Thursday, March 27, 2014

Still King of the Playground

Not Danny Boy (although the crown would fit)

My siblings and I grew up on the mean streets of San Francisco's Sunset District ... where "mean" translates to Funyuns and red cream soda, a four-block stroll to the Pacific Ocean and smoking bammer weed in the baseball field by the library.

Tough stuff.

Well, some stuff was hard.

Our mother (known with deep admiration as Whore Mouth), came from a large Irish family.  She had nine brothers and sisters.  These were our Drunk Uncles.  All beer and bloody knuckles.  The Aunts could be equally ferocious.  We were simultaneously fascinated and fearful.  Motown music was the soundtrack of our childhood.  Spankings were delivered with the crack of a wooden spoon, often accompanied by a swift pop to the mouth.  Dinner was often a pickled jalapeno wrapped in a blistered flour tortilla.  We can tell you twenty ways to cook ramen noodles, another hundred for hamburger.

Our father was an addict of extraordinary proportions.  Do you want to be woken up at two in the morning to discuss life on other planets?  No?  Too bad.  One day he was a roofer, the next an aspiring drummer.  Rarely did he have a paycheck and if he did, it was spent on one extravagant meal that consisted of jumbo shrimp, three kinds of grapes and a bowl of cocaine to be split amongst friends.  He would fight with our Mom singing, "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead," which you secretly thought was funny until he'd leave for four days and you were left with the pissed off, over-worked carcass of a woman who thought bleaching walls on a Sunday was family therapy.  He had the heart of a hobo and would have been tremendously successful at that if the women in his life would have just let him.

And while the Uncles fought each other, the women fought their men and chaos was the only constant, we, the wild kids of this clan, played outside all day long.  To be caught inside meant you would spend the next three hours disinfecting the bathroom, scrubbing grout lines with an old toothbrush or moving furniture for no particular reason.  So outside was where we were, doing whatever we could think of that didn't cost any money.  The result:  whipped cream wars, mud fights, flag football and bikes without brakes (who needs brakes when you have two feet?).

It's definitely a memory lane full of beautiful and sometimes scary things.  But we all managed to grow up and become relatively normal with a relatively law-abiding outlook on life (I say the latter under my breath and without much conviction).  Only one of us, however, has been able to remember what it's like to play.  To actually play for the fun of it and not because you're too tired to say no when the kids keep begging you and your eyes glaze over and you finally give in to a Jenga tournament.  I don't know what the definition of play is, but I know who knows how to do it.  It's the oldest among us, the one and only Danny Boy, aka Deputy Dan, aka Brick Head.

Danny Boy is shaved down to his skull and stands just over six feet tall.  Inked from the neck down, his tattoos tell a story of faith, a deep love for his family and his thirteen years spent in the California prison system.  This might not be the man you expect to devote two hours every night playing with his niece and nephew but there he is, hiding under a bush, armed with only a Nerf gun and a prayer.  He painstakingly created a war zone in my front yard.  A world in which my children take on Middle Eastern names and waterboard each other in the garage.  On more than one occasion I have seen the interrogation of my son -- his hands tied behind his back, a blanket over his head, unwilling to give up U.S. intelligence while being told he is American scum.  So, I have to ask myself, how can a man who spent so many years incarcerated, tap into that tiny fraction of fun buried deep in your adult soul?

I'm stumped.  

Make no mistake, Danny Boy is no Sunday school teacher.  You still don't want to call him a chump.  Certainly don't call him a bitch.  Don't mess with his family or his money.  He's a Say What You Mean And Mean What You Say kind of guy.  Still, he's more than willing to hide in your closet until you go to bed and then scare the shit out of you right before you fall asleep.  Although now that I think about it, that's more along the lines of terrorism.

I may write, but he's the real storyteller, the real comic.  And I suppose I just have to admit that he's still the fun one, still King of the Playground.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Feck Off, Ya Eejit

Let's Celebrate Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Day!

Yes, I'm Irish. Not completely, but I'm more Irish than I am Greek. More Irish than Portuguese. Clearly more Irish than Mongolian.

How Irish am I?  For the sake of accuracy, I'll refer to Irish stereotypes:

  1. Yes, I'm Catholic. No, not a practicing Catholic.  I do however have religious art hanging in my house and I did rock some neck-weary crucifixes in the 80s.
  2. Yes, I love the Kennedy Family. Once upon a time, I was the proud owner of a gorgeous black dining room table that was supposedly owned by a Kennedy. Which Kennedy, you ask? Who cares. Any Kennedy. 
  3. Yes, I love potatoes! I love them fried, mashed, baked, baked again and stuffed with wonderful things like cheese and onion and hope. God help me, I've even had them on pizza.
  4. Yes, I'm a brawler. No, I'm not a brawler. I refuse to give a straight answer, citing privacy issues and the possibility of outstanding warrants. Blah-blah.
  5. No, I'm not a redhead.  But my daughter is so that counts. (Irish math)
  6. No, I'm not an alcoholic ... per se. Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible that Sunday is a day of rest and wine consummation?  I'm pretty sure it does.  Refer to Item #1.
  7. No, I do not have the Luck of the Irish. Not the good kind, anyway.  I do however have the Potato-Famine-Raped-By-Vikings kind of Irish luck. The kind of luck that delivers your menstrual cycle like a tsunami while you're in the middle of the woods camping, your door handles snap off of your car and your favorite restaurant gives you food poisoning so you can't eat there again.  Ever.
  8. Yes, I have more than one word to describe being drunk.  Fluthered, locked, ossified, paralytic, plastered, shattered, annihilated, full as a tick, hammered, lacquered, pissed, pickled, full of the sauce monster, shellacked, shit-canned, shit-faced, shit-holed, shittered and wastey pants.
Conclusion:  I'm too Irish for my own good and should consider being more Greek.  The food's better and there's less chance of coming down with a bad case of alcohol poisoning.

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's Punch Yourself In The Throat Day!

Not Necessarily A Self-Portrait

It might not be noted in the fine print of your Costco calendar, but make no mistake, today is Punch Yourself In the Throat Day.  In Canada, it's Fuck Your Neighbors Day (not literally because that would not be very Canadian).  And because Arizona doesn't do a damn thing that the rest of the country does, they're celebrating Kick A Stranger Day.

You know you want to do it.  You know why you want to do it:

Because the giant dog next door broke the fence and was literally hanging by it's collar and your dirty, possibly meth addicted neighbors really don't give a shit.  Now it's tied up all day howling, and crying and it's all you can do not to blow up their lab house.

Because the guy who led your kid down the path of self hatred and self destructive behavior thinks he can simply deliver a disingenuous apology for it and all you really want to do is chew his face off, harvest his organs while he's conscious.

Maybe you loaded two semi-trucks with all of your shit, moved your entire family across the state only to discover that all was not as it seemed. Not even close.

Maybe you're making monthly payments on a student loan for a kid that decided to drop out at the last minute, because who doesn't like setting $120 on fire every month?

Your dog threw up, your uterus won't stop cramping, the lists in your head won't stop growing.

As soon as your feet hit the floor somebody's going to ask you what's for dinner.  Then again at 3:15.  Again at 4:15.  And one more time while you're actually making it.  "It's chicken for the love of God, can't you tell? It looks nothing like steak, or pizza, or meatloaf or anything else but freakin' chicken!"

Somebody, maybe everybody, wants to know where you're going, what time will you be back, are you going to stop to eat, can you bring me back something, can you go someplace else because they only serve Pepsi and I like Coke.

You look at the sleeping, snoring mass that is your husband and repeat to yourself, "Do not superglue his nostrils closed. Do not shove this sock down his throat.  Felonies are bad."

The garbage disposal is jammed, your son got a D on his math test because "new math" is not the same as "old math" and therefore you have no idea in Hell how to help him.

Your teenaged daughter thinks you're an asshole and on this day, you feel the same way about her.

* * * 

For your safety, here are things that you should NOT say on Punch Yourself In The Throat Day:

Suck it up.  Get over it.  Things are not that bad.  This too shall pass.  Tomorrow's another day.  If you think you've got it bad, wait until you hear about my day.  You're crazy.  Did you hear I got a raise and lost 25 pounds by eating cheese and drinking wine?  Oh my God, I'm pregnant!

Here's what you CAN say, "Can you take your boot off my throat now? Please."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Whore Talk

Slut-Idiot-Whore Legs In Their Natural Habitat

"Shut up you slut, idiot, WHORE!!"

These are the words that just flew out of my daughter's mouth as she plays alone in her bedroom.

What the ... ?

Little Lowe (aka Boss Lady, aka Precious Little Flower) is my nine year old power house of multi-syllabic words and common sense.  She does not appreciate conflict but can, in general, beat the shit out of her older brother.  She likes order and would like it if everybody would just follow suit.  Case in point  - when her best friend was grounded, she wrote her a detailed letter outlining how to not get in trouble ("Just do what your Mom says and don't maker her say it twice!").

She likes cupcakes and the color purple.

She collects stuffed bears.

She hoards boxes to make stylish yet comfortable homes for said bears.

She has lunch at school with "the new kid."

She gets straight As.

She has a favorite word: "inappropriate"

She buys happy meals for the homeless.

She cleans her room as a hobby and will clean yours too, if you ask her to.

She is not adopted.

This unexpected outburst of filth is delivered with such force and emotion that I am, for just a minute, stunned.  When I finally come to my senses, I confront her.

"Harlowe, what did you just say?"


"What did you JUST say?"

"Ummm .... slut? Idiot? Whore?"

Her whisky colored eyes blink.  Blink again.

"What is a slut?"

"Somebody who is stupid."

"And the word whore?"

"Umm ..... somebody even more stupid?"

Here's what I want to say to her:  A slut is the friend that makes out with your boyfriend and a whore is the one that sleeps with him.  A slut will have sex with the guy sporting weeping wounds on his mouth, a whore will not.  A whore operates within a set of very specific, often violently-imposed rules, whereas a slut does not.  Sluttiness is hereditary, whoredom is not.  This all makes complete sense to me but I know enough to simplify things.

"No, Harlowe.  A slut is somebody who has sex.  A lot of sex without much consideration.  And a whore is somebody who gets paid for it."

I watch as her face falls and the blush creeps up her neck.

"Where did you hear those words?"

In my head I know it's me, it's got to be me.  But I am fully prepared (and more than willing) to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of some nameless kid with some other foul mouthed mother, or on My Gay, or society at large, or really ... anybody but me.

She begins to raise her arm, her accusing finger already extended.  I close my eyes and prepare to deliver a speech that begins with, "Well, I'm a grown up and those are grown up words, and nobody uses the word slut anymore .... " but when I look at her, she's pointing directly at the television.

Real Housewives:  1
Miss Spoken:  0

And so ends the whore talk with my daughter.  For now.  Although, I do feel the need to parlay this talk with a discussion on female menstruation and how boys are big fat liars.  Maybe next week.