Jesus... when I die, go straight into my bedroom and get the Adidas box on top left shelf in my closet. I don't care who's there. I don't care who tries to stop you. You are morally obligated to get that thing out of my house before anyone goes through my shit, and if you ever look in it, I will haunt your ass." The only thing I could say was, "Really... an Adidas box? What if I grab the wrong one? What if there are just SHOES in the box I grab? You won't even let me open the damn thing to make sure... Why don't you put your 'unmentionables' in something that's unique?" Then, without skipping a beat, TB and I said, "Plus, you can put your weed in there..." While we may not get high, we certainly get each other's sense of humor. And in thirty years, if I outlive TB, I promise to sit on the couch, watch a movie, have a glass of wine, and laugh... because sure as shit - I'll have the wrong Adidas box.

Talk to you next week.

He was my North, my South, my East, my West...

It's a line from one of my favorite poems and also one of my favorite movies, Four Weddings and a Funeral. And all week I haven't been able to get it out of my head. Though for the life of me, I have no idea why. Normally when this happens, I recite whatever the poem du jour is while I'm brushing my teeth, and it's over. That's that. However, when I can't shake it, it's usually a sign that I need to do something constructive with it... Enter this week's blog topic.

You see, for as bad as my luck is, it's rare that I rant. Honestly. I try to see the positive (or at least the humor) in most of the things that happen to me, but sometimes a person has to pull a George Carlin and let it out. So here I go... The only thing worse than airplane food is airline service. Oh wait - neither one exists anymore, nor does their compassion (at least on Delta and United).

Now, in their defense, I don't have the best travel karma, and DB knows it. It's not like I can hide it from him. However, when his dad died, he needed help, so I had two tasks: get him to Montana the day it happened, and get the rest of us there for the funeral. That's it. When I started looking on-line, I couldn't find tickets for less than $1000 each. So I called Delta and United and asked about bereavement fares. Turns out, even though their Web sites claim they exist, they don't... kind of like your luggage on an international flight. At any rate, I couldn't (in good conscience) let him spend $4000 in airfare, so I went back on-line and started mixing and matching itineraries in an attempt to cut costs.

It's true that you get what you pay for.

DB's flight was fine (and it was only $500), but his kids and I weren't so lucky. For the low-low price of $600 per ticket, we had to drive to an airport two hours away and take the red eye, which arrived in Montana on Sunday at 2:00 AM. Then, I had to turn around and take them home at 6:00 AM that Tuesday. When the alarm went off that morning, DB rolled over, stroked my face for a couple of minutes, and said, "I love you with all my heart, but you're never making our travel arrangements again. You're really, really bad at it." Then he got up, got his children up, and got us to the airport.

For the record, the best part of waking up is NOT Folgers in your cup... it's sarcasm.

But he's right, I am really, really bad at it. And it's not the first time he's been on the receiving end of it. You see, every Easter, my very large family descends (en masse) onto Washington DC to celebrate the holiday at my Aunt’s house. While we’re very Irish and a little German, we actually aren’t that religious… we’re just that co-dependent. We’re also gossips who discuss every birth, death, and divorce ad nauseam. So believe me, if you’re dating someone – we want to meet them. And this year, they wanted to meet my partner and his children.

Now, to be fair, most of them have already met DB… and they adore him… in spades. My mother thinks he’s charming. My sister thinks he’s good looking and funny. And my brothers think that they could kick his ass if they needed to… but only because DB’s a pacifist and wouldn’t hit them back, which they fully acknowledge. They even accept that they would have to jump him while he was meditating (and even then only if there were no other Buddhists hanging out with him at the time). My father, to whom I was very close and who passed away in 2006, was a professional jazz pianist for over 50 years and would have loved him, too. And not just because DB plays Blues guitar, but because he’s just that cool, and my dad would have genuinely enjoyed his company. In other words, my partner has passed with flying colors, and this means a great deal to me.

At any rate, since it was my family that we were visiting, I volunteered to plan the trip… which I tried to do from work… between meetings… in a cube. But I did a great job! I really did. I got round trip tickets for $140 each… not too shabby (over a holiday no less). Unfortunately, they were for April 9 – 11. Easter happened to be April 2 – 4 this year, and (naturally) our tickets were non-refundable, non-exchangable. This is EXACTLY why neither my sister nor my best friend allows me to plan ANYTHING.

You see, it all started several years ago, when I lived in England. I begged my mother to visit for a month and she agreed. I was so excited to see her, that the morning she was scheduled to arrive, I got up, rushed to the airport, got flowers for her, and stood there waiting… for five hours. Finally, at around noon in London, I was panic-stricken that SOMEHOW they had lost my mother SOMEWHERE over the Atlantic Ocean. Now, you should know something about me. When I’m upset, really upset, I start to cry and I talk at a decibel that only bats can hear. No really, it’s true. I do. So I’m standing there… at a Customer Service Desk full of stiff upper-lipped Englishmen… sobbing… sounding like Alvin and the Chipmunks… trying to explain to British Airways that I’ve “lost my mother.”

They thought she’d died.

And when they said, “She died?” I thought they meant, “She died!” And when they said, “On the flight?” I thought they meant, “ON THE FLIGHT!” It goes without saying that I flipped shit. In my defense, I am the youngest of four children. I am the baby of our family, and I have been coddled ALL my life. Before that day, I had not once, not ever, had to deal with real tragedy, and I was not about to start then. Instead, I did what I always do in these moments, I called my sister. Yes, at 6:00 AM in Southwestern Pennsylvania, my beautiful, wonderful, oldest sibling woke up to a phone call from London to hear me, wailing like a bi-polar, helium sucking rodent, saying “Mom is dead… and it’s not my fault. She died on the flight.”

At that moment, we were no longer 36 and 29 year old women with lives and careers of our own. We were 14 and 7 again, and any tact, patience, or eloquence of speech we may have mastered in adulthood fell to the wayside as we became victims of our birth order. She was simply my big sister, and she was pissed that I woke her up. Without skipping a beat, on a speaker phone at Heathrow International Airport, I heard, “mkromd, you idiot! She’s not even ON the flight. She’s at home… ALIVE… IN BED… and ASLEEP… LIKE I WAS THREE MINUTES AGO! She flies in TOMORROW MORNING.”

You know, the English aren’t always stoic… Not when they think something’s funny. Because the next day, when my mother did arrive… on time… as scheduled, the same Customer Service Rep at British Airways who had helped me the day before walked over to us and said, “Madam, when a child loses their parent it’s regarded as misfortune. When an airline loses one it just looks like carelessness. Welcome to London.” But the saddest part of that WHOLE story is that it’s not nearly as bad as what I did to my best friend.

See, I’m ALL about bargain shopping. I am. I own $600 shoes, but I will be the first person to gravitate towards a good deal when I find one, and one time, several years ago, TB and I were heading out West to ski. She had booked our hotel in Aspen, gotten our lift tickets, scheduled our flights, and reserved our rental car. I had three tasks: pack the toothpaste, bring the shampoo, and book a hotel room in Chicago since we were flying out of O’Hare at 6:30 in the morning. Most people would look at a $65/night hotel in Chicago and see red flags. Me, I saw a cost savings opportunity, and I took it. And it was a mistake.

After driving around Chicago for two hours, my best friend and I finally pulled into a convenience store and asked for directions. Now please understand something, if you get NOTHING else from my blog, take this piece of advice. When a man… at a ghetto Seven/Eleven… asks you if you’re SURE you have the right destination address… you should cut your losses and find a Radisson… that is at least 30 minutes away from your current location. Seriously. Here were the directions he gave us: Go out of this parking lot and go right. When you see a Subway with bullet proof glass, go left. The road will go from four lanes to two and you will go under the overpass where hookers hang out. Stay straight for another mile or so until you see a Storage Utility Facility. It’s behind that. You can’t miss it.

It was the original no-tell motel, complete with an hourly rate. The only thing that saved my best friend from killing me that night was the fact that there HAD to be undercover cops there and she knew it. It wasn’t all bad. We took turns sleeping, but we ended up safe. On the up note, I never have to plan anything for us. She just organizes it and makes me write her a check for half the expenses. My sister does the same thing. It’s a win-win, really - and DB is now in the same boat. I bet that, regardless of the direction we head: North, South, East or West, he plans all of our future trips.

Talk to you next week.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's my party, I can cry if I want to...

This week I turn thirty-nine. In other words, I'm old enough to legally date someone half my age. Between that and the fact that I helped my partner say good-bye to his father, it's been a long week. So when I called my best friend from Montana, she suggested that we get massages when I get home. While this may seem harmless enough, trust me when I say that it's a bad idea. The last time time we tried this, my dignity fell farther than a new born giraffe, and in case you haven't been paying attention to my karma, I don't necessarily believe it will go any differently this time around either....

See, a few years ago, I talked TB into a spa weekend. We were stressed. We needed it. We DESERVED it. Sure, I found it on-line and it was cheap, but really… how bad could it be? Actually, it doesn’t matter which of the two of us you ask. It was the Bates Motel of spas, down to the creepy guy who checked us in. That weekend, my best friend opted for a body polish, an herbal bath and a deep tissue massage. I got an herbal wrap, a Vichy massage and a pedicure. Do you know what a Vichy massage is? OH MY GOD, ME EITHER! I thought it was a massage with high-pressured shower heads done by a FEMALE masseuse, but clearly it’s not. It’s a massage, done in the shower, by a man, in a rain coat.

But to tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first...

So we check in, and a scary, older man comes to the desk and says, “Which one of you is TB?” Now my best friend is GORGEOUS. So he looks at me (who isn’t), then looks at her, counts his lucky stars, giggles, introduces himself, and sleazily lisps, “I’ll be doing your body polish. How do you want me to take it off you?” Which comes out as, “I’ll be doing your body polith.” At this point, I have to walk away because I’m laughing so hard. No kidding if she could have burned a hole into me with laser vision, she would have. So she asks what her options are, and he replies, “You can wipe it off yourthelf… or I can do it for you.” I don’t remember the details because I was laughing so hard, but I clearly remember her threatening to kill me and saying to him, “Um, I’ll do it myself, thanks!”

After getting checked in (and checked out), we get into our spa robes and they take us into separate rooms. TB goes with the pervert, and I have a lovely woman named Sue who does my very relaxing body wrap. I get done an hour later, and I walk out to the “relaxation” area, where my best friend is sitting, reading People, with her legs crossed, kicking the air. I ask how it went, cause really – how bad could it be, and without looking up, she tersely replies, “it was… OK” and she licks her finger, turns the page and continues to kick her leg and read. We sit there for a few minutes… silently… and I can tell she’s seething. Now, this upsets me, and when I get upset, I get chatty… very chatty, and this drives my best friend NUTS. So she indulges me by listening, but she’s not about to dignify my conversation by participating.

So we’re sitting there, and I’m chatting, when in walks the pervert who did her body polish, and says, “Are you mkromd?” He can tell from the horrified expression on my face that I am, and he says, “I’ll be doing your Vichy massage.” Which again comes out as, “I’ll be doing your Vithy mathage.” For the first time in 20 minutes, my best friend in the whole world looks at me, smiles, and mouths, “Karma is SUCH a bitch.” After a mild panic attack and mouthing back, “help me,” I go into the room, and he explains that this is NOT a massage with a high-powered shower head. There is, in fact, human contact. It is him - in the shower with me on a table getting a massage. He will be touching me. As I’m processing how many points my dignity has dropped, he hands me something the size of a Kleenex and tells me to get naked, lay on the table, and put it across my “backside” which comes out as backthide. I looked at him like, “Really? You’re totally fucking kidding me.” But instead of saying that, I say, “Clearly you don’t know how much ath I have under this robe, cause I need a lot more towel than that.” Being the great guy he is, he hands me TWO washcloth sized towels and walks out. At this point, I lay face down and proceed to cover my ass with these two paper towels.

Clearly, God hates me.

So there I am, naked, in the shower, and in walks this man, in a rain coat, and he locks the door. Then it gets weird. At this point, I say to myself, “Self – if he turns on porn music, it will be a house of horrors for everyone involved... not just yours truly.” Instead he turns on the water and starts rubbing my shoulders. After three minutes, he lisps, “You’re very tenth. Do you know that?” I’m like, “You think? Normally, if you want to get naked in the shower with me it takes a nice dinner and a shit load of tequila.” Instead I say, “Frankly, right now, I’m too weirded out for words.” So to help me, he keeps lisping, “Just relax. It’s a thuper prothedure.”

As the water is pelting into the back of my skull and I’m begging for a sniper in a clock tower to kill me, the only thought that goes through my head is “I’m in hell. Dante was right, Beatrith. Abandon hope all yea who enter here.” Call it therndipity, but at the VERY moment I think I’m in hell, he LITERALLY put his hand into the crack of my ass, folded the washcloth over, and started massaging my butt cheek! So I say to myself, “Self, did he just make a hospital corner in the crack of your ass?” And as I’m trying to convince myself he did not, he does it to the other cheek. Now I’m sure I’m in hell… until he says, “OK, flip over.”

At that moment, I’d had enough. I might be in hell one day, but I’m not going there with him. So I instead I tell him, “See that ass you just made hospital corners in? You stand a better chance of watching a donkey fly out of it than seeing me flip over. We’re done here.” So, he shuts off the music. He shuts off the shower, and he leaves the room. I was so horrified that I ripped the washcloth out of the crack of my ass, yanked my spa robe and my dignity off the floor, and ran back to the “relaxation area” with the shower cap still on my head. My best friend took one look at me and said, “So did he fold the towel down the crack of your ass too? Thought so.”

What do you say to a woman who knows you well enough to know that you have a facial expression for that kind of event? You say the only thing you can say, “Yes, but I only paid a hundred bucks for it. Do you know what I’d have to pay in New York to have a man make hospital corners in my ass?” And to think we’re still best friends?

I'll let you know if we hit the spa, but personally - I hope we don't. I still haven't fully recovered from the last time. Either way, I'll talk to you next week.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Business Up Front. Party in the Back.

Note: This was written over the last few weeks before we received the sad news that DB's dad passed away from cancer. I haven't changed it because I love how fondly it describes him and I think he would approve. With all my heart, I hope he rests in peace.

Sorry for dropping the blogging ball the last few weeks. We were in Montana so I could meet DB's dad for the first time. I’ve met his mother on several occasions, last summer at his house and this winter in Maui at his sister’s place, and I like her. I like her very much, actually. She’s a renowned artist who is well read, well educated, well traveled and well… cool.

Turns out, even though his parents are divorced, I like his dad a lot, too. He's a good man, and DB has a lot of his qualities. You see, even though my partner is calm, centered, and Buddhisty, he's also pretty rugged. And while that may just happen when you grow up hiking and fly fishing in Western Yellowstone, it's probably more likely to happen when your old man does it, too. At any rate, it was great to see DB in his element. Personally, I'm only in my element when I'm in Ann Taylor. And, while that may seem shallow... and it is... in my defense, nothing in their summer collection makes me itch. Mother Nature can't say the same thing.

But I digress... The point is that it was a great vacation. We ate too much, drank too little, slept too late, and laughed too long. In other words, a good time was had by all.

His dad has this amazing log cabin that overlooks the mountains. It's really remote with a lot of private property, so every morning I would sit on the deck with a cup of coffee, enjoying the view while trying to wake up. And one day, I heard a soft 'screeching' sound coming from the garage. When I asked DB what it was, his dad said, "Those are Phoebes." Now, when I'm in the middle of nowhere, and you tell me there are Phoebes... and they're scratching and screeching... from the garage... I think you're a serial killer and that I'm next.

Little did I know that Phoebes are birds, which would CLEARLY explain why DB woke up with Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" in his head every day. Actually, sometimes he woke up with Johnny Cash instead, another gift he got from his dad. I didn't know his father taught him to play guitar. Turns out, his uncles and best friend play guitar, too. And while I'm not surprised, I was still delighted every time they played, individually or together. And I like the culture around it. These are men who enjoy sitting on a log cabin porch, playing the Blues - especially Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. That said, DB and I are now old enough that when he says, "the wild life are making requests," he means turkey, deer, and Phoebes... and not the kind the kind of Phoebes that are skanky... even though they don't wear underwear either.

You know what though, even though we've grown tame in our old age, we did go out one night, and I have to be honest - it was the best date I've ever had. See, DB has had the same best friend (BW) for thirty-four years. Personally, the only thing I've kept that long is my baby-fat, but I have a best friend, so I know that this man knows where all of DB's skeletons are buried - the good, the bad, and the ugly... and he has the pictures to prove it (of the haircuts, the women, and the cars). In other words, I immediately liked him. He and DB played guitar together before, during, and after high-school, and he now owns the local music store where they used to hang out as kids. According to them, at twelve years old, they would go in, beg to play the expensive, collectible guitars, get shot down, and still be thrilled that they could hobnob with the guys who worked there.

At any rate, DB's best friend has worked there on and off for years - even while getting his degree in Music. And when the owner passed away, he left the store to BW and another person - no strings attached (and no pun intended) - simply because he knew it would be in good hands (again no pun intended). A concept that appeals to me greatly. So, after the three of us went out for dinner, we went to the store to hang out, even though it was closed. And that's when BW and DB picked the nicest guitars off the walls and played the Blues like two men who had been playing together all their lives.

Until the day I die, that will be one of the best nights of my life, and on the drive home, when I told DB what I thought about his family and friends in Montana, he said his best friend liked me as much as I liked him. His dad seems to approve, too. And that makes me happy. I wanted so desperately to make a better impression on his father than I did his mother. See, I LIKE DB’s mother, and so far… she likes me. Though for the life of me, I honestly cannot figure out why. We couldn’t be more different… that and the fact that I accidentally took her snorkeling on a nude beach in Maui.

OK, fine - there, I’ve said it. Yes, I took this amazing woman to a nude beach to look at “fish.” In my defense, I’d never been to Hawaii before. In their defense, God hates me, and I know it and should plan accordingly. So when one of the natives recommended this awesome secluded beach with “crystal clear water for a great view of the local fare” I should have guessed that he meant NAKED PEOPLE HANGING OUT IN THE SURF. But did I? Nooooooo. No, I didn’t. Instead, I walked over to the water, put on my gear, and headed straight into the tide. It took ten minutes and one wrong turn at the coral reef for me to figure out that we were NOT in Kansas anymore and that I was NOT looking at an eel.

Now, ALL THAT SAID, do you know how nudists stare at you when you put on a face mask and start swimming around them? On the OFF chance you don’t, let me tell you. They look at you like you’re the freak. It’s true, they do. They literally stared at me like, “Pervert.” And the whole time the only thing I could think was “Fucking really? You’re the one with burnt nuts, and I’M THE PERVERT?” And while I was COMPLETELY freaked out, DB, his mom, and his step dad were GREAT about it. DB’s mom was so classy and pushed my apologies aside by explaining that, as an artist, she’d worked extensively with nudes and told me not to worry about it. And DB, well, he was a Blues Guitarist for ten years and has been a Buddhist for much longer than that, so he just rolled with it and had a great time regardless. Me, I went to Catholic school in Appalachia, where being naked in a lake/creek/river/pond meant that person probably didn’t have indoor plumbing and they definitely needed a bath. And if you happened to be the unfortunate soul who saw them, you prayed you wouldn’t end up like Ned Beatty in Deliverance. Cause while there aren’t many atheists in a fox hole on a battlefield, there sure as hell aren’t any at a water hole in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

But… she wanted to get to know me better, so she started e-mailing me a few months ago. You can see why it took her some time to work up the nerve or to think it was a good idea, but she did it. And you have to understand why I wanted SO desperately to make a good impression with my reply. I was getting a badly needed second chance. So when she e-mailed me, I e-mailed DB and said, “HELP ME! What do I say?” And in his laid-back, Buddhisty, philosophical way, he replied, “whatever you want to” and he embedded this really clever, little picture from Google images. So now I have his e-mail up, and I have her e-mail up, and I replied to DB… only I sent the following message… to his mother: justbecauseyouareabuddhistandcalmandcenteredandgettousegoogleimagesatworkandidonotdoesnotmeanyoulovememorethaniloveyouorthatyouarethemotherfuckingbossofme.

Her reply said, “You write just like you talk.”

You know, you only get so many opportunities to make a first impression. And, who knows, maybe the third time will actually be a charm. That said, this year is honestly looking better than last. Maybe I’ve paid some karmic dues because she ended our last exchange with, “We would love to have you in this family”... the same thing his father said as we left Montana. And while I immediately thought of Groucho Marx who said, “Do I really want to be a member of any club who would have me?” I knew the answer… in this case yes. Yes I would.

Talk to you next week.