I’m off to Sonoma for the weekend with Dee-Dee and a couple of her friends from high school. I had considered getting them all really drunk so they would tell me crazy stories about Dee when she was 16, but then I remembered that I’ve already seen the pictures of her with a giant perm and prayer hands leaning against a tree for her senior photo. What more could there be to tell?
We have decided to rent a limo for our tour of the wineries so that we get to feel like the Kennedys, or maybe the Baldwins. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be like MTV’s The Real World: Napa, but without all the crying and T&A. But I’m not leaving until someone makes out with someone. And by someone, I mean me, in both cases.
Wish me luck!
Over Thanksgiving, my family and I watched March of the Penguins on cable while we digested our 4,000 calorie dinner. At one point, after the emotional rollercoaster that is the life of a penguin – 70-mile walks, temperatures dropping to 80 degrees below zero, frozen eggs cracked and abandoned, four months without food, sad wails of father penguins who lost their chicks, and happy reunions – my 96-year old grandmother turned to us and asked, “Do you think penguins are good to eat?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, I bet you’d get in trouble for eating them.”
“But I wonder what they taste like.”
So in honor of all the fallen penguins, devoured by hungry grandmothers everywhere, my nephews and I made dioramas.
Hey! What are you doing on May 4th?
a) Removing temporary tattoos
b) Popping Advil
c) Deleting photos from your digital camera
d) Shaking your head in regret
e) Inspecting the mysterious bruises on your body
f) Some combination of the above
The correct answer is F!
How do I know this? Because on May 3rd, you will all be in Philadelphia at an undisclosed location fraternizing with a wholebuncha bloggers!
Yes, babies, TequilaCon is here. Well, not here. It’s there. You know what I mean. Look, here’s a mini-FAQ:
Mini TequilaCon FAQ:
1. What’s a TequilaCon?
TequilaCon is a wondrous event that brings bloggers from far and wide together, not to learn anything or better themselves, but to make merry. This will be the 4th annual TequilaCon and the bar has been set very high.
2. Where and when is it?
Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
3. What if I don’t drink/don’t drink tequila?
No worries. I think tequila is vile, but I used it as bait to trick the first two TequilaConners into meeting me in Chicago. It totally worked. We do what we have to. As long as you’re cool hanging out in a bar with a bunch of internet geeks… I mean a bunch of cutting edge hipsters… you’ll do just fine.
4. How do I get invited?
You’re already invited! The first official email has gone out, so if you didn’t receive it from me, just send me an email and I’ll add you to the distribution list.
5. What if I don’t have a blog?
Look, we don’t really have strict criteria for attendance. In fact, I’m not sure we have any criteria. If you have a blog, read blogs, have a friend with a blog, know what a blog is, then you’re A-OK.
In fact, I’m working on bringing every non-blogger I know – Dee-Dee, Natasha, Farnsworth, Seamus, Dr. Greene… this could be the first TequilaCon where non-bloggers outnumber bloggers.
6. What do you want from me?
Unconditional love and an occasional back scratch. But in lieu of that, I’d be happy to take some suggestions for bars from anyone familiar with the Philly area. Our criteria: big, near public transportation, serves food.
7. Is that all?
Last weekend, Natasha, Farnsworth and I drove up to Wisconsin to have dinner at Dee-Dee’s restaurant in Elkhart Lake. Her parents’ house is only a few miles away from the restaurant so she said we could all stay there since her parents are in Florida for the winter.
I was thrilled at this prospect since the last time we went to her restaurant, we all slept on her sister’s living room floor, which wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that our friend Seamus had some rare combination of asthma, allergies, sleep apnea, tonsillitis, and post nasal drip that evening that caused him to snore so loudly that my ears bled. Mainly because I stabbed pens in them to make it stop.
“Nat, you and Farnsworth can take this room. It used to be my brother’s. And Jenny, your room is at the end of the hall on the left. It’s a little… well, you’ll see.”
I pushed open the door and just stood there for a minute, taking it all in.
There were two white wicker beds.
There was a white wicker baby chair with Raggedy Ann and Andy sitting in it.
There was white wicker dresser with a shrunken apple head old lady on it.
There was a white wicker nightstand with a telephone that was either from 1973 or from the future.
And there was a child’s desk hosting what appeared to be a shrine to a tiny stuffed dog, complete with a bag of real tiny dog snacks.
“Yeah… so it’s a little intense, I know.”
“Okay, Dee… what’s the story here? This is like something you see when people lose a child and they preserve their bedrooms for posterity. Do you have dead twin sisters that you never mentioned to me?”
“No. My mom just likes country stuff.”
“Why did you put me in the dead baby’s room? Make Nat and Farnsworth sleep here!”
“I can’t. The beds are too tiny. They’ll fall off. You should be careful of that, too. My sister and I fall off of these all the time.”
“Thanks for the heads up.”
We all tossed our bags in our rooms and headed downstairs to watch TV.
“My dad has bootleg Canadian cable. He gets like, 2000 channels.”
And yet, we still ended up watching Meatballs.
I realized that even though I’m pushing 40, I still felt a sense of rebellion at running around Dee’s parents’ house unsupervised. The big difference this time, though, was that instead of sneaking crème de menthe and Peach Schnapps from parents’ liquor cabinets, we were drinking Bushmills and Bombay Sapphire.
After flipping through all 2000 channels about ten times, we decided it was time to water down the gin so no one would notice we drank it, and head up to bed. Before we all retired to our respective rooms, we followed Dee into the master bedroom where I saw some giant glasses sitting on the nightstand.
“Look at me! My name is Jim and I’m your father! Dee-Dee! You get down here for dinner right now! I don’t care who you’re talking to on your gigantic 1970’s telephone… your mother slaved over this gravy bread and you’ll eat it right now!”
“Take his glasses off now! Seriously!”
“You’re no fun, Dee.”
I gently placed his glasses back in the exact position I found them, and headed off to my room. As soon as I crawled into my dead twin bed, I immediately realized that the reason Dee always falls out is not because the beds are so small, but because they are arched in the middle. I had to lie on my stomach and straddle the bed spread eagle like a drunken cowboy in order to not roll off. I imagined Dee-Dee walking into my room the next morning only to find my lifeless body, head wedged tightly between a vice of white wicker.
I somehow made it through the night unscathed and immediately went downstairs to watch 2000 more channels of cable TV before we headed out to the restaurant again for brunch. I got sucked into this retched movie where Nicolas Cage was being hunted by Ellen Burstyn and her horde of crazed hippie beekeepers.
“God, this is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life!”
“Oh, it’s a remake of a British movie. The original was much better.”
“What’s it called?”
“The Wicker Man.”
After my last entry, I received an email that said simply: “Not all dummies are creepy… please meet my friend Jerry Mahoney.”
And then I scrolled down and saw this photo:
My initial horror was replaced by morbid curiosity, followed by a surprising flood of fond recollections. Maybe I didn’t hate ventriloquist dummies after all. Maybe that Mahoney character was all right, snappy little bow-tie and politely crossed legs. And look at his little worn feet. I wonder where he’s walking?
I mean, I had a ventriloquist dummy as a kid and we had some good times, my dummy and me. I’d sit in my room and practice throwing my voice. During my Randy Newman period, I tried to learn how to make him sing Short People, which came across as, “Short teetle got nodutty. Short teetle got nodutty to lud…” I had the same dreams as any other 8-year old girl: Vaudevillian fame and glory.
But then one Halloween when we were too old to go door-to-door for candy, my brother and I fashioned a noose out of a clothesline, fed the other end over a tree branch and into the upstairs sewing room window, and waited patiently to drop my ventriloquist dummy onto the heads of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.
At one point, the snap of the rope was too much for my dummy and his head separated from the body, leaving me with a decapitated ventriloquist doll, and quite possibly necessitating years of therapy to rid that girl dressed like a Smurf of her recurring nightmares of a smiling, unblinking head rolling down the sidewalk at her.
That memory aside, this whole movie theater experience got me thinking about how maybe it was time to get back to my roots. I just imagined all the fun I could have with ventriloquist dummy photo shoots. Ventriloquist dummy reading the paper. Ventriloquist dummy playing Twister. Ventriloquist dummy sipping a scotch next to Pickles. And really, who would shove next to my seat on the train if I had a ventriloquist dummy on my lap?
I started to get a little obsessed with the idea of having a ventriloquist dummy in my house. I’ve been listening to Dan Savage and his Savage Love advice podcasts lately, and he says that as long as they don’t hurt anyone, we should indulge our obsessions. If I denied this strange attraction to ventriloquist dummies I had resurrected, maybe it would begin to consume my life.
So today, I took Dan’s advice and searched for “ventriloquist dummies” on eBay. Having spent a horrific 20 minutes on eBay, I fully intend to call Dan Savage and let him know that this was the worst advice anyone has ever indirectly given me in a podcast. I now understand that we must bury all fetishes deep down into our psyche and never speak of them because if I had, I could have spared myself the image of a grinning Bozo the Clown ventriloquist dummy, which quite possibly will necessitate several years of therapy to once again repress.
Karma, she is a bitch.
So my apologies, Rhonda. I’m sure your friend Jerry is a really pleasant fellow who would never try to steal my soul and trap it inside his heartless wooden cavity, but that’s just not a risk I can afford to take. I guess I just don’t want no short teetle, don’t want no short teetle, don’t want no short teetle round here.
This weekend, Natasha, Farnsworth and I went to see one of my all-time favorite movies – Blade Runner – since it was the limited release 25th anniversary director’s cut. It was playing at a theater in Chicago that typically shows the more alternative, less mainstream films so you tend to find an interesting crowd there. We made sure to get there early because we knew that it would be packed, and as we were waiting for the earlier show to let out, I was a bit disappointed that the most unusual thing I saw was a man coming out of the bathroom wearing what appeared to be an Einstein-esque fright wig, but it was actually his real hair.
The three of us settled into our seats and started talking about where we should go for dinner afterwards, when suddenly something caught my attention.
“Natasha. Nat. Nat! Okay, okay, look. Look at that woman walking down the aisle. Is she carrying what I think she’s carrying?”
“No… it can’t be… there’s no way.”
“Ohmigod it is! It’s a ventriloquist dummy!”
“Maybe it’s her son’s doll. Let’s see if she hands it to him.”
[The woman walked into the row of seats and sat down. To her left was a young boy and to her right was an empty seat. She folded up her coat carefully, placed it on the empty seat, and then set the ventriloquist dummy gently on top of her coat, making sure to turn its head so he could see the screen.]
“All right, so we’ve established that the dummy does not belong to the kid.”
“So maybe she’s in a birthing class and she has to carry around the doll to see what it’s like to have a real child.”
“Nat. She’s like forty-five and has a real child sitting right next to her. Plus, I’m pretty sure most birthing classes don’t hand out creepy ventriloquist dummies wearing cardigans and wingtips.”
“She’s crazy! She’s gonna kill us all!”
“Just keep an eye on her.”
Even though it was amazing to see the film on the big screen once again, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off the dummy’s shiny head. He was directly in my line of vision, and I could swear that on at least two occasions, the woman leaned over and whispered something into his ear.
At the end of the movie, as the credits were rolling by, I glanced over again and saw that the dummy was gone. The woman was still there, but sitting next to an empty chair.
“Nat! The dummy’s gone! It’s gone!”
“Where’d he go?”
“No idea. I didn’t see her move him. Does the kid have him?”
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“Hey, what if you turned around and instead of Farnsworth sitting next to you, there was the ventriloquist dummy wearing his glasses? “
“Ohmigod I’d freak! And what if he was wearing Farnsworth’s leather jacket?
“Yeah, yeah. And holding a bloody bucket of popcorn…”
“Okay, this is no longer a storyline I want to continue.”
“Agreed. Let’s get the hell out of here before he grabs onto your ankles and starts stabbing.”
“Jenny! I’m serious, cut it out. I mean, what kind of freak has a ventriloquist dummy?”
“I had one as a kid.”
“Why does that not surprise me in the least?”
Without even checking, I automatically know that the blinking light on my voicemail is a message from him. He worries about me. He wants to see me. This has been going on for almost a year now. I tell him it needs to end soon, but he protests, and says that we have to see each other for another six months or so while we straighten a few things out.
He just seems to know what I need. A slight adjustment here, remove an attachment there… he gets me, you know? And he always calls to make sure I’ll show up, because I’m important to him. I’m sure of it.
At first I felt kind of embarrassed about this. A little ashamed. But now, I just accept our relationship for what it is – he calls, I stop by. Every six weeks or so. It is what it is. So, no, I don’t feel bad paying him. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.