Friday, March 27, 2015

Pink Underpants

Fifteen years ago, on March 27th my dad died. Two years ago I wrote a book. I had it professionally edited and tried to get it published, but nobody was interested. I was going through it again this week and the book does not read as good as I thought it did two years ago. So I guess the book publishers had a point. My book was inspired by many incidents in my childhood and teen years, but was not about me or my family. It was also inspired by stories Mark told me about his family moving to a nearly all white suburb when he was nine years old. Anyway, here is one small excerpt that was definitely inspired by my dad. It is based on something that happened on one of our family vacations. This incident is narrated by the fictional seventeen year old girl in my book, Maggie Ryan.

August, 1968, Chicago. 
Vacations with my dad were always an adventure in getting the most from the least. Some of my friends would come back to school in the fall, bragging about how their family had gone to Disneyland, New York, or even Europe. When somebody would ask me where we had gone, I would make up some fabulous story about our week at an exclusive resort. The truth was that every year we would stay in a cheap rented cottage, on some tiny muddy lake full of weeds and mosquitoes. The worst part about it was that every time we went on vacation something would go horribly wrong. Last year dad carefully loaded all of our luggage in a rented carrier that was strapped to the roof of the car. Unfortunately dad was not one to read instructions, and I remember looking at that carrier with dread.
“I’m not putting my things on top of the car.” I insisted.
“Why not?”
“I don’t think you put that carrier thing on top of the car correctly. It’s kind of off center, and that bottom thingy looks loose.”
“Thingy? See you don’t even know what you’re looking at, you don’t even know what it’s called.”
I don’t think dad knew what it was called either, but it was a convenient way for him to dismiss my misgivings.
“Now throw that suitcase up here, and then toss that duffel bag behind you on up to me.”
I obediently handed said objects up to dad, but not before I took my most valued possessions out of my suitcase.

Fifty miles outside of Chicago, on Interstate route 94, just east of Chesterton Indiana, a rattle developed. It seemed to be coming from the top of the car. Dad ignored it.
“I think something’s wrong with that thing on top of the car.” I opined.
Nothing, dad ignored his first born daughter.  After a few miles the rattle developed into a clatter.
“Now do you hear it?”
“That’s just the tarp I put over it flapping around up there. Don’t worry about it.” dad exclaimed, dismissing me as if I were just a girl who couldn’t possibly understand how things worked.
And then all the noise stopped.
“See, it stopped. I put that carrier on damn good. It’ll take anything.” Dad said proudly.
Except that my dad hadn’t put it on "damn good". Out of the rear window of the station wagon I could see all of our suitcases bouncing, and exploding along the interstate. The noise had stopped because the thing wasn’t there anymore. It had instead become a traffic hazard, causing the cars behind us to veer off into the median, and onto the shoulder. I screamed as I saw my pink suitcase hit the front of a semi and burst into a multi-colored cloud of socks, shorts, blouses, and to my horror, pink underpants.
“Jesus, don’t do that! Don’t ever scream into my ear while I’m driving.”
“The bags, the…everything... everything, it’s…” and again I screamed into my dad’s ear.
“Holy shit!” my dad exclaimed.
Finally, after dozens of cars, and trucks had pummeled our stuff, dad looked into the rear view mirror.
“Son of a bitch, goddamn, mother….” a string of profanities spewed from his mouth. As he pulled off onto the shoulder and stopped, the giant inner tube that we had tied on top of the suitcases came bouncing past us.
“I told you that thing wasn’t on there right.” I cried as I clutched my diary and toiletry bag, the two things I had retrieved from my suitcase before leaving.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


I don't like heights. I wasn't always this way, my fingers didn't always go numb at the sight of a long drop, my testicles didn't always try to crawl back up into my belly when confronted by the possibility of plunging to my death. Back when I was a kid I used to climb on top of everything. My favorite was our garage. My sister Sue and I would climb up there and throw rocks into the neighbor's yard just because it was fun to see him get pissed off. I even used to jump off of that garage into the grass. I had no fear until one day it dawned on me that I could fall and get hurt badly. The problem was that this realization happened while I was on the roof of the garage. I couldn't get back down, I was too terrified to climb back down. Like good siblings, my brother and sister made fun of me while I cowered up there on the roof. My brother even memorialized it in this photo that he took. 

Forty six years ago two of my cousins and I took a road trip across the United States. We were all around nineteen years old and wanted to see California. Because there were three of us we intended to drive non-stop, over two thousand miles, switching off drivers while one of us slept in the back of the giant station wagon we were driving. Even at the age of nineteen all that driving took its toll. Somewhere around Flagstaff, Arizona we realized that we all needed rest, so we turned north and drove to Grand Canyon National Park. Our plan was to pull off the road that wound through the park and all stretch out in the car to get some sleep. Surprisingly, back in 1969 that was allowed by the park service. I'm not so sure they let you do that anymore. So in the pitch blackness of the high desert night, we found a nice little place to pull off the road. There were no lights anywhere. As soon as the car's headlights were extinguished complete darkness enveloped us. I remember waking up in the middle of the night thinking that I wanted to take a piss, but I decided not to get out of the car and go behind one of the bushes nearby. There were noises out there, animal noises, and I chose to tough it out until the dawn. When the first light of day broke, I broke for the bushes. I had to pee badly. To my surprise, immediately behind those bushes was a four thousand foot drop. I can feel my testicles clambering up inside me just thinking about it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Sunday evening Mark took me out for dinner. Nothing fancy, just the Mexican place that I've been going to for the last twenty five years. I used to like that place, but I think it's time for me to move on. I need change, a new Mexican restaurant. That's the problem, they haven't changed anything in the last twenty five years. Everything is the same. The same tables, the same chairs, the same bar, and I'll bet that in the kitchen they're using exactly the same equipment that they had back in 1990. I say that about the kitchen because as of lately the food has a certain flavor about it, as if it had been prepared on an old stove that has years of grease and charred meat fused to it. The food tastes like they cooked it yesterday and put it under a heat lamp until I came in. Meanwhile, out in the dining room they still have the same tables and booths that I first sat in back in 1990. When you touch them they aren't sticky so much as gummy from all the years of grease. Anyway that was Sunday. On Monday I paid for that Mexican dinner in the worst way possible. I paid with my guts and spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Every time I thought it was over, it wasn't. There is a tried and true method of measuring just how bad a case of food poisoning is, and that is on the little dispenser next to the toilet. I went through one and a half rolls of Scot Tissue, the ones with a thousand sheets per roll. So there is that, and then there is the jalapeƱo pepper, bunghole heat index. I'd put mine at around seven right now. That would be on a scale of one to ten, with one being no pain and ten being a glowing red, charcoal briquet.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Urine the Wrong Bathroom

Very few people think that they aren't nice. I know that I'm a good person, at least within the confines of my own mind. Others might argue that point. After all, as a child I was kicked out of Altar Boys, kicked out of the nun's May Procession, kicked out of the school play that the nuns put on, and I was kicked out of Boy Scouts. I might have even been kicked out of the Catholic School I went to. All I know is that after seven years of nunsense I was suddenly switched to the public school system. And then there are all the people who used to give me the finger when I was driving. They were probably the ones who made phone calls to my boss on the, "How am I driving?" hot-line when I drove the company van. Damn bumper sticker. I suppose that if I thought about it for even a moment, I would recognize that there are some dark thoughts in my head. Usually though, I find that thinking of kittens and puppy dogs make them go away.

Here in Florida republican state representative, Frank Artiles, is trying to pass a law that restricts men from going into women's bathrooms, and women from going into men's bathrooms. Ostensibly his reason is safety. The representative reasons that keeping men out of the ladies room will prevent the rape of women and children. I didn't know that was such a big problem in Florida. Personally, I see it as a way to keep women from storming the men's bathroom when I go to Miami Dolphins games. Yes, that is a thing. I've been to at least a dozen Miami Dolphin games, and every time I have had to endure the presence of drunken woo-hoo women invading our sacred space. According to Artiles' bill you could spend up to sixty days in jail for breaking his law. Woo-Hoo! It all sounds reasonable until you read the fine print. It turns out that the law has all kinds of loopholes, loopholes that would still allow the woo-hoo girls to come and have a big pee party in the men's bathroom at football games. In fact the only people not included in the loopholes turn out to be transgender people. It almost appears that Representative Artiles has proposed a bill that is vindictive and mean spirited, and that he doesn't really care so much about women and children's safety as much as he wants to punish people who make him uncomfortable. I don't know because I don't actually know what is in Frank Artiles heart. But I'm sure if you asked him, Representative Artiles would say that he's a nice person.

Friday, March 20, 2015

This Little Piggy

My left foot
All my life I have walked splayfooted, or as it was commonly called when I was a kid, duck-footed. In other words, I walked with my feet at an angle outward from my body. Here's the horrible news, when I just Googled duck-footed, I found out that there are ways of fixing it. Now they tell me, after sixty five years of walking like Donald Duck. Anyway, walking that way causes other problems because your weight and movements aren't distributed properly. My problem lately has been that my little toes are being scrunched up against the side of my shoes, and it damn well hurts. Earlier this week, as I sat massaging one of my tender little piggies, I noticed what seemed to be some kind of growth on the underside. Believe me, if you have survived cancer even once, every little bump and lump is suspect. So I quickly made an appointment with the doctor. It turns out that I have what the doctor called "a corn". I've heard of that before, but had no idea what it was. My feet have always been pristine. No calluses, no growths, no blemishes at all on the skin. Plenty of problems with neuromas and neuropathy, but the skin was flawless. So you would think that I'd leave the doctor's office feeling good, feeling happy that it was something that simple. But no, I was thoroughly bummed out. You see the nurse had weighed me when I went into the examination room. Two hundred and twelve pounds. Talk about your little piggy.