Part Two: Sunday, or Darling I Love You But Give Me Park Avenue
It was close to bar time when we left the Brown Baer and drove even further into the country to Dee-Dee’s sister Cheri’s house where we would all be spending the night. Earlier in the week, Dee had suggested we bring a tent and camp outside under the stars. I thought it sounded like a great idea, mainly because that would leave more space in the air-conditioned living room for me and my inflatable bed.
For all their summer camp stories and Davey Crockett dreams, when everyone saw the big leather couches and thick plush carpeting in the living room, they had second thoughts about sleeping on the hard ground outside.
Dee-Dee stretched out on the chair and said, “This is so fun to have all of us together – it’s just like old times!”
“Exactly which old times are you talking about? When have the five of us ever all slept in the same room?”
“Oh yeah… I guess never. But still, it’s fun!”
While Natasha was still in the bathroom getting ready, we had all staked our claim on the various couches and plots of land. Cheri decided that since Nat was the smallest, she would get the love seat. She was not happy.
“So, Jenny… can I sleep with you on your inflatable bed?”
“No way! It’s just a little bed! I roll around a lot.”
“Oh, come on… I’m just a little thing.”
“You’ll spoon me!”
“No I won’t.”
“Look – you’re little. You can sleep just fine on the love seat.”
The debate went on for about ten minutes, until finally I looked over at Nat trying to fold her body into a pike position on the love seat, so I sighed, “Okay fine. You can sleep with me. Just stay on your side.”
“No, forget it now. I’ll just try to sleep here.”
I shrugged my shoulders and curled up to go to sleep. Somewhere around 3:00am I was startled awake by the most terrifying snarling and growling that I thought a bobcat had somehow broken into the house. As I fumbled for my glasses and Swiss army knife, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t a wild animal, but Seamus snoring. I turned to see if anyone else was awake, and noticed that Dee was no longer on the chair, and had likely abandoned us for the comfort of one of her nieces’ beds. Just like old times, indeed.
I took a few deep calming breaths and convinced myself that I could practice self-hypnosis to fall back asleep.
Okay, Jenny. First, your fingertips are heavy and relaxed. Now your arms are so relaxed…
…and your shoulders are loose and heavy. Your head is so relaxed, you feel like you’re lying on a cloud…
… your legs are so tired you can barely move them. All the stress is flowing out of your toes…
Oh for christ’s sake!
I contemplated giving Seamus an emergency tracheotomy, but couldn’t find a ball point pen or any rubbing alcohol, so I went to the bathroom to get some toilet paper to stuff in my ears. As soon as I got up, Nat’s head popped up from the couch.
“Nat… come here! You can totally sleep with me – just help me move this mattress somewhere!”
“Oh, thank god.”
We grabbed the air mattress and stumbled through the darkness toward the patio.
“Should we bring this outside?” I asked.
Natasha headed for the sliding doors, then suddenly jumped back.
“There’s something out there!”
“What? What is it?”
I couldn’t see a thing without my glasses.
“Some kind of animal. It’s either a hydra, or a bunch of cats. I just see one body and like half a dozen heads moving.”
“Shit. We can’t put this out there – we’ll be covered in cats and fleas and ticks in no time.”
We ended up squeezing the mattress between the wall and the non-functioning hot-tub, and fell fast asleep. That is, until about an hour and a half later, when I learned that in the country, the sun is about 10,000 times closer to the earth than it is in the city. I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly so hot, until I turned around and realized that both Nat and I were baking like ants under a magnifying glass as the blinding sun came through the floor to ceiling patio windows.
I threw off my blanket and tried to force myself to get at least another hour of sleep, but kept hearing this strange shrieking in the distance that sounded like something from the Discovery Channel.
“Hey… am I crazy, or is that a peacock?”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
“Where the hell are we? Neverland Ranch?”
Eventually, Nat and I just gave up and went on the back patio to feed the hydra.
Shortly thereafter, we were joined by Dee-Dee and her brother-in-law, Joe. As we sat on the patio sipping coffee and eating cherries and cookies that Dee had brought as recompense for abandoning us, Joe started to tell a story about a neighbor whose cow was pregnant with twin calves. The entire time he was talking, I had one and only one thought running through my mind:
Please, please… whatever you do, do not let this be a story about a two-headed calf. Please… I’m begging you. Just not before breakfast.
Fortunately, there was no two headed calf, just two separate calves that had all their appropriate body parts. Joe said they looked like little dogs, they were so small. I liked the idea of puppy cows, and decided that maybe I could get used to this quiet, country living. What’s more adorable than a calf the size of a little dog? Not much, I’ll bet.
Just then, one of the kittens came bounding onto the patio from the bushes with a little toy in its mouth.
“Ohmigod! Look at the little grey one! He’s so adorable – look at him playing with that toy!”
Joe held back a laugh as he clarified, “Uh, yeah. I was kind of worried about that… I saw the mom walking around earlier with a rabbit in her mouth. I’m pretty sure that’s a foot.”
It wasn’t until later, when the grey and brown object starting gently rolling toward me in the wind, that we realized it wasn’t a foot, but just a big huge tuft of fur that had been ripped off the rabbit in the feeding frenzy that had occurred earlier. So, you know, it was much less disgusting than a foot.
As Dee handed me a lemon cookie, I looked down to see two of the little tabby kittens chasing each other and playing with some leaves.
“Ohmigod! Look at those little striped ones! I love how they keep attacking that leaf like it’s some sort of wild animal!”
This time it was Dee who stifled the laugh, as she pointed out that it was not a leaf they were playing with, but rather the disembodied wing from some bird they must have snacked on earlier. I set down my lemon cookie.
Killer instinct aside, these kittens were insanely adorable and we all struggled to convince ourselves that it was not practical to take them home with us. And that was when Joe revealed that he had been holding out on us all morning.
“Well, this is just the one litter – there’s about six more down at the bottom of the hill. They’re younger than these ones.”
I leapt off my chair and grabbed my camera, feeling safe in the belief that kittens who were still nursing could hardly take down a sparrow, or even a tiny mouse for that matter. Dee-Dee, Natasha and I all bolted down the hill to the big crate by their basement apartment where all the kittens were fast asleep.
“Ohmigod! Look at how many of them there are! There’s like a million grey ones, and just one black one… and look – there’s even a little long-haired brown one hiding under there!”
And that was when Dee-Dee leaned in closer and clarified that, in fact, it was not a long-haired brown kitten, but the decapitated torso of the rabbit dinner.
“OH COME ON NOW! What’s a rabbit carcass doing in there with the baby kittens?! Get that out of there!”
Dee-Dee just shook her head and said, “This is the country, Jenny. Get used to it.”
As we packed up our things and said our goodbyes, Cheri gave me perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve received in ages: “You’re getting so much better, Jenny! You’re way less disturbed by the torn up rabbit than you were by that baby mole being eaten alive by kittens when you visited us last time.”
I thought about it for a minute, and realized that she was right. I was way less disturbed – I could almost be a farm girl! At this rate, I could be delivering two-headed calves in no time. Just don’t ask me to sleep on the ground. I have my limits.
[the full litter on flickr]
Part Two: Sunday, or Darling I Love You But Give Me Park Avenue
Part One: Saturday, or Whoever Made Gluttony a Deadly Sin Was a Total Loser
“Hey Nat – this weekend will qualify as our longest road trip ever!”
“Where did we road trip to before?”
“Okay, so this will qualify as our only road trip ever.”
Although only a three-hour trek, this weekend was a big event for Natasha, Farnsworth, Seamus and me, because we were finally all going to visit Dee-Dee’s restaurant, not as grunt laborers, but as paying customers this time. Or so I thought, until we walked into the bar and were immediately handed black Hefty bags by Dee’s older sister, Cheri, whom I affectionately refer to as The Rebel.
“Hey guys. Here, take this and follow me. Our ice machine broke down so we’re going to the restaurant on the corner to take all their ice.”
“Do they know we’re coming, or are we just stealing it?”
“No, they know. They said they don’t need any until the Sitzman-Markevitch wedding next week.”
I learned that in a small town, six people carrying black plastic garbage bags can walk down the block, into a restaurant, past the gift shop, into the elevator, through the kitchen, around the corner, past the marinating salmon, to the industrial ice machine, then fill the bags with ice and walk right back out without so much as a question, just as long as you say hi to everyone you pass along the way.
Ice crisis averted, we were now free to wander the town until our dinner reservations at 6:00pm. We met up with Natasha’s parents and her sister, Baby G, who were all getting massages at the resort down the street. Dee-Dee told us how we had to come up on a Thursday night sometime so that we could see the variety show put on by the resort staff. All we needed now was an unplanned pregnancy and a big rumba number at the end of the evening to make this Dirty Dancing experience complete.
We went back to the restaurant just in time to get a cocktail before dinner, which is when I discovered that when they were staffing their restaurant, Dee and her siblings clearly pulled out a J.Crew catalog and just pointed to the models they wanted to work at the restaurant. It was like being served by the cast of the O.C., except that in addition to being really tan and gorgeous, they were all really nice. And they ate pizza and Dilly bars for dinner at a community table before the doors opened.
It’s hard for me to even describe how unbelievably, gluttonously amazing dinner was, so I’ll just list out everything I ate, in order of consumption:
• Tuna tartare
• Orange, goat cheese and beet salad
• Wild mushroom risotto fritter
• Grilled broccoli
• Crab linguine
• Swiss chard and ricotta ravioli
• Papparadelle pasta with pork ragu and cannelini beans
• Herb crusted rack of lamb
• Malted milk chocolate crème brulée
• Chocolate espresso terrine
• White chocolate mousse
• Apple crumb tart
• Chocolate cherry torte
• Vanilla panna cotta
• Plum tart
This was all washed down with a great deal of red, red wine. As I look back at that list, part of me wishes I were kidding, but most of me is happy I’m not. I felt such love for Natasha’s parents when they ordered every pasta on the menu for us to all share.
[Natasha informs us the no one tells her she can’t have a glass of wine, a glass of champagne, and a shot all at the same time. We are not, she clarifies, the boss of her.]
After rolling out of the restaurant, we headed down to another local hot spot – The Tiki Bar – where a band played Top 40’s tunes, but somehow made every one of them sound oddly like Jimi Hendrix. At Seamus’ suggestion, I took horribly unflattering photos of all of us which could not be deleted fast enough, so we decided it was time to end the evening at the rowdiest bar in town – The Brown Baer (sic).
The last time I visited Dee-Dee, we also ended the night at this bar, where young women wearing prom dresses cried in each other’s arms. This time, it was filled with fist pounding, glass breaking, chanting hooligans playing some sort of drinking game that seemed primarily to consist of saying the word fuck over and over again.
We kept ourselves away from the career drinkers by playing a few games of darts in the back corner by the bathrooms. It seemed the safest place to congregate, until Farnsworth pointed out a man he referred to as a Columbine kid walking into the bathroom wearing a giant black trench coat on a hot summer evening. We took that as our cue to leave.
We piled into Dee and Seamus’ cars and headed out to The Rebel’s house, where I looked forward to a deep country sleep. How naïve that thought now seems to me.
[Coming Soon – Part Two: Sunday, or The Kittens Are Coming]
I was standing outside the J.Crew near Pioneer Square when I saw him walking toward me. This is Portland, and college is out, so I knew exactly what was going to happen. I tried to look busy – checking my cell phone, looking at my watch, rifling through my briefcase – but it didn’t matter. He had marked me from half a block away. My body clenched with dread as he approached.
Hey, I wanted to talk to you for a minute about something that’s really important to me and you, and that’s how we’re destroying the earth with our consumerism and wastefulness. Are you familiar with Greenpeace?
I shift uncomfortably back and forth, knowing that I just missed the last train, and the next one will be at least ten more minutes. Yes, I’m familiar with Greenpeace.
Oh, that’s great. You know, it’s just such a crime that schools today don’t teach us about our rights. They only teach us about a few of the amendments. I mean, they don’t teach us all of them. The government only wants you to hear…
I look at him – tall, skinny, long straight hair and unblinking dark eyes. He can’t be more than 22. He’s clutching his clipboard and gesturing wildy as he tells me about the crimes against our environment. It’s clear (to me) that I’m not interested, but it’s equally clear that he’s not going anywhere.
I mean, it almost hurts me to be standing next to this sweat shop, there’s such negative energy flowing from the building where they force children in third world countries…
I ask him if he wants to move a few steps away. A nearly imperceptible smile sneaks across his face, then quickly disappears.
Yeah, actually I do. Let’s get away from all these bad vibes.
We take three steps toward the street.
So aren’t you worried about the rape of the forests and the pollution of our oceans and lakes? Aren’t you worried about what’s going to be left for your children?
Sure I am. That’s terrible, but…
But what? All it takes is a minimum donation of $10 a month to help. Don’t you ever wonder why there’s no love in the world anymore? Don’t you wonder that? You know why? Because we’re all pumping our bodies full of chemicals from the big corporations who want to destroy all our forests. You know what they don’t tell you? They don’t tell you that we can go into the forests and pick spearmint and make toothpaste and kill the bacteria on our teeth. We don’t need big factories like Colgate to make toothpaste for us. But they don’t want you to…
I look at his teeth and see that his bottom ones are chipped. I think he could be attractive if he didn’t have crazy fixed eyes. And he’s far too skinny. I look back over my shoulder as I hear a train coming. It’s the red line. I need the blue.
And why do we have so much violence in schools? Because we aren’t teaching kids the right things. We’re just teaching them to grow up and buy shit… excuse my language, I’m just really passionate about this. And it’s because we shove our kids in front of the TV for 12 hours a day and feed them Froot Loops and let them…
I tell him that actually, I kind of like Froot Loops. Again, the tiniest hint of a smile crosses his lips.
But that’s just it! We can make healthy Froot Loops… I mean, do you eat organic?
No, not really. I can’t stand the way organic peanut butter separates into oil and peanuts.
Oh, man. Are you serious? You don’t eat organic?
He actually looks hurt, and I almost feel bad for not liking the peanut butter. Dude, I’m from Chicago. We eat hot dogs for breakfast there.
Oh, I’m from Michigan, man! I totally get it! Where I grew up, it was all rednecks and football and cars… huntin’ and fishin’ and shit. They didn’t care about the earth. They didn’t care about Native Americans.
Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t really fit in there, huh?
No, not at all. That’s why I had to leave. I didn’t have anything when I left, man – I came out here alone. Nothing from my mom or my dad. Well, sometimes my mom will send me $50.
But that probably doesn’t go very far.
I ask him what brought him to Portland, and he tells me the music. So you’re a musician, I ask, and he tells me that yes, he is. What do you play, you play the guitar, don’t you? And his eyes get big and he smiles for real this time and says totally. And he sings and plays the congas and the bass, too. How’s the music scene here? Are you in a band?
I’m trying to, but it’s hard. It’s all indie music and punk music and negative energy here. But I’m trying. I used to be negative, too, but then I found Buddha and Jesus. That’s why I just care so much about the environment.
I’ll bet you’re really good, because I can tell you’ve got a musician’s soul. You’ve got a lot of positive energy – you could probably reach a lot of people with your music.
I hear my train arriving, so I tell him I have to go. I reach out to shake his hand and he pauses, then grabs my hand.
I flash him a smile and wave as I step on the train.
Starting today, I now have a new gauge to determine how much fun I had the previous night. I simply ask myself, “Jenny, how many chopsticks did you wake up with today?”
The answer last Thursday morning was a purse full. Yes, I woke up with an entire purse full of chopsticks. This means that I had a whole purseload of fun with the lovely and talented Asia, Brandon, Shari, Sibyl, and Vahid last week.
There’s something you should know: bloggers are just like real people. And the challenge in any relationship is keeping things fresh. Even among the best of friends, there are times when the beer coaster football starts to lose its appeal:
When you’ve celebrated all the fake birthdays you can get away with:
When trying to tear out your curls won’t stop the bill from arriving:
When it’s no longer fun to earn a mere 500,000 points in Family Guy pinball against someone’s 14,000,000:
When the rats have all gone to their respective sewers to die:
And that’s when you know that it’s time to introduce props, specifically, chopsticks.
Asia and Sibyl fancify their hair with chopsticks:
Asia and Brandon prove that they are part gypsy by stealing my watch with nothing more than two pairs of chopsticks:
I learn that fake smoking makes me neither cooler nor more attractive, even with chopsticks:
We find out how many chopsticks it takes to change a lightbulb (answer: it can’t be done):
Shari lets me eat her macaroni and cheese with both chopsticks and a fork:
Vahid succumbs to chopstick cigarette peer pressure:
Brandon calls home to say he’ll be late because he has to pick up some chopsticks:
I give the universal sign for, “It’s 2:00am, I have a purse full of chopsticks, and an 8:00am meeting tomorrow.”
So in conclusion, when asked to assess how much I enjoyed my evening with this fiersome fivesome, I can quite honestly say that I had 54 chopsticks worth of fun. The bar has been set.
[the rest on flickr]
One time, my friend Natasha’s dad delivered tiger cubs.
He’s a gynecologist, you know. In fact, my doctor is part of his practice. It’s always kind of strange when I see him in the office because then he knows that I must actually have girl parts. I always just pretend like I’m there for paperwork, or like I got a new job as a drug rep: Oh hi! So good to see you! Yeah, I’m just here updating my insurance information. Hey, can I interest you in a Zithromax letter opener? Gotta go, bye!
It’s been a while since my last visit, and when I called to make an appointment last week, they said they couldn’t fit me in until August. I decided to pull rank and take it up with Natasha over drinks one night.
“Hey Nat – who do I need to know at your dad’s office in order to get an appointment before Fall? What – is my doctor pregnant again? That’s like the fortieth baby she’s had in three years. You’d think she’d have a better understanding of birth control.”
“Yeah, they’ve been really swamped.”
“I’m just going to go to your dad.”
She stopped mid-sip and set her wine down as I watched all the color drain out of her face.
“Jenny, that’s not even funny. You cannot go to my dad!”
“Why not? I hear he’s the best. Wasn’t he called in to the zoo to deliver conjoined chimpanzee twins once?”
“No, gave a gorilla a hysterectomy. And delivered some tiger cubs. No chimps.”
“Well, if he’s good enough for gorillas, he’s good enough for me. Set it up!”
“Absolutely not! My friends are not allowed to be my dad’s patients! It’s just not right.”
“So you’re seriously going to knowingly deny me the best medical care available in Chicago just because it makes you a little uncomfortable to think that your dad would be all up in my business?”
“That I would have to explain my sexual history to him?
“That he would know what my cervix looked like?”
“Nat! I don’t believe you’re telling me this. I’m just going to call the office tomorrow and drop your name so I can get an appointment with him right away.”
“Jenny, come on… I’m not kidding.”
It was clear that the joke had gone too far, because Nat started to grind her teeth, and frankly, I had made myself so uncomfortable that I could taste acid in the back of my throat.
“Nat. Did you honestly think I was going to ask your father to be my gynecologist? Seriously. My uterus would need to be dragging around my ankles before I’d call him. And even then, I might just hike it up and act like nothing was wrong.”
“Thank god. Just remember to wear pants if that ever happens.”
It has been brought to my attention that my milkshake does not bring all the boys to the yard. So I guess I could still teach you, but it will be on the house.
And in other news, my cats built a fort yesterday:
So, yes, it was a slow news weekend.
On my drizzly walk home from the train station today, I started thinking about the book I’m going to write. Inspired by the author who wrote the book, All I Ever Really Needed To Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, I’ve decided to write a book called All I Ever Really Needed To Know, I Learned in 6th Grade.
And here’s what I learned:
1. I learned responsibility when I became captain of the crossing guard.
2. I learned some stuff about Native Americans.
3. I learned that people don’t like it when you ruin the ending of The Empire Strikes Back for them, even though it had already been out for like, two years.
4. I learned really important dirty stuff when I read a much dog-eared and passed-around copy of Judy Blume’s Forever.
5. I learned how to effectively resolve peer conflict by chanting, “Yo momma, yo daddy, yo bald-headed granny!”
So I guess it’s not really an entire book – maybe more of an index card. But still, some important lessons all the same. It’s mostly the last one that I hope to reintroduce into my daily life, particularly at work.
“Jenny, it seems like these projections are a little off on the five-year forecast. Can you double check the formulas?”
“Yo momma, yo daddy, yo bald-headed granny!”
“Uh, never mind. I’ll do it myself.”
“Damn straight you will. You and your bald-headed granny. Don’t even pretend like she has hair.”
Because she totally doesn’t.