Last Friday, I received a frantic call from Hawaii.

“Jojo is running for third grade class president,” Josh (my brother) excitedly informed me.  “He needs some enormous posters.   Will you design them? Laser cats are a factor.”

I’d just finished a long season of designing local political ads, and thought I could use a change.  Laser cats sounded much less boring than “fiscal responsibility” or “experience.”  I accepted the gig, and even waived my fee.

“Awesome!” Josh said, “I’ll work on his speech.  I want him just to walk up to the podium and say ‘Hi, my name is Jovanni.  Vote for me because LASER CATS,’ and then just drop the mic.  He won’t do it though.  He just keeps crying and yelling, ‘DON’T EMBARRASS ME DAD!’”

“He kinda has a point,” I replied.


lizard peoplesmalljojoeinsteinsmall

Whiskey -Colored Memories

One boring spring evening during my junior year of art school, my buddy Marshall and I were sitting in his dorm room searching for something to do.  Cockroach Kentucky Derby had gotten old.  We were out of beer and ideas.

Political fliers for the upcoming Student Government Associations (SGA) elections had appeared like black mold on the walls of our university.   Some even drifted down to the Art Department, hurriedly tacked to bulletin boards nearest the exits.  Normal kids never ventured into our area, largely because it was a maze of sticky, filthy, sharp, poisonous hazards which were often also on fire.

“Hey, Marsh – did you see those election thingys?” I asked.

“Yeah, what’s that about?” Marshall queried while digging, mole-like, through an endless pile of dirty socks.

“SGA election.  Frat kids always win it.”

“Their posters are stupid,” Marshall opined, handing me a half full jug of Livingston Cellars Red Rose, and returning to his rooting with the intensity of an arsenal of archeologists. “We should make some good ones.”

“Yeah!” I chortled enthusiastically, taking a sip of hot, sugary wine.  “What stuff do you have?”

“I’ve got a bunch of markers, some glue, all these Enquirers my Grandma sends me, and a bunch of paper and stuff…and THIS!” he finished, holding up a bottle of Evan Williams like he’d won the Stanley Cup.

We stayed up (drinking the rest of what we later would refer to as “The Sock O’Hol”) until 5 a.m. making increasingly strange posters, which we photocopied and hung all over campus with black electrical tape.  Magically, we also printed out the SGA registration documents, signed them, and pushed them under the appropriate door.

The next morning, I awoke feeling like I’d tried to outdrink the Gobi Desert.  I raced to class, still in my jammies, feet slammed into unlaced combat boots.  This was not unusual, but it seemed like people were staring at me more.  “Are you REALLY running for SGA?” whispered a Phi Delt in my speech class.

“Oh crap,” I replied, remembering.

I found a bedraggled Marshall in the printmaking studio at around 3 that afternoon.

“Dude,” he said morosely.  “Some of the posters say that if we win, I have to wear a dress for a year.”

“We CAN’T win.” I replied.  “People are pissed.  It’s hilarious. Let’s just ride this sucker out.”

We weren’t exactly committed to the political process, but the frat kids didn’t get the joke.  They tore down our posters, forcing us to make even stranger ones. We had no platform other than that Marshall would wear a dress for an entire year if we won.  We wrote a magnificent concession speech and planned a gigantic “HOORAY!  WE LOST!” party.

The night of the election, I got a call from my friend Eric.

“Hey Ab, guess what?!?  YOU GUYS WON!” he yelled into the phone.

“WHAT THE [redacted],” I yelled back, “How in the [redacted] did that happen?”

Eric started laughing.  “The results aren’t in yet, dork.  They’re on their third recount, though.  You might want to write another speech.”

I started to think seriously about how a pair of weird looking, punk rock kids might have won.  Marshall was a bass player in the only local band that would play any keg party for free.  He was legendary for his pioneering advances in keg-er-ator construction.   My escape artist dog and I made the front page of the university’s newspaper every other week due to her penchant for sneaking on to campus and swimming in the decorative fountains in front of the art building.  She timed her exercise with my class schedule so that I would chase her.  She was a very popular dog.

I began steeling myself for a year of Marshall (who was built like a linebacker with nerdy glasses and a green Mohawk) in a muumuu.  I left work early, and headed to what was supposed to be our triumphal loss party.  The trashcan was full of ‘punch’.  One corner of the living room boasted the band’s enormous speaker system. “Bring Back Joel” epitomized the ‘college band.’  They were as loud as they were awful. The house was festooned with our posters and homemade “LOSERS” banners.  Marshall sat on the front steps, disconsolate.  I handed him solo cup full of cheap beer.  We sighed as we took our inaugural sips.  Doom was palpable.

Eric’s car sped into the driveway, scattering rocks as he slammed on the brakes.  He burst out the door and yelled while running toward us: “YOU GUYS LOST!  BY TWO VOTES, BUT YOU LOST.”  We jumped up, whooping, hollering and dancing around the front yard. Marshall hoisted me on his shoulders.  “WAIT,” I said, rapping Marshall’s skull to get his attention, “MARSHALL!  Did you vote, dude?”

“No way!” he replied.

“ME NEITHER!” I crowed.

It was the closest election in university history.  I’m still thrilled to have lost it.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

Weed Whacked

This week, the G.P. headed back to the ol’ Kansas homestead (literally) to visit his dying friend Buddy (again, literally – you can’t make this stuff up). Off he went, Rowlfie in tow, leaving me and the Rev to fend for ourselves in the wilds of Corpus Christi. Normally, Dad’s travels are a good thing. In his absence, we tend to finish big projects at both houses. This week, however, the major task was mowing my ½ acre yard. The barely sentient Yard Sharks now circled my block, focused on my uncut grass like a bucket of chum.  Bravely they pinned handwritten notes on my mailbox:  “We do gud werk.  Cheep.”  Soon they’d be ringing the doorbell, demanding to mow and arguing when I said, “NO!” My front doormat features a cat flipping the eff bird with both barrels and says, “Go away,” but that doesn’t deter the Yard Sharks.  For sharks you need something bigger, and probably electrified.

Death waits for no Dad, so the G.P. left in a hurry.  Over the last few months, I’ve begged him to confer upon me the gauntlet of lawn care, with little response other than derisive laughter. The G.P. (Great Provider), owns the tools, and I’m too cheap to buy my own when I can steal whatever I need, whenever I want, from my parents’ house three blocks away.    When I want to check out a tool for some project, the stern Guardian of the Shop demands to know exactly what I’m doing, and if he thinks the idea is 1) dangerous or 2) super dumb, my request is denied and I get a lecture on “Why Your Idea is the Stupidest Idea Since So and So Put the Trailer Toilet on Linoleum With No Support Underneath and the Toilet Fell Through on Christmas, Trapping Fat Grandma,” or some such other example of epic idiocy.

This stewardship of the tools is why I still don’t have a tree house.

In any case, the timing seemed perfect for me to take over the Duties of Yard.  Several weeks ago, the G.P. gave me a reluctant lesson with the weed whacker. He tried to show me earlier, but when he called me to come get taught, he called the weed whacker a “string trimmer.”

“What’s a string trimmer?” I asked, causing the G.P. to hang up on me, and then get angrily on Facebook to vent about my generation. The lesson was belayed, but several months later, we tried again, and I was successfully instructed in the rudiments of weed whackery.

The night before the G.P. left, I stopped by my folks’ house to make my case.
“I guess I’ll do the yard then, right Dad?”
“SHIT! I forgot about that,” replied my father, obviously forlorn.
“I can do it Dad! What are you afraid of?” I screeched, desperate to be taken seriously, but not able to moderate my register.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll turn the riding mower over on yourself in the ditch and cut your leg off, but good luck,” he said kindly. The king had made me a Squire of the Yard, my steed a riding mower procured at great cost from the land of Sears, my sword a 20lb gas powered weed whacker. I felt like the Highlander and almost yelled, “THERE CAN BE ONLY LAWN.” I didn’t, though, because Dad would’ve definitely demoted me.

First, I tackled the mowing. The mower featured a cup holder, so I put a beer in it and backed out of the garage. The controls really suited me. I think all vehicles should feature speeds that go from turtle to rabbit. I stayed in turtle most of the time. I knew that if I suffered amputation the first time out, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in future arguments with my father. I was very careful around the ditches. The Yard Sharks circled as I worked, angry predators watching me for any signs of distress – waiting to lunge in for the kill should I tire. Not me! I was riding on a lawn mower. It was easy. I forgot about my beer until I had finished the job. I reached down and grabbed the still-cold can and raised it to my lips for a triumphal sip. It was full of grass. I spluttered, cursing Hank Hill and his televised lies.

It was time to trim the edges. I headed over to Dad’s to get the bulky weed whacker. I grabbed it, and as  I crammed the mechanical evil inside my car, I realized I’d forgotten safety goggles. The G.P. insisted that if I attempted to use the trimmer sans goggles I would “put your eye out for sure. No, your glasses aren’t enough. No, you can’t wear your swimming goggles.” After searching 20 minutes to locate any kind of eye protection (Dad owns about 3,000 pairs of safety glasses), I found nary a one.  What I did find was a snorkeling mask.  “This’ll do,” thought I, partially sure that I saw my father wear one while using a circular saw at least once.

Snorkeling masks don’t work well for yard care: they’re extremely hot; if you accidentally exhale through your nose, they fog up; and if you try to inhale through your nose you nearly faint. They make screamed profanity generated by the difficulty of starting a cold weed whacker sound somewhat less than threatening. When I yelled, “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN” at the devil device, I got a lot of weird looks from the utility workers across the street. Probably because it sounded more like, “BIT BE BEHIMB BE BATAB.”

scuba steve

I got the vile creature started, and trimmed the entire front yard. Breathing through your mouth while decapitated weeds are whirling through the air isn’t ideal, and I briefly considered adding an actual snorkel to my get up. I finished the yard, and gratefully divested myself of my gear and dumped all my clothing into the washing machine.  I streaked through my house and took a cool shower as a reward for a job well done.

As I stepped out of my tub with a towel wrapped around me, my doorbell rang and Stadler started barking up a storm. “They’ll go away,” I thought nakedly. The bell hollered again. I stuffed myself into some shorts and a tank top, totally enraged, and charged to the door like a bull, throwing it open without even bothering to look through the peephole. “WHAT?!?” I bellowed at the small man standing there oozing obsequiousness.

“Would you like me to mow your yard for you??” he asked.

“No,” I replied, and shut the door, laughing hysterically.

Evidently, the Squire of the Yard has a long way to go before she’s knighted. The G.P. returns tomorrow. Methinks His Highness will understand. He once accidentally murdered the Rev’s prize plum tree with a string trimmer.  She’s still mad about it.

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Once Bitten

Last Thursday, I decided that I was a vampire. This might seem like a strange conclusion, but I had two highly suspicious wounds on my neck, above my carotid artery, that I had no memory of incurring. Additionally, Boris (Karloff, my car) has been a subject of some question since he was purchased last summer. Boris is a dark, bloody red sedan with a black interior. Driving my car is kind of like driving a coffin that corners especially accurately. Boris featured a gothic style cross on his driver’s side door until it fell off – now he just has a cross shaped glue spot. Months ago, Jan Rankin noticed the cross and asked what it meant, saying she’d seen multiple vehicles with the insignia in Corpus. I had no idea because I’d inherited it with the car, but I speculated that I’d accidentally joined a cult. This is absolutely something that would happen to me, so Jan and I spent a pleasurable hour formulating an exit strategy which mostly involved yelling at people and definitely not drinking any Kool-Aid, even if it was the blue kind.

Now that a Dracula bit me, I’ve changed my tune. I’m pretty sure Boris is some kind of vampire targeting device. Instead of joining a cult, I decided I’d just inadvertently been advertising my willingness to be a blood sucker’s juice bag for the last year. I told my friend Amber about the situation, and showed her the bites on my neck (via text message, as neither Amber nor I leave our houses unless we’re 1) being paid or 2) have been tricked). Instead of expressing sympathy for my state of probable undeadness, Amber turned the bite marks into a smiley face and sent the picture back. My friends rarely take me seriously.

She did, however, patiently listen to me as I worried about possibly turning into a vampire. We decided that the real downside to vampirism wasn’t murdering lots of people via exsanguination, but that the process would be so sticky. “Dude, I don’t even like eating watermelon unless it’s all cut up and I can use a fork,” I whined.

“Maybe you’d get good at it and you could make it neater,” Amber responded calmly, “Like maybe we could invent some kind of straw.” It’s that kind of “outside-the-box” thinking that makes her such a terrific bartender.

My friends are very supportive.

When your friends take you very seriously.

As the days passed, I continued my usual routine because you can’t let stuff (even being convinced that you’re Nosferatu) get you down. This is one of my favorite times of year, so Stadler (my dog) and I have been spending as much time as we can outside. In short, the sun has been beating down on me for days, and I’ve so far shown no sign of disintegrating into ash. I have even stopped shopping for urns online. New conclusions had to be drawn, especially when I got told to shut up by twelve people, several of whom helpfully referenced the “Twilight” series. The idea that annoying, sparkly stalkers might be a part of my everyday life created a level of anti-anxiety that canceled my worries.

The highly scientific G.P. (my Dad) thought it much more likely that I’d been bitten by a spider. Maybe…a radioactive spider…?

The truth of the matter is that I am a blood sucker magnet. It may be true that Draculas aren’t much of a threat, and that Boris Karloff is really just a Nissan, but I am still a target for anything that enjoys an occasional sip (or, in my case, pint) of human blood. In South Texas, my greatest enemy is the mosquito. I tend to survive by constantly basting myself with Deet. Anytime I go anywhere, I have to take a can of Cutter with me, and gird myself by shoving dryer sheets into my bra straps and socks before I even walk out the door. I spend the summers looking like an armadillo made of Bounce.

I am a mosquito delicacy to the extent that I have the same net function as a citronella candle — those who sit next to me don’t get bitten. People exploit this fact by taking me with them any time they want to dine or drink al fresco. This gets me a lot of free cocktails. Not worth it! I have an allergy to mosquito bites that makes them turn into huge, itchy, puffy, pink pillows that only recede when coated in Benadryl and hydrocortisone creams. I also, when significantly stung, have to take massive doses of oral Benadryl or spend my nights scratching myself raw. When I tell you I have tried everything, please believe it. I have not only experimented with every single scientific and natural remedy, I’ve tried them all in varying combination. I’ve studied mosquitoes and kept super disgusting field journals categorizing types of bites. They say that the bugs are specific to their area, and that each kind releases a slightly different breed of analgesic (which numbs the area so we don’t notice the bite, but to which we’re also allergic — thus the itch). Science thinks that over time and with enough hits you can develop histamines which will stop the itching. I have yet to synthesize any such thing, although I get bitten approximately 100,000,000 times per year. I am a hopeless case.

The bottom line is that I cannot stand to stay in the house while the days are long and lovely. Despite the intense discomfort of the bloodsuckers who truly adore me (still better than Edward from “Twilight”), I’ll still be soaking up as much springtime as I can. If you see me out and about, dryer sheets poking out of my sleeves and socks, reeking of Deet, feel free to stand next to me. I’m probably not a Dracula. You should buy me a drink, you know…to be sure.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

Garage Sailin’


Several weeks ago, Jan Rankin and I decided to have a garage sale.  Jan really wanted to be able to get more than half of a car in her two-car garage, and I needed to downsize my collection of black t-shirts.  Like most ideas Jan and I have together, this one was 1) not very well thought out and 2) forgotten directly after we advertised it in the Moon.  Mary “Scoop” Craft reminded us last Wednesday when she started talking about putting a garage sale in her briefs (business, not underpants).  Cue immediate panic.

“OMG is that Friday already?!?” I shrieked.

“$#*T!” said Jan.

Since Jan and I have commitment issues (in that we should be committed for thinking that a garage sale was a good idea), we had decided to have the sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Good Friday.  That was about all I could take alone.  Jan insisted that she was going to hide in her house with a pick axe and a bottle of wine until all the interlopers were gone.

Thursday I hauled clothing out and optimistically priced it – carefully making tags on string and safety pinning them to the washing instructions.  It took hours.  About 3 p.m. I hauled my junk out to Jan’s with Stadler precariously perched atop the pile in the back seat like Granny Clampett.  Pro-tip: doggie paw prints and fluff do not add to resale value even if the dog in question is “Island infamous.”

I met Jan at the Boathouse, and after a little lubricating chardonnay, we headed off to her garage to price Jan’s items and carve paths through our combined mountainous junk.  The process took a couple more hours, largely due to dog interference.   Finally, despite Stadler and Lizzy’s best efforts to send one or both of us to the emergency room, Jan and I forged a narrow path, making plans to haul the larger items out into the driveway in the morning.

“You’ll be here at 8:15, right?” Jan asked nervously.

“Yup.  No Problem.  We get up at 6:01,” I replied.

When I showed up at 8:45 the next morning, trucks, vans and cars lined Jan’s street.  I (incorrectly) supposed that people were off work for Good Friday. A harried Jan answered her front door, and flagged us in, racing back to the garage.

“They’ve been here since 7:45 this morning!   KNOCKING ON THE DOOR.  They want in!  I haven’t even had coffee.  I’m skipping straight to wine.”

We were almost ready to open the big doors at 8:57.  As I ran out to Boris (my car) to retrieve my forgotten notepad, I realized that the people crowding Jan’s driveway looked exactly like zombies from Night of the Living Dead. 

“Jan, where’s your camera? We’ve got to get a picture of the garage sale zombies.  It’s crazy out there.  I think they might eat us!”

“Just let them in.  They’re going to start knocking again!” Jan hollered, holding a Sharpie in front of her like a sword.

“They’re the undead, Jan.  I swear.  It’s some kind of garage sale induced apocalypse.  We should probably run.”

“Ab, shut up,” said No Coffee Rankin and opened the doors.

As the garage sale zombies stormed through the slowly opening portals, not even waiting for the doors to rise all the way, Jan’s eyes opened wide and her jaw dropped in amazement.

“Holy….” Jan might have finished the cuss if a guy hadn’t stopped her by trying to maneuver a 20 bottle wine rack and a large table lamp in a path that can only be described as “through her spinal column.” Trapped in no man’s land, protected only by a stray end table from a pitched battle over a sheet set, I was no help.

The zombies made short work of Jan.  Demands that she accept $4 for items priced at $50 drove her into the house quickly.   I eventually managed to escape my end table prison by scaling the Matterhorn of Jan’s garage furniture.

The first horde dwindled after about an hour.  Stadler sat outside with me, making new friends by sticking her nose directly into every stranger’s crotch.  “Oh….isn’t she friendly” they would exclaim, while my dog minutely examined their no-no zones.

Jan hid inside, stress cleaning her house, and occasionally popping her head out, prairie dog style.  Dale loaded up Lizzy and left in his truck, figuring it would be easier to sleep on the beach.  Dale is pretty smart.

After hours of steady sales, traffic slowed to the point that Dr. Stadler fell asleep in the sun.  I started selling all my junk for a dollar.  It’s amazing how much you detach from your possessions when faced with hauling them back to your house.

At the end of the day, Jan emerged to help me close up shop.

“Well, how did it go?” she asked.

“You did great,” I replied, handing her a bank envelope bursting with cash.

“Well,” she said, “looks like I’m going to be paying for everything with one dollar bills for the next month.  Dale’s going to think I’ve taken up stripping.  How did you do?”

“Okay,” I replied.

I made $14, and I didn’t get eaten by zombies.  I’m calling it a win.

Posted in Humor, zombie | 1 Comment

Open Mindedness Is Not Bending Over and Taking It, Motherfucker.

So…I have been literally spluttering with rage over the last two days to the extent that all my cuss words ran together in one big long mega-train of eternally looping profanity.  Why?  Because a fucking unrepentant Trump voter told me I ought to keep an “open mind” about President Dumpster Fire.  Let’s fucking talk…

Is open mindedness a good value?  Sure is.  In our everyday life, it’s good to try new things and have new experiences.  Science tells us that people who value experience over possessions are happier overall than others.   Have you tried Pho?  Right.  Pho is the absolute tits, and if you’d been too closed minded to try un-American foods, no Pho for you, and that’s pretty sad.  When I say “keep an open mind” in a political context, however, what I usually mean is: “IT IS NOT OKAY TO COMMIT GENOCIDE BECAUSE YOU ARE AFRAID OF 1) OTHER RELIGIONS 2) BROWN PEOPLE 3) GAYS 4) COMPETITION.  Please try to open your mind and have empathy for other humans.”  What some conservative mean when they (in what I can only assume was a level of cynicism that’s absolutely record setting) say  “open your mind” is that, because humans are not clairvoyant, we don’t know that Trump’s policies won’t work out for the best.  Essentially, we should “wait and see what happens.”

Let me be super clear here in case you’re a little stupid:  THIS IS NOT A FUCKING VALID POINT.  Probability is not permanently 50/50.   No one is clairvoyant, which means we’re all equally unable to predict the future – in absence of fact.  Without fact, we’re all stuck in the same dark cave.  Facts, however, are the light that reveal the shadows of monsters and men.   And we can find facts, even though it seems to get more difficult every single day thanks to F(AU)X News.

Why is using valid data to predict probability of outcomes a good idea?  Seriously?  Is that really a question that needs to be answered?  I’m assuming it does because of the vast “stick your heels up in the air and think about Jesus” army of dumbasses this country seems to harbor.  ANSWER: being able to predict negative consequences of actions allows us to change our course and prevent disastrous outcomes.  You use this ability every single day.  “I ought to pay my water bill this week, because if I don’t, I’ll have to poop in the yard.”  “If you don’t eat your peas, you won’t grow up big and strong.”  “The news says that street is flooded, I’ll take another way home.”  You synthesize facts to figure out your personal course of action.  Why should we NOT do that as a country?  We know what the consequences of: unlimited draining of aquifers, fracking, unregulated carbon emissions, unavailable medicine, lack of quality educations, lack of social resources like libraries and public art, destruction of public lands, deregulation of environmental standards for air and water quality, human rights violations, war for profit, breaking of unions, and monopolies are.  All this stuff is BAD.  We know this because there is decades of research that tell us exactly what happens, we can observe the consequences currently in other countries, and because of ALL OF FUCKING HUMAN HISTORY.  You can’t tell me that you don’t know on the most intimate and deep level that if you fucking STOP FEEDING PEOPLE, THEY DIE.  If you don’t, start at the beginning with a Tamaguchi.  Then maybe get a plant.

The fact is that the Trump administration is a fucking train wreck, but this train is carrying ICBMs.  In case you don’t know, ICBMs are Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.  They are nuclear weapons that can target multiple locations simultaneously from a sub-orbital space flight with incredible accuracy.  That means, essentially, that you could nuke haystacks in Kansas, New York, L.A. and Texas simultaneously, with one ICBM, from fucking space.  Guess what, Russia has them, too.

Let’s say you’re on the Train de Trump.  You look out the window and there you see mile after mile of warning signs.  “CAUTION.”  “BEWARE!’ “DANGER!” “TRACK ENDS!”  “GET OUT NOW!’  Is the open minded course of action, is the responsible thing to do to close the shades and take fucking nap?  I don’t think so.  The correct thing to do is STOP THE FUCKING TRAIN and either go check, or go back.

Open-mindedness is not a condition of fatalism.  “We’ll just have to see…” is not an open-minded statement, especially if you’re deliberately pulling the shades.  In order to open your mind, you have to look for truth even where it’s uncomfortable, and even when it contradicts ideas you’ve had for a long time.  That means you have to look in corners.  You have to look in cracks. You have to actually do the work.  But seriously, FIRST you have to allow yourself to see the SHIT THAT IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FUCKING FACE.

It’s true.  You can just petulantly sit on your damp rock in the pitch black.  You can.  But if you’re going to do that, you’re going to have to shut the fuck up.  The rest of us are trying to save the stuff you say you love, including your very own, precious ass.

Posted in Humor | 1 Comment

Easter With A-Holes

When I was growing up, our family didn’t have very many Easter traditions outside of the typical dying of eggs and feeding of sugar to small children.  This was back when my Mom was just “Mom” (or occasionally “The Warden”) rather than the much more terrifying “Reverend Mother.”  My most significant Easter memory is of getting grounded for trying to poison my little brother with Peeps.  My theory was that since they tasted so disgusting, they must be deadly.  I fed him two large boxes that I had purloined from the pantry, but he didn’t die.  He did barf.  He also told on me.  I got sent to my room, and as further punishment Josh got the rest of the contents of my Easter basket – including a stretchy, sticky frog toy that you could slime things with from significant distances.  I had plans for that.

Since my brother decided to move his family (also referred to as: the reason we all have to live in Corpus) to Hawaii a couple of years ago, Easter fun at my parents’ house has been in serious decline.  The holiday is a blast with kids around.  They’re the only people in the world willing to believe that Easter candy is delicious rather than the hideous offspring of a drunken collaboration between Willie Wonka and Mr. Hyde.   To a kid, a Cadbury Egg is just a huge chunk of chocolate.  They don’t know yet what lies inside – that disgusting sugar slime that so closely mirrors yolk and albumen that it’s like swallowing a raw egg, except it’s one that fuzzes up your tongue with corn syrup to the extent that the organ must be brutally scrubbed with a toothbrush before you can taste salt again.  Also, sometimes kids will try to eat the plastic grass in the basket.  This can be pretty funny – especially if they’re not your children.

My mother is a Presbyterian minister now, so Easter and Christmas are, to her, the metaphorical equivalent of being called up to the majors.  Long hours of preparation go into her sermons, and the sanctuary at her church is as packed as it gets.  Then, after preaching, she has to come home to us.  The G.P. is an atheist from way back, and so doesn’t really care one way or another about the religious aspects of holidays — the epicurean elements are much more to his taste.  I’m the same way, and I can always eat.

Most of the year we torment her mercilessly.  For instance, once she left a book entitled “Jesus!” lying on a shelf in the living room.  For several weeks, every single time Dad or I walked past that book we’d shout, “JESUS!”  The Rev would freak out – “What in Heaven’s name is wrong?” she’d exclaim, and then the guilty party would mumble something about stubbed toes or there’s the postman.  We did this for WEEKS.  I don’t know if the Rev ever figured it out, but she did eventually move the book.

You might wonder how my parents have survived over 40 years of marriage with such different ideologies.  I think it’s because both of them have damned good senses of humor, and because they always buy big houses.  We love Mom so on Easter the G.P. and I generously declare a bullcrap ceasefire and try to be nice to Mom about her faith.  It generally lasts through dinner, but not through the board games that come after.  I beat my Mother at Scrabble by one point after practicing for an entire year and have refused to play with her ever since.  We are a cutthroat people.

Mom called the other day to ask me if I wanted to attend Easter lunch (momspeak for come at noon, but we’ll be eating at 8 p.m.) at their place.  I said yes because while I am a terrible daughter, I am an occasionally dutiful one.  She got very chirpy and said, “Oh good!  I’ll call you next week and we’ll start talking about what you can make!”

“You mean for like food?” I replied, concerned.

“Of course for food.”

“Like chips or something?”

“No, food made of food.”

“But MOOOOOOMMMMM, everyone hates my cooking.”

“I don’t hate your cooking,” my most staunch supporter replied. “I need to take my shower.”  Then she hung up on me.

I still don’t know what to make.  I think it’s going to be something like a salad that I sneakily pour out of a bag and into a bowl when no one’s looking.  Maybe I’ll go that extra mile and bring over a jug of salad dressing.  Like I said, I’m sometimes dutiful. What I really want to do, however, is throw caution to the wind and show up with two big boxes of Peeps and see what happens.  We’ll probably all die.

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Workout Commando

One of my absolute favorite places in Corpus Christi is our local YWCA.  I joined several years ago because they boast a 25M pool, which you need if you’re going to swim laps, especially if you’re bad at the turn-y around bit.  I once knocked myself briefly unconscious late one New Year’s Eve in a Holiday Inn swimming pool trying to do a kick flip.  I find big pools now.  I also really liked their mission statement, which is: “Empowering Women, Eliminating Racism.”  It seemed a bit lofty, but you go YWCA.

As gyms go, the YWCA isn’t exactly swanky.  We used to have a hot tub, but it kept getting clogged with what I think might have been back hair.  It was closed for repair for most of last year, sometimes with this orange radioactive looking goop in the bottom of it and bright yellow hazard tape around the perimeter.  Then, one morning, it was just filled in with concrete.  Seriously.  They just filled in the hole with concrete and then left it there, behind the glass, across from the weight room – like a warning to future hot tubs.  About four months later, they covered the area with carpet.

The building is older, and because of that it has a lot of problems.  The equipment is far from new. There aren’t fancy services like juice bars or daycare.  If you want a towel, it’s a pretty good idea just to bring one from home. At the YWCA, you get a vending machine full of chips and last I looked, no less than three varieties of Mountain Dew.   There are sometimes pockets of strange grossness that exceed those of more modern gyms.  You learn to avoid.  And, on top of all of this, the YWCA is more expensive than other local gyms.  Membership runs $39/month for a single person, with an initial joining fee of $74.  Compare this to Planet Fitness ($10/month, often with no joining fee) or gyms of its ilk, with new equipment and a strong probability of fewer grossness pockets, it’s no wonder that the YWCA seems to be suffering membership wise.  And that’s one of the reasons I love it.

The typical YWCA member is approximately 80 years old and generally pissed off.  Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some young people who work out there, especially if you consider 40 “young.”  But most of the folks are elderly, cranky, awesome, bright copper pennies of fierceness and I absolutely adore them.  You may have traveled the world, but until you’ve participated in a belly dancing class full of octogenarians draped in scarves with bells sewn on them, you haven’t done anything.

I swim very early most mornings.  Generally, the routine is that I get out of bed, throw on my suit and a cover up, slip into my flippity flops, and head out the door.  If I lie in bed too long, or think about the fact that I have to go work out, there is some likelihood that I’ll just roll over and go back to sleep. The best way to get out the door in the morning is the same as the best way to pull out a knife – quickly and in one smooth motion.

Most days, I just wear my wet suit home under my cover-up, but a few days out of the year, it’s just too cold to bear the damp drive.  On those days, I pack a gym bag with some street clothes and change in the dressing room.  I don’t like doing this, because strangers often try to talk to you when you’re naked.  Once, I forgot my underpants and was in the process of putting my yoga pants on commando when an ancient lady confronted me.

“Young lady, where are your panties?”

“Ummmm, I forgot them this morning.   Just gotta get home commando I guess,” I replied.

“You have to wear panties!  You’d die of shame if something happened and the paramedics found out you didn’t have on any underwear.”

“I think if the paramedics were there I’d be more likely to die of whatever they were trying to save me from than my lack of drawers,” I replied.  Please realize that this whole conversation took place with her seated naked on a bench and me standing desperately trying to get yoga pants on over my damp flesh.  Essentially, I had a tiny, wizened lady with a very firm grip on the necessity of panties angrily addressing my crotch.

“What would your grandmother say?” she continued, in a sneaky appeal to emotion.

I couldn’t bear to tell her that my grandmother was dead, so I sighed and said, “Probably to not forget my panties.  Probably, if she found out I had forgotten my panties, she’d remind me every day for the rest of eternity to not forget them.  She’d call me 8 times every morning if she had to.”

The old lady huffed.  “That’s right. Don’t forget your panties.”

I wanted to ask her to be my grandma, but I thought she might put a Yale lock in a sock and beat me to death with it very, very slowly.

I can’t say that I never forgot my panties again, but on days that I don’t have them, I definitely don’t change in the locker room.  That strange conversation cemented my love for the YWCA.  My gym may be a little sketchy and weird.  The equipment is far from new.  There isn’t a juice bar or a towel service. But there is a 25M pool and a bunch of cranky old ladies, many of whom will yell at your crotch.  It’s amazing.



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