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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Teddy Bear Contest!

Let's face it, everybody needs love.

When you follow the Adventures of High Wire Girl, you get lots of love.
The Teddy Bear Perfect Boyfriends are here, just in time for Valentine's Day.

They have it all - manners, charm and most importantly, pockets filled with delicious chocolates.

Enter the contest for a chance to spend some quality time with one of these adorable companions. They just arrived here last evening, and they are eager to meet that special someone.

Not ONE but TWO chances to make beautiful music together!
Under the Networked Blog section to the right of this post, click the blue Follow This Blog button to be eligible to win.  It's so easy.

If you're already a follower, you're already in the drawing.  Share the blog with friends you love so they have an opportunity to win.  The more, the bearier!

As always, thanks for supporting High Wire Girl. ox

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My Senior Moment

Most of the time, I do apply a bit of makeup before I leave the house.  A little blush, mascara and blistex.  That is, when I can find one in the bottom of my pocketbook.  Maybe some lipstick if I'm feeling particularly festive.  And when I look in the mirror these days, I find myself thinking, Eh, not bad.  I'm okay with this reaction.  I try to go easy on my equipment.

When I was young, I piled the make-up on pretty thick.  I left the house in the morning, a dewy, fresh faced teen.  I stopped in every rear view mirror and store window up Zerega Avenue, slapping on the war paint along the way.  By the time I got to school, I resembled a 35 year old prostitute.  I was convinced this was a terrific look.

The first time I had my Senior photographs taken, my mother was so horrified by the proofs, she immediately called the portrait studio and scheduled another appointment.  Then she stood me at the kitchen sink and scrubbed the shocked expression right off my face.

Big Mare made the mistake of letting me go to the photo session, unsupervised. A bunch of us girls met at McDonald's, then we took the bus to Olan Mills on Bruckner Boulevard.  Each of my friends was given an opportunity to enhance my exotic Irish features with the careful application of as much eyeshadow and lip liner as my skin would tolerate.  Of course, without collapsing under the sheer weight of their enthusiastic efforts.

Although I didn't want to admit it at the time, the original photographs were quite hideous.  Consider this scenario - An amateur mime is performing on the sidewalk in front of a cosmetic factory.  Suddenly, Kaboom - an explosion occurs! She staggers into the adjacent building and is immediately swathed in a black graduation drape.  Ready?  Say cheese!

During the course of my countless adventures, I've lost and left behind many sentimental items, including my high school yearbook.  I wasn't particularly upset with regard to this souvenir because the initial photograph, with my headshot ready for the Kabuki Theater playbill, was chosen by default to represent me forever at that particular moment in time.  A friend lent me her yearbook recently so I could refresh my memory after all these years.  I barely recognized myself.

The image below is the result of Take Two.  My mom came with me the second time around.  She snapped her gum and smoked several angry cigarettes in the reception area while she waited.  As pissed as she was that day, she loved this photograph so much and kept it on the nightstand in her bedroom always.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Name Calling

I always hated my name when I was a little kid.  Mary.  How boring.

I remember Big Mare telling me how hard she prayed, just so that she could have children.  She said novenas to St. Jude and got pregnant with my sister, Judy.  The next time she wanted to have a baby, she went straight to the Blessed Mother. And that was her absurd reason for why I was called Mary.  It had nothing to do with the fact that her name was Mary, and my folks weren't particularly imaginative.

By the time I'd gotten to the sixth grade, I had moved on to other reasons for which to hate my mother.  One day at recess in the schoolyard, a few kids were talking about a young lady in another class; her name was Robyn.  The only other Robins I'd ever heard of were Batman's sidekick and the second least attractive BeeGee.  Both were dudes.   Besides, this new girl spelled her name with a y. The whole thing sounded highly implausible.

I went home to my mom and told her what I'd overheard.  "That can't be her real name," she said.  "All children are named after saints."

When this recklessly identified female child finally made her way into my homeroom, I got the chance to examine her more closely.  She looked pretty normal, I guess.  Except that she had braces all over her teeth.  I automatically assumed that Robyn's family must be incredibly rich. Her nails were unusually long as well, especially on her thumbs.  And they were painted dark brown.  I wasn't even aware that Woolworth's made such a color!  Some girls said they were fake, but they looked pretty real to me.  At that point, I didn't know who or what to believe.  Almost overnight, it seemed everything about the world was changing, right down to the nail polish.  Robyn also looked like she knew her way around a curling iron.  "She must be from another country," I decided.

Upon closer inspection, I observed that Robyn with a y did, indeed, speak English. Very well, I might add.  Just about as good as the rest of us.  "If she is from Europe or wherever, maybe she really wants to make like she's from the Bronx," I thought to myself.  Hey, who wouldn't?

Like everything else that takes a little getting used to, I got used to Robyn.  She was a sweet little thing.  My fascination with her origin was replaced in the seventh grade by a Puerto Rican girl named Wanda Cordero.  Wanda sat in front of me in Sr. Rosemary's Spanish class.  She knew plenty of Spanish already, before the teacher even opened her mouth.  And she sounded alot more real about it, too. "How could she be Spanish?" I wondered. "Her hair is so blonde."


I promptly went home and asked my mother.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Once You Pop, You Can't Stop...

As far back as I can recall, I never pushed myself away from the table.  If anything was being offered, I wanted some.  It didn't matter what it was - bread, macaroni, potatoes.  Yes, I'll have more.  I liked when my plate was full.  It made me feel safe.  I could disappear into the exercise of eating.  Food provided tremendous comfort when I was a little girl.  To this day, I get very nervous when we run out of certain items.  For some reason, I feel like everything will be okay as long as we have bananas in the house.

Big Mare cooked most nights, but we seldom shared meals as a family.  Judy and I had supper together, and my dad ate when he came home from work.  My mother rarely sat down with us.  She'd graze at the stove or eat a sandwich by herself, with the misery of the evening news to keep her company.


Most of my childhood anxieties began around dinnertime.  My father's condition stepping through the front door set the tone for the evening.  If he was sober, things were relatively peaceful.  But if he went missing or when he was loaded, everything changed.


"Mom, where's Daddy?" I'd ask.
"How should I know?" she'd snipe, angrily.
"Well, are we gonna eat soon?"
"Christ Almighty, Mary.  Get off my back."

Some nights, there were phone calls.  "Tell your mother I'm gonna be late," he'd say.  I could hear it in his voice, that he'd already had a few.  Hey, cops hung out after work.  They sat in the parking lot and knocked back a couple of beers.  They passed a bottle around.  You know, to unwind.  Occasionally, some of the guys drifted down to the bar.  But my father didn't socialize, and he wasn't one for gossip.  So he just drank.  With great purpose.  Just like that, he was shit-faced.

He'd ring the house, again and again.  Each time, more and more lost in the sauce.  "Where are you now?" my mother would cry into the receiver.  A stupid question, really.  At that point, he was never quite sure.  It was a miracle he could find a pay phone and dial the number.  "Jesus, Gene.  Get back on the goddamn train, will you?" she'd beg.

Hours would pass, with similarly useless updates coming in all night.  Sometimes, my sister and I went to bed.  I laid there in the dark, envisioning my father falling onto the tracks and being run over by several subway cars before they managed to hit the brakes.

When he eventually made it home, Dad sat slumped over heaping plates of spaghetti, barely conscious.  Shoveling forkfuls of noodles into his mouth, I'd carefully watch him chew his food to make sure he didn't choke to death.  I looked back and forth, between my mother and my dad.  He was drunk, and she was drinking.  I'd wonder to myself How come this always happen?  What's wrong with him that he has to get this way?  What's wrong with her that she puts up with this crap?  Why are things like this?

Unanswered questions, they'd swirl around in my brain, reappearing unexpectedly in thoughts and dreams.  Without explanations for the things that were happening, these uncertainties chewed little holes into my mind.  I was probably anxious, but I thought I felt hungry.  So I ate.

I was big on hiding food, squirreling it away so I could enjoy it in private.  I'd stash a jar of peanut butter in the basement and bring a spoon with me whenever I went down there.  I'd sneak Spaghettios and hide the empty cans in the bottom of the garbage.  Slices of Entenmann's pound cake and Fig Newtons wrapped in napkins, half a bottle of chewable vitamins.  I behaved alcoholically for years before I ever started drinking.  I think issues with food are probably much trickier than drugs and booze.  I don't need cocaine, but I do have to eat.

I point a finger into the past, and I aim it gently at myself.  Why not?  My folks did the very best they could, so they're off the hook.   When I take responsibility for my own actions, figuring things out is a whole lot easier.  I've always been driven by feelings of need, but I sought physical solutions for my emotional problems. How was I supposed to know any better?  I was just a kid.  And as I got older, I wasn't much smarter.

*******

Every day during the week when my sons return from school, they are starving. Desmond and Rory are big boys with marvelous appetites.  We have dinner early in our home and most nights, we still eat together.  I think it's important.

Recently, I found Bro in the pantry, facing the shelf that's lined with snacks.
"What's up?"  I asked him.
"Nothing," he answered, careful not to turn around.
"Don't lie to me, Rory.  What are you eating?"
"Pringles," he said, clearly embarrassed that he was caught.
"I'm sorry, Mom," he said.  He started to cry.  I almost cried, too.

I pulled him out of the closet and hugged him.
"We'll have supper in ten minutes.  You can wait."
He looked relieved.
"Let me tell you something.  When I ask you a question, no matter what the answer is, I promise you that I'm always gonna prefer the truth.  Do you understand me?"
"Yes," he nodded.
"Good.  Now go blow your nose."

Later that evening, we're hanging around in my bedroom, watching TV.  Rory gets up suddenly and makes for the doorway.

"Where you headed?" I ask him.
"I'm going into the pantry to eat some potato chips."
"Nice try, Brother.  It doesn't work that way."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat



I love the scene in the movie Jaws where Chief Brody finds himself on that tiny fishing vessel, shoveling chum into the ocean. As he turns toward his bucket, the shark appears at the side of the boat, its fantastic face almost close enough to touch.  Then almost as quickly as it reveals itself, it is gone.  In that solitary moment, everything is different.

*******

I should have seen it coming as soon as I laid eyes on that stupid orange.  I hated this game.  It was competitive and anxiety provoking like Musical Chairs, only much more physically intrusive.  Gripping a piece of fruit with my neck and passing it successfully to another person was one of the most disgusting things I could imagine doing as part of a mortifying punishment, let alone a celebratory exercise.  All that rubbing and nudging.  And you had to get in real close.  Too close, if you ask me.

I was thirteen years old and a guest at Patricia LaBruzzo's birthday party.  What a coup to have been invited!  Patty was cute, friendly and extremely popular.  She had a Toni Tennille hairstyle and what seemed like unlimited access to Bonne Bell lip gloss.  Hardly any of my intimate pals were there, but lots of girls I knew from school, as well as a handful of boys.

I'd spent days deciding on my outfit.  I chose a pink short-sleeve mock turtleneck sweater that my mom had bought me for Christmas, paired with a matching pink cardigan.  I also wore black polyester slacks and patent leather loafers.  If this had been an interview at the library, I'd probably have gotten the job.

As a freshly minted teen, I was devoid of any significant identity.  At my mother's strong suggestion, I was dressed much like the women of her generation.  Plus I was chubby, so I really did enjoy those stretchy pants.  If Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore had a baby and fed her nothing but American cheese for a dozen years, that child would be me.

Until the Pass The Orange fiasco, the party was actually quite reasonable. Cavernous bowls of Cheese Doodles and an ice cream cake from Carvel.  Us girls danced together to Tavares, Elton John and the Bay City Rollers.  But that ridiculous game blindsided me, and it got the group good and worked up too.  I recall overwhelming self-consciousness.  The next thing you know, we're playing Spin the Bottle, and I'm smooching some guy with a moustache in a dark basement closet.

The first boy I kissed was John Milanese, and the second, Nicholas Perugini. Ultimately, they meant nothing to me, and I'm pretty certain the feeling was mutual.  Over the years, we haven't kept in touch, and I don't think that makes me a slut.

I got home after the party, and Big Mare asked me how it went.  I said it was fine. I'm sure there was a part of me that wanted to tell her more, but I knew better.  If my mother had any idea what went down that afternoon, she'd have marched up to Buck Street and thrown a brick through Mrs. LaBruzzo's living room window.  I kept my mouth shut.

That night, I waited until everyone was asleep.  I snuck into the kitchen and made myself two baloney sandwiches.  I wrapped them in paper towels and put one in each pocket of my robe.  I palmed some cookies, too.  I went up to my room and ate everything under the blankets.  I brushed the crumbs onto the rug.  I tucked my hands into my underwear and cried myself to sleep.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Motorcrash



Big portions of my conscious life are devoted to inquiries and concerns about less than interesting subject matter.  Once harmless topics of conversation, they soon become epic battles of will between the Killian Brothers and myself.

I went through a phase last summer where all I did was talk about deodorant and toothpaste.  It got to the point where I couldn't put a sentence together without including these two seemingly innocuous grocery list items.

Me:  Did you brush your teeth?
Boy 1:  I think so.  Wait, no.  I mean, yes.
Me:  The whole mouth or just your favorites?
Boy 1:  All of them.  They're clean.
Me:  I'll be the judge.  Open.

Me:  Let's see the teeth.
Boy 2:   I just ate my vitamin.
Me:  Gross.  Get upstairs and rebrush them.
Boy 2:  But I already did.
Me:  Do it again.  Are you wearing deodorant?
Boy 2:  I think I forgot.
Me:  Put deodorant on while you're up there.

Me:  Teeth.  Open.
Boy 1:  You're gonna like what you see.
Me:  I hope so.  What's on your shirt?
Boy 1:  Probably deodorant.
Me:  And on the pants?
Boy 1:  Looks like toothpaste.
Me:  Go change your clothes.

Boy 2:  Mom, my pants are wet.
Me:  How'd this happen?
Boy 2:  I'm pretty sure I sat in toothpaste.
Me:  Show me your teeth so I can knock them out.
Boy 2:  No, don't!
Me:  Are you at least wearing deodorant?
Boy 2:  Crud.  I forgot.
Me:  Unbelievable.

If I drank a refreshing brown soda for every time I mentioned toothpaste and deodorant in July alone, I'd probably still be in the hospital right now, having my stomach pumped.

*******

Fortunately, the dogs for which I'm responsible are still young pups.  They are capable of new tricks.  Most of the time, however, I feel as though I am attempting the same stratagem, over and over.  Just changing one word, every few months. These days, that word is coat.

Where is your coat?
Put your coat on.  Zip up your coat.
Open your coat.  Hang your coat up.
It's winter.  You'll need a coat.
What do you mean, you lost your coat?
Help me find your brother's coat.
What happened to this coat?  It's filthy.
Pick up this bloody coat!

They put the coats on.  They go outside and take the coats off. They're never wearing the coats long enough for body temperatures to regulate so that smart decisions can be made as to whether or not they even need them. They tie the coats around their waists.  They drag them along on the sidewalk. They wear the hoods only - now, there's a fly look!

These mistreated articles of clothing just get flung on a pile with all the other coats that belong to all the other boys whose mothers agonized over which coats their sons might enjoy wearing.  Really, like it matters.


I purchased a gorgeous print on the internet.  A beautiful abstract tree.  I put the picture in a store bought frame and asked David to hang it over the couch in one of the rooms upstairs.
"This is an aneurysm," said Dave.
"What do you mean?  I thought it was a tree," I told him.
"It's an x-ray of a brain aneurysm.  See the R at the bottom of the page?  That's the orientation of the image."
"You don't say.  Now, I like it even more," I diagnosed.

"We have to get a better frame for that print," Dave suggested recently.  "It's all wavy and catches every bit of light from the window.  It looks like shit."
"Great.  When can we go?" I asked.
"Let's wait until the new year," he said.  "After we finish paying for Christmas."
"Okay.  But come with me.  It's very heavy."

"Guys, get down here.  We have to go to Michael's," I yelled from the kitchen yesterday morning.
"Do we have to wear coats?"  Desmond asked.
"Well, it's 28 degrees outside," I reminded him.  "So, yes."

David gingerly carried the artwork to the rear of the Traverse.  I opened the hatch so he could place it gently in the wayback.  That's when I saw the two coats.  The coats they had just put on two minutes before and immediately took off once they got in the car, like a couple of pampered supermodels.  I felt the blood vessel wall in my brain weaken under the weight of a gigantic balloon-like bulge.  I stumbled blindly along the length of the passenger side, reached for the door handle and got in.

"Put those goddamn coats on," I slurred, as David pulled out of the driveway.
"But Mom, we're hot," said Rory.
And that's when my aneurysm burst.

I turned around to face my oblivious children, hollering like a maniac.  I gaped at my husband, perhaps hoping to be coaxed away from the slippery ledge of bad parenting.  But he, too, wore the crazed look of a madman, so sick to death of talking about these fucking coats.  He let them have it, as well.  And I will admit, I encouraged him.  Lucky for these boys, we were wearing seatbelts - for their safety.

We pulled into the Stonecrest parking lot, depleted of vitality.  We quietly exited the vehicle.  The cold air felt wonderful on my red hot cheeks.  The four of us walked into the store and back to the framing department.  The kids wandered off to the book section, still pale and shaky from our verbal assault.

Thank God, the young man at the counter was cooperative.  He prepared the order, as per my specifications.  I chose an interesting black frame with subtle red piping and non-reflective glass.

"What is this, by the way?  A tree?" he asked.
"It's an x-ray of my aneurysm," I informed him.  "It happened a while ago."
"Well, you look marvelous," he offered.
"Thank you," I replied.  "I'm feeling much better."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Teddy Bear Contest!

Teddy bears make ideal Valentine's Day companions.
They're soft, lovable and oh, so handsome.

High Wire Girl blog followers have TWO super chances to cuddle up with one of these eligible bachelors.  Right now, both fellas are headed to my house first.  I plan on filling their furry little pockets with chocolate and treats.  Then, I'll send them on to the lucky winners with strict instructions to always respect the ladies!

Under the Networked Blog section to the right of this post, click the blue Follow This Blog button to get in on a piece of the adorable action.  It's a real sweetheart of a deal for friends of High Wire Girl!

Let me help you make a love connection with that perfect guy.
Hang out with us, READ and SHARE the blog.
FOLLOW and WIN!

Shipbuilding



Three things I wanted to do once I became a grown up:
1.  Sit at the dinner table, shirtless.
2.  Drive with a can of beer between my legs.
3.  Walk away from my mother while she was talking.

Hey, Gene Dall did it.  Why couldn't I?

I've adjusted these goals considerably.  They were impractical.  With the arrival and development of my breasts, I embraced a marginal degree of modesty, especially around food.  I gave up the drink.  Plus, my mom died.  The world changes, with or without our involvement.  Over the years, I've learned that making decisions is very important.  It helps grow self-confidence.

My parents were not what you'd call goal-oriented individuals.  They got shit done, but not with any hopeful plans or vision in place.  My father woke up, went to work, came back, ate food and passed out.  Big Mare smoked while she cooked his meals.  She also busied herself with the kind of cryptic resentment that my Dad either couldn't understand or chose to purposely ignore.

As my primary role models, their actions taught me two very important things:
     -  (From him) Don't ask questions.  They make you look stupid.
     -  (From her) Try to get someone to notice you.  Then, have them guess what you're thinking.
Of course, neither of these brilliant initiatives made any sense.  Therefore, I combined them to create my own blueprint for self-destruction.

"Ours is not to reason why.  Ours is but to do and die."
- Alfred Lord Tennyson

I read somewhere that at the dawn of time, catastrophic events made life on our planet possible.  Back then, the world was a seething cauldron of erupting volcanoes, raining meteors and hot, noxious gasses. Even as cave people, my ancestors were familiar with this level of catastrophe.  It certainly was how my folks lived, reacting to one calamitous affair after the next.

My parents endured a relatively monotonous existence, punctuated by episodes of physical injury, illness and arrests.  Panicky visits in the middle of the night, a dark figure with an arm wrapped in a bloody towel, wrecked vehicles, collect calls from jail...  Our family was a lawless, accident-prone bunch, and every one of us seemed to take turns breaking my mother's balls.

Through it all, Big Mare loved being in charge.  She enjoyed doling out advice, lending money and having her finger on the pulse of the drama.  She couldn't control her husband, but goddamnit, she could run the rest of the show with the ruthless zeal of a mob kingpin.  Innovative strategies, manipulative game plans - she was a pro at cleaning up everybody's mess.  Mom really threw herself into the task at hand.

For all of my mother's tough talk, she really would have preferred a reasonable partner.  But she chose my father and refused to see it as a mistake.  She got on with the business of her existence, and their relationship issues were never dealt with.  The neglect created a hole in my mother's heart that eventually scabbed over, but never quite healed.  It left something broken inside.  And it spread.

*******

By the time I was a teenager, I was eager to jump into the fray.  I'd watched all the action unfold from the sidelines, but I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to be doing - in life, in the world, in anything.  I knew I wanted a boyfriend, and that he should buy me an ankle bracelet.  That was about it.

There, I made a decision.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Subconscious

I found myself at the aquarium, once.  I don't remember having children with me, so I must have been on a date.  Probably not a good one.  Surely, I'd have remembered more fun.

In a section of the building where they keep the big fish, my attention was drawn to a yellowing poster - an org chart of aquatic creatures.  Right in the middle of the diagram, large in scale and monochromatic in color, an illustration of a curious water beast known as Dall's Porpoise.

Among its fascinating physical attributes, those of which include being mistaken for a Killer Whale and in turn, experiencing difficulty making friends, I was struck by one thing, in particular.  The Dall Porpoise never sleeps.  It swims continuously without ever stopping.  Not even to be interviewed for a poster.  I couldn't believe what I was reading.  They were describing my dad.

I stared into the adjacent tank, hoping to see this exquisite animal with my very own eyes. But the pool was empty.  I remember thinking to myself, "He must be at work."


*******


Early one morning in 1979, Gene Dall fell asleep on the subway, going to the job. Around 3:45, he woke up to find some dude standing right in front of him.
"Hey, man.  Give me a dollar," the guy said.
My dad closed his eyes again, trying to mind his own business.
"Are you deaf, motherfucker?  I need money."
"I ain't got a dollar," Daddy told him.  "Take a walk."

I wish I knew what my father was thinking at that moment, but he never told me this story. My mother did.  What I do know is that Gene Dall was always tight with a buck.


"Listen, you're gonna give me your money.  'Cause if you don't, I'm gonna take my dick out and piss in your mouth."  Dude started to unzip his trousers.

My father looked up and down the length of the train.  There were two people seated, a man and a lady.  They were not traveling together.  In addition to the creep hassling my old man, there were two other punks, standing in each of the doorways that connected the cars.  One of them carried a metal pipe.  Dad was screwed. 

When Gene reached into the back of his pants, he pulled out his police issue Smith & Wesson Model 10 and pointed it at the guy's junk.
"You're not getting my wallet."

I've made a movie in my mind many times over, imaging what this scene must have looked like.  It is filmed in black and white, and my father's blood is red.

The Number 6 Local proceeds along Lexington Avenue, stopping every few blocks as it travels downtown.  At 116th Street, Gene Dall took the first of many blows from that pipe.  At 110th, those two other passengers bolted out of the train and up the stairs.  Remarkably, in the uneven exchange, my father managed to shoot one of the thugs in the shoulder.  But by the time the doors opened at 103rd Street, they'd beaten the living shit out of him.  They took his revolver and fled down the platform.

At 96th Street, the doors opened and closed.  86th and 77th Streets, the same.  He laid on the floor of the subway car, bleeding.  At 68th and Hunter College, he crawled to a pay phone, called in his shield number and passed out on the concrete.

When a police car stops in front of your house, it's never a good sign.  When they ring the doorbell and your dad's not home, it's fucked up.

"Mom, it's the cops," I yelled.
Big Mare took the stairs two at a time.
"Is he dead?" my mother asked the officers.  That's the only question you really need answered at that moment.
"No, ma'am.  He's been mugged."
I turned to my mother.  "Can we stay home?"
"Get your asses to school," she growled.

*******

Later that afternoon, Judy and I rode into Midtown in a patrol car.  I suppose I tried to reassure my mother that everything would be okay, but I don't recall. Somehow, she'd gotten used to this kind of thing, and she dealt with it alone.  I couldn't help her.  No one could.  Emotionally, we were all pretty much on our own.


It was difficult to look at my father, laid up in that hospital bed.  His nose and jaw were broken, and he was missing some teeth.  They'd fractured his skull, and one of his eye sockets was dislocated.  With his jaw wired shut, Gene couldn't speak. He scratched a few things down on a little notepad the nurse had given him.


They had me.

Forgot my head.
Protecting the gun, he wrote.

He handed the paper to Big Mare.  She called him a stupid son of a bitch and thanked God that the train wasn't running express.  My old man probably would have been killed.

Another note:  Shouldn't have gone to sleep.

He smiled.

I pressed my forehead against the big glass window in my father's room.  I wrote my boyfriend's initials in the smudge that my oily teenage skin left behind.  I looked down into the dumpsters below the building.  I turned around and slumped down into a chair.  I don't know what I was feeling - kinda excited and kinda bored, I guess.  There was a cop standing in the hallway across from where I sat, protecting the man who tried to protect the gun.


Anxious and powerless, I couldn't wait to share what had happened with my friends.  To get a little comfort from somewhere.  Three guys were still out there, screwing around on my father's dime.  They made all this noise and mess.  Then, they disappeared, just like that.  They shook things up, boy.  That's for sure.  But we couldn't know just how much, not at the time.  Maybe not ever.  I'm still trying to figure it out.


*******


How do you fix something like that when you're sixteen years old?

You can't, really.
How do you make it better?
You get high.  That's what you do.  At least, that's what I did.

And you teach yourself to stay awake.  I felt like I should.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Oh, You Beautiful Doll!

When I was a little girl, I loved playing with dolls.  All types.  They spoke to me like no other toy could.  I just adored baby dolls and everything about them.  The powdery smell of their plastic skin, their overstuffed bodies and double stitched limbs.  Such hypnotic, pleasant features.  I can remember their names:  Caroline, Elizabeth and Priscilla, those were my three favorites.

I fed and diapered my babies, and I changed their outfits several times a day.  I sat on the rug in my bedroom, swaddling them in old bath towels and rocking them to sleep.  I spent hours, just staring at their faces and thinking about things.  Tilting their bodies forward and back, watching their eyes blink and reopen, familiarizing myself with the noises they made.  Just like some moms.

I was a good mother to my own children, but I drew in crayon across the cheeks of my sister's dolls.  I pulled their eyelashes out.  Experiments were conducted.  I treated my synthetic nieces like unwanted foster kids.  I'm not sure why I behaved this way.  These dollies didn't belong to me, and Judy had every right to raise her daughters as she pleased.  I will admit, not my proudest moment.

Perhaps it was the pressure of having kids at such a young age.  I was eight years old, unskilled, with no job and so many mouths to feed.  All girls, mind you.  Jesus Christ, one was dumber than the next.


I also dug the dress-up dolls, just as much.  They introduced me to the possibility of a glamorous life beyond Zerega Avenue, perhaps in other exciting neighborhoods in the Bronx and possibly Queens.  I was mad crazy for Dawn, Barbie's pint-sized competitor.   Dawn was a scrappy little overachiever, the proprietor and top model of her very own modeling agency.  Most of her best friends were models, as well - Angie, Glori and Dale.  Jessica was an international stewardess who dated black guys.  Sure, everyone said their crazy, multi-racial friendships would never catch on.  But I knew we'd prove the world wrong!


Dawn and her pals enjoyed a wide range of cool accessories and thrilling adventures.  They changed their clothes constantly and went out dancing every night.  They danced so much that some of their knee joints turned green and no longer clicked when you tried to bend them.  Nothing dampened their spirits. These girls really knew how to have fun!

Gary, Ron and Van were the handsome guy friends who supported the girls' thriving careers by going to all the shows and driving them around when they got too drunk.  As they had no steady jobs of their own, Dawn threw her male chums some modeling gigs here and there.  They made just enough cash to keep the party going.  These boys were devilishly good-looking and that's all that really mattered.

Kevin was Dawn's dreamboat fiance.  They were crazy about each other and eventually married at the disco.  I had no idea at the time, but they were all high as kites.  Every last one of them.  I read somewhere that Kevin died of an overdose, the agency folded and eventually, Dawn went off the deep end.  Such are the perils of the fashion industry.

*******

I never owned any Barbie dolls.  They were very expensive.  I did, however, secure a Growing-Up Skipper for Easter one year from my Dad's brother, George.  Albeit a strange gift to receive from an adult male with no children of his own, I was still very pleased when she arrived on the scene.  I embraced Barbie's little sister, despite her pubescent challenges and erratic mood swings.


Growing-up Skipper faced accelerated physical and emotional challenges.  Every time you cranked her arm, she grew taller and her boobies got bigger.  I found her growth spurts to be both upsetting and exciting, all at the same time.  I spent hours briefly allowing her to mature and then immediately regret the decision, reverting in shame to the flat chest she had known as a child.


I was late giving up the dolls of my childhood.  I begged for Baby That-A-Way when I turned eleven.  I was already too old for this kind of play, and I was kind of embarrassed about it.  I nurtured her in private, then promptly set her down in front of the stairs to demonstrate my detachment.  Her leg broke, and she never crawled properly again.

Soon after Baby That-A-Way's final bathtub accident, I moved on to my lifelong hobby.  Boys.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

... And I Feel Fine.

Most Sunday evenings, it will dawn on Rory Malcolm that the weekend is almost over.  He generally responds to this grim realization with tears.  He is fine one minute and the next, a sloppy, impassioned wreck.  In between sniffs, he will sob about the torture of his education, the unholy length of each school day and his concern for my welfare in his absence.  He has been this way since forever, with his heart stitched to his sleeve.

I tend to briefly allow the waterworks.  I'm not really sure why, but I remember feeling this way when I was a little girl.  Even though she was rough and did a ton of hollering, I clung to Big Mare and I didn't like when we were apart.  I grew anxious when the good times were ending. I felt like they might never happen again.  Good, bad or indifferent - this was my own peculiar hunger, and it definitely shaped the person I became.


This little vagary of Rory's makes me think of just how much I miss my mom.  So I let my youngest boy lean into it for just a minute or two, but no longer than that. Rory is not me, and I am not my mother.

I remind my son that fourth grade is his job, and home schooling is not an option. I will be just fine while he is busy with his academic pursuits.  He gets a tissue and blows his nose, and just like that, his fleeting emotional indulgence is over. Learning how to comfort yourself is part of growing up.  It's a big lesson and an important one.

Last night on the heels of our fun-filled holiday vacation, Bro's breakdown occurred a day early.  While walking across the parking lot of the KFC, I heard his voice crack and saw his hand go to his face.

"C'mon, Brother.  You've gotta pull it together."
"I know, Mom.  I hate when I get this way," he admitted.
"Don't be so hard on yourself.  Just appreciate who you are and what you have."
This was my sage suggestion.  It sounded simple enough without having to go into a big explanation about something I might not be able to explain.  Plus, I was really hungry.

"Why does life always have to be so excellent?" he asked.
My right hand to God, his words.
"I don't know, honey.  But I love you.  I think we're doing exactly what we're supposed to.  And right now, we're supposed to go eat chicken."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Queen For A Day!

Last night, I dreamt that I was looking for work in the Royal Kingdom.  As luck would have it, three openings were available, right in Buckingham Palace:  Lady-in-Waiting, Privy Chamber Secretary and Mistress of the Robes.  I doctored up my resume to highlight my impressive customer service skills and chose a conservative interview suit with daunting shoulder pads from the Spandau Ballet Dream Closet Collection, circa 1984.  I slipped on some practical flats and set out on a nice leisurely stroll over to the castle.

Her Majesty took a shine to me right away.  Insane with natural confidence and the warmth of her barely visible smile, I secured all three positions without even so much as a typing test.  Elizabeth and I made a really good team.  Together, we took splashy trips abroad, visited children's hospitals and attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for chocolate shops and new Starbucks locations all across Great Britain.

I quickly proved myself a terrific royal companion and excellent personal chauffeur, as the Queen often forgot where she parked and seldom drove at night. She misplaced the royal pocketbook during a party at Bono's house, and I found it under a pile of coats in the guest bedroom.  I carefully applied nail polish to a run in her support hose when she kicked her shoes off for the Electric Slide.  The poor darling misplaced her handbag again when we stopped at Spud-U-Like for a late night baked potato.  This time, it was in the men's room.  Relax, it's not what you think.

When I was off the clock, Her Royal Highness and I still hung out together.  We went to the Olive Garden for endless breadsticks.  We donated all of Prince Philip's ascots to Good Will and bought him some tagless hoodies.  I encouraged her to take up scrapbooking.  Sure, I think it's stupid but at least it kept her off the computer.  We watched X Factor and folded laundry - Total girl time!

Lilibet and I became quite close during the time of my dream employment.  She shared many intimate details about her very private life, and I grew to love her dearly.  With tears in her eyes, she confided in me her growing concern that she couldn't stop buying Marie Osmond dolls on QVC.  "No one needs this many poppets!" she sobbed into her pillow.

I never grew weary of answering "Of course not!" whenever she asked me if certain coins or stamps made her look fat.  I kept Her Majesty entertained with stories and photos of the boys, doing things I wish they wouldn't.  Her grandchildren seemed a bit stiff, and I never seem to run out of material.

Like always when I woke up, I thought about my dream. If I were Queen, I'd probably do a crummy job. Running a country is a big responsibility, and it's gotta be lonely at the top. Shaping good citizens, guiding royal subjects toward their inevitable goals, being met with resistance and unrest upon every decision - it seems exhausting.  Wait a minute - it sounds just like Christmas vacation.  Thank God for school on Monday!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Places, Everybody!


Traditionally, the first day of the new year finds me administering performance evaluations on my undergarments.  My kind of unwavering optimism is no accident.  It's built, in part, by combining three crucial ingredients - a winning attitude, some structurally sound bloomers and a few reliable bras.  Here's how I get the job done.

1.  I dump out the contents of my underwear drawer onto the bed.

2.  I gather up all the spare change to redeem for paper money at the Coinstar.

3.  I separate all the candy and gum that I find into color-coordinated categories. Orange and brown wrappers generally indicate Halloween treats which are still edible until Valentine's Day.  Pink and yellow jellybean-shaped goodies are probably Easter leftovers.  I pitch those in the garbage, unless I'm feeling really desperate.

4.  I arrange my unmentionables in loose, orderly piles.  Thorough interviews are conducted with each and every article of clothing.
           
          Tell me a little bit about yourself.
          Why does this job appeal to you?
          Would you consider yourself a team player?
          Do you perform well under pressure?
          Where do you see yourself in five years? *

* That last one's a trick question.
   No one gets any medals for being a martyr, not in today's army.

Harnesses with less than enthusiastic elastic are dismissed with extreme prejudice.  There's nothing more distracting than an insincere bra riding up one's back like a worn out saddle.  Frayed and manky wife beaters, we're gonna have to let you go.  Shame on you, lady shorts with holes and big rips.  You are, by far, the most upsetting aspect of this entire exercise.  I sit on the edge of my bunk and ask myself, "Is my environment really this hostile?"  For the life of me, I can't recall.  Perhaps these memories are so horrific that I've blocked them out entirely.  I reach into the trash for that expired Cadbury egg.

My social encounters never seem contentious enough to warrant the disgraceful condition of these scruffy tearaways.  My course of conduct is somewhat domesticated, I suppose.  As a rule, I encounter very few sexy situations in my day-to-day exchanges.  Look, I'm not complaining.

It's just that I prefer practicality in my panties.  Nothing too lacy and absolutely no gimmicks.  All that frivolity is bothersome.  Save the bells and whistles for the runway models.  Those poor girls lurking in dark alleys, practicing how to walk in heels just so someone will notice them.

I need loyal support and cooperation from my knickers, so I can concentrate and be successful in a crazy, mixed up world.  I don't have a whole lot of extra time to be keeping tabs on what's slipping out the side door and where it thinks it's going.

Places, everybody!