Get In The Van

I’m deep into the eighth hour of the marathon road trip that ends with palm trees and clear Gulf waters.

Shiva the destroyer has been my shrill but effective co-pilot on this  one, ensuring not only that I stay awake on the most treacherous  spans of highway but also that my body be made almost entirely of the stress hormone cortisol by days end.

In between bouts of proving that long term exposure to others in confined spaces breeds contempt, we managed to reminisce about a story I’d long forgotten. The tale of the van.

 

In my mid twenties I had yet to master the art of living well and understanding basic concepts like how to plan for unforeseen accidents and heeding expiration dates on lunch meat- so when a series of bad to worse fender benders that finally culminated in a car crash took away my ability to get from point A to point B, I waited around for a solution to fall out of the sky.

When this didn’t happen, I got a very generous offer from my uncle-the use of his early 80s Ford super van.  I had neither the balls nor the alternate plan required to turn down this mode of reliable and free transport- and so I became a van driver.

At first it felt like a marriage hastily arranged by old timey parents between you and a boy from their quaint European village of yesteryear. It was  as if I’d appeared out of a wrinkle in a future time line to clumsily wrestle with this dark paneled beast and its  purple velvet seating .  The vague superiority complex caused by years of only child syndrome and an inflated sense of self had me taking back roads and parking a mile away from civilization to avoid being found out by the Nancy Drew of automobile shaming.   But then something deep and resounding started happening inside of me every time I turned the key over and listened to the rev of its obnoxiously loud engine that rendered all occupants  unable to communicate with sound-  I began to fully appreciate its lumbering beauty.

What is not to love about rolling up to  the curb  in what effectively could be a fully functioning home?

It had bunks, a low swanky couch, a television, vcr and an eating area.

All you had to do was duck out for a bathroom break and a wash and all your worldly needs were met!

 

Soon though, like all things I embraced, I came to befoul and destroy them. The van became  sad, untidy, a receptacle of discarded food cartons and dirty clothes. Strange odors stole its charm and made me less inclined to stretch out in the back to watch full house episodes instead of working. Eventually, my car repairs were finished and per my mothers insistence I took my uncles vehicle to get detailed and buffed before handing her back.  Sad to see her go, but secure in the understanding that she would always be there if she was needed. Steadfast and true.

The simple beauty of the van was its unapologetic lack of cool . It served me well in my time of need and gave me something I sorely lack at this exact moment- as I write wedged between two Hardee’s fast food bags and my mothers gargantuan pocketbook- leg room and a crushed velvet body pillow to spoon.

 

 

 

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Bends Over Backwards So You Don’t Have To

Like most people, I prefer it when everything runs smoothly.

 

That is why, if we were  expressing this moment in interpretive dance, you’d see a small ineffective waif clinging to what remains of the status quo while angry imps, representing chaos and bad choices, hit her with mean words and dust mops embroidered with the word “WRONG”.

 

Those of us still plagued by old school ideas about raising and educating our kids consider them a set of guidelines that while sometimes suffocating are still better than any sort of idea we might come up with ourselves. They’re a necessary evil, and we tell our kids to buck up and get with the program so that the life machine can swallow them up a little easier when the school system spits them out the other side. And for a while, that worked here in our house as well.

 

Enter, the dragon. Or more specifically my third child. No core curriculum could interest him. No seat was big enough to contain his energy and more tragically no teacher could tame him enough to make him fit the confines of a classroom. At age four a preschool teacher deemed him “unteachable” and “a danger” and recommended an army of specialists with long lists of credentials. He confounded them all.  People who shouted loudly and forcefully to discipline him harder had no real understanding of what they were dealing with, and made an already strained situation worse with their frustration. In the middle of all this frenetic grasping at straws and last chances up in smoke stood the kid who was the reason for it all, looking at all of us as if we were already dead but just too stupid to fall over.

Cut to six years later, all the educational buffoons and braying donkeys were wrong. The small boy, about whom someone once remarked “he’ll either burn down the world or rule it with an iron fist” is a thriving, intelligent, kindhearted person with limitless possibilities. I used to struggle with the upsettingly tremendous sense of burden I carried with me when making decisions about how to proceed academically, personally and parentally (not a word? FU spellcheck) with my third kid, but now the sigh of relief you hear is deafening. The endless disciplinary hearings and terrifying diagnoses that made up so much of my nightmare fuel back then are distant memories. They’ve been replaced by the pounding elegance and delicate savagery of a boy who made his own way, despite every odd being stacked against him, with sharpened wits and a broad field of vision that enables him to see where he’s going and how he’s going to get there.

I dare say, he’s my boldest creation.

So if you find yourself mired in a pit of parental despair, surrounded by angry “specialists” that just charged you ten thousand dollars for the pleasure of sitting down and discussing the somewhat questionable neuro/psych/edu. test results they got, and what it all means for your poor kids future, remember that from the ashes of this complete and utter bullshit can sometimes rise a little phoenix – and keep ahold of that while you take a deep breath.

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Filed under 2015 is the new 2013, am I doing anything right?, average is so much easier, back to regularly scheduled programming, I'm back bitches, kids with issues

1802 Domicile Redux

Home.

It’s a riveting concept.

The place where you keep all your things, feed your family and try to establish some sort of orderly routine lest you all fall into the lava pit of chaos where no one gets out alive.

It’s base, if you’re touching it, you’re safe.

Volcanic tantrums, meaningless fights, hilarity, love and hate all  took place  within the brick confines of its walls and you complained endlessly about its shortcomings- but it was where you lived.

So I suppose this is the half assed, semi enthusiastic long overdue love letter to the hundred year old city house with the shitty plumbing, scalding radiators and crumbling foundation.

Three weeks ago, when I walked out of you for the last time it hit me like a gut punch from Manny Pacquiao in his ferocious prime- the tiny people we raised there, the dogs that came and went, the absolute mischief and delight we caused and witnessed, the loud fights,the drunk guys on our porch catching a nap, the bold magnificently unrepentant rats, the hugs, the bedtimes, the recreation of a Santa Claus that came in the front door- because this is the CITY motherfucker. A guy could get SHOT just sliding down your chimney unannounced! These new owners wouldn’t be seeing this history and it needed to go somewhere…

Great things happened at 1802, an infinite variety  of gestures grand and small, growing pains and lots of juice stains on the carpet.  And there it is, the irony of all ironies- the woman who hated that house from day one gets the most crippling phantom pains once it’s gone.  The best surprises, of course, are the ones you don’t see coming- and that house managed to get a stranglehold on me while I was busy doing other things.  It started as a hazy idea, rough around the edges and out of focus, but then in sharpened, came together, righted itself and made it clear. You may like other houses, shit, you may love them and all their splendor, but you will never grow up, out and over a place like me with my uneven floors, my classic woodwork and bad overhead dim lighting.  So own it Duffy, you’ll always have a little love for 1802, no matter how hard you try to fight it.

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Filed under 1802 strikes again, city people become country people, don't say I told you so, home, I don't miss the rats, moving

Today I Almost Choked to Death on A Mini Tootsie Roll

The last two days I’ve fluctuated between being kind of sad and then having little mini rage strokes over something that really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s the kind of thing that my parents used to deal with by shrugging and saying “oh well, good luck”, while I, on the other hand, just run the problem over and over in my mind making it sound more like the end of days each time it comes out of the rinse cycle of my grey matter.

To add a little levity to the situation I decided to take a drive to my local market to see the new displays of Halloween candy. I was especially enamored of the large pack of Tootsie Roll “Midgees” and thought about how good it would make me feel to inhale a pack of these in less than 24 hours.

TAKE THAT PROBLEM! I have a rich brown bag of gooey chocolate-like treats that I’m going to enjoy now while I block you out and pretend you don’t exist!

And so I began the ritual of unrolling each candy and gingerly popping it in my mouth to savor it’s chewy legacy. Each time I’d finish one, I’d toss a new one in – conveniently forgetting about how it’s predecessor had stuck to my teeth and almost pulled out two fillings while attempting to chew.

The problem with candy in bulk is that you feel obligated to eat the entire thing or it was a waste of money. And here is where my guilt over uneaten food, my desire to drown my first world problem in sugar and my choice of only my two dogs for company, all joined together to almost become my undoing.

Two Tootsie rolls made one by excessive saliva, cemented my jaws nearly shut and caused a tsunami of tangy tootsie roll flavored spit to drip down the wrong pipe. This triggered a coughing fit, and in my haste to draw in a breath the sludge like substance that had once been the candy slid down the back of my throat and blocked my breathing. During this life or death episode my smaller dog just looked at me cautiously and my larger one snored in the warm sun of an beautiful October day.

My flailing and sputtering around confused and frightened them, and they moved as far away from me as possible.

After about ten seconds, that seemed like twenty minutes in the exaggeration storytelling portion of my head, I dislodged the blockage and gouged out what remained of the Tootsie sludge from my mouth. I wanted to talk to my dogs about how close they had come to just sitting there and watching me die, but became fascinated with the cement like quality of the substance I’d just picked out of my jowls and wisdom teeth. Tootsie Rolls are the superglue of the candy world, and don’t you forget it or you too could be the corpse they find face down surrounded by sad dogs….

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Filed under dogs that don't help you when you choke, dying alone and covered in candy, tootsie rolls, your first world problems are really pathetic

Woof.

Sigh.

One of the most underrated aspects of owning a dog is being able to do simple things for them that inexplicably give them the joyous euphoria they so clearly experience from these small nuggets.

Leave the house for five minutes, and come home to the most rapturous welcome back party you’ve ever seen.

Hand them a treat and they will sit obediently for six hours, frozen in the right position in the hope that there is another one hidden in your pocket that will materialize if they do everything just right.

Now imagine if you have a doggie who is suffering some sort of pain and you are in charge of the meds that will reduce the discomfort. You have just become the Pablo Escobar of the canine world.

I know that outdated drug lord reference is a result of watching Johnny Depp’s “Blow” one too many times and that anyone not born before 1980 might have to google it, but trust me, in his day the guy was really at the top of his game.

Anyway, my expensive, but needy lap dog developed some sort of “degenerative neck disorder” common for her breed and now I have inherited the task of medicating her every 6-8 hours. I’m in a constant state of pain panic, worrying that every time I can’t be there with the pills there will be a horrific scene of sadness and pity. And of course my fears are pretty much right on the money- each time I’ve screwed it up, I’ve returned to a crippled looking ball of wailing dog agony. It’s fair to say that it’s pretty sad.

Therefore, I now come armed with a cabinet full of painkillers and muscle relaxers that would impress even the most serious Drugstore Cowboys (see that? See how I used that?) and my goofy looking puppy floats around here high as a kite and loose as a goose…..

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The Department of Motor Vehicles Horror Story

There are nights when I’m sure most of us sit around and ruminate over things that happened and how we could have gotten a different result in any given situation. What happens, though, if you and a large group of captive citizens are essentially locked in a hot windowless concrete room, forced to sit in order of arrival moving steadily from chair to chair as you inch your way closer to the first stage of beginning your drivers license renewal – and there is a real and very terrible body horror issue?
I bet you thought to yourself, -” gee, here comes another waiting in line all day story about how rude and unhelpful DMV employees are, blah, blah, blah..”

No. This is not that story.

This is more like a “how far would you go *not* to sit in a puddle of someones crotch sweat pooled in the indentation of the next chair up?” type of case scenario.

As you may have deduced, I recently had to renew my drivers license and while I was there I noticed a new and very efficient system where they moved the applicants into small rooms by groups thereby eliminating the long winding lines we are normally forced to stand in eternally.
The older folks didn’t tucker out and give up because their oxygen tanks had run out and no one was complaining about sore backs or hurting feet but I started noticing that more than one DMV dweller was beginning to sweat profusely.

Someone remarked at the two hour point that it was getting unbearably hot and that we hadn’t moved an inch- to which four intense looking DMV employees just sneered and rolled their eyes before summoning another put upon guy to go fetch a fan.

They needn’t have bothered.

The dinging bell and robotic voice that called out our numbers began to roll, and we were off. One by one we played a perverse game of musical chairs until I heard a woman in the back yelp in protest. “oh no you don’t. I’m not sitting in that.”

Because we were all jammed in together, human curiosity trumped any sort of privacy or decency protocols that would’ve normally been in place and the entire room pivoted around to stare at the nightmare.

A chair soaked in ass sweat.

I thought for a moment that perhaps made to sit too long, someone had lost control of their bladder and terrified they’d lost their coveted place on line chose to try and hide the evidence. Except the very clear culprit- the woman who had obviously just moved from seat 8c to 8b wasn’t having any of it.

She just up and moved like she had no part in leaving a small lake in her previous home.

“I said, I’m not sitting in that.”

Crotch tsunami continued to ignore her, and read her Yoga magazine.

Finally, a DMV maintenance guy swept in to see if he could remedy the situation by providing a rag and some disinfectant but it didn’t satisfy the woman who would now forever be in the wake of the water maker.

What the hell do you do?

We moved again.

Another less impressive, but still wet seat awaited the woman who was only armed with a rag and the emotional scars of having to clean the juice off the last seat she was forced to sit in.
Finally, having had to look into the face of something horrible, then having had to clean it up and sit in its wiped down aftermath- she cracked.

Handing the crumpled dirty rag to sweaty yoga crotch she told her to mop up her own mess- because she was going home. It was empowering watching her march from our dank concrete prison while we remained stuck there still with the threat of a profusely perspiring ass looming to destroy the next set of people in line.

It was like this person was made of embarrassment Teflon. No matter how many disgusted remarks flew her way they just hit her and gently slid to the floor, much like the water she was leaving behind every where she went.

I could see people starting to worry that their *own* asses might start to sweat putting them in the very unenviable position of being “just like her” and more than one eternal DMV waiter put a leg underneath their rear end to prevent contact with the chair below them.

After what seemed like an eternity, my number glowed red and a frowny DMV employee summoned me to her lair, but not before I glanced down in a panic worried I might have left a little something behind.

Thankfully, I was out of the room before a full out revolt began with an elderly woman insisting that a new chair be brought in due to Yoga lady befouling yet another seat with a particularly generous amount of liquid.

In stunned awe I left to have my photo taken and wondered if there was a hidden camera nearby. No one can listen to that many complaints about a pool of their own vile crotch sweat and keep reading and listening to music. I’d like to think she didn’t hear any of the shrieks of horror, but how could she have not?

Her willful indifference was a sort of liberating lesson about the power of not giving a shit- and a helpful reminder to never sweat on the seat.

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Shhh.

I hate silence.

I’m not talking about the lack of activity and noise that happens in the evenings when I’m just winding down or the replenishing solitude of a day alone at the beach.

No, I hate the kind that invades the room where two people are faced with having to deal with each other.

That is where I feel the overwhelming obligation to stamp out the lack of banter with meaningless chatter and insincere curiosity about your life. There is a certain part of me that scribbles a notch in the “personal failure”  column every time I get the feeling that we didn’t have an interaction that kept you happy, entertained and generally having left with warm, fond emotions about the time we were together.

Silence represents failure to communicate and even worse, it means you might be thinking harsh, unkind things about me that I won’t have a chance to remedy.

I’d rather stab myself with a dinner fork than endure the pregnant and uncomfortable lull in conversation caused by two boring tired people who can’t be bothered, therefore I try far too hard to make it memorable.

I mean, do I really care that much about what you must be thinking that I’d pull out all my most charming attributes and virtually exhaust myself so that we won’t suffer the sound of crickets chirping and so that I won’t hear the agonized hum of seemingly vibrating  silence that screams out ” you have lost the opportunity to make a decent impression and caused enormous discomfort for the other person”.? Why, yes….yes I do care that much..

 

That is one of the reasons I enjoy the familiar company of long time friends and family- the pressure to be “on” is wiped from the map of my day and I can stop the active and stern voices in my head that buzz constantly with worry.

Those of us still plagued with old-school ideas about how and why we feel the need to comfort others  in our presence before worrying about ourselves are probably a dying breed- but somewhere along the line I took this vague 50s housewife mentality and revved it up to the level of needing a nap and a vacation after giving my all to near strangers while I tell those closest to me that I’ll be with them in a minute..

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