Category Archives: adventure

Taxi Driver.

I am terrified of public transportation.  With three trembling fingers left over, I can count the amount of times I’ve ridden in a taxicab.  It seems as though, in the name of convenience and adulthood, I should be able to overcome my fear of chaufferism, but when I actually think about my past experiences, it doesn’t seem too strange to me that I’ve ousted it as an option.

 

Cab Ride #1:  I overslept one morning in my Freshman year of high school.  My mom took this as an opportunity to teach me a lesson about responsibility, so instead of driving me to school, she made me call a cab and pay for it myself.  I’ll spare you the details about my stuttering and inability to remember my address while I was on the phone with said cab company.  When the taxi arrived, I stumbled outside, close to tears.  I had a giant guitar with me since my music teacher wanted us to bring random instruments to fill up the space created by her failure to concoct a lesson plan, so I’m sure the cab driver was amused at the juggling act I performed all the way down the sidewalk.  I approached the front passenger door and wriggled my guitar, bookbag, purse, armload of texts, and loose papers full of shitty poems about dragons and medieval wars (a “book” I was “writing”) into the seat.  The cab driver snorted a little and asked me if I wanted to put my shit in the back.  But I did not trust this man, so I told him no.  It wasn’t until halfway down my street that I remembered a movie I saw where a whore flagged a cab and put her spangled, spandexed butt in the front seat.  The driver said, “You know what it means to be in the front seat, honey.”  And she proceeded to give him a blowjob while he drove through the rainy meat-packing district.  I spent the remainder of the ride with my face plastered against the window, my plaid skirt bunched up in my fists and dragged down to cover my knees while the cab driver attempted to hurl pleasantries at me.  Every word out of his mouth, I construed as a proposition.  I still feel bad about this.

 

Cab Ride #2:  Fast-forward twelve years.  My parents were living in New York, and at the end of one my visits, they accompanied me to the airport via taxi.  It was 4am and we hailed a cab and (thank god) piled into the backseat.  The driver was a very foreign man, and, peering at us in the rearview, said, “VAIR?”  We said, “JFK, please.”  And he looked at us again and said, “VishTirg Nu Plmbbrklq.”  Assuming he was asking us to repeat our destination, we responded in over-enunciated tandem and at a higher decibal, “J. F. K. AIR. PORT.”

 

What happened next has haunted me for years.  The man looked close to tears as he screamed at us, “YOO STOOPEED FUCKS!  I TRYING TO BE NICE MAN, ASK YOU HOW IS YOUR MORNEENK AND YOU YELL.  NO HALLO, NO GOOT MORNINK.  NO RESPECT, FUCK!”

 

My dad immediately responded to the man as though I was eight again, and he was protecting me, which I loved.  “STOP THE CAB, SIR, WE WILL NOT BE NEEDING YOUR SERVICES,” he said in the whitest way imaginable.  We exited the cab like a load of sleepy clowns, and the man sped off without asking for payment or even waiting for us to close the door.

 

The reason it haunts me is I keep getting flashes of the cab driver readying himself in the darkness of 2am, thinking of his family back at home far away and all the dollars he’s going to send them, combing his hair and straightening his collar, and practicing English in the mirror.  “How do you do?” he asks his reflection.  “Goot mornink,” with a little head bow.  And then he gets to work, and the first white family he picks up responds to his salutations by yelling the name of an airport at him.

 

While I realize that this is simultaneously an unbelievably compassionate and fantastically racist way for me to imagine the situation, I still cannot seem to shake this image, and I’m pretty sure I’ll feel bad about it forever.

 

Anyway, I feel like I can, in fact, go through the rest of my life without riding in a taxicab again.  Maybe someday I’ll tell you the story behind the reason I will never subject my future child to schoolbus rides.  It’s a really harrowing account, and it involves genitalia and substitute drivers.  I bet you can’t wait.

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Party Girl.

I choose to fancy myself a successful mingler, much like I choose to remember that I’m terrific at bicycle riding.  Since I rarely perform either of those simple tasks, it is not difficult for me to convince myself I am good at them.

 

The last time I hoisted myself onto a bicycle, it was my old roommate’s, and I quickly realized with horror that the last bike I owned only had two speeds:  However Fast I Can Pedal and Stopped.  And to stop this bike from 1986, I only had stop moving and the training wheels did all the work.  But there were levers and cranks and buttons and baubles on this modern, more threatening bicycle, and since I possessed knowledge of none of their functions, I ate asphalt in under 90 seconds.

 

Something very similar happened to me at the party I just attended.

 

I’m going to share a phenomenon I have experienced since buying the bar.  I rarely get invited to parties, and it’s because everyone hilariously assumes I’m already going to other parties.  Every Monday, customers ask me “how the parties were this weekend,” and they look alarmed when I say that I spent my weekend watching reality TV and trying to find the source of the eight fruit flies in my bathroom.  Why are they there?  There’s no food in there.  I don’t keep food in there.

 

I live on the end of a very short, largely unoccupied, dead end street, and three days ago I realized that four of my bar regulars have lived two doors down from me for five months.  How did we never notice that?  This is an adorable group of young friends whose presence I always appreciate at the bar.  They are intelligent and talented and respectful.   So when they announced on Facebook that they were having a party, and I was invited, because everyone on Facebook is invited, I started a countdown to my evening of social finesse. On the night of the party, after overcoming a minor sartorial crisis, Jedd Evan and I stuffed our coat pockets with leftover beers and headed over.

 

Minutes later I found myself standing in a room full of Zog’s regulars, and MY turf was nowhere to be found.  Standing in my own bar imparts me with a certain confidence I’m always sure will translate into real life should my participation be required in a social capacity other than hostess, but it never does.

 

I’m very good at the bar.  I’m quick and funny and I use poly-syllabic words and I treat my friends to good stories and charm dollars easily out of people I don’t know.  I can tell jokes and recount tales and issue advice and do creative things.  But when I’m not on my own turf I forget how to be a functional person.

 

I parked myself across from the fridge and started talking to two guys I knew and two guys I didn’t know.  Almost immediately, someone opened said fridge and I watched as a full gallon of milk freed itself in slow motion from the top shelf, burst open on the linoleum and spilled onto my flipflopped feet.  I made a couple of jokes about crying over it and silently congratulated myself amid their polite laughter.  Suddenly, the following sentence exited my mouth and I was forced to watch its painful trajectory as it barfed itself into the conversation:  “Hey three of you guys have glasses and guess what my old roommate just moved out and he left three giant bottles of contact solution do any of you guys ever use contacts do you guys want them because I can just go run home and get them.”  And then suddenly, propelled by my good intentions, I was sprinting the fifty yards back home in my milkfeet, wondering WHY THE HELL I just opted to distribute bottles of contact solution like party favors at an ophthalmology mixer, apropos of nothing.

 

I returned with the contact solution, distributed it to the bespectacled unwilling, and gave Jedd Evan the pre-opened, rejected one, which he employed as a conversational tool by using it to replace random objects around the room.  As in, he’d slyly leave the contact solution in place of the hot sauce in front of ten people chewing things that needed hot sauce.  Everyone laughed because he is funny, and good at parties.

 

Some guy came up and told me he liked all my earrings, so I immediately slapped my ear a few times in response.  Why did I do that? Then I talked a mile a minute about how you touch your own hair when someone notices you got a haircut, and I hit myself in the head a half dozen more times to illustrate my point.  No one said anything.  Or laughed.  But a few kids did rescue me by launching into a full Q&A about Zog’s, in which I took part for close to twenty minutes.  It was painful, and not because of them.  They were delightful.

 

It was me.

 

They asked legitimate questions, such as, “How does someone in their early 20s buy their own bar,” (I’m 30), “Do you feel bad kicking out drunk people,” (no), “Do you ever have to cut off your friends,” (I almost exclusively have to cut off my friends), and, “What does that ___________ tattoo mean?”  About halfway through this exchange, I realized I was being potty-mouthed and very boring and I could sort of see it on their poor faces. They had the look I get when I want to end a conversation I’m having with a social pariah but I don’t know how.  I felt so awful for them.

 

Abruptly, I released them from my small-talk grip by simply shrugging and saying, “Whatever,” thereby relinquishing my monopoly on the conversation, and instead of asking them questions about themselves, which is what you DO at a party, I just sort of shut up and stood there until they floated away.  I tried to interject witty remarks into other people’s conversations.  Here are some examples of things I ACTUALLY SAID:

 

“Oh, Elvis is still alive?  Wait.  Costello?”

 

“Yes, yes, I got all the milk out of my shoe.”

 

“My parents got divorced and that’s how come there’s a treadmill in my living room.”

 

After a while I just stopped saying anything.  What was heartbreaking was that no one was being even slightly rude to me.  All the dumb shit I was saying and all the awkwardness I introduced to the room—it all came from me.

 

But the sore, palpitating crux of shame came when, after being silent for a while while Jedd Evan performed beautifully with the group he was regaling on the other side of the party, I decided to step up to the girl Audrey and take her shoulder and lean in and whisper to her.  I said, “Audrey.  I don’t mean to be a downer but I never get invited to parties and I’m really nervous and I really don’t know how to talk to people.”  I don’t know why I did it.  I guess because I just needed to say it to someone but it’s really not the sort of thing you tell a virtual stranger at a neighborhood cookout.  It was time to go.

 

I went out on the porch with Jedd Evan and slumped in a chair next to a wool-vested, headless plastic human skeleton, a remnant of a Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to, and I clutched my tepid bottle of Fat Tire and stared into the street and tried to tell Jedd Evan funny stories while I thought about all the nice, welcoming people inside the house and how I’ve not had enough practice at parties and even though (or especially because) I’m almost a decade older than most of them, I’ll probably not get any better at this point, even with practice.

 

I’m probably just being paranoid.  But, see, the problem is that I’m thinking about it at all.  As Jedd Evan and I trudged home, we passed Rich’s house, and Rich is a bicycle mechanic in Carrboro.  I waved to him and then glanced over at my old roommate’s forgotten bike under my carport.  Maybe I’ll bring it in to Rich for a tune-up tomorrow and see if I can’t get the hang of it again.

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Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Sew.

Dear Jedd Evan,

You know I’ve never claimed to have a firm grasp of domesticity.  I own an iron but it’s only used to seal shit that I screenprint.  I am mentally incapable of stocking up on toilet paper so every couple weeks I have a panic-stricken three minutes where I almost pee myself scrambling around in search of any forgotten stack of Christmas-themed dinner disposables or piles of Wendy’s napkins.  Every time I pay a utility bill, it comes laden with a reconnect fee.  And there’s that famous oven-hole in my kitchen, and we all know that holes in the wall don’t bake shit, but at least I have somewhere to store my hundreds of dollars worth of unopened Tupperware Party trappings.

However.

I am very good at laundry.

I love doing laundry.  I love doing my laundry, I love doing other people’s laundry.  I love folding people’s clothes, I love how washing machines are basically magic.  When my dryer broke, I spiraled into a fit of debilitating depression at the thought of having to spend Laundry Time at a laundromat.  I somehow passively finagled my parents’ dryer away from them when they were divvying things up after their separation, and this is very telling because if I had been presented with some other appliance, say, their crockpot or their can opener to store in my house as a constant reminder of the demise of the only relationship I held sacred in my life, I would have rejected it with a fervor.  But a dryer?  There was no question it would be mine.

Since my epic firing from my stupid burrito shop job has left me with only a part-time position at the local ArtsCenter and my very own bar that belongs to me and only needs to be tended to at night, I have plenty of time during the day to play Boz Scaggs as loud as possible while I parade around in my underthings with a fifth of whiskey and several craft projects in progress.  I don’t usually get drunk during the day but as an adult, I’m allowed to say, “Fuck it,” and do what I want, which, last Thursday, was to get smashed and clean the five sets of filthy clothes I’d been collecting on my bedroom floor.

So imagine the thrill I got when I went to go put in the first load and I found the washing machine full of someone else’s shirts and socks.  There was a whole wardrobe in there for me to clean and dry and fold!  On closer inspection it was revealed that you were the one who had unintentionally abandoned your duds and unwittingly left them for me to handle.  This made more sense than if they had been Idaho Billy’s clothes, because Idaho Billy takes all his things to the dry cleaners, which is a mysterious and grown-up place, the inner workings of which I can’t quite fathom.

I got to work immediately, putting your clothes in the dryer, trying to decide what things I was going to fold first when they were done.  “Should I start with socks?  Or work from the biggest to smallest and tackle the hoodies and pants first,” I asked myself in my growing whiskey haze.  My plan was interrupted when I grabbed your favorite slacks, the ones with a rip that starts at the crotch and ends somewhere six inches down so that your naughty bits are constantly threatening to free themselves with every step you take.  I know by now you have no intention of repairing the pants, though you constantly want to discuss the fact that they are unraveling at an alarming rate.  Even though I know you wouldn’t give a flying fuck if the pants propelled you into the realm of indecency in the middle of the grocery store, Jack Daniels insisted that I could save the day by sewing the peep-hole shut.

I ran, RAN into the craft area and started wildly digging through my sewing drawers, holding all different shades of navy embroidery floss up to the ruin to find an appropriate color match.  I pricked myself with four different needles in my haste to find the right one.  I located my teensy, tiny thread scissors and my red plastic thimble.  I found my needle threader, which was quite a feat.  The fervor with which I was tackling this project shot some sort of adrenaline rush into my brain, where it mingled with the alcohol and together, they convinced me that this was the best idea EVER.  I was so ready.  There was only one problem.

I can’t sew worth a SHIT.

Doesn’t matter!  I brought all my treasures onto the front porch and the stray neighbor cat jumped into my lap and started playing with my thread.  Matt was across the street letting his dogs out and plodded over to the porch when he saw me.  Wonderful!  Now I had something ELSE to distract me from the delicate surgical procedure I was about to inflict upon your poor clothes.

Once Matt and I started talking and the cat started rolling around on the pants in my lap, I started sewing with abandon.  I felt good about it.  I felt so confident I even stopped watching what I was doing.  I was creating intricate patterns with the navy floss.  I was pioneering new sewing techniques, namely the one where you sew like a deranged spider weaving a web while on some serious hallucinogenics.  “Whatever!,” I told myself.  “it does not need to be beautiful!  It only has to hold Jedd’s weenis in his pants!”

After about twenty-three minutes I looked down and realized I had been connecting two flaps of fabric that were definitely already connected with a sturdy machine-made overlock in a brilliant angry orange. Okay, so I reinforced it I guess.  I pretended not to panic as I righted myself and started from a different angle.  I swigged some more whiskey and furiously attacked the pants with the jankiest, most retarded-looking whipstitch I could muster.  I sewed the rest of the rip this way, then doubled back on it “just to be sure.”  The result, when I turned the pants right-side-in, was a half-closed hole with a gaping area that would have lined up perfectly with exactly what it should not have once the pants were being worn.  I tried again.

It was during this third attempt that I was struck with a very distinct sinking realization that I had not ever bothered to ask you if you could sew.  Perhaps you preferred your pants this way.  Maybe they lent easier access at times when you only had four seconds to pee.  It was possible that you like your clothes a little beat up.  It was also possible that you are a brilliant seamster, a secret tailor, even, and that my plebeian foray into the world of crotch mending was, while well-intentioned, decidedly ill-advised.  I pushed these thoughts out of my head with another shot of whiskey, finished the job, and surveyed the damage.  The pants actually looked worse than when I started.  I folded them carefully, and discreetly hid them under the detritus of your half-unpacked bedroom.

It has been almost a week and they are still there; I check on them once or twice a day.  I can only hope that when you finally discover them, you will not notice the lack of refreshing breeze traveling past your nether regions, and if you do, please realize that everything I do in the name of domesticity, I do it with a full heart and good intentions, and if there’s a problem, I’ll be waiting in the next room, seam ripper in hand, at the beck-and-call of the pants I accidentally destroyed.

Best,

Mandolina.

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Brownie.

It is entirely possible that I have just eaten a hash brownie unwittingly.  In my epic attempt be the most non-grocery-shoppingest adult on the planet, I have given birth to and raised the most successful and healthily understocked pantry at least on my street and in, quite possibly, America.  An inventory of my food cabinet just revealed that I am the proud owner of four different types of steak seasoning, a bottle of Mexican vanilla flavoring, a half-gone box of spaghetti noodles, and an open bag of marshmallows of questionable age.

Fact is, I live like a 22-year-old boy in that my house is a gallimaufry of tiny living room adventures and abandoned art projects, of coffee-stained sheet music and babydoll heads, of too many books and not enough bookshelves, of dirty dishes and dirtier towels and tennis shoes that match no articles of clothing in my possession.  I like my house the way it is, but no one, not even my delightfully slobby roommate, agrees with my current lifestyle.  I can’t stop accumulating things.  They’re all important things.  I have no need for most of them now, but I know that as soon as I throw them out, I will commence a project which will require these precious objects, these twisted coat hangers and paint-crusted brushes, these cinderblock chunks and bits of fabric refuse.

But instead of making my life and my house look like I am worth a shit, I decided to teach myself how to play Mr. Bassman on piano.  In the midst of all the unwashed plates and the unrecycled beer bottles and the detritus of bachelorhood, I managed to ignore all my responsibilities in order to revisit my childhood (which I apparently spent entirely at Showbiz Pizza ) and teach myself to play a Rock-afire Explosion song.  For you, and you only, I have made a video of my 25-YEAR-OLD record playing Mr. Bassman.  I wish I could say that I had to abandon my blog-writing and dig the record out of a box labeled “Amanda, Dorky things, 1985,” but I cannot, because, at age 30, Mr. Bassman is perpetually set up in my little Telex record player, ready to go at anytime.  I listen to it almost every day and I dance around the living room.  For serious, though, it skips twice in the video, and this is because the record is the actual one given to me by my parents at age 5 since the first time I heard the Rock-afire Explosion live and in animatronic person I almost lost my mind and I wouldn’t shut the fuck up about Fatz the keyboardplaying gorilla until I could have him at my fingertips at all times.

Isn’t it magnificent??

 

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New Kids on the Block Put Me Under the Knife.

I am 30, and tomorrow I will go to a roller-rink birthday party for a guy my same age.  This is exciting to me.  We are all adults, and roller-rinks are more fun for us now.  When I was a kid, Skate Country was the greatest place on earth.  Skate Country had everything.  The 40-something self-loather dressed in a referee costume, the giant fuzzy dice, the strobe lights and the disco ball and the arcade with Whack-a-Mole that would spit out tickets you could redeem for those little rubber finger monsters or Pixie-Stix or Fun-Dip.  The laser pointers and the Barbie knockoffs cost more tickets than were feasibly earnable, but we didn’t care.  We had those things already.

I fancied myself the fastest skater in all the land.  I’m pretty sure I was.  But I had to exit the rink floor when they played the Couples’ Skate song.  I say “song” as though there was only one, because there was.

 

Timmy T‘s

“One More Try,” was the intensely negative force in my life that kept reminding me that, at the world-weary age of 9, I would never have a boyfriend and I would probably die  alone.  “One more try,” he would sing, and I’d think, “I never even got ONE try.”  “I didn’t know how much I loved you,” Timmy would croon, and my pursed lips spewed angry, lonely hellfire words, “YOU NEVER LET ME SHOW YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.”  I wanted to be the most important thing in someone’s life, and Timmy T and his stupid Couples’ Skate song kept reminding me that I wasn’t.

So I set my sights higher than the 4th grade boys who played football badly and made fun of me for my ability to win spelling bees.  I decided my one true love was no other than Joey McIntyre, my very favorite New Kid on the Block.

I had the orange plastic lunchbox.  I had the puffy-paint tee-shirt.  I had the neon-green plastic earrings.  I had the bedsheets and the pillowcases and the Teen Beats and the board game.  My dad taped all their TV appearances for me on Betamax, and I watched them until they wouldn’t play anymore.  I had conversations with Joey during which I would spill secrets I didn’t even tell Jesus.  I had (and still have) all their cassette tapes.  Posters.  Trading cards.  Lunchables with their five faces on them.  Katie Smith and I would run home after school every day and practice the “The Right Stuff” dance where you hook your thumbs into the elastic in your Jams and kick your skinny legs out from side to side (see minute-marker 1:19 in below video).  We perfected the parts in “Hangin’ Tough” that sounded eerily like the Wicked Witch’s Palace Guards’ chant from the Wizard of Oz, and watched the part in the video where they air-guitar with baseball bats about a thousand times.

And then, in 1990, my aunt appeared like a dream at my house with three tickets to the goddamn New Kids on the Block concert.  She was going to take my cousin and me, and we would go to it and then we would be complete humans, not the sub-par, barely-carbon-based, non-NKOTB-witnessing idiots we were before the concert.

When we got there, all decked out in our boy-band paraphernalia, I thought I might lose my mind.  I am pretty sure I peed in my hot-pink overalls.  My side ponytail was hiked up high enough to make me look like a bona-fide cheerleader.  I looked good, and I wanted to make sure Joey saw me.  This was my only chance.

My aunt presented us with NKOTB cassettes that we did not own yet, which was enough to send me over the edge and bring on spastic fits of excitement that had to be distilled in no way other than screaming Joey’s name at the top of my tiny lungs.  We were in Row LL, which was 38 rows away from the stage, so I yelled loud.  And hard.  I screamed.  I jumped.  I panicked when he didn’t stop mid-Roger-Rabbit to single me out and whisk me away to live in the condo I assumed  he shared with Boy George.  I tried so hard to get him to notice me that I did not pay attention to my body screaming out in protest.  Three hours later I was in the hospital.

I had overexerted myself while attempting lifelong happiness and, in doing so, I gave myself a hernia.

I shit you not.

It was the first (and last, at this point) time I had ever gone under the knife.  I didn’t care.  My parents brought me more Teen Beats than I had ever seen in one room and they brought my Nintendo to the hospital and bought me Paperboy and I played that shit till I mastered Saturday.

I thought for sure this stunt would get me on Joey’s radar, and I’d love to say that it did, but I can’t.  He’s still out there somewhere, and I will always love him, Timmy T style, and if he’d only give me One More Try, I could honestly say that I have more to show for my devotion than a 21-year-old scar that’s still numb to the touch.

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It’s Irrelevant.

He’s got this spiky blond hair, sort of messy.  And his jeans always have holes in them. You can tell he’s brilliant, just by looking at him, at his expressions. He is everywhere you are, just another person in town, but another person in town in the same places at the same times as you for whatever reason.

You don’t know his name, but you feel like you should. He’s familiar to you, and why? There’s no reason for things like this.

You know you’ll never meet him.  As it stands, he is an intriguing fixture, with a brain not to be picked or realized. He is scenery, environment. But he is the scenic route as well, and if he was cosmically chosen to haunt your lunchtimes and the shows you go to, then that’s completely fine with you.

You are downtown, driving, parking.  You’re terrified of parallel parking and you will circle the block fifteen times until you can attempt it without holding up traffic. You pass up three perfectly good parking spots because of this and then realize it was all by default. There was no one behind you that whole time. But now you have to make the block. You get back onto Franklin Street, pass up that first good spot for no good reason, and spend twenty-two minutes backing into a space.

You exit the vehicle. You are fumbling for quarters, locking the door, and you glance up to see. . .

. .him. . .

. . .the Mystery Boy. Your fucking heart drops and shatters on the pavement. Soul Meets Body is thundering in your head, and you become annoyed at the whininess of Death Cab. A nickel falls to the ground, and you somehow have the coherency to leave it there because meters don’t take nickels and then you wonder why you’re even thinking about loose change at a time like this.  It’s not as though you can talk to him. And then:

“MANDEY!! MANDEY!!”

You look up and there is the girl you met at the Centromatic show. The one who, when you sat next to her, launched immediately into a story about how she spilled her life story guts onto this random broad in the bathroom of some random bar, and the Centromatic girl is freaking out because “Oh my god, I didn’t even KNOW this woman!!!” And you’re thinking, “You don’t even know me.” And you laugh. The girl’s name is Mary, and she is hysterical, and when you say “hysterical,” you actually mean both “funny” and “a maniac.”

But anyway, there she is, calling your name in broad daylight, and with her is your Mystery Boy, and this is too much to handle. Mary introduces you to Him, tells you to swing by the Cave Bar for a beer. You agree, with no intention of actually showing up because you don’t want to destroy your Mystery Boy; you have drawn conclusions and built his personality for him, and should he speak, he may not fill the shoes you have tailored and created.

You think, “If you weren’t a terrible parallel parker, you never would have met up with them. If you would have just parked, you would have been long gone.” You go to the Cave.

The light outside was a dwindling brightness and the Cave inside is dark.

You do not remove your movie star sunglasses because you feel that if you can’t see people clearly, they can’t see your sub-par complexion, your ill-concealed awkwardness, your bumbling posture. It’s like when your dog shit on the carpet and then stuck her face in between two pillows as though if she couldn’t see you, you couldn’t see her either, and she would not be reprimanded. You look like a complete tool with your enormous shades, staring into your purse, looking for nothing, forgetting how to order a beverage.

The bartender is looking at you. He speaks slowly, clearly, carefully, “WOULD. . .You LIKE A BEVerage, Mandey?” You get a High Life and you stare at it. You snap out of the funk.  You turn on the clever banter and the endearing sweater removal. You tell Mary and Mystery Boy stories about back home, about your favorite movies, about whatever, ever, anything to keep them there. Your mind is a holding cell for contradictory social responses. Mystery Boy is definitely clever, and undeniably antsy. He wants to leave, and you can’t blame him. You’re too frenetic, too wound up, too greasy from eight hours of work. His name is Joey Battles, and he is leaving the bar to go have dinner next door at Fuse. You are feeling a mixture of utter relief and profound disappointment.

You chug the rest of your beer and follow him with waiting for an invitation. You spend two hours sitting outside, two tables away from him, smoking way more than you usually do, thinking about how it’s funny that when a guy and a girl break up, the girl is automatically crazy. Ask a guy what happened with his ex, and he’ll undoubtedly reply, “Oh man. She was fucking craaazy. Woooh!”

There is a sprig of mint as garnish next to the pie you don’t remember ordering, and you pop it into your mouth, swallow it, and then ask everyone at the next table if it’s safe to eat the plants that decorate your food. No one’s sure why you’re asking, because you’ve already eaten it, and you decide that if you are fated to be dead within the hour, then so be it. At least you had the greatest culinary sendoff imaginable, because Fuse handmakes all their pies.

The crowd dwindles, and you look up to find that Joey Battles has made his way over to you, and you are talking, but not really connecting, about music. You decide to leave the vague emo bands behind you. You will ask him his favorite band. Your favorite band is Tool, which makes people cringe because that’s like saying your favorite band is the Beatles. It’s too broad. You harbor images spiked with Technicolor clarity of sitting in Jessy’s bedroom after school, having just smoked a Marlboro Light under the bleachers of the playground down the street from her house. You are young, and you know you’re not supposed to be smoking, yet you really love that your uniform shirt smells gross like that. Jessy is fumbling with some CDs and asks if you have ever heard of the band Tool, and you say no. She puts it on, and Tool makes you feel like hidden cigarettes do. . .it’s a totally guilty pleasure, and they say curse words, and you know this is not something you should be hearing.  You fall in love with the band, and carry them with you through all of the phases, personalities, changes, and surreptitious experimentation that come with adolescence. Tool is your favorite band because you’ve never grown out of them, and it’s okay that people roll their eyes because you feel that your thirteen years of unwavering devotion lends an acute credibility to the response.

So you ask, “What’s your VERY favorite band?”

He says, “Tool. You can go ahead and roll your eyes. You’re totally judging me right now, aren’t you?”  Because when he says this, you are smirking into your hands, which are covering your face, and it looks like you are trying not to laugh. But really you are just smitten. Completely. He understands your point, exactly.

You and Joey Battles are back at the Cave now, in the exact spot you were when you were staring into your purse five hours ago.  The shelf behind the bar is stocked with various questionable snack items, including chips with a logo so retro you wonder about the last time the delivery truck passed through. There is beef jerky and there is citrus flavored gum. Underneath all this is a shelf of canned goods. Soups. Bomb shelter type items. You find yourself staring at the soups, knowing you have seen them a hundred times before, yet you had never questioned their existence. Where’s the microwave? There is no can opener. Why the soups? You’re about to brush it off when Joey Battles says, “Look at all the soups. Why the soups? What is the common factor with all these soups?”

“I don’t know, they all begin with C?” you guess. Chicken Noodle, Beef Consomme, Chicken and Stars, Clam Chowder.

“No. Sodium. They all have really high sodium content.”

And he may be a mind-reader, bringing up the soups like that, there is so much junk behind the bar and yet you both chose to single out the Campbell’s. You are thinking of the Counting Crows  and that one line in Anna Begins that goes, “Every time she sneezes I believe it’s love.” And you wonder if you’re reading too much into these shared thoughts, the favorite band being Tool, the soups. Does it mean anything? A coincidence? Do you believe in coincidence, or is it fate that you’re counting on?

You bring him home. He warns you that his house is shaped like a penis, and when you get there, it sure as shit is. It is a Quonset Hut.  There’s a squarish area in front, and then a domed sort of hallway that sprouts the kitchen and the living room, and then a ball-sack-shaped bedroom area behind that. The overall layout is undeniably phallic. The first thing you notice is a built-in bookshelf and a very furry white rug. You are in love with this house, if nothing else. He excuses himself so he can change his clothes, and you are left with his Boy-Roommate, with whom you attempt to perfect the High-Five. Boy-Roommate’s girlfriend has the most fabulous hair you have ever seen. You become considerably self-conscious of your filthy locks, having come from work, needing a shower intensely. Joey Battles emerges from the ballsack of the penis-house, and you try not to stare at his outfit, an inside-out T-Shirt and a very short batik sarong. You realize that, while you cannot yet be in love with Joey Battles himself, you can definitely be in love with the idea of him. It is that sort of love that grows from profound endearment. But you will not do him the injustice of believing it’s love if he sneezes.

You spy a gigantic cock-a-roach climbing next to Boy-Roommate’s head. You and Girl-Roommate immediately dive under a fleece throw.  “If you cannot see it, it cannot see you, you will not be reprimanded.” The boys spring into action, grabbing various weapons, and they kill and smear the cock-a-roach right onto the wall there. You and Girl-Roommate are hyperventilating, and Joey Battles and Boy-Roommate are breathing open-mouthed and prehistorically, having reclaimed their house as their own, and with their loincloths and long hair, are now going to retreat to their respective caves. You are reminded of why you love boys in general so much

The next night, you find yourself back at the Quonset Hut.  Joey Battles hands you a beer and asks if you want to take a walk. There are lot of woods and gravel roads around, and even though you’re wearing a skirt and platform heels, this is not the sort of wilderness opportunity you want to pass up. For three hours, you walk through the woods with him. These are the things the two of you do:

1. You look into people’s windows, the people who are awake and watching TV at this time of night, and you come up with life stories for them. You have created: a girl who is sleeping on the couch, her boyfriend awake and spooning her, and he has been watching the DVD menu screen for quite some time. They were supposed to do it but she fell asleep and now he is disappointed and horny and doesn’t know how to excuse himself for the bathroom without waking her up. You have created: an elderly widow stricken with insurmountable insomnia, which she combats by watching television way too late, waiting for him to come back home from the dead, or to die herself. You are impressed at Joey Battles’ ability to do this sort of thing because YOU do this sort of thing and you often wonder if anyone else ever does. They do.

2. You find a parking lot with an unsettling apartment complex on its edge. There is an eerie, dilapidated truck in the corner. The front license plate says something in Spanish, and there is something proudly displayed on the front windshield in Old English lettering. A sticker on the back says Chihuahua, and there is a blanket draped over the back seat with little hearts all over it. You take several pictures of the truck, mostly because you want to make sure you’re not hallucinating it.

3. You sit at a bus stop to rest, you have no idea where you are, but Joey Battles does, and that’s enough. Trusting him to not get you lost in the woods is a great precursor to this leg of the journey, because you end up talking about relationships and trust and loyalty and people who cheat, and you say you do not cheat. You do not ask him if he has ever cheated. You do not want to know, really. Not just yet. Past the bus stop is an administrative building with a little courtyard smoking area built onto the side about fifteen feet above the ground. There is a gate surrounding the courtyard. You ask Joey Battles if he is a good climber, because it is very easy for you to imagine him scrambling up trees without incident. With barely a word he is jogging to the raised courtyard, and, of course, he seamlessly scales the brick wall, the fence, and is over and into the courtyard, raising his fists, clenched together, over his head in a sign of victory. Or was that you, being victorious for him? Who knows?

4.  You settle into a gravel-covered clearing and attempt to discuss the coincidences surrounding your meeting. Only, the words come out broken, and you are terrified of sounding like a stalker weirdo. You try to assess whether he is someone who won’t care that you’re sufficiently knowledgeable in everything but an expert at nothing.

You go back to the Quonset Hut and end up on the floor with him, a cereal box, and an unabridged dictionary, and the two of you are finding words in the cereal’s ingredients that that you cannot define, and you look up each word in the dictionary. Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin. They are all members of the elusive Vitamin B Complex. Maltodextrin is not in the dictionary. Not even the unabridged dictionary. You keep thinking about how you sit around at home looking up words in the dictionary, and you try to learn a new word every day, and if you skip a week, then the pressure’s on to learn seven all at once. And when people call you and ask what you’re doing, and you say, “Um. Reading. The um, the DICtionary,” they will undoubtedly acquire a reason to get off the phone. Who reads the dictionary? Now you know the answer.  Joey Battles reads the dictionary. So as not to sound contrived, you don’t bring up the fact that reading Webster’s is a favorite pastime of yours, and you are content with the thought that now you have your own personal sarong-wearing, dictionary-reading, soup-can-noticing, wall-scaling roach smasher.

Define: happiness.

The night is over, it is 6am, and you have been sleeping next to the dictionary for five minutes. He wakes you up, he extricates you from his life for the night, you say goodbye, and you leave.

Thus begins your life after meeting Joey Battles, and you have no idea what will happen next, and you’re not sure what you did with your life before him. It is not a question that should be answered, much like his was not a brain to be picked and then realized. But he’s letting you, he’s letting you pick and realize, slowly but surely, and you have no doubt that in time, you’ll pick and realize exactly what you did before him, and you’ll decide to forget whatever it is that that was.

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Ready, Set, Abandon!

Dear Evan,

It is 8:30am on a Sunday, and I am in my purple martini pajama pants sitting at the bar, blasting Sade’s “Diamond Life,” and watching adorable boys in bandannas and flannels bustle about with wires and lights and cameras and gadgets.  Their rappel hooks are clinking against the tools in their belt loops and I can’t identify the equipment they’re tinkering with and their hair is all mussed and they’re all thin and wildly focused. The girls in the art department are beautiful and hip and too big for this tiny town in their short-shorts and Keds while they mix batches of fake brains in the bathroom and change the decorations in the bar to fit the scenes.  They’re shooting that movie again at Zog’s, and even though my brain doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of any time before 11am, these people are awake and chipper and no one’s drinking the coffee I made, which is startling to me.  I’m waiting for the lead actor to show up in his leather blazer, because I know he will drink some because he already has a favorite mug here, even, and I’ll feel better about myself for being this worthless this early. He’s quite disarming and since my first impression of him was when he was in crazy-intense character, his actual personality is warped in my mind. For the first couple of hours, he made me nervous and I couldn’t look him in the eyes until I realized he’s just a really good actor.  His beard is the color of apple juice.

Apple juice, coincidentally, is the same color as Wild Turkey 101, so we filled up an empty 101 bottle with juice for the Hitman to drink out of.  It looks so real, but that’s movies for ya.

Hobbling over the cement cobblestones haphazardly leading away from The Viking’s purple cinderblock house felt surreal so early this morning.  I thought I’d never reach my car even though I only had to travel 50 feet.  I’m not used to wearing ill-fitting tank-tops this time of year, and I vaguely worried if any old people were peering out their windows thinking I was doing a Walk of Shame, which I wasn’t.

Right now the actor with the apple juice beard is poring over a ton of guns splayed out on the third pool table.  I’m supposed to be the Assistant Art Director, but I sincerely hope they don’t credit me as such because, aside from me having decorated the bar before the fact, no one has asked me for my art opinions about anything and I don’t want to take credit for things I haven’t done.  I play a bartender in the movie.  I don’t even have to act, which is helpful.  I’m tired of acting, generally, in life.  They asked me to wear makeup.  I don’t really have any.  I hope they brought some.  I hope someone knows how to put it on me.

I guess my hair’s the color of apple juice, too.  I’m just noticing it as such.  I used to think it was the color of day-old iced tea, and I might be right, still.

The first movie set I worked on was almost a decade ago and it was in a tiny, creepy town deep in Louisiana bayou country.  It was the type of place that will haunt you; things are a little too quiet and ghosts are everywhere in the crumbling bricks and Spanish moss and kudzu chokes whatever’s still alive.  The basecamp was set up in an abandoned grocery store.  It looked like people were either setting the store up or taking it away and they just sort of. . .stopped. . .halfway through.  Why wouldn’t they finish the job?  Want pictures?  Here’s one:

Abandon Production, Leave your Ladders.

That was the summer I mildly befriended Dave Matthews, who played a part in the movie.  I learned three things about him:  He drinks quad lattes with no sugar, he smokes, and he owns a fuzzy blue sweater that he will claim he wore for your enjoyment if he thinks it will make you feel special and regarded.

Show me the way, leave me one candle.

The next movie set I worked on was the one where I accidentally cussed out Jude Law for asking me where the fried chicken table was.  I didn’t know where it was, and I clearly wasn’t fucking manning it.  I was, however, manning an espresso station with a broken fucking espresso machine.  I told him as much without looking up, and it wasn’t until he lightly grabbed my arm and gave me a piercing, reassuring smile that I realized who I was treating how.  I didn’t care, though, because he’s a cheating bastard and I totally judge him for that.

So now it’s Monday morning and I’m back at the bar for the next chunk of the shoot and I’m being incredibly helpful by sitting in the corner writing a blog.  But every time I walk anywhere or try to help anyone, I run into a tripod or throw away a carefully-placed piece of prop trash or stand in the way of the dolly tracks.  They did let me do the very first clacky black-and-white slate-thingie, though, which was thrilling.

I think that’s about it from my end.  I wanted you to be the first to know that I didn’t write a blog about being lonely this time.  High-five that hot wife of yours for me.  I’ll see you soon.

'scuse me, what aisle is creepiness on?

mandey

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