Sorry about that. As Ferris says, Life Moves Pretty Fast. And it's been moving at the speed of light for me these days. I've been busy with writerly things and and mom and wife things and just a life-full of things. And in between all of these doings, I looked up and whoosh...days had turned into weeks, weeks into months.
And speaking of the days whooshing away, lately I feel like the last eighteen years have been like a runaway freight train hurtling down the tracks—one big blur of my life that has whirred past.
It's that time again.
My glorious girl. My middle baby. The daughter who's been ready to anchor her spot in the world since the day she was born.
Well, it's soon to be just that. Her turn to go.
Oh my heart.
She leaves for college in June—summer session—because she wants to be a step ahead of all the other kids. It's how she's always worked. This tiny sprite who raced into the world, ready to jump into the mix. She took her first step at eight months. She was running by nine months, fearless, this little being filled with light, grabbing life head-on with her intoxicating spirit and the beautiful way she has of being utterly comfortable in her own skin.
She stands here at this precipice. In a second, it will be her time and I know she'll fly off without hesitation and the world will discover what I have always known, that she is this glorious soul, one of those children guided into the universe by shining stars and that she is made up of kindness and beauty, fierceness and sublime sweetness. And there is not a star in the sky that shines brighter than this lovely, gift of a girl.
How I will miss her.
And so, I have been trying to not take a single moment of our days left, for granted.
The other night I was making dinner and I could hear her in my shower, because that kid has never, ever taken a shower in her own bathroom no matter how many times I demand she stops using my shower and piling my expensive conditioner on her head like it's a free-flowing river.
And as usual, she was singing, singing at the top of her lungs. The way she does. The way she has always done since the moment she learned how to make a joyful noise. She has filled our home and our years with her singing. I can't remember a day without her songs. And as I chopped garlic, it struck me that far too soon, my house will no longer be filled with the sounds of my sweet blue-eyed songbird.
And right then and there, I was undone. Tears all over my pile of garlic.
I ran to my bathroom, opened the shower door and announced that I would not allow her to leave for college. She laughed, because my girls have no other choice but to laugh when faced with my crazy and said, "What's the reason this time."
I sobbed as I told her we would have no more songs.
She said, "You know I have to go, Mom."
She's been trying to tell me this forever. Nudging me, with each step she takes away from us. I just didn't want to listen.
This letting go thing, it never gets easier. No matter how many times, no matter how many daughters leave the nest.
Okay, so anyway, let's wipe our eyes with our sleeves because I'm not here to be sad today. I'm here to tell you a little tale about me and my complete irreverence at the most inappropriate times.
Have I ever told you, Internet, that I laughed throughout my wedding ceremony? The entire hour-long Catholic mass, I busted a gut, cracking the freak up. As my brand new husband and I knelt before the Lord's altar, our backs to our loved ones, I'm sure our friends and family, saw my shaking shoulders, my trembling body and thought I was so moved I was weeping.
But I was not. Far from it. I was wheezing. Trying to breathe and trying very hard not to cackle and/or snort out loud. I had my sister and my new husband laughing along with me, although they had no idea why I was so hysterical.
And honestly? Neither did I. All I know is, if it's a reverential moment, a scenario that requires seriousness, anything somber, I feel an obligation to make it not so. I'll joke. I'll laugh. I'll do anything but what is expected in that moment.
It's a very bad quality.
You should see me during a pap smear. Actually . . . you shouldn't. But trust me when I say I'm Louis CK, determined to make the doctor put down the long Qtip and laugh at my jokes.
And if you don't know what that means, don't ask. Trust me, you don't want to know.
At my last pelvic, I had my doctor laughing so hard she put her hand up and wheezed that I had to stop because she couldn't see my lady parts through her tears.
I am proud of that one.
This story's not as good, but I'll tell it to you anyway.
Last week, I was having a crap-ass day. One of those days of solid interruptions, petty little things that ate up my day and more importantly, my writing time. And nothing gets me crabbier than being pulled away from my writing.
It was a little after five and I was frazzled from just about everything. The next interruption, no matter if it was a child, a dog, a phone call, the UPS guy, a Girl Scout with thin mints, anyone or anything who got in my way was going to be the victim of my frustration.
Unfortunately, that victim ended up being a hot, Dermot Mulroney look-alike who had the misfortune of knocking on my side door.
As I've said before I live in the woods. Like five acres of dense foliage, trees, wild grass, before you even get to my house. So, we don't get a lot of strangers back here in these them woods. Mostly it's Jehovah's Witnesses who seem to have a target painted on my house, they come by so often. Perhaps they've been promised a dozen celestial virgins if they convert this wine-swilling, pajama-wearing, profane Irish Catholic heathen. I'm not sure what it is, but they come in droves, bound and determined to save my soul and ensure I never have a blood transfusion or another birthday for the rest of my life.
But I don't care how many glossy pamphlets they shove into my protesting hand, I'm not buying.
I love birthday cake too much.
Now, if they really want a shot at my conversion, they should send Prince to my door. The Scientologists have Tom Cruise. The Jehovahs have Prince. I'll take Prince any day over Tommyboy.
And I might even be convinced to listen to their spiel, if Prince sings the pamphlet to me.
"Move over baby, gimme the keys. I'm gonna try to tame your little red love machine."
But even then, I don't think they'd sway me...I mean, I really, really love Funfetti cake. I've been known to drink the batter.
Besides the Jehovah's, I've also had a few magazine salespeople, kids selling m&m's to keep them off the streets, political canvassers and one, believe it or not, sopping wet, beer-bellied guy whose boat had capsized on the lake. He swam to shore and knocked on my door, looking for a ride to the dock.
But this time, it was different. A man knocked on my side doors. French doors with big windows, where you can look directly into my kitchen, where my daughter just happened to be standing. She scurried away from him, coming for me in a panic.
I peeked out of my bedroom and yes, there stood a man knocking, as my three horse dogs' protective instincts kicked in. They barked ferociously, lunging at the glass, ready to tear his head off.
And that's when my mother bear instinct kicked in, coupled with the frustration of my no good-terrible day, I stomped into the kitchen, ready to tear his head off myself for invading our privacy in such a way.
And I may or may not have said, "Are you f***cking kidding me?" Quite loudly and aggressively as I stomped into the kitchen.
I didn't try to shush my dogs. I let them lunge as I stood there, an audacious sneer on my face, my arms crossed in front of me and said, "What do you want?"
Like I was Jenny From the Block.
And that's when Mr. Hotness held up his badge.
His FBI badge.
I immediately panicked and was all, (to myself), "Oh no! What crime did I commit . . . this time?"
Because, that's the kind of life this Jenny From The Block leads. If I'm not out robbing banks, you'll find me printing out counterfeit money, inventing weapons of mass destruction and selling them to whatever Kim is in charge of North Korea these days and when I have any extra spare time, I do a little kidnapping on the side. You know, for a little extra "me" money.
I'm just kidding, FBI. I don't break the law, especially the federal law. Hell, I don't even step on the sidewalk crack. Just to be on the safe side.
The closest I can say I've come to breaking a federal law is my association with the Mafia.
Big Lou to be more specific.
He was the owner of our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. Needless to say, with my lack of cooking, my hubs and I were regulars. Big Lou always snuck us past the long list of people waiting for tables. And sometimes, he'd send over his favorite Chianti and every once and awhile, when it wasn't crazy busy, he'd pull up a chair and chat with us. But that was the extent of my relationship with Big Lou and the Mafia.
Besides, I'm not even sure if Big Lou was actually part of The Family.
Sure, there were a lot of thick-necked Italian men who came and went from his restaurant. And Big Lou did own twelve check cashing businesses in Long Island. And sadly, he lost a son a few years back. The 35-year-old was asleep in his bed, alone in his house when someone shot him in the head.
Let me reiterate—Shot in his bed. In his head. While he was sleeping. And there were no clues to who could have done such a thing.
Although, I've got a pretty good idea:
For the Love of Linguine, wasn't that man just the most beautiful thing? I would have believed anything that came out of his lying, murderous mouth just so long as he kissed me with it after.
But as for the hit on Big Al's son and any correlation to Al Pacino aka Michael Corleone, that's just my little theory.
Nothing's ever been proven so don't be sending emails to Al Pacino asking him about Big Lou's son, who creatively was named Little Lou.
There was also Big Lou's gravy which was delicious. Suspiciously delicious.
Also, his name was Big Lou.
But even so, I can't be sure he was Mafia.
He closed his restaurant, suddenly and mysteriously last year to return to Long Island and his check cashing businesses. And I know nothing else about his whereabouts. I'm talking to you, FBI.
As my brain whirred in a felony kind of panic, I could only think of one FBI crime I've committed in my lifetime. And I'll just confess it right here, right now. When my college girl was a baby, we were poor as dirt and I couldn't afford Disney videos for my little girl. So I made a copy of The Little Mermaid from my brother's VCR tape.
That's right. A VCR tape. We also traveled in pioneer wagons.
But every time I watch a movie and that FBI warning rolls across the screen, I cringe, thinking about that Little Mermaid tape.
And as I stood there contemplating Dermot Mulroney and his badge and that copied Little Mermaid tape, I thought— Wow, so they really do come after you. I thought that whole warning was a bunch of bogus crap, like the empty threats I make to my kids to try to get them to clean their rooms.
I'm still waiting to see a clean room.
And then my next thought, was— I guess there hasn't been much going on since Jill Kelley stopped sexting Generals. They're now having to make good on those bogus VCR copying threats to give the agents something to do.
So I opened the door and stepped outside, giving him my friendliest smile and what I hoped was a firm, I-am-not-a-criminal handshake. He handed me his business card, showed me his badge again and then nervously commented on how angry my dogs were.
I told him not to worry, that their bark was all a front, that if given the chance they'd lick his face off.
I wanted to add, "Kind of like me."
But my faded yoga pants had a hole in the unfortunate part of my thigh. It was 5:30 p.m. and I hadn't brushed my hair yet. I had on my nerd RayBan eyeglasses. I'm happily married except for the days I can't tolerate my husband's underwear on the floor for another single second. I thought it might be an inappropriate thing to say if he was there to arrest me for The Little Mermaid VCR tape. And we were standing on the side of my house. Next to my stupid-ass duck compound. And those stupid-ass ducks were quacking, pissed as can be and it smelled like a barnyard, so it wasn't the most conducive atmosphere for any suggestion of licking an FBI agent's face.
He informed me he was investigating my neighbor, who we will call Ryan Gosling, just for kicks and also to protect his identity, and he wanted to ask me a few questions about Ry-Ry.
A few questions about my neighbor? Oh, I tell you Internet, my curiosity was so piqued! So I asked him to come in, away from the smell of ducks, which trust me, is a very unpleasant smell.
He came inside, sitting at the bar in my kitchen. And then announced he had to recite the Privacy Act to me before we began.
So, there I was standing across the counter from a hottie hot Dermot Mulroney FBI agent who was talking to me about my right to privacy or maybe my neighbor's right to privacy. I don't know, I didn't hear a word of it. He could have been reading me my rights, telling me they finally tracked down my Ariel criminal ass and I wouldn't have realized it.
I was too busy admiring his thick head of salt and pepper hair, the way his expensive dress shirt fit his sinewy frame, his eyes, the color of a summer sky. I was also too busy trying to stand in an appealing way that would hide the large hole in my pants, exposing the sad, pale skin of my thigh.
When he finished his sexy rendition of the Privacy Act, he got right to business, informing me that my neighbor Ryan Gosling required a top level security clearance for his job and he was wondering if he could ask me a few questions.
I was all, "Really? I thought he was a digital artist. Is that just a cover? Tell me, he's a spy, isn't he?"
Once again, if the situation requires respect, I am all about making jokes. It's a bad thing, I know. But it's what I do, when I get nervous. Hey, at least I'm not sexting Generals.
He looked up at me from his official looking binder and when he saw the smile on my face, he relaxed, an almost imperceptible curl tugging at the corner of his mouth as he tried to stay FBI-ish.
He said he couldn't tell me what the security clearance was for, but that no Ryan Gosling was not a spy.
That curl still threatening the corner of his very nice lips.
I was confused and more than a little intrigued. Ryan, as far as I knew, was a digital artist for the newspaper. So what was this supposed new job of his? Personal caricature portrait artist of the Obama family?
Mr. Hot FBI agent proceeded to ask me a jumble of questions about Ryan Gosling.
How long had I known him? Did I know his wife? What was her name?
At that point, I realized he knew her name. He was just checking to see if I really knew Ryan or in fact,
I was just a wacko in holy yoga pants making the shit up as we went along. And with the way I looked,
I couldn't blame him for trying to trip me up.
I did not know it at the time, but I completed my whole homeless look with a large, dried up toothpaste spot on my upper lip.
Sexy is my middle name.
Not really. Actually irreverence is my middle name and I said, "Oh, I get it. So, now this is a quiz? I have to warn you, I'm great at Jeopardy. Who is Rihanna. Rihanna Gosling*."
*I didn't really say Rihanna Gosling. This is an alias. Her name it totally not Rihanna Gosling, in case you're wondering who the hell I actually live next to.
The side of his purty mouth curled up a little more.
He asked me all kinds of questions. Did I know of his pastimes? I told him picking up the trash that his dog strews about their yard, after he tips over my garbage cans and has himself a meal seems to be his number one pastime.
How many kids did he have? He asked me about his friends. Had I noticed if he had any foreign friends. What kind of activities did he participate in? Did he take trips out of the country? Had they ever had a domestic disturbance?
The questions went on and on. At one point, my daughter stuck her head out of my room, ducking behind the door so the FBI agent couldn't see her. She mouthed to me, "Who is that?"
I yelled back, "Oh, it's just the FBI, honey here to question me about my illicit past. No worries."
She laughed nervously, not sure if her mom was telling the truth. I like to keep my kids on edge like that. And Hot Agent was fighting a smile, fighting it hard, as he put his hand up to his mouth.
Oh, I was bound and determined to get him.
We went back to the questions. He asked me everything but Ryan Gosling's underwear size. Which I would estimate is about um . . . 32? And I'm guessing Ryan wears boxer/briefs.
On second thought, every once and awhile, we can hear their music as it softly plays either Michael Buble or Il Divo.
I say tighty whities.
I sure hope Ryan and Rihanna Gosling don't know about my blog, me speculating on Ryan's underwear and the like.
Anyway, Super Hot Agent looked like he was running out of questions to ask, which was good because I was getting quite uncomfortable in my hide-the-hole-in-my-yoga-pants pose.
He asked me if I knew of any criminal activity. No.
And then he said, "Have you ever noticed any loud disturbances? Have the police ever been called because of a disturbance?"
Now, Ryan and Rihanna Gosling are the quietest people you'll ever meet. Their kids are quiet. Their dogs are quiet. Their friends are quiet.
They even play football quietly.
And their biggest social engagement seems to be their church.
And the rare few times they've had a party, it's been more like Bible Study at their house, where they begin each gathering with a prayer circle in the backyard.
This is usually around the time my husband yells from our pool, "THE KID WHO GETS ME ANOTHER BEER THE FASTEST IS GONNA GET A DOLLAR."
The Goslings must have been overjoyed when the Honey Boo Boo family moved in next door to them.
We are not quiet. Ever.
And we have parties. Big parties. With music. That is not Michael Buble or Il Divo. And libations. And many, many people some of who may or may not have climbed into our boat the other night at the end of a party to go alligator hunting.
At 2:00 AM.
For the record, we did not find any alligators. Perhaps it was because the whole boat was yelling and whooping. At 2:00 AM.
So, when Agent Mulroney asked me about the loud disturbances, I said, "No. Any loud disturbances would be from us."
I put the back of my hand to my mouth and stage whispered to him, "We like to party. If you know what I mean." I winked. "We're the Project X'rs except with good wine and 401K plans."
He snorted. He laughed. He smiled a big, sexy smile and he pointed his pen at me and said, "You're funny. You're really funny."
I'm funny! I could not wait to tell my husband that my funniness had been verified by an FBI agent.
Oh, I tell you, he turned my bad day back to right.
After he left, still smiling, my daughter came out of hiding. And as I filled her in on Hot Agent, she stopped me and said, "Mom, look at what you're wearing."
I said, "I know I have a hole in the unfortunate thigh part of my yoga pants, but I camouflaged it through posing."
She said, "No, look at your sweatshirt."
And that's when I realized I was wearing this:
You see, we are no strangers to the FBI. We may or may not have a close family member who is part of the Bureau.
I have no idea what Mr. Hot FBI agent must have thought of me in my FBI sweatshirt, homeless hair and holy yoga pants. But I do know one thing,
I am funny, man.
I hope I now have a file with the FBI.
Suspect is a known VCR counterfeiter. Suspect is considered funny and dangerous.
That would make my life.
For the record: I still don't know why my neighbor needs a top security clearance. My husband spoke to him and Ryan confirmed he needed a top security clearance for his new job, but didn't go into any detail about that job. Maybe, I AM living next to a spy! That would be fabulous.
Today's Definite Download: Oh, my friends, I have missed sharing my music with you. And I have been listening to some beautiful music lately. Here's one of my newest favorites. "Song for Zula" by Phosphorescent. The first time I heard this song, it just washed over me and through me with its gorgeousness. It is one of those songs that makes you want to pull over and just feel it as it floats from the radio. It's that stunning and haunting and utterly gorgeous.
Yes, you did not imagine it. I wrote a post! And I published it. And that's when the chaos began. There was no spacing, no paragraphs, just one big blob of words. And nothing says, "Ick, I'm not reading that shite" than one long-ass no spaces paragraph.
I'll be back shortly. The geeks who live inside my computer are jacking me up for the last time. As soon as I give them all virtual wedgies to force them to straighten this out, I'll be back with a clean, evenly spaced blog post. But for now, there is dinner to be made and wedgies to be given.
"The first one. I really resent being called the second." ~Melina Marchetta, Froi of the Exiles
My life in a nutshell.
If I lived in a village instead of The Small Town of Bad Franchise Restaurants, I would win the crown of Village Idiot in a landslide victory.
Take for instance, the other day when I was shuttling the kids to school and I heard a mysterious car noise. I kept muttering to the girls, "Do you hear that? It's like a gurgling noise."
I've never heard a car gurgle, but that means nothing since I am car illiterate. I know how to put the gas in the gas hole and that's about it. I realize this is very unenlightened of me in this day and age of girl power, but whatever. I dutifully pay my AAA dues every year and I have a husband who knows a lot about man things, so I don't feel the need to get my girl power on by greasing up my hands or God forbid, my cute outfit.
Suck it, Girl Power.
The gurgling sounds were intermittent, popping up at stoplights and the like. I tried to roll down the windows to get a good listen, but 14-year-old girls tend to shriek at eardrum-decimating levels when their hair gets whipped back and forth. So I let the car gurgle, figuring the husband could check it out if and when I made it home.
After I'd dropped off the girls, the gurgling intensified, so I did the smartest thing I could think of, I cranked up the radio to mask the sound of what was most likely my car drowning in some sort of car fluid.
By the time I got home, I'd convinced myself I'd hit a cat and it was hanging onto the tailpipe, half-alive, gurgling in its own blood.
I stopped in the driveway and peered under the idling car, with half-closed eyes, afraid of what I knew I'd see. Thankfully there was no mangled Fluffy with its furry paws wrapped about my undercarriage.
I parked in the garage, grabbed my purse and got out of the car.
And that's when the gurgling got even louder like it was coming from my purse.
My purse that held my phone.
The phone with the Sleepmaker app that has a litany of soothing sounds. We prefer Gentle Drops Down Gutter. I keep my phone on a sound system docking station that sits on my nightstand. It's how we fall asleep every night. Even the dogs settle down as soon as they hear the rain gently dropping down the gutter.
My normal day is made up of hundreds of blonde moments just like this.
This weekend, though, I outdid myself. The most mortifying, ridiculous, Lucille Ball of a doozy moment I've ever, ever had. It pains me to think about it, like no matter what I'm doing when that awful scene flashes through my mind, unbidden, I have to bend over and take a few deep breaths because it's just that bad.
Let me start this story by backing up a few years.
My Tori Girl was a beautiful baby. Huge blue eyes, a cap of strawberry blonde hair, a captivating smile, the biggest butterball baby you've ever seen. She was deliciously plump, just like a baby should be, but lugging her around all day created havoc on my overworked shoulders and back. I developed a myofascial trigger point which is essentially a painful lump in my trapezius muscle that comes and goes through the years.
When it flares up, the best remedy I've found is to have my husband work his thumbs into the lump, hard. It hurts in a moaning-hurts-so-good kind of way, but it gets rid of that bad boy until the next flare up.
On Sunday, I woke with the tell-tale throbbing knot. Unfortunately, my husband with his helpful hands was not around.
The lump is in the middle of my back and since I am no rubber-band man, I can't reach it. But a long time ago, I learned a neat little trick to alleviate the pain myself. I would stand against a wall with a tennis ball positioned right at the lump and I would rock my body, back and forth and up and down and all around. It's effective and I get a crazy good squat workout at the same time.
Luckily, since I have three dogs that are obsessed with tennis balls, my house is a minefield of bouncy green balls, most of them, under the furniture.
So on hands and knees, I went searching for a tennis ball. My dogs know that Momma's about to get the party started when I'm crawling around the house, peeking under furniture and this causes them to lose their moronic minds.
Now, let me stop the story to add a fact that won't seem important . . . yet.
The most beloved Christmas present I got this year, were those things around my neck.
My Dr Dre Beats.
I L-O-V-E these headphones. The sound is phenomenal and not only that, it blocks out the outside world. My daughters can be shrieking, tearing each other's hair out over "borrowed" clothing and whomping on each other like they're the stars of the WWE and I remain blissfully unaware as I pump up the jam. My Beats are like a Valium for my ears.
On Sunday as I hunted for a tennis ball, I had on my Beats.
I grabbed a ball from under the couch which drove my dogs over the edge of madness. There was barking, howling, and utter pandemonium, the likes of which have only been seen at a One Direction concert.
I shoved the berserk dogs off of me and picked one of the few bare walls in my house for my tennis ball massage. And that wall just happened to be in the hallway leading to my kitchen.
I shoved the ball into place and proceeded to gyrate, up and down and back and forth, trying to hit that knot as my insane posse of dogs lost their pitiful minds, barking around me like a pack of wild beasts. I ignored them, easy to do with my Beats pounding out the phenomenal Clash's "The Magnificent 7."
But the ball just wasn't doing the trick, no matter how much I rocked my bountiful hips. It only took me a few rocks to realize my sweatshirt was too thick to feel anything.
Now . . .
We are a household of women with one brave man who stands alone on his island in the middle of a sea of estrogen.
And my household is not a modest one, to my husband's utmost chagrin.
My girls don't even close the door when they're in the bathroom because that would give them less opportunity to Always. Be. Talking. To anyone who walks by.
And they are Always. Talking.
I can be fast asleep in the middle of the night and I'll be jolted from my dreams by chatter. I'll open my eyes, still half-asleep and one of these lovely creatures I brought into the world will be standing there at the side of my bed saying something like, "And that's when I realized I will never fulfill any of my dreams because of that time you made me clean my room instead of going to the skate party."
Anyway, my point is we don't think twice about shucking clothes in our house.
It was 7:30 in the morning, the only ones awake were the three yapping dogs and me, so I yanked off my sweatshirt.
I'd slept in my I Yell Because I Care sweatshirt and my plaid flannel pajama pants.
(I know what you're thinking—man, her husband is a lucky guy. And you, Internet, would be right)
And of course, because this was my pajama ensemble, I was not wearing a bra.
So . . .
There I was, topless, clothed only in plaid pants, my Beats on my ears with my three dogs leaping and barking around me like rabid wolves.
I swatted away the lunging dogs and started rocking my hips, again. Up and Down. Back and forth. A little swivel to the right. A little swivel to the left. Again and again and again.
The tennis ball hit the spot and I let out a long, moaning groan.
Up and down and back and forth I went, moaning and groaning and rocking my hips as the ball massaged out the knot.
Since my Beats were now in full-on White Stripes mode, I didn't notice when my dogs' barking grew more frantic.
I also didn't notice that the barking was no longer directed at me.
I was moaning in painful ecstasy, rocking my hips, sliding up and down the wall, my sad ta-tas flopping away in all their pasty, sagging glory when suddenly I realized the dogs were no longer at my feet.
And that's when I looked up and noticed my pack of wild dogs all crowded around my front side door.
The front side door that sits at the end of the hallway where I was getting my groove on with my tennis ball and my sad, flopping-in-the-breeze, ta-tas.
The front side door that has a large window.
A very large window.
And on the other side of that window was a scene that makes me want to throw up in my mouth as I type out the words.
You see, we have this group of Hispanic men—a family of brothers, a few cousins and one son—who do yard work for us. They're a hardworking bunch who don't speak English. The 15-year boy-child comes with them to do the translating.
It's a casual agreement where they show up when they show up.
I hadn't expected them to show up when they showed up, on that day, at that moment.
And I certainly didn't expect to see five of them.
Five. Of. Them.
Picking weeds around my side door entrance at 7:30 in the morning.
My side door entrance is small. And it has a stone border around the door. There isn't any grass to speak of so there might have been four weeds sprouting up from between the stones. I'll be generous and say five. Five weeds. One for each of them to pick.
To their credit, they all acted as if they were really concentrating on their sole weed as the crazy lady with crackhead hair bumped and grinded against her wall in some sort of icky, past-her-prime stripper dance. There was only one guy I assumed was the Grandpa of the bunch, who didn't even try to pretend he was picking his weed. He stood there, mesmerized, his arms folded across his chest with a fascinated and maybe a little horrified expression on his face.
And to make matters worse? The 15-year-old was part of the bunch.
Not only did I humiliate myself in front of my lawn guys, I think I might have committed a felony, a lewd and grossly saggy act against a minor. That poor kid, I've probably traumatized him for life when it comes to women.
But wait, it gets better.
I froze in mid-grind when I noticed the guys all furtively sneaking peeks as they plucked at their sole weed and I have no idea why, but I decided the best thing to do was to act casual, like it was no big thang.
In a slow stretch, I casually draped one arm across my ta-ta's. Or rather, I scooped them up from their resting place on my navel and then ever so casually draped my arm across them like I was unsuspecting Kate Middleton sunning on a balcony if Kate Middleton had nursed three children and had tube sock breasts instead of her perky future queen boobs.
I slowly eased away from the wall, dropping the tennis ball to the floor. And then just as I was about to make my dignified exit, still moving casually as if I gyrated topless every day in front of lawn guys, my dogs came charging when they saw the ball thud to the floor.
And in that awful second of the universe, my Delilah lunged at the ball just as I was stepping away, all Kate Middleton-like. That big furry dog twisted up between my feet and BOOM.
Down I went.
Sprawled on the floor, topless and floppy in plaid pants. I immediately looked up to see all five men no longer examining their sole weed. All of them, stood stock-still staring in at me, even more startled than they were during the sad bump and grind.
Any attempts at dignity flew out my brain and I got up on my hands and knees and scurried away, out of sight.
Like a giant, saggy titmouse.
And still, there's more.
My husband, of course, could not breathe through his hysteria as I told him the story.
The next day he handed me an envelope with a snarky grin on his face, before he went to work and said, "The payment for the lawn guys. They'll be here today to pick it up."
I refused, telling him I'd tape it to the front door.
He reminded me that taping cash to a front door is probably never a good idea and that if I didn't hand them the money, their children wouldn't eat that night.
Which is probably not true, but my husband knows how to work me.
So I pretended to talk on the phone when the 15-year-old knocked, opening the door just a crack and silently giving him a head bob as I handed him the envelope. He nodded animatedly as if he just wanted to get away from the lady pedophile and ran back to the car.
I watched them from the window. They spoke in Spanish and then all cracked up, slapping the poor, poor 15-year-old on the back.
I think I might add some extra cash next time with a little note in Spanish that says "For therapy for the boy. Please don't call the policía."
This is me, screaming.
Thanks for listening, Internet. I just needed to tell someone.
The Village Idiot
Today's Definite Download: Today's download is a special one. A dedication. I'm sorry. I'm not one of those cryptic folks who write mysterious things and never explain them, but today I'm just going to say this song is dedicated to my darling friend. This,right here, Jason Mraz's 93 Million Miles is for you.
Just know, that wherever you go, you're never alone, you can always get back home.
And you, my friend, are never alone. You have me, the wine, my back porch, late-night talks and all my support and love. Your home is here whenever and wherever you need it. With every step and with every day, it will get better. And never forget, I've got your back.
And for the rest of you crazy kids on the Internet, I'm still working and writing and hoping. Keep your fingers crossed. I'll see you soon.
Like I had some sort of freak magnetic energy circulating through my veins, that drew all the freaks of the universe to me.
I mean, I can't wear a watch for more than a few months before it inexplicably stops. I've had three trackpads replaced on my laptop because evidently, something about my touch causes them to go completely wonky and start having a mind of their own. The cursor, without me controlling it, opens up new windows, closes other ones, surfs the Internet for trackpad porn and is all, "Screw you. I'm piloting this laptop from here on end."
The smartest dude at my local Genius Bar can't figure it out. He and all the other 12-year-olds that work at Apple hover over my laptop in awed wonder over its demonic possession. My Genius guy has run every kind of test known to technology and he's come up with nothing.
On my third go-round, he looked at me with accusing geek eyes and said, "Maybe it's you."
I couldn't argue with him. There really is something about my aura, my spirit, my energy, whatever you want to call it.
Wild turkeys have been known to stampede towards me when I give them my best turkey call, so if wild turkeys can feel my magnetism, it's a given that the freaks of the universe would gravitate towards me.
And they do. Freaks are drawn to me like Lindsay Lohan to a tragic end.
I don't mind being a freak magnet, in fact, I'm kind of proud of it. I let my freak flag fly, apparently as high and loud as one of those South American tour guides at Disney World. (If you've been to Disney, you'll understand that one.)
But after reading my local paper's headlines today, I had this light bulb moment. Maybe it's not me after all. I haven't wanted to admit it, but perhaps it really is my town that's the freak magnet.
I live in Tampa.
Yes. That Tampa.
You wouldn't know it, but my town is full of good and lovely things.
There is, of course, our pride and joy:
Our glorious Gulf of Mexico.
And you might have heard of our annual Gasparilla pirate parade which is like a mini-version of Mardi Gras except with pirates and without as many boobs for beads.
I am proud to say we are home to one of the largest gay film festivals in the nation, The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
We are also a city drenched in Cuban culture—amazing food, music, festivals and our beautiful Ybor City where they still hand roll cigars in the cigar factories.
Our tropical soil produces magnificent oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, strawberries and all kinds of beautiful bounty of the land.
As for sports teams, we have the Bucs, the Rays and the Lightning. And the New York Yankees like us so much, we are their winter home.
Our MacDill Air Force Base is Central Command and Tampa International Airport is consistently ranked one of the best airports in the world.
And if you're into heavy crowds and long lines, we have Busch Gardens and just a stone's throw away where the real sweaty crowds happen, Walt Disney World.
If you like beefy men in spandex, body-slamming one another, we're home to the WWE.
And . . .
Okay, so we're also the Lap Dance capital of the world. Magic Mike filmed their strip scenes in Tampa, shining their hot neon stripper lights on our fair city for everyone to see.
But none of that matters to sensational news journalists and late night talk show hosts who already have us labeled as the Florida—The State Where Crazy Lives.
I think it probably all started with the Bush/Gore debacle, where everyone was all, "Hey Florida, why can't you tally the votes? Is it because you can't count without using your fingers? Can you Swamp
People even read? Do you have teeth? Rotted ones don't count, Billy Bob."
We can count. Without our fingers. Although some of us, as I pretend to study a hangnail, cannot do double digit addition without those fingers, but that has nothing to do with ballots.
The hanging chad controversy resulted in Florida changing to electronic ballots.
But then, we could not really get the dang hang of this pesky new-world electronica and so we had to go back to filling in the blank with our #2 pencils like we were all a state of third-graders.
It's no big thang.
So, we had a little trouble understanding the new-fangled technology of touch screens. Florida's just not a state of tech-savvy people. I can totally vouch for that. I have to allot a couple of hours and a tankful of gas when I commit to taking money out of the drive-thru ATM. Every car is the same—the driver leaning out of the window, peering at the screen with suspicious eyes, their hand nervously hovering over the machine as if they're about to hit the red button that will start the nuclear war to end life as we know it.
We might be technologically challenged, but that doesn't make us super-freaks, the kind you don't bring home to mother.
And yes, we might have had a little bit of trouble counting our votes again this time and we might have been the last state to report our results, long after the Facebookers had left their vitriolic political statuses behind and gone back to their crazy cat videos.
This is the South. We do everything slow down here. We talk slow. We work slow. We eat slow. And we certainly drive slow. On a daily basis, I have to navigate my way around the minefields of Blue-hairs, Canadian Snowbirds and combine tractors with their tobacco chewing drivers who clog up the roadways at top speeds of 20 mph.
And that is on the highway.
Slowness does not a freak make.
One of our most recent odd headlines to hit the national news was the one about the woman who decided to ride a manatee.
And for those of you who don't understand how beloved our manatees are to us, this beast, (I'm talking the woman, not the manatee), could have eaten her own children while clubbing baby seals and we wouldn't have been more outraged.
Who sees a giant sea cow in the water and says, "Hey, I'm gonna ride that bad boy like it's a bucking bronco."
I don't think it should even have to be said, but if you come to visit us in Florida, never, ever ride a manatee.
Save a manatee, ride a redneck.
We have plenty of those. Just head on over to the closest Cracker Barrel or any of our municipal beaches. Which really aren't beaches at all, but just strips of dirty sand on the side of the roadway, overlooking Tampa Bay. BUT you can bring your dogs, horses and/or fireworks to those "beaches" which means at any time of the day or night, you can find yourself a Redneck Convention right on the side of the road.
And then, of course, there's the Hulk Hogan sex tape which scarred America's collective corneas by showing us the Hulk's wide-awake peen.
Hulk Hogan's erection sits right above Octomom on the pole,
on my list of things in life I never, ever, EVER wanted to see. (By the way, her pole dancing, was in—you guessed it—Florida.
Which brings me to our latest big-time newsmaker:
Jill Kelly, professional Wannabe, Narcissist and All-Around Asshole—the catalyst behind this house of cards that has fallen down around General Petraeus.
I'm not going to say much about this ridiculous, vacuous woman. I'm too discreet, Internet, to tell you exactly how I feel about this obnoxious name and fake-title dropper with her ludicrous 15-year-old girl head-tilt pose and insatiable need to be the center of attention, add to that, her delusional, inflated sense of self importance, her incredible lack of common sense and judgement, not to mention the bogus charity she ran in the name of cancer and the fact, that she and her husband lived well beyond their means, completely disregarding their debt as they continued to live a flashy lifestyle. Honorary Consul General, my ass. Stop wasting my taxpayer money on ridiculous 911 calls, you desperate, abhorrent, old-man groupie.
So . . .
I'll just be nice and say, Jill Kelley does not represent my Tampa.
Personally, I've had my fair share of weirdness in my home city.
There was the time the youngish alligator trapper who routinely trapped the gators in my lake, died.
You see, gators are a protected species.
(That statement does not in any way represent my opinions on gators. I believe that gators are prehistoric killers who eat people and dogs on a regular basis down here in the tropics. And they're good for nothing but purses, shoes and belts. And sometimes luggage. Sorry Gator Huggers, but I think you should find yourself a more noble cause like protecting aardvarks, if you're inclined to ugly creatures. Because if you think the gators appreciate your diligence on their behalf, I am here to tell you, they do not. Don't believe me? Just wade on into my lake and dangle your leg in front of a gator, proclaiming you are their protector. Unfortunately, you'll see I speak the truth.)
Anyway, whenever the gators become a danger and crawl out onto the bank of the lake, we are allowed to call the gator trapper to come take them away. When a Big Daddy gator came a-calling a few years ago, we called our trapper only to be informed by his wife that he had perished. Not by the snapping jaws of a gator, mind you. But by a helicopter that lost control and fell out of the sky, landing on top of him. Now, what are the chances you trap alligators for a living and you die from a helicopter falling on top of you? True story, right here.
And even with all this nonsense going on around me, day-in and day-out, I still thought it was me who collected the freaks like some people collect fine art.
Even after last night.
I was checking out at the grocery store, my cart piled high with enough food to feed my tiny daughters with their lumberjack appetites. I exchanged greetings with my cashier, a friendly teenage kid who has rung me up before.
When I asked him how he was doing, he shook his head sadly as he rung up my produce and said,
"Not great. I had to get my dog neutered today."
I was all, "Oh, sorry?"
I didn't realize pet sterilization was a tragic thing like he'd just put down his dog. For eternity.
He said, "I didn't want to do it. My mom made me. I feel like I castrated my dog today, you know?"
He then held up my avocado and said, "Do people really eat these?"
And I was all, "Uhhhh, yeah? I like to add them to my quesadillas."
Because I didn't know what to say. About the castration.
And then, as if that wasn't awkward enough, the bag boy, with the most unfortunate bowl cut I've ever seen said, "You think that's bad. I'm a Jehovah Witness. I can't celebrate my birthday or Christmas."
I was all, "I, uh, also like my avocados in a salad." Because, What. The. Hell.
The cashier turned to his wingman and said, "Dude, what does neutering my dog have to do with you being a Jehovah Witness?"
And the guy said, "You had one bad day. You and your dog'll get over it. I have to live this way until I'm 18. And the minute I turn 18, I'm having a birthday cake and then I'm getting out of this religion which means my family will shun me."
And that's when a flash of brilliance hit me. Always the optimist, I tried to turn this conversation around to bright and sparkly with, "Hey, you know Prince is a Jehovah Witness. That's a nice thing about your religion."
Because really? What the hell else do they have? No birthday cake? And they have to spend their spare time knocking on people's doors to inform them that being bombarded by cheap pamphlets is the only way to heaven, only to be met by derision and threats of rabid dogs. Er, at least that's what happens when the Jehovahs come a-knockin' at my house.
It's almost like God gave them Prince as a consolation prize for the rest of their dreary religion.
The lovely conversation came to a crashing halt when my cashier said, "Prince who?"
My recyclable bags were packed and so I scurried away to let these boys hash out their unique troubles.
And still, I didn't get that it might not be me, but it might just be the quirky cast of fun folks who make up my state.
But then this morning, I sat down to read the news.
Yes, we still get a newspaper. We also communicate through our trusty fax machine and we are hoping that someday a man will walk on the moon.
And this is what one of the headlines of my paper read:
DEPUTIES STAY BUSY AT MOBILE HOME
Underneath it, was a picture of a woman, who I'm sorry to say kind of looked like a meth-head, sitting on her trailer's steps holding a child clad in dirty socks. Next to her was a sign that read, UR-A-HEIRO. THANK YOU?
It took me two read-throughs to understand the story.
Evidently, there was this man in her trailer park who hated cats. We'll call him Bud of the Trailer Park.
But his roommate had two adult cats who had spawned a plethora of kittens, thereby creating the phenomenon known as Trailer Park Feral Cat Colonies.* Bud of the Trailer Park had grown to be somewhat of a softie, since these cats were his roommate's feral pets. And he was known to feed them from time to time.
Now, follow closely.
Bud of the Trailer Park's roommate had gone to jail this past weekend. He had been charged with allegedly shooting two people who lived in the trailer park across the street. I hear trailer park rivalry is a real and dangerous thing, these days. Those with the wheels still attached are totally jealous of those who've had their wheels replaced with decorative trim. Things get ugly, man, over decorative trim.**
Also, Bud of the Trailer Park's son, who had moved in with his dad a few months before, had disappeared over the weekend. Word on the Trailer Park Street was he may or may not have been involved in the jealous decor shooting.
After the shooting, Bud of the Trailer Park "just wasn't hisself. Everything was edgy due to the shooting and all."*** According to the heiro, who turns out to be Bud of the Trailer Park's friend and next-door neighbor.
So, the heiro, being a mite worried about her friend, paid him a visit the other night. Bud of the Trailer Park started talking about the shooting and how worried he was about his son. He was so upset, he asked the heiro to get him a beer out of his freezer.
The heiro opened up his chest freezer and heard the unmistakable mews of kittens. Amongst the beers, she spotted four kittens. Sadly, one of them was dead, but the other three were yowling, I'm sure in cat language, "Get me the hell out of here!"
Our heiro recognized them as the feral kittens her dirty-socked toddler played with. She started to rescue them, but that's when Bud of the Trailer Park shoved her and told her to get the hell out his trailer.
She ran home and called 911 to report cats in a freezer and that's when she became a heiro with a question mark.
The deputies arrested Bud of the Trailer Park, rescued the feral kittens and were also successful in snagging Bud's son who'd shown up, hoping the trailer park decor shooting had blown over and perhaps looking for a beer and a chilly kitten.
And that. That moment, right there, my friends, is when I realized it's not me after all, that my little corner of the world is, just as they all mock us, a certifiable freak zone.
I also forgot to mention, we are also home to the biggest nudist colonies in the country. And, in fact, one time my hubs had an appointment at one of those colonies. It seems that even naked people need benefits. It's quite a story, but the best part of it? He purposefully neglected to tell his partner that their appointment was in fact, at a nudist colony. Such good times.
So, in closing, I'd like to say, come on down to Tampa. We'll show you how it's done the freaky way.
Just, whatever you do, don't ride a manatee.
*Trailer Park Feral Cat Colonies Phenomenon is a phenomenon I invented, just this second.
**I have used my editorial license with some or most of this news article. Meaning, I made some shit up.