skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Tuesday, 31 July
While eating dinner tonight, I examined some wan cucumber slices and pointlessly remarked to the wife, "I didn't know how good I had it." She appropriately stared blankly.
I was thinking of the garden my mom maintained when I was a tot.
(Can you tell how exciting this post is going to be?!)
"I was just remembering our old vegetable garden when I was a kid," I explained.
(The excitement! You can smell it! It smells like . . . Bibb lettuce!)
"Oh," she said. Then I bored her senseless talking about my stupid fucking old garden. Now it's your turn!
Yeah, so we had a damn garden. My mother, who apparently as a lifelong RN feels the need to be even more nurturing, loves gardening. She loves gardening like some people love pornography. To my mother, the prospect of spending several back-wrecking hours in the beating sun lunging around in the fucking dirt is much like what other people experience when they go on a Thai Underage Orgasm Tour.
We moved to Idaho when I was eight or so, and I, of course, immediately hated the extensive garden my mother set up. This was mainly because I had to do shit like weed the son of a bitch and water it and otherwise, you know, do anything not involving watching television.
But I'll be damned if it wasn't some garden for all that. We grew (and this is just what I remember): corn, lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, peas, pickling cucumbers, regular cucumbers, Estonian derelict bluecumbers, garlic, pumpkins, gourds, fjords, House of Lords, strawberries, raspberries, halleberries, marionberries, barrywhites and bondbarrys, and on certain magical nights you could walk out to the garden and watch horrible actressberries jiving onstage and smoking crack with DC mayorberries while the smooth soul berrysounds echoed in the night and our genetically modified baseballberries creamed monstrous home run balls out into the adjoining fields, occasionally landing on and conking out one of our horses.
It was kind of a monstrous garden, is what I'm saying. And I had to weed the damn thing.
(You know? Not really. My mom the dirt maiden really did most of it, because she has brain damage, and likes it. I only very occasionally had to do it, but I'd snivel as if I had been ordered to eat my own kidneys. This is because children are basically the shits.)
And I had to water the thing.
(See previous parenthetical.)
But as the garden gradually went fucking nuts that summer, I started to see some benefits. Namely . . . holy shit, look at all that food!
We had this entirely freakish summer that year, with heat, heat and more heat that caused the majority of the garden prisoners to behave as if Demeter had descended from the skies and taken a divine shit on our soil. The corn was as high as an elephant's eye long before the fourth of July! The chives took lives from neighboring peasant wives! The tomatoes . . . well, the tomatoes just went fucking nuts, and pretty soon our kitchen was filled with boxes and boxes of these clear foes of Zero Population Growth, and were soon loaded into the car to give to friends of the families. We actually got tired of the stupid damn tomatoes, especially after they formed their own political party and began loudly speaking out against the "hegemony of bacon," but happily they all then rotted and died, and we fed them to the feral cats out in the barn, who didn't seem to enjoy them much either, but fuck the barn cats, was our attitude.
(Note early experimentation with Republican ideology! Cats: "Hey, how come we gotta eat this crap?" "I dunno. Stop living in a barn?")
The garden, once in full horticultural freakout, inspired me to some weird, compulsive habits. One was my utter and over-the-top voraciousness for peas right off the vine. I would defoliate (delegumiate?) entire rows of peas, leaving a damning Hansel-and-Gretel path of spent pods behind me. I was the Joe Stalin of peas that summer, and my mother would wail about this: "Stop eating all the peas, would you?" "You don't like it when I eat a bag of Doritos! Isn't it better that I eat these peas, then?" I would reply, causing her to wonder if she had taken one too many bong hits in '67. "You're being an asshole," she suggested. This reasoning was lost on me, and I continued to devastate the pea harvest. My mother gritted her teeth and accepted that I was, in fact, a creep, and sublimated her fury with nearly nonstop canning efforts involving vegetables that I was incapable of or unwilling to eat off the vine, such as the unappealing, mealy pickling cucumbers. (I tried to eat those too.)
Weirder than the peas thing was my garlic phase. For reasons that are best left unexamined, I developed a taste for eating raw garlic. Well, less eating it than simply gnawing on a clove of it, pried right off the plant, for hours at a time. (I'm guessing this ties in somehow with prior penchants for eating things such as raw potatoes, sticks of butter and cold hot dogs, but again, I prefer not to dwell on these memories.)
"I've had it," my father said one night. "You smell like . . . I don't know what you smell like. You smell like something I can't stand any more." When my father is heated up--and he was, a not-uncommon state--he's kind of scary. He leaned in to me, and gave me that ex-Marine look that still has the power to kind of freak me out. "Stop eating raw garlic. It's fucking disgusting."
"Okay," I said quietly. He was right, of course, and I'm sure I stank like low tide. This didn't mitigate against my resentment about being told off, or this shitty prohibition against my new favorite thing to gnaw on, or the fact that children are genetically programmed to hate their parents for entirely reasonable demands.
"Go water the garden now," said my dad.
"Fuck you," I said, under my breath, about fifty yards away from Dad having any chance of catching it.
I watered the stupid garden, and glared at it, knowing that soon I'd have to weed some stupid thing.
"Fuck you, garden," I said, a little more boldly. I was reasonably sure that the garden would not rise up against me, at least not in any physical manner. Also, Dad was still in the house.
I didn't know how good I had it.
Thursday, 26 July
Godzilla Vs. Bambi
This is a loser's tale. Refreshingly, this time it isn't me! Sort of. I'm not the main loser.
When I graduated from college, I immediately put my theater degree to good use by getting a warehouse job in my roommate's dad's paint sundries company. It was there that I met Mick and Mike. (I'm abandoning my usual policy of masking people's names for this one, since I'm pretty sure these guys are both either dead or incarcerated.)
Mick was--of course--a hard-drinking Irish guy who was given to quoting Castaneda at me, for some reason. Mike was this little guy--I'm not quite five ten and weigh in at a whole 150 lbs., and I had fifteen pounds on Mike--who was . . . how to put this? Mike was pretty stupid.
Mike once filed an invoice for a GI Joe's store under "E."
"Mike!" screamed Gary, our boss, once he found it. "Why the fuck was this invoice filed under E, for Christ's sake?"
Mike looked genuinely puzzled. "E. E for invoice," he said.
That was Mike.
Another day, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was playing on the always-on classic rock station. I encountered Mike in one of the warehouse aisles, and he lifted his head up to the ceiling quizzically.
"Who in the hell are these guys?" he asked. I stared at him.
"Ahh, kind of a one-hit wonder band called the Rolling Stones," I said.
"Huh," said Mike.
(The classic rock thing was a near constant until a few of us bitched about it enough that on Fridays we could turn the fucking radio to another station. One Friday, while "Call Me" was playing, Mick approached me and accusingly barked, "Is this Blondie?"
"Yeah," I replied.
"If I wanted to listen to a white junkie bitch scream at me, I'd go home," he said flatly, and stalked off.)
I've told that story before, but frankly, I never get tired of thinking about it.
But anyway. We drank a lot, us warehouse guys. Usually three days out of the week, we'd go out for beers after work. Mike came along sometimes, and we'd beat him stupid at pool, because most of the time Mike was attempting triple bank shots and in general just playing slamball in the hopes that something, anything would fall in, only to be crushed when something did, since he routinely forgot that we didn't allow slop shots.
One day at work--and I'm unclear what sort of terrible events led up to this--Mike decided to issue a challenge to Mick. Mike declared that he could out-drink Mick. I think we were on lunch break. Anyway, I do remember this odd combination of feelings rushing through me when he said that; it was some strange mixture of electrification and utter dread. Mick squinted at Mike.
"Are you fucking stupid?" asked Mick. Before a reply could be made, Mick continued: "No, I know you're fucking stupid. E for fucking invoice." (This by now had become warehouse legend, which are of course the finest legends to be found anywhere.) "Are you serious? I'll fucking kill you."
Mike stood his ground. "I can take you, man! I can drink a fucking lot."
The rest of us just sort of looked at each other. Mick was a guy who, when a doctor told him that he was a little worried about Mick's slight liver enlargement, said, "Look at my fucking name, man. My name is Mick." Then he demanded to know where the closest bar was.
(And he really did have a junkie wife. He also had a little girl who was four years old. Mick occasionally confessed to me that everyone was kind of worried that the child refused--or was incapable of--speaking. She was always going to speech therapy. Once when I had had one too many, I suggested that maybe they should try silence therapy, which Mick roared at, thankfully, since he might as well have cheerfully torn off my head.)
So that Friday was set as the date. Mike vs. Mick. We all had to watch this.
We went to the Black Cat, the closest horrible dive bar to the warehouse, and the festivities commenced. Mike and Mick would match each other, beer for beer, and in between beers, a whiskey shot apiece would be administered. They went to it. We watched, fascinated, and drinking.
You would expect that Mick--ropy, grizzled Mick, no-collar anti-hero--would dominate this poor chimp with the unfortunate pussy-tickling moustache that surely would never tickle an unpaid-for pussy; that Mick would so thoroughly destroy this hopeless homunculus that he'd likely be left in some truly dire state of vomit encrustation and renal failure that he would require hospitalization, dialysis and a long stint inside an autoclave; that Mick would cheerfully be tossing back shots while Mike was owlishly trying to urinate into a pool pocket.
That's basically how it all turned out. I don't even think it lasted two hours. Mick looked as alert as a Hollywood divorce lawyer--well, one with greasy, shoulder-length hair and Coke-bottle glasses--while Mike looked as if someone had gotten halfway through with installing a spinal block before distractedly wandering away. In fact, the dedicated staff at the Black Cat--flinty-eyed women with alarming tattoos--refused to serve him.
"Are you kidding? He looks like a trout. He's cut off." Mike's eyeballs drifted independently of one another; I wondered if he could see his own brain. I hope not, I thought. Mike really doesn't need to see that. I bet it looks like a dead, hairless Tribble.
What could we do? Well, for one thing, we could unceremoniously dump Mike into the back of a pickup, which we did. We could also go to another bar, which we also did.
We went to the Yukon Tavern, another favorite of ours, mainly for the owner, Viv, a dyed redhead who was also half-deaf and approximately the same age as the Magellanic Clouds. We of course dragged the thoroughly miserable Mike in with us and propped him up on a barstool. Barely hanging onto consciousness, Mike's head dipped and bobbed towards the bar as if dowsing for the used chewing gum concealed underneath. Viv eyed him contemptuously.
"I ain't serving him!" she hollered. She hollered everything. We nodded and ordered beers. Viv poured them and served us, giving poor Mike another poisonous look. Then she went over to him; Mike did his unlevel best to meet her gaze, and was intermittently successful.
Suddenly Viv screamed, "ARE YA TIRED? WHAT'S 'A MATTER? YOU TIRED?" Mike flinched at this assault, and spun around on his stool spasmodically. Then he fell off his stool in a noisy, boneful clatter. He wheezed on the floor while everyone laughed.
"I hate amateurs," Viv yelled to nobody at all, turning away from the awful spectacle of writhing Mike. "Who wants Li'l Smokies?" she screamed. The only food Viv served was cold sandwiches and Li'l Smokies.
Eventually we left, once again pitching the now-consciousness-free Mike into the bed of the pickup. Viv glared at us the whole time. "Don't you boys be bringing in that kid any more! He ain't fit to drink with you all!" Here she pointedly jerked a thumb at Mick, who grinned widely. "Is he even of age?" she wondered loudly to the aether. Viv had a fairly cavalier attitude about serving minors. Or anybody.
"That boy is a shithead," was Viv's final benediction on the evening.
He sure was! Here's to you, Mike. Or, better yet . . . maybe you should just have a soda.
Monday, 23 July
Here Comes The Prejudge
Today on my walk home from work, I encountered an old fellow on one of those four-wheeled scooter things. He was driving in elliptical loops in the middle of a fairly well-used intersection. He evinced no enjoyment in this activity; he simply drove and drove, staring grimly ahead of him. Cars maneuvered cautiously around him while he continued his peregrinations; he gave no evidence of stopping any time soon. I thought to myself, That is totally the guy who greenlighted License to Wed.
If I am correct--I am certain I am--then tomorrow I fully expect to see Joel Schumacher joylessly and ineptly masturbating on a park bench.
The point here (I have one?) isn't that Hollywood can churn out nearly anything at this point and fully expect to make its money back. After traditional box office receipts (no matter how humiliating), cable rights, DVD sales and rentals and overseas returns, Hollywood can clearly make any horrifying thing and make its money back. The point is: why do they feel the need to keep on proving it?
It's the middle of summer, so we're officially at the hammock point where the first wave of blockbusters has come, thrown up on your shoes, and left (Transformers; Born Free or Die Trying, Motherfucker). Now we get what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the . . . oh my God, what the fuck is this? Are we still on the air?" I am purposefully excluding such clearly superior horror offerings such as I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Hairspray on the grounds that their mere existence terrifies me beyond lucidity, and I refuse to acknowledge that whatever deviant fuckhorns conceived of them actually draw paychecks. A man can take only so much, and I am definitively not a man, and so I can take that much less.
Who's Your Caddy?
Clicking more or less at random on the cast list, I see that this movie has a person in it named Andy Milonakis. (Okay, I picked his entry because his IMDB photo makes him look like a sort of a failed Kabuki experiment.) Apparently, this guy had his own show on MTV! Whatever! I also offer here Mr. Milonakis' upcoming projects:
2 Dudes & a Dream (2007) (post-production) .... Ned
This is all I need to know to keep me from seeing Who's Your Caddy? That and the completely obvious fact that it's going to be galactically horrible.
Hey! Isn't this all of us? I mean, you know, those of us fortunate enough to be able to walk. And who have skin. Maybe it's an apocalypse movie about Us vs. the Skinless and Legless! Maybe!
No, that I'd watch. This is just another fucking terrible werewolf movie. Although the IMDB page does contain this simply awesome line: "This movie does not compare to the werewolf classics in the past as far as story line, but it does a good job showing that not all werewolf's believe in the werewolf philosophy of biting people and taking names."
I plan on working the phrase "werewolf philosophy" into my next conversation, and frankly, I'm going to plan on that conversation being my next performance review at work. I smell a promotion! And human flesh!
I have decided to stop watching movies that are titled with the name of someone I've never heard of.
(Confession: We do have a used copy of Charlotte Gray in our DVD collection, which I bought for the wife at some point. I assume she watched it.)
Bratz: The Movie
A nation deliriously awaits this uplifting movie about hydrocephalic teenaged whores. I assume that Christina Ricci plays one of them.
This Is England
This sort of ties in with my impatience for character name titles. Did Public Image Limited come up with this name? I mentally rechristened this thing as This Is Movie and pictured it being delivered to theaters in blue and white logo-ed film canisters.
Jesus fucking Christ. I'm getting in my car right now to go run down that guy in the scooter. Just because.
Tuesday, 17 July
When I was a tinier tot, I think, oh, six or seven or so, my mother started giving me piano lessons. Now, my mom isn't really a very good piano player--and she'll readily admit this--but she can play, and she thought it would be a good idea to introduce me to the wonderful world of music.
I love music to this day. God, I love it. I know this is not really a very revelatory thing to say: everyone likes music, it moves souls, you remember what was playing when you lost your virginity, blah blah. But hey, I liked music. My mom used to play "The Entertainer" on the piano and I would race manically around the house; not dancing at all, but the sheer delight of moving to this wonderful music. I could not stay still while those sounds were thrumming the air in my ears.
So I took piano lessons from my mother. I did that whole thing where I painfully banged out rudimentary tunes into a tape recorder to send to my grandparents--lucky them! Horrible gonging noise perpetrated by a little fingerless ogre child who couldn't find a tune or a rhythm hidden in a broken hammock! O happy day, grandparents! Listen to your fumbling genetic disaster haltingly plonk out eerie semblences of actual music while stopping midway to holler, "Hold on! I messed that up! Let me go back!" And then it all starts over again.
After only a few months of piano lessons, I quit. It was glorious to quit. It was so glorious, I made quitting a large part of the rest of my life.
Again, as everyone does, I love music. I wanted to create it. And maybe, with a lot of practice and hard work, I could have. But that's the point. I didn't want to practice, and I didn't enjoy hard work. Or, for that matter, easy work. Or anything that rhymed with "work." Even at that early age, I knew about Mozart, for example, and prodigies. That's what I dreamed of: talent without work. I loved playing the piano: I fantasized about pulling a prodigy card out of my horrible ear and playing masterfully just by hearing things played for me. But when confronted with the awful reality that I was emphatically not a prodigy, and that years of hard work would be required, I quit.
Later in life, my father decided, as fathers do, that sports built character in a young boy. And so in junior high, I went out for the football team. (You can imagine how excited my coach was when he encountered me: by all appearances, I resembled nothing so much as a juvenile Marsh-Wiggle.) I lasted one season, playing--of all things--second string defensive tackle before quitting the next year, citing my asthma.
I remember confronting the coach. "I have asthma," I said. (True.)
"Huh." he said.
"I kind of pass out sometimes," I said. (False.)
"Okay," he said.
I also remember confronting my father. "I have asthma," I said.
He didn't say anything. For three days. I didn't care much, really, because frankly, little kids are lying douchebags, and while they know it, they don't mind.
Later, when I got into high school, my father still insisted I play a sport--at least one per year. For unclear reasons, I chose baseball, a game I had manifested absolutely no interest in and had no definable talent for.
I rode the bench for two years, and deservedly so. "Can of corn!" someone would holler after a weak fly ball was hit . . . over there. What the fuck are these guys talking about? I asked myself.
Once I got to start in right field--once--when the coach got pissed off at the normal right fielder for missing a practice. I even got to field a ball when a lefty came up to bat. "It's a lefty!" my teammates cried. "It's coming to you, Skot!" Okay, I thought. I wonder why?
Then in my sophomore year, some of the older guys on the team bus pissed into a 7-Up can and gave it to me on the bus ride home, and I drank some of it, and I knew it was time to do what I knew best: it was time to quit.
And quit I did! (I also learned to my relief, thanks to some ancillary research, that urine is actually sterile.)
I was getting good at this quitting thing. But not good enough. My father still insisted that I participate in some damn sport, so I promptly and cruelly managed to disappoint him by choosing that least masculine of sports: tennis. I didn't even have a racket.
Once again, he didn't speak to me for three days, but this time I think it was less out of disappointment than just utter confusion. It really was a perverse choice, considering that I'd never swung at anything other than a pinata about nine years previously. For my part, I had surveyed the field and figured None of these guys look like they're going to piss into a fucking pop can and hand it to me, anyway. So I was aiming high.
The amazing thing was, I didn't quit tennis. I was terrible at it, but I didn't quit, and in fact, I was on the varsity team my senior year. (This is frankly incredible, but less so in the context of the fact that my high school had less than 400 people in it. But still.)
So the tennis thing is kind of an outlier in terms of quitting. I don't know even why I mention it. I did think of quitting, actually, once, when Carol racked me in the balls with her tennis racket, but I didn't.
But I quit so many things afterwards. I became a quitting gourmet: I quit: pre-law, because of all the fucking assholes; a KFC, because, Jesus Christ, removing chicken livers and a woman with "COLIN JAMES HAY" carved into her arm; and retail.
It's hard for me to believe that I spent five solid years in retail, fielding penetrating questions such as "Is that a clock?" (She was pointing at an ordinary clock.) And "Is that a couch?" (He was pointing at a couch.) I quit that too, without any sort of backup job or source of income lined up at all, because I couldn't take it any more, and it wasn't until I was done, free and clear that I realized: I had no idea, no idea at all, how miserable I was for all that time. It's amazing what your brain will conceal from you if it thinks it's best to do so for your overall mental health.
Five years. I still can't quite believe it.
I finally quit, and shortly afterwards, I talked to my father. It didn't take three days this time. "It's about fucking time you quit," he said.
Wednesday, 11 July
Big Day, Big Night
And so thus armed with beer and Super Soakers, we were underway. We began our creep down Main Street, all three pickups of us with our meager signage (our class was indeed a lazy class; I consider myself to be their God) flapping from the pickup windows.
It was, I must confess, kind of fun. Throngs of people lined the street for mile. Because that's about how long the route was. But throng they did! Little kids ran out towards us and screamed, "Shoot me! Shoot me!" Either it was intolerably hot, or these children do not bespeak well of our future military resources. We shot them stupid, and they screamed rapturously, which rapidly became irritating, so to shut them up, we then pelted them with hard candy. They shrieked even louder, so we stepped up our beer drinking.
One of our group, T., armed as she was with her water weapon, rather quickly adopted an alarming thirst for blood. She would douse fucking anything that moved, including us, when she would whoop with a squirting victory and wave her weapon over our heads and the thing would drip all over us. T. would also shoot at anything that didn't move, such as fire hydrants and dead dogs. T. was a little out of control. At one point, I saw her take steely aim at three geriatrics who were gnawing on some fried chicken; they saw her too, drawing a bead, and they made warding gestures and shook their wattles at her fearfully. "Jesus Christ, T., lay off. They're old people and they have food."
T. flashed me a wild, angry glare, looking very much like C. Thomas Howell after a deer's-blood cocktail, and then relented. She settled instead for knocking out a little kid's front teeth with a brutal barrage of green apple Jolly Ranchers. The rest of us continued our H2O assault on the parade-watchers unhindered.
At least until we got to the fire station, where a bunch of guerilla warriors lashed back. They had filled tubs and buckets full of water, and they ran out into the road and simply creamed us. We filled the air with harpy screams and thrashed like the double-damned as they drenched us mercilessly. By the time we were out of range (or they were out of water), we were wetter than a lesbian erotic book club. Thinking way too late, I pulled my cell phone and cigarettes out of my sodden shorts, stared at them hopelessly (both miraculously survived), and then weirdly transferred them into my equally soaked back pocket. Why? I don't know.
Out of danger, we laughed at the affair (during the exchange, I was pleased to note that we nailed my dad pretty good, for all that) and resumed our attacks.
That's when the water balloon hit M. in the face. What the fuck? Cruising up the final parade hill, we jerked our necks around and beheld three little preteens with a cooler full of water balloons, and they were hailing them on us with an accuracy that was simply hellish. Those little fuckers were way out of range of our pathetic pistols, and the little bastards' arms were unbelievable. It was like a filming of Honey, I Shrunk Easy Company! We couldn't do anything about it, so we simply and adultly returned fire with a sailor's smorgasbord of the vilest profanity that we could summon. The children danced with glee (literally--they had a fucking boom box) and redoubled their efforts.
Finally, we were done. The parade was over. S. guided us off the route over to her house, where we dismounted the pickups (I fell flat on my ass, to general cheering). Why were we at S.'s house? we wondered. S. answered that question by running inside and grabbing a case of beer. Oh. It was now about 3:30 in the afternoon, and most of us had been drinking since noon.
The parade was over. All that was left was the dinner. The wife and I elected to limp home, towel off, and take a nap in preparation. Not everyone was this sensible, and elected to keep drinking.
So, a nap, a shower, a change of clothes, and we felt ready for round 2. Cocktail hour began at 6:30--because we needed more of those--before dinner at 8:00. This was at the Elk's Club, which, really? Kind of awesome.
If I've been exhibiting an uncharacteristic unwillingness to rip these people up and just be my normal turd self, well, I can't really bear to. The whole thing was kind of cool and unexpectedly really fun, and really, everyone was pretty great. It was also pleasingly free of extraneous crap like slide shows or "Remember When?" presentations or any of that fun-killing kind of regimented hoo-ha: we simply had some drinks, ate dinner, shot the shit, laughed at Oh my God, twenty years! things, had some more drinks, and that sort of thing. You know: the things that people aged 38 find really fun and enjoyable. The things that tell you, "Well, you're getting old."
Not that there was a complete dearth of YAY! behavior. I define YAY! behavior as: embarrassing things that other people do that make me go YAY! because I did not do those things. For instance, A., a lovely brunette who I suspected of Failure-to-Nap Syndrome, held up a silly little survey thing that was at every table and screamed at the assembled crowd, "Okay, you fuckers, you fucking fill these out, all right?" She wobbled cutely, and then joined us at the smoker's table where she informed my wife that she was "fucking beautiful, really fucking beautiful" before retiring to the parking lot to pass out in her car. YAY!
There was also N.--the "handsy" one I mentioned in a previous post--who definitely did not do the nap thing. N. lasted long enough to eat some chicken-fried blobs before definitively glazing over and slumping into his chair with his similarly inert girlfriend, forming a kind of corrupt American Pieta.
I'm pleased to say that we made it pretty much to the end. We walked my old friend R. home, who hilariously complained, "I wish it wasn't so uphill." Like the wife and I are Sherpas. It's like a .5% grade. We were all terribly drunk, but in that nice way that's so far off from that really terrible way that most of us are acquainted with.
We got back to my place, where we were startled to find my father still awake, watching TV. "What the hell are you guys doing home so soon?" he asked, equally surprised. It was like 11:30.
"We're old," I explained. "And everyone else took off." My father looked at me, at first curiously, as if I had grown a second ass on my chest. Then with a look like Yeah, you're ancient. Give me a break. "Whoo!" I clarified. "Whoo!"
"You can have my chair," he said, getting up to go to bed. I thankfully settled into it.
My parents drove us to the airport the next day. I had really messed up my quads with my precarious perch on the pickup float, and I walked like a doddering old man. My mother, the RN observed: "You really fucked up your quads, didn't you?" I moaned.
The reunion was over. Like I said before, I'm not going to rip anybody. We had a very good time. And here's the best part: you don't ever have to read anything about it ever again.
But I can, any time I want, and surprisingly, that makes me kind of happy.
Monday, 09 July
Monday was the big day, when we all came together as 20-year reunionites to show our proud town what we were made of.
Naturally, this meant gathering en masse at a bar. At noon.
You see, traditionally, our reunions take place during something called Border Days, which is one of the oldest rodeo celebrations going. So there is, of course, a parade, and every year, the twenty-years all ride a float. The parade was at two o'clock on Monday.
Remember, we were at the bar at noon. Because another tradition is that everyone loads up on beer for a couple hours before we climb onto the float, which is--can you guess?--also stocked with coolers full of beer. Oh, and Super Soakers for tormenting the crowd, particularly the very young (who love getting squirted with water on a hot day) and the very old (who are slow and make excellent targets and who also cringe entertainingly).
But first things first! The drinking. My friends W. and R. showed up to cart me down to the bar promptly at . . . 10:30 AM, mainly because, as far as I could tell, W. was anxious to begin drinking. But we made some small talk with my folks for a while, for which my liver thanked me meekly from inside his cage.
However, we were still down there by noon. Four minutes before noon, actually, which is why it puzzled us when T.--an excitable woman from our class, already there--shrieked, "Where have you been?!" It was going to be a long day, so it only made sense to order a beer from the bartender, a pleasant fellow named (I think) "Fish," who really put the "grizz" in "grizzled." We began drinking in earnest, and I couldn't help but note that W. and T.--again, both women, so this puzzled me--cut their beers with Clamato. There is a thesis to be written about the gender identification issues surrounding this conundrum, but I left that to future scholars and simply dug into a two-dollar Bud.
Shortly, W. was ordering another from apparently-Fish. "Slow down, W.!" he bellowed. "It's a long day." He paused to take in the rest of us. "I can say that to her because I know her. I don't know any of you, so I don't care what you do," he told us. My father, seated behind me at a table, laughed.
This is where we spent the next two hours: the Triangle Tavern, a place the size of Carlos Mencia's talent, and, also like Carlos Mencia, a similarly gas-station-bathroom amount of charm. Improbably, it does have a pool table, perfect for receiving clouts to the skull via errant cue shots. Also, a bartender named Fish. (There really was a seedy, Abe Vigoda-ish cast to Fish, but again, I'm not even sure that's what people were calling him. But let's say they were. Then I got into some reverie about Fish being not only Abe Vigoda-ish but also having some sinister Lovecraftian features, but by this point I was on my third Bud.)
After a little bit, my mom and the wife intelligently showed up bearing some burgers for us to consume, as we were all drinking on empty stomachs. (T. screamed on their arrival, "Who is this? I don't know them!" "One of them is my mother," I said, "and one of them is my wife." T. stared wordlessly. My father laughed again.) We devoured the food with the feverish intensity of a group of people who had dedicated an entire day to drunken mayhem. My mom, wonderfully uncertain about people's condiment preferences, had even persuaded the burger vendor to wrap up a bunch of pickles in paper, just in case. We devoured those too.
That's when W. loudly informed us that she had broken one of her artificial nails--painted, of course. She had to go get it fixed, because when you're in a parade, you want your pinkies to look their best. She ordered Fish to get her a "to-go cup," which Fish dutifully did, and W. poured her beermato into it, and she was off to some apparently underemployed beautician. Open container laws are unofficially but nearly unilaterally relaxed during Border Days, unless you're a fucking moron, who are, naturally, legion.
More people were showing up by this time, quite a lot of them, actually, and it was around 1:15 that we noticed that we did not have the flatbed pickup that we had been promised by a classmate. In fact--we learned mere minutes later--that said classmate was not only not even attending the parade, but his flatbed was not forthcoming, as he was in a town some miles away. We had no float.
We discussed this with some intensity while ordering more beers with somewhat more intensity. A couple of the girls were dispatched to try and sweet-talk a fresh flatbed out of a nearby trucking company--so nearby, in fact, that it was across the street. They returned flatbedless. "If you had come one hour ago . . . " said the guy, whose name, let's pretend, must have also been Fish. We fretted about this and ordered more beer. W. returned around this time and ordered a beer. Her nails were perfect. D., the class president, wondered about filling up the water buckets for recharging our Super Soakers, seemingly unconcerned with the fact that we had no vehicle that would actually carry said buckets, or our beer coolers, or our Super Soakers, or us. Well, whatever. We crossed the street to a (closed) business of some sort, and stole about fifty gallons of water.
Others milled about in the sun drinking beer, while others milled about in the bar drinking beer. Fish ran out of Clamato, and there was a minor flurry of dismay among some of the women, but it then subsided after they glumly ordered some more beer.
It was about twenty minutes to two, and nobody had any idea what was going on, until someone happened to notice the incredible fact that we--the assembled class of '87--had no less than three pickups in our possession, right there at the bar! Right in the parking lot!
We immediately--by which I mean haltingly and fuzzily--composed a complex plan to solve our problem: Let's just ride in pickups! Like, three of them! Instead of one lonely float (unadorned flatbed), we would have three mighty floats (unadorned pickups)! We quickly (slowly) loaded hay bales into the pickup beds for us to perch on, and happily noted that we had just enough time to buy some more beers to take onto the floats . . . er, pickups.
The class of '87 was in the parade, dammit. It was our time to shine. Literally, in the case of the third pickup, since for some really weird reason, that was the one that all of the bald guys piled into. I mean, ALL of them. They gleamed like the sledge of the White Witch. I stared at the hazy heat lines that radiated off of their collected pates and commented to W., "They're going to look like a jar of maraschino cherries after this."
W. laughed and opened a beer gingerly, mindful of her repaired fingernails. We were sitting high and mighty on the first float/pickup, with our asses on the cab of the truck. We had to be mindful of not putting dents into the roof of the cab, and if D. (the driver) heard a "CLUNK!", he'd yell at us. We got waved into our place in the parade line.
The day was just getting started, and it already felt like we'd been at it for hours. But there was plenty more.
Thursday, 05 July
IDAHO! The Gem State! My Motherland! The Seat of . . . Trees! And tree-related items! Occasionally wheat!
Not so occasionally, actually. We saw a lot of fucking wheat.
We also saw my old classmates. And, you know, as much as I'd like to slag on the lot of them . . . they were all really pretty nice. Even N., sort of, who didn't display any outward signs of wanting to beat me up like in the old days, but who was described by the wife as "kind of handsy." Good to hear! Anyway, I actually had more fun than I had originally anticipated, if only because I still have hair, and so many of my old classmates do not. This of course says nothing about my classmates, other than that THEY ARE BALD, and volumes about me, namely that I am pathetically shallow.
The wife and I arrived on Friday evening, and spent a pleasant evening with my folks. This was going to be our only moments of peace, as chaos predictably unfolded in the days to come with increasing intensity. Little did I know as we ate dinner that night--a nice light chicken piccata--that in mere hours, I would find myself flossing with the intestines of one of our co-salutatorians, screaming, "I WAS CHEATED, JEZEBEL!"
Saturday night we got a fateful call from W., an unstoppable redhead locomotive of a woman who was a good friend of mine in high school. I remember we hit it off in fourth grade when she wheeled on me--the new kid--and demanded, "Who are you?" W. is essentially a volatile admixture of re-bar, bear pheromones, Super Dave Osborne, blackbody radiation, Tabasco sauce and Sarah Connor.
W. declared that we were going out that night, and by God (and frankly, if God disagreed, he could go fuck himself as far as W. cared), we were going. We decided (it was decided for us) that we would go to the eponymously named establishment, The Establishment. I hoped we could also have some exotic drinks called The Drinks and stand on such thrilling surfaces such as The Floor and perhaps take a piss in The Toilet.
Ordering drinks was actually the first challenge, at least for the wife. Knowing what sort of place the Establishment was--a nightmarishly loud dive--I knew not to deviate from my plan: beers and shots. Unfortunately, the wife did not quite grasp the concept of the place, which is: concepts are fundamentally unwelcome.
"Can I get a red wine?" she shouted over the din of what turned out to be howling country karaoke singers. The attractive little behatted blonde bartender looked at her as if she had ordered lizard gland secretions. "Let's see!" she chirped, and rummaged in the little cooler under the bar. She produced a box of wine that looked like it might have been manufactured for the Russian Spetsnaz sometime during the Reagan administration. "Here we go!"
It was, of course, undrinkable fluid of questionable provenance: we suspected it was simply brake fluid. "It tastes like my cough drops," was the wife's judgment. She tried another tack after failing to choke down the awful brine: she went for whiskey. "Do you have Bushmill's?" she asked the bartendrette, who stared blankly, and then craned her neck at her collection of bottles.
"No. What is that?"
"It's okay," said the wife patiently. "How about Maker's?"
Again the bartender gal made a good show of staring at all the bottles.
"We don't Maker's that!" exclaimed a fungus-like barfly who was growing into his barstool next to us, and then barked an approximation of laughter that sounded like Silverback apes trying to claw their way out of a gravel pile. He didn't look at us as he said this, but instead stared into his Budweiser bottle intently.
Unnerved, the wife finally ordered a whiskey and soda. She was served a Canadian Royal and Diet Coke. For my part, I took the low road and ordered a Bud and a Jack back.
"A Bud and a shot?" asked the bartendrette, clearly relieved. "You got it!" The wife cut me a glance that said something like, "I'm imagining you being carried off by wraiths now."
We settled into a rhythym, the group of us, and were presently joined by D. and her indefatigable frost-topped mom, who looked like she'd beat anyone to death with a Mike's Hard Lemonade bottle for looking at us wrong; M., the jovial husband of W., whose penchant for buying rounds endeared me to him instantly; by many others, simple denizens of the bar who remembered me, who knew my father, who were complete strangers, who were occasionally "handsy" with the wife, who were simply wondering what the fuck was up with the guy who wore the "fuck you" t-shirt (actually a shirt with drawings of two hands, one giving the middle finger, the other pointing at the viewer) who dared to karaoke John Lennon's "Imagine." He also wore a prominent earring.
"He's a dead man," said, W. as the thirtieth round of drinks appeared unbidden at the table. But nobody seemed to care. At one point, the wife captured a lovely picture of my old friend D.'s mouth and shirt and nothing else. She tried to identify him the next day.
"He had on a checkered shirt and a cowboy hat," she explained to my parents the next day. I had no idea who she was talking about at the time; the evening was a pleasant blur.
"You just described every other guy in Grangeville," said my mother gently. "He has good teeth," I offered, looking at the photo. Happily, everyone ignored this valuable insight. I need to stop saying words, I thought.
I had been home for thirty-six hours. We hadn't even gotten to the reunion part of things, not really. Not officially.
But we were getting close.