Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Memories of Grandpa

For some reason I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, taking long walks down Memory Lane, reliving childhood memories. Inevitably, most (if not all) of my favorite and happiest childhood memories involve my Grandpa.

My Grandpa was awesome. My mom was a teenage mother, so when I was born, the story goes, the family (“family” meaning my mom and my grandpa) got their collective shit together and decided to “settle down” to make a nice little home for the bundle of joy my mom was going to be bringing home. Settling down meant my Grandpa purchased a trailer in Harrison Township on a nice little residential street that ended at Lake St. Clair. And before you make any cracks about me living in a trailer park – oh contraire….it was not a trailer park. It was a street that had houses on it and there were also some trailers too. One side of the streets were woods, and like I said, it ended at the Lake. No trailer park – but a trailer was all Grandpa could afford.

The trailer was a traditional one like you’d picture – it was white with dark brown trim, with windows you had to open by turning a crank. It was above the ground, so to get up into it, you had to use steps. We had a little step porch-thing – I really wouldn’t describe it as a true porch, since really only one person could stand at the top at a time, but I can’t think of a better word. It had 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom/laundry room. There was a backdoor on the thing, but there were no steps to that door, so as a kid I used to love to open the door and freak myself out a bit. The drop was probably less than 5 feet, but when you’re a kid – 5 feet is quite a drop. It didn’t have a skirt around it, probably because those things are expensive. So weeds and whatever grew under my trailer, and sometimes, when I was lazy, it was a nice little shelter for my bike.

I can’t imagine how long it was – because, as a kid, like I said, everything seems large. But it wasn’t even a double-wide. It was a single-wide, standard-sized trailer. And it was home. I had my own bedroom, and I even had my own TV. It was a little 13-inch black and white TV, but hey, it was all mine (it was a gift from Grandpa). I remember coming home from school to watch “The Monkees” or “Scooby-Doo” on it. Eventually, when I moved in with my parents the TV came with me – because I can also remember watching “Happy Days” and “Battle of the Network Stars” on it in my bedroom at our first house.

Grandpa was a lenient disciplinarian. I can only remember him spanking me once, and I was so outraged, I threatened to run away from home. Grandpa replied by showing me the door, so I packed some food (which consisted of one red delicious apple…kids sure don’t plan ahead) and I walked out the door in my anger. Once I got outside, reality hit me. Where would I go? I probably only sat out there a few minutes before I came back inside the house, only slightly less indignant – I was not a “tail-between-the-legs” type. Grandpa never teased me over it, and it was never spoken of again.

Grandpa was the type of guy that would let you come and sleep with him when you had a bad dream. I can remember only doing it a couple of times, but I can remember getting up in the middle of the night and going into his room and asking if I could sleep with him. He wore pajamas like you see in old movies – with a button down shirt and pants. The type of pajama no one wears anymore.

Grandpa had a southern drawl too, and wouldn’t call me by my name – he would call me “youngin” or “suge” (like in Suge Knight…or short for “sugar”). He was born in 1909 in Mississippi and also lived in Louisiana. He was a World War II veteran and didn’t finish high school. He was hardworking and spent the years I knew him working in a tool and die shop. He always wore those dark blue work pants and dark blue work shirts with his name on the patch. He got up early for work so there was a time when the high school girl down the street would babysit me in the morning after he left. My mom would deny it, but there was a time period where she left me with him and she didn’t live with us. Maybe she was serving time or something (just kidding). But I can remember one morning when Grandpa was at work, and the high school girl had left me so she could go to school, and I was left alone in the trailer. I was watching Captain Kangaroo and I knew what time I was supposed to leave for the bus stop in order to get to school. Apparently, this particular episode of Captain Kangaroo was fascinating (maybe Mr. Green Jeans was doing something interesting???) and I missed my bus. I was probably about 6 years old, and as you can imagine, the panic ensued. I didn’t know what to do except call Grandpa at work and tell him I missed the bus. He told me that I better go ask one of the neighbors for a ride because he couldn’t leave work. I ended up asking one of our neighbors and she gave me a ride to school, but this memory always amazes me. Could you imagine any of this happening in our world today? Simpler times, I guess.

Grandpa and I spent a lot of Sundays at the local VFW hall. I would get a hamburger and a Shirley Temple cocktail to drink (complete with the maraschino cherry, orange wedge, and little plastic sword). There usually weren’t a lot of children there to play with, but they had a kickass playground, and in the summer I would play outside, while Grandpa shot the shit with his WWII buddies. In the winter, I’d burn through quarters on their pinball machine. I was a damn good pinball player even then. I still love pinball to this day, and whenever I am in an arcade, I lose my shit if I see a pinball machine. On our way home from the VFW hall, we’d stop at Dairy Queen where my grandpa would get me a small vanilla cone dipped in chocolate. This is the same exact thing I order at DQ to this day. And it puts a smile on my face every time.

Grandpa used to play with me outside too. For an old guy, he was pretty active, and I am thankful for that. He would take me out to the lake in the winter to go ice skating, and swimming in the summer. We would sit out in his yard on summer days and have watermelon seed spitting contests, and he bought me my first bicycle. Later, when I graduated from high school, Grandpa also bought me my first typewriter to write my college papers on. He was so proud of me on graduation day. I wish he had lived long enough to see me graduate from college, and then again from law school. I’m sure he would have been beaming with pride.

We would watch football games and he would pop popcorn for us to eat during the game. I can remember him trying to keep me interested in the game by having me watch for when all the players would “jump into a pile”. That was funny to a little kid.

My grandparents were divorced long before I came along and my grandpa was a bit of a Casanova. He liked to ballroom dance (I’m sure he’d enjoy “Dancing with the Stars”) and he had one particular lady friend who he would take out dancing frequently. Her name was “Vi” – short for “Violet” – and I can remember him getting ready for their dates. He was color blind so he would always ask me if his clothes matched. It was the 70s, so he had a vast array of colored leisure suits – one that sticks out in my memory was his sage green one. He would always have me stand on the couch and make sure his collar was down.

Grandpa moved to Florida when I was 13 and it about broke my heart. By that time, my parents had gotten married, my brother was around and I didn’t live with Grandpa anymore. He had retired from his job and the winters became especially hard on him. In the summer, he would drive from Florida and come visit us, spending a few weeks here in Michigan, making sure he saw everyone. His family still lived in Louisiana, and he would go see them too. I used to write him letters and I still have the letters he wrote back to me.

Grandpa died when I was 19, after losing a battle with lung cancer. He never smoked when I knew him, but he was a heavy smoker as a younger man. He died in Florida, but he wasn’t alone. One of my aunts lived in Florida at the time, and my mom was there visiting too. I was kind of pissed at my mom after he died, because I was going to come to Florida one last time. We all knew he was sick and that he was probably going to die. My mom told me not to come and then within a few days, he passed away. I was in the middle of my final exams at college and actually had to take one of the finals the day he died because I couldn’t get in contact with the professor ahead of time to postpone my exam. I don’t remember the exact date of his passing, probably because I don’t want to remember the date, but I think it was December 12.

Grandpa’s funeral was here in Michigan, and he’s buried at Mt. Olivet. His funeral was very nice, and there was even a 21 gun salute at the graveside. My mom and her sisters decided to bury him in his tuxedo, so he made a pretty dapper dead guy. The last time I saw his body, I was standing at the casket with my mom. I kissed him goodbye on the forehead. Grandpa was the only dead person I’ve ever touched, and it was kind of a shock. His forehead felt like cool cement. I will never forget that feeling.

I’ve only been to the cemetery once to visit his gravesite. It was on the one year anniversary of his death. Part of me feels guilty for not visiting him more often, but I don’t think he minds. I think about him all the time and he visits me in dreams sometimes. The last dream I had with him in it – I’m convinced I visited him in heaven. Or at least his version of heaven. He lived in a beautiful oceanside mansion that was a sparkling white. Actually, everything was white – his clothes, furniture, everything. He was with Vi, so I am guessing she has since passed away (I lost touch with her after he died). He looked amazing – healthy, happy, tan….and vibrant. Of the conversation we had, he was telling me how well he was doing, and in the middle of it, my dad interrupted and was yelling to me from the downstairs that I had to leave. I remember feeling like I did not want to leave for anything, but Grandpa told me I had to go. I woke up with an overwhelmingly serene, yet sad feeling. I was so happy to see him again, but so sad out time was cut short.

I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t have a brief memory or thought of Grandpa. Whether it be red delicious apples, vanilla cones dipped in chocolate at DQ, or football games. I also remember Grandpa whenever Husband's dad does things with Daughter. They spent last summer together and are looking forward to spending another summer together. They go swimming, play golf and baseball, and go get lemon ices at Husband’s aunt’s bakery. They ride bikes and go shopping. I get to relive my memories of Grandpa through Daughter and her Papa now. It make me happy that she is going to have an active Papa in her life that will be proud of her on graduation day and will buy her her first laptop to write her college papers on. My only hope is that she gets more years with him than I did.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Losing My Religion

(WARNING: This post is extremely long.)
I have never been a very religious person. Much like the rest of my childhood, my religious education has been quite eclectic, you could say.

I wasn’t baptized as a baby, like most babies. No, I was baptized Catholic at the ripe old age of six. This came about in a very strange and unfortunate way. My mom had an older sister, Helen who had three daughters. I speak in the past tense, because Helen was murdered by her second husband in 1991 when she was 36. And I speak in the past tense about her three daughters, because when I was six, her youngest daughter, Theresa, died from pneumonia (she was three). Apparently, Theresa wasn’t baptized as a baby either, because when she died, my mother, grandmother and Aunt Helen must have collectively shit their pants in a panic that Theresa was going to purgatory or something because that’s when my two cousins and I were finally baptized. I always thought that Catholicism had all of these rules you had to follow regarding getting baptized and all of that – but I am thinking that there are no prerequisites regarding baptisms, because it just happened. My maternal grandmother belonged to a Catholic Church at the time (I don’t remember the name, but I do know the church is long gone, because I had to request my baptism records from the Archdiocese of Detroit when I was getting married). So, I was baptized Catholic along with my two cousins. I don’t really remember much from it other than the matching dresses we all wore (yes, clothes have always been important to me) and that I got some water sprinkled on my head. I also remember the church as big and old-looking – it was probably one of those really old, beautiful Catholic Churches they just don’t build anymore. *sigh*

My Catholic education ended that day at the baptism, because I never really ended up going to a Catholic church very often, and never attend catechism classes. I never had an official First Communion, Confirmation, or any of the other stuff you get to do as a Catholic Kid. For some reason, even today, I feel cheated. But, that doesn’t mean, my religious education ended…oh, no.

When I was 8, living with my parents, they rented a house across a major freeway from a Baptist Church. Somehow they found out that the this church had a bus that picked the kids up for Sunday School and delivered them to church the hour prior to the lecture (or whatever you call it in the Baptist religion. I want to call it “Mass” but I know that’s Catholic). Every Sunday, the church bus would pick me up and take me to Sunday School. This is primarily where I learned about religion. I remember making little craft-type things in Sunday School, and singing “The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me, I stand alone with the word of God…the B-I-B-L-E!” You get the picture. I liked Sunday School, but hated the lecture part of it. And the bus driver obviously was part of the congregation, so it’s not like he was going to drop the kids off until mass was over. And my parents weren’t going to church (funny how I had to go, but they stayed home, isn’t it?), so I had to sit through the lecture for an hour. Some days were kind of exciting, like when someone was getting baptized…because these people took a swim in a massive dunk tank. No sprinkle of water in this church. No, Baptists go all out and wash away your sins with a full-body bath.

Once in a while I got into trouble with the activities I did to pass the time during the lecture. Like the time I brought my cousin, Michael with me. Michael and I – he was about 6 months younger than me – we somehow got on the subject of trying to think up as many swear words as we could. We started writing them down in the little notebook I kept in my purse. (I’m sure you see where this story is going). Well, here’s a couple of 8-year-olds writing down swear words like “Motherfucker” and “Shit” in a notepad IN CHURCH. A while later my parents went through my purse and found my list of swear words, and my dad beat the living shit out of me with a ping-pong paddle. It was one of the major spankings of my life. My mom and I joked about it a few weeks ago, actually, and I told her about how I was with Michael (he’s also passed away now…he died when he was 20 in a motorcycle accident) and how we were just trying to pass the time since the lecture was boring to us. We both kinda laughed about it – especially considering the inappropriateness of it, you know -- being in church. But geez. Kids do dumb shit and really don’t think about how appropriate it is, now do they?

Sometime in the next year or so, my parents found religion too, and became “Born Again”. Whatever that means. We had moved out of the house across the freeway from the Baptist Church, but we never attended church as a family. My parents just ended up watching televangelists and thought that was good enough, I guess. I remember watching the shows with Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Kenneth Copeland, and even the PTL with Pat Robertson. I guess TV church is better than no church.

That phase only lasted a little while. In the meantime, my religious education practically stopped. I did go to church services here and there at Easter and Christmas – I’ve been to non-denominational churches, Methodist, Presbyterian…you name it. I’ve probably attended a service there once in my life.

Fast forward now, to 1991, when my Aunt Helen was murdered (and you thought I only told that story to get your attention and not because it was important to the story, didn’t you?) Helen and my mom were only one year apart in age. They were relatively close, and when she was murdered, my mom flipped out a little. I think some of it was due to the fact that she was only a year younger, and the emotional part of realizing your own mortality is kind of scary, and I think some of it was there are probably some things in my mom’s life that she’s done that she’s not proud of – and I’m sure there was also a little part of it that had to do with my dad.

I don’t really talk much about the scary times with my dad, because I choose to keep those memories under wraps. But besides the fact that he’s an alcoholic, he’s also a Vietnam Veteran, and goes to therapy frequently. I know he had a really shitty childhood (his dad used to beat the shit out of him on a regular basis) and I know he’s got his own demons he tries to kill with alcohol (my non-professional opinion). Well, when I was a kid, he was not attending therapy, and the alcoholism was not something that my mom really realized – probably because she was young and didn’t know better. Anyway, I can remember them having horrible arguments throughout my formative years (I’d say maybe from 12-17) when he would stop going to therapy, probably go off his meds, and go out drinking. He’d come home blinding drunk, start some shit with my mom, and then they’d have crazy arguments, with my mom throwing shit around and destroying things (during one argument, my mom cut my dad’s head out of a family portrait and once threw a coffee mug through one of their living room windows). I usually tried to shut these things out, but I remember one particular argument when my maternal grandpa was visiting from Florida (and whom I worshipped and loved to death) – I was about 18. My dad owned a gun and during the argument, he pulled the gun out, and threatened to kill my grandpa along with my mom. I overheard all of this from upstairs, got so scared, that I grabbed my little brother (who was about 8 years old at the time) grabbed the telephone, and went outside to my car. It was like midnight. I called the only person at the time that I could count on – Husband. Husband and I had only been dating about a year, but he rushed over because he was going to protect me. Once he showed up, the situation had already been diffused, but everyone now knew that Husband Knew. Husband Knew How Fucked Up Everything Was. (Now you understand one of the reasons why I love him and need him in my life. He has always protected me, and came like a knight in shining armor to my rescue when I was scared shitless and hysterical. And despite coming from such dysfunction, he married me anyway. He must really love me, huh?)

After the incident mentioned above, my dad went back to therapy and the gun got sold. To this day, there are no weapons in my parents house, and my dad still goes to therapy. I don’t understand why my parents are still together, because frankly, if the man I was married to pulled out a gun and waved it in my face with my kids in the house, I probably would have called the cops, pressed charges, and then divorced him. That shit is called aggravated assault with a deadly weapon! I also don’t know why I didn’t call the police, and the only person I called was Husband. Maybe I was embarrassed, maybe I knew everything would be OK (although, let me tell you, I sure didn’t feel that way at the time), or maybe because this was during a time where people just didn’t do shit like this (like you never heard of someone killing their wives or family or whatever. Times are different now, and this was a couple of years before Helen’s murder). You’re going to laugh, but I think at heart, my dad is a decent person. I just think he has a lot of problems (understatement) and is probably a horribly tortured soul. I don’t think he would have killed anyone that night, because it’s been 20 years since that incident and there’s never been another similar altercation. And while he and my mom still have arguments, I don’t think they’re life threatening. For all the shit she tells me, I know she’d tell me if something like this happened again.

Anyway, you see, this story is important to why I think my mom flipped a little when Helen was killed. She may have seen herself in that coffin. Who knows. My dad wasn’t physically abusive – it was more mental. Helen was stabbed to death, which to me means that her husband must have really been in a rage. She was stabbed all over her body and was left to die on her kitchen floor. He really did a piss-poor job of trying to cover anything up – he was the first and only suspect. He’s currently in prison, in case you were wondering. He was convicted of second-degree murder, and I think got a 20-year sentence (I always thought it should have been first degree murder, but he must have had one helluva lawyer who argued it was heat of passion or something). I imagine he’ll be up for parole soon, if he hasn’t already. I do know he’s still in prison and I really hope he never gets out. Besides being a murderer, he also molested my two cousins for YEARS (the ones who got baptized with me – his stepdaughters – which pretty much fucked them up for life), which was the whole reason for his and Helen’s argument that night. One of my cousins had finally told her, and she confronted him and told him she was divorcing him.

So when Helen died, it was 1991. I was 20. My mom found Jesus, and we started attending an Orthodox church. Which I came to realize pretty soon, was a version of Catholicism. Only the priests are allowed to marry and mass is like an hour and a half, instead of an hour. Really, those are the only really big differences, far as I could tell. By this time, Husband and I had gotten pretty serious about each other, and he mentioned to me that instead of going to the Orthodox Church, I should start going to Catholic Mass with him. Which is what I started doing. We went to mass together for a few years, in the same church we ended up getting married in. I have to say, I liked going to church with him. The church had a band with an electric guitar, and they rocked the house during all of the songs (Imagine the “Hallelujah” or “Hosanna in the Highest” sent to electric guitar with drums). It was, dare I say it – fun. Husband knew my Catholic education was dismal, and that I had never had communion. I remember the very first time I took communion – it was with him, and at his encouragement. He told me that I should do it, and the fact that I hadn’t had a “First Communion” didn’t matter. But I thought there were rules? Just go! And in that church, in that pew, he showed me what to do when I went up there (“and don’t forget to say “Amen” when he says “Body of Christ”!). Like I said, I’ll never forget it. Like many of my firsts in life, he was there to see it.

After we got married, our church attendance waned, and I can’t say we’re regular church-goers. We’re bad Catholics. I mean, we don’t even make it for Easter or Christmas. Bad, bad Catholics. I did manage to get Daughter baptized – and I need to get my shit together, because she’s going to have to start going to catechism because her First Communion will be next year.

But I must admit, I’m not very religious. I sometimes even wonder if there is a God. I like to think that there is – but to be truthful, I really wonder. I think I am more of a believer, than a non-believer, like maybe 75% of me believes, but then there’s 25% of me that wonders. I still pray occasionally, and I really believe that there’s SOMETHING (maybe God) out there helping us with our journey in life. And I just don’t believe as a just-in-case…you know, just in case there IS a God. I truly believe just because I do. I can’t imagine that life is a random miracle. Although I do believe in evolution, and think most of the stories in the bible are akin to allegories…meant more to teach lessons, and less as Actual Stories of Real Events.

The whole point of this post, is that lately – and by lately, I mean in the last couple of months – Husband has seemed to find his religion. Raised in an Italian-Catholic family, Husband had the typical Catholic upbringing. He had a First Communion and a Confirmation, and knows all of the pomp and circumstance that goes along with being Catholic. Which, at times, I am jealous of – because I wish I knew about all of the saints, and understood what transubstantiation meant (actually, I do know what it means, because I looked it up). But you get the idea. I even bought a book a few years back – “The Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Catholicism” because I wanted to know what everything meant.

Husband has started going to Mass (mind you, he goes during the week and doesn’t invite me), regularly, and we also have shrine-like candles lit that burn all day in our bedroom. There’s two of them – one is for me, in the hopes that burning this candle will somehow help me pass the Bar exam – and the other is for his cousin, Anna, who has now undergone her second liver transplant in the past month (her body started rejecting the first liver she received).

Husband has even found a website for St. Anthony, who among other things, is the patron saints of “lost causes”. He put a prayer for me on this website. Nevermind that I find it both offensive and funny that Husband considers me passing the bar exam a “lost cause” and when I mentioned that to him, he basically brushed off the literal meaning and said “It can’t hurt”. But the St. Anthony website also had a novena that you are to recite everyday for nine days – and Husband has printed it for me. I did say the novena this morning before our shrine of candles (and before I blew them out). But I got a text this morning asking me if I remember to say my prayers from Husband (along with a second, rapid-fire text, that also asked me if I remembered to take my vitamins and eat my veggies, like a good Hulkamanic? -- 80’s reference if you didn’t get it) – which I found hilarious.

I apologize for this long and winding post. I bring all of this up, because I don’t know how to feel about God, let alone with Husband finding religion. I’ve been a Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist…and non-denominational. I’ve seen tragedies in my life, I’ve seen miracles (with the birth of my daughter) and I’ve lived through hell to see another day. I’ve seen shit and have questioned God on why it happened (why did my cousins have to be molested? Why did Helen have to be murdered? Why did Michael die that day on that motorcycle?) WHY, God, why?

I have been saying to Husband for a very long time that we should go to church as a family, but I haven’t been saying it for myself, I say it because I think Daughter should have some sort of religious foundation. Even if she chooses not to continue with it when she’s an adult, and even if she ends up where I am, not even being a 100% believer – I still think having that foundation is important. Part of me thinks it’s nice that Husband has started to go to church more often, but part of me has to question his sincerity. I’m cynical that way. He seems earnest. He seems genuine. He says his reason for it is that he wants to be a “better person”. He even went so far as to buy a Blessed Mother statue for our yard. When I joked that we have truly arrived and finally told the neighborhood that We Are Italians! – he got a little offended. Geez, learn to take a joke. I didn’t say it to mock the Virgin Mary. I didn’t say it to mock religion, nor to mock him Finding His Religion. I said it just as a joke, because it’s a stereotype, and I love stereotypical humor. Get over yourself.

But I just wonder when I am going to find my religion, too. I don’t want it to come to me because of some tragedy, like my sister being murdered (although, I don’t have a sister, but you know what I mean). And I don’t want to find it because I’ve decided that passing the bar exam is a lost cause and my only way to pass it is to invoke the help of God Almighty. Or because I think I need to be a “better person”. I’d rather find it just because -- just because I have faith, and want to be filled with the love of God that so many people talk about. I only wonder if that day will every come – the day where I trust God enough not to question him anymore, and to believe that He knows best. I doubt I’ll stop questioning, though. But I’d at least like to Believe in the way so many people I know do. When will I find my religion? When, God, WHEN?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

More Things I Just Don't Get

I know you're dying for more...

1. The Twilight series. Yes, I read all of them. And was severely disappointed. Besides the goopy-lovey-dovey crap that these novels are filled to the brim with -- much to my chagrin and disappointment -- if you're going to tell a love story, the characters need to get it on. Not to be crass or anything (and I fully understand this was a story about a girl who was in high school) but seriously. I don’t want to hear about about true love without hearing about how awesome the sex is. I don’t care what you say – sex and love compliment each other -- Is it just me??? These books don't have nuthin' on the Sookie Stackhouse series that HBO's TrueBlood is based on. If you want vampires, vampire lust and vampire sex....combined with really fun and interesting characters (which is really the most important part, isn’t it?), don't waste your time with Twilight and got get the first Sookie novel, Dead until Dark.

2. Octo-mom. Ok, I realize that it’s medically amazing to carry and then give birth to EIGHT babies, but after learning about what a nut this woman is – it’s time for the media to just shut off the cameras and forget about her. It’s obvious to me she loves the media attention (and Angelina Jolie). I don’t think her craziness deserves to be rewarded, so we all need to start tuning out on this one-way ticket to insanity. Side note: Howard Stern played a 911 call Octo-mom made in 2008 because she couldn't find one of her kids (the kid was with her mom out for a walk, but because she has so many kids, she didn't realized this???) The call proved two things: this woman is an attention-whore (you really have to hear the call -- I think it's on TMZ if you want to check it out for yourself) and that she shouldn't have so many children. One of them is bound to get lost or misplaced or something for real next time.

3. Rush Limbaugh. I was reminded yesterday how much I can’t stand Rush Limbaugh when Howard Stern was playing some recent clips for some talk that Rush gave. And it’s not that I don’t get the fact hat he’s a conservative, because, OK fine, everyone is certainly entitled to their own political opinion. But what I don’t understand is how people can actually think he makes any sense. An example: he compared wanting President Obama to fail to wanting the Cardinals to lose in the Super Bowl. He compared our country’s policies to a fucking football game. I’m sorry – if President Obama and his policies fail, we ALL lose. It’s not like someone gets to run in the middle of the field with a trophy if the economic stimulus, tax plan and universal healthcare fail. I’m not saying you have to agree with everything the President does or says – all I am saying is that wanting the President to succeed means wanting the country to succeed. Plain and simple. The analogy that Rush made makes so sense whatsoever. Even when Bush was President I still wanted him to be a successful President. Rush also tried to say that it was OK that he said he wanted President Obama to fail because liberals have said they wanted to war in Iraq to fail. Again, that’s a misstatement. No one wanted the war to fail – they just said they wanted it to end and for the troops to come home. Rush Limbaugh is such a turd.

4. Oreo cookies. While cookies and cream is one of my all-time favorite ice cream flavors, I really don’t like eating Oreo cookies by themselves. I hate the white stuff in the middle because it reminds me of lard. Lard mixed with sugar. Admit that your tongue gets some weird coating when you eat it – you know it does. And the double-stuff Oreos are double-gross.

5. Marilyn Manson. I was reading Us or People (it doesn’t matter which) and it was saying that Evan Rachel Wood is back together with Marilyn Manson. I don’t know how he continues to get seemingly “normal” (and I use the phrase loosely, because it’s obvious that if you’re with him you’ve got a few screws loose) women. I remember reading Jenna Jamison’s book, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, and she had been with him. She said it was strange and weird. YOU DON’T SAY. Like I didn’t see that coming from a mile away. I’m sorry, but money and fame only goes so far. There are P-L-E-N-T-Y of single men in Hollywood or the music industry that these beautiful women could latch on to – why MM? Could you imagine having sex with him and him looking at you with those creepy contacts in his eyes? You know he wears them and doesn’t get all normal at home. I’m sure he’s Marilyn Manson 24-7.

6. Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise. Doesn’t Katie Holmes look like the most miserable person on Earth? Her hair keeps getting shorter and shorter and the dark circles under her eyes get darker and darker. Remember when they first started dating and she glowed? It was like she had a permanent smile on her face – she was lost in the delirium of Tom Cruise. Now, even when she smiles at her kid her eyes look empty. I wonder what’s up with that? And she’s aged 10 years for sure. Yikes. Be careful what you wish for.

7. NASCAR. I don’t understand where the excitement exists in watching race cars go around a track 500 times? The only truly edge-of-your-seat moments are when there is a crash, and even I don’t want to see someone die for the sake of few moments of excitement. Although, I will say that Talladega Nights: The Tale of Ricky Bobby starring Will Ferrell was hilarious.

8. Wicked (the novel, not the broadway play). I suffered through about 90% of this book before I finally gave up and stopped giving a shit. Overall, the story is interesting enough – it’s the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz from when she was born until…well, until sometime into adulthood (since I gave up on it…who knows). My problem with the book is that there were way too many made-up places and made-up names (which may not make sense to you if you haven’t read it) -- it was difficult to piece it all together. It was like reading a foreign language without the translation dictionary. I am sure the actual story could have been told in some familiar language in half the amount of pages. The author acted like he was paid by the page (maybe he was!)

9. Beer. It tastes like shit. Or piss. Or both. I don't know how anyone can even drink it without gagging.

10. The "good" toilet paper. I don't understand why people pay more money for the really soft toilet paper. First of all, it sticks to your wet butt half the time and no one wants to have TP stuck all in the crevices of their nether-regions, do they? Second, it's only actually touching your body for like 0.0000000001 of a second, so who cares if it doesn't feel like a pillow rubbing your ass? Grow some balls, people. Scott Tissue is good enough for me and I don't need the extra "pockets" or for it to be "quilted" before I'll use it. It's a waste of money....you're LITERALLY WIPING YOUR ASS WITH IT! Spend your money on something worthwhile, like the Puffs Pluss Kleenex! That's definitely worth the money especially when you have a cold and have to blow your nose 100,000 times...who's with me on this one???

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Old School Fridays

I was driving to work last Friday, listening to my Sirius radio. As you may or may not know, I have a long commute to work now (it's about 50 miles one way) and so I am extremely thankful for my satellite radio.

I usually listen to Howard Stern, but Fridays is is "Best of the Week" show, and of course, the rebroadcast of something I already heard during the week will most likely happen during my morning commute. And if it's not anything that I found particularly funny, I go find entertainment elsewhere.

As I've mentioned before in this blog, I sometimes listen to Sirius' station, OutQ, which is a station dedicated to the LGBT community. Most of the shows on the station are extremely entertaining to me. Their morning show is one of those that I enjoy frequently. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed, however, that the format of the morning show was different. It’s now called “The Morning Jolt” and the host is still the host (Larry Flick), and his sidekick is still there (Keith Price) -- but the bi-sexual woman was gone (Cynthia) and they were playing music between their morning banter, instead of just having a morning talk show.

I couldn't decide whether I loved this new format...because one one hand, there is the stereotype of how gays are on the forefront of all the new, fun, club music (which I am a fan of) but then on the other hand, I loved the talk format so much, I didn't want to listen to music. I wanted to hear what Larry, Keith and Cynthia were chatting about -- and where in the hell did Cynthia go anyway???

My opinion changed this past Friday, when Larry announced it was Old School Friday, then played "La Freak" by Chic. Holy shit! I haven't heard that song in a million years...or at least it felt like a million years. It reminded me of my childhood and where a lot of my love of music came from....

I was born in 1971. My parents met when I was 4 years old, and they got married when I was 8. I spent much of my childhood (the years up until I was 8) moving around, either living with my mom or my grandpa. It was never stable, and constantly changing. (And Pete wonders why I find discomfort in being spontaneous – another story for another time, but you can understand, right?) During the time I lived/spent with my mom, some interesting music memories have stuck out. One was she took me to see an Elton John concert when I was 3 or 4 years old -- I don't remember much from it other than the crazy costumes that he wore and it being really dark except for the spotlight on Elton. Another was when she was driving me to daycare one morning (so again, I’m guessing I was probably about 3 or 4) we were in her Pinto listening to “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. In case you don’t remember it, it’s the song that goes “Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon…when you coming home dad, I don’t know when, but we’ll be together then, dad, I know we’ll be together then.” Nice little diddy about being abandoned by your father. I find that memory particularly interesting, considering my biological father (whom I like to refer to as The Sperm Donor) never wanted anything to do with me and basically abandoned my mother and I. (Does anyone wonder why I am so nutty??) Anyway, back to the music memories…

I remember looking through my mother’s album collection, and here’s a sampling of the kind of music she was into: Led Zepplin, Elton John (of course), Jethro Tull, The Beatles, and of course, Barry Manilow. Looking back, I find browsing her record collection to be particularly interesting, because she doesn’t strike me as the type of girl who would rock out to a little Led Zepplin, but apparently, she did. Actually, she’s not all that into music, nor has she ever been. I don’t ever remember her just putting on a record and enjoying it. Ever. My awesome musical memories are thanks to my dad.

Now you all have heard me gripe about my dad. Yes, he’s a shithead sometimes, but he’s still my dad. When he married my mom, he took the steps to adopt me and The Sperm Donor was gracious enough to give up his parental rights so my dad could assume his. I always found this admirable, because after all, I’m not really his kid – you know what I mean. But he always treated me like I was, and more importantly, went to court to rewrite history. And no matter how mad he makes me, or how disappointed I get with him and his irresponsible behavior, I will never forget that he came along and became my dad (albeit a dysfunctional one), but hey. It could have been worse! I digress….

My dad grew up in Highland Park and his high school was racially mixed. Looking through my dad’s album collection, I found records by The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder – lots and lots of Motown. In the later 1970s, he played a lot of Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores, Donna Summer, Rick James, Michael Jackson (when he was still normal)…I could go on and on. Of course, there was also a lot of disco being played – you couldn’t escape the Bee Gees. One of my favorite memories is of my dad playing “Superfreak” when it came out. He would play it loud (a good stereo was always very important to my dad) and he would play it over and over. I also have the same memories of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls”. Not exactly the most appropriate music for an elementary-school aged child, but it’s not like I knew what they were talking about and the music was funky and enjoyable. Even today, my dad likes to listen to music loud – especially in the car. He’s one of those people. I looked through his CD collection once a couple of years ago just to see if there was anything “good”. Along with Earth, Wind and Fire (one of my favorites too) was Madonna, Prince and Ricky Martin (the good Ricky Martin CD with “Livin La Vida Loca” on it and not the one that came after that one). I can’t scoff at those artists.

Which brings me back to last Friday and The Morning Jolt. When I heard “La Freak” -- I could see my dad, dancing his heart out in the living room. Even though he doesn’t look like Sherman Helmsley, my dad always kind of reminded me of George Jefferson from “The Jeffersons”. Maybe it’s because he sort of moves like George did, maybe it’s because he is balding like George, or maybe it’s because I swear deep inside my dad, there beats the heart of a black man. Or at least there used to be, until he became a Republican. :) The Morning Jolt reminded me how much joy I get from music and I have my dad to thank for exposing me to a lot of R&B, soul and funk music growing up.

I can’t wait for this Friday to come along, so I can tune into another installment of “Old School Fridays” with Larry and Keith. It’s fun to remember this music and experience it with a couple of middle-aged queens (and I’m not being derogatory here, because trust me, they’ve referred to each other as queens) who have a true appreciation for the music and the fun it brings. And you’ll know it’s me when I’m tuning in – I’ll be the one with the volume turned up and singing my heart out, just like dad did in our living room when I was a kid …”Awwww… Freak OUT…La Freak, so chic…Freak Out!....” HELLYES!