Posts filed under ‘Humor’

The Queen of Coincidence

I am the Queen of Coincidence-incidence-incidence. Or, as I like to imagine it, to the tune of Cult of Personality:

Look in my eyes

What do you see?

The Queen of Co-coincidence

The Queen of Co-coincidence

The Queen of Co-coincidence

I’m probably, like, a cousin of Kate Middleton’s or something, fourteenth cousin, five times removed, whatever the crap that means. I can’t even keep track of that in my own family. I just say, she’s my cousin, but she’s not my first cousin.

Oh! As a side note, to get fully off track, have I ever mentioned that I have a double cousin? No joke.  And the best part is that there’s absolutely no incest involved. My dad’s sister’s daughter married the son of a first cousin of my mother’s father. Seriously. So, I have this really snotty cousin who acts like she thinks she’s better than me but isn’t too good to ask to be my friend on Facebook that I probably share more genes with than, well, anyone outside of my immediate family. And actually, if you think about it, I mean, that is somewhat related to this post. What are the odds?

Now to get a real feel for this blog post, we have to go way back into the annals of Gooseberry Bush, to a little blog post that I like to call, The Accidental Stalker: An Ironic Tale of My Date with Destiny. Go ahead and read over that post and acquaint yourself with the awesomeness of my unrequited love for one Mark Foster. Mark Foster was an acquaintance of mine that I had the hots for who probably knew that I had the hots for him and didn’t see the point in chasing after a girl who fell into his lap.

Or, perhaps, despite my magnetic personality, he just plain old wasn’t interested. And this is actually a good thing because if he had been interested I’d probably now be married to a Republican, Presbyterian MBA who would force me to name our first-born son after a certain Scientologist alternative rock god. I’d also be married to a man who once described a former fiancée as a talented pianist who just didn’t have what it takes to be a professional musician.

With my healthy self-esteem, by now we’d have three children all named after professional writers, and I’d be a stay-at-home mom, hitting the bottle by 3:00 in the afternoon and bitching about how I coulda been a contender, like Jonathan Franzen. We would go to dinner parties with other business executives where my husband would describe me as a talented scribe who wasn’t talented enough to be published.

Can’t you just see the slurry scene of afternoon domestic melancholy?

Gooseberry: Charles Dickens Foster, you gets yo ass up here, young man!! Jane Austen Foster, didn’t I tell you to clllean your rrroom? [BELCH]

Thank God he didn’t find me the teensiest bit attractive. Instead, he married a horse faced, bug eyed woman. There’s no accounting for taste. But just maybe he prefers horse faced and bug eyed to fat, loud mouthed, opinionated and neurotic. I don’t get it. Really, I don’t. Clearly, he coulda had all this. And the bag of chips. I mean, look at me. I’m not going to begrudge him the bag of chips. What could I say about it that wouldn’t sound like hypocrisy?

So, to get on with it, I’m at the Central Market on North Lamar this evening, going to get something to eat at the café before I meet with my Writers Group. Yes, I meet with a Writers Group. Okay. It’s one other writer, but she’s awesome, and she’s written a rape satire that I’m going to publish as a guest post in another week or two, so keep your eyes peeled.

I go to Central Market early because I get off work at 5, and the Writers Group meets at 7, and I figure that I can eat dinner and goof off on the internet while I’m waiting for my new friend to show up. Also, I have no life. But that’s really not important right now.

I get in line and pick up a menu, and then I move my head just slightly to the right. And I’ll be damned. There he is. I have not seen this guy in…how old am I? I’m thinking I haven’t seen this guy in about 13 years. And I lock eyes on his for about 2 seconds, long enough to see the adorable baby girl in his arms wearing a pink floral sundress. And I figure Horseface must be right behind me.

So, I turn my head very quickly and then turn my back and then, after spending some time pretending to be interested in a magazine rack full of periodicals for breeders, I head for the second floor where I get out my laptop and hide until my friend shows up. By then I figure it might be safe to go downstairs and get something to eat, even though my stomach has been growling for the whole hour and twenty minutes that I wait for the Mark Foster family to finish their dinners. At the same time, I’m on the iChat with one of the Mr. Brewsters.

oh. my. god.

you really are the accidental stalker. who got there first?

i don’t know. i was checking out the prepackaged sushi when i decided I wanted something from the café instead, and there he was.

i think you should aim your sights higher and try for the soup peddler next time. can’t you run into jesse james?

i didn’t aim for anything. i just turned my head, and he was there.

I have a feeling that he’s moved back to Austin with his family and is now really active in the same Presbyterian church that Mr. & Mrs. Landlord faithfully attend.

I swear, this guy is like a boomerang. Thirty years from now when I hit the nursing home, there he’ll be, in the dining room, dentures in a glass by his plate, eating cherry Jell-O. And I will still instantly recognize his ass…and then run and hide.

August 4, 2011 at 3:24 am Leave a comment

My First Kiss

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Tri...

Image via Wikipedia

You knew I had to get around to this tale sooner or later. Later is better than never. We were living in Nowhereville when I had my first kiss. However, my first kiss was not in Nowhereville. It would have been impossible for me to find a boy who was willing to kiss me.

I was cute enough, but I was something like a cross between an outcast and a pariah. Maybe that’s redundant. If you ever want to experience my early adolescence, rent Welcome to the Dollhouse from Netflix. That’s as close as you’re going to get to experiencing my junior high years. Thank God – now! Or knock on wood or something.

The summer between 7th and 8th grades my dad went job hunting in Texas. My parents always wanted to live in Texas. My mom wanted to attend the nursing school at Texas Women’s University in Denton, and they always liked Texas for some inexplicable reason. For the record, I always voted for Southern California, but no one cared what I wanted. Now I live in Texas, and my parents still live in Oklahoma. We don’t even have family there. Go figure.

So, we were driving all over hell. Who knew that Texas was so big? We literally drove all over hell, because it was the middle of the summer, and the car had no air conditioning. We spent time in Dallas and time in Houston, and it was hot as hell in either place. I honestly do not remember whether it was in Dallas or in Houston. What I do remember is that it happened in the motel swimming pool of a La Quinta Inn.

Why do I remember that it was a La Quinta? Well, for one thing, there was a Denny’s next door where we ate breakfast the next morning. And for a second thing, my father did not believe in (and we couldn’t afford) indulging in luxury when it came to accommodations. If we stayed somewhere other than a Motel 6 or a Super 8, then you can bet that I remembered it.

This may have been because on this trip I remember we stayed at a Motel 6 where there were hookers in the hallway, and our toy poodle barking was the only thing that stopped God knows what from breaking into our room in the middle of the night from a connecting door. It’s just possible that might have been the cause of our unexpected upgrade…to LaQuinta.

After driving around all day long in a hot car and then sitting in a hot car while my dad had his job interviews, my brother and I were in a rush to get to the swimming pool. I may never have changed clothes in such a hurry in my entire life. I put on my one-piece black and gold ruffled swimsuit that my best friend’s mother had made me. [I did have one friend. I admit it.] My best friend was the high school football coach’s daughter, and black and gold were the Nowhereville school colors. Also, I can explain the ruffles. It was the ‘80s. It’s not my fault.

We ran to the pool. I quickly befriended this young Latina girl. She was really spectacularly pretty, maybe a year or two older. I never knew a stranger.  She invited us in on this game of keep away. It was a pretty spirited game, and even though I’m not generally a competitive person, keep away is one of those things like Scrabble, trivia games, and card games that I am very driven to win. I’m kind of a bitch about it, actually. I’ve had several people comment on my mean game of Spades, for instance. I’m serious! I will hurt you. A paper cut…or something.

Towards the end of the first game some boy came in and started playing on the opposite team. When it came time to pick sides for a second game the new boy became a team captain. He picked me for his team. I was his first pick. I was actually a little resentful about this, ‘cause I was probably smarting over having been beaten the game before. I asked him why he picked me, and he said, “’Cause you’re cute.”

Okay. I didn’t expect that. From about the time I turned 12 until I was 14 this guy may have been the only boy I knew who didn’t treat me like a leper.

Now this is what I remember about my Prince Charming. Since this happened in 1984, and I never knew his last name I think it’s safe to call him by his actual given name. His name was Randy. He was 14. He played football back home. He was from Oregon. And he had blond hair and green eyes and was really spectacularly handsome. Like he would have been just as handsome as the most popular boy in Nowhereville. The most popular boy in Nowhereville looked at least 3 years older than all his peers, and this guy was built like that.

We played keep away for awhile until Randy’s father came down to fetch him. I remember he had to be called more than once. And when he was about to get out of the pool he called me to him. He said, “C’mere.”

And I said, “Why should I?”

Charming, huh? This might be an example of the “intimidating” that men seemed to constantly use to describe me.

He said, “Because.”

So, I went. I’m actually easy like that. I just like to test men. Do you want me? Do you really want me? I’m like the Verizon phone commercial of romance.

He kissed me on the cheek. And I thought that would be it. And then I looked him in the eye, and he swooped in for the kiss. Just a peck. No tongue. Then he got out of the pool and walked off.

My new Latina friend said, “Wow! You work fast.”

I didn’t know if my brother witnessed it or not. I wasn’t about to ask him.

My brother and I had to leave soon afterward. Our mother called us. Something about dinner or something. You know those really freaky movies where they distort the cameras or sound to illustrate for people that the characters are dizzy or deaf or high or part of an alternative universe? Things like that? Jacob’s Ladder or What Dreams May Come or Requiem for a Dream. I was walking around in a Picasso painting.

I just could not believe it. A boy had kissed me. A cute boy. I stared at the ceiling for half the night with my fingers on my lips.

That is a happy memory. I think I just got misty eyed.

June 17, 2011 at 12:55 am 1 comment

John Hughes: Some Kind of Genius

Cover of "Some Kind of Wonderful (Special...

Cover via Amazon

This weekend I spent a lot of time reading, but on Sunday I rode the bus downtown and got off on Congress Avenue to take in a double feature at The Paramount where the Summer Movie Series is happening. I caught Sabrina the first weekend, and I’ve bought a package of discount tickets, so I’ll be going back frequently. I hadn’t been to the movies at The Paramount in a long time, so I forgot that it’s more fun to watch from the balcony. This time I remembered, and I watched from the balcony.

What’s fun about a double feature is that people you don’t know will talk with you in between the movies. The guy who picks out the movies introduces them and gives you a bit of trivia. Pretty cool. You can get that at Austin Film Society screenings and at the Alamo Drafthouse. It makes going to the movies feel like a more collective, social experience.

The double feature was two John Hughes comedies. I should say that I love John Hughes. He’s the single biggest cultural influence of my adolescence. And what’s not to love? His comedies are sweet, although seeing them now I recognize how often I see things in them that I wouldn’t want to show a child. The day two years ago when John Hughes died was a sad one, and I think I remember it and the day that Jim Henson died the way that a baby boomer might remember the assassination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

The first movie was Sixteen Candles. I remember liking it a lot when I was a kid. It’s dated and doesn’t age very well. It’s entirely wish-fulfillment fantasy (like all romantic comedies – let’s face it), with not a hint of realism thrown in for good measure. The freshman geek with a face full of metal bags the Prom Queen? The Prom King drops the girlfriend that he can “violate in ten different ways” for a sweet, sophomore redhead who’s admitted that she has a crush on him. The redhead’s dad gives her a thumbs up as she ditches her sister’s wedding reception to run off with some strange boy. Ye-ah. That’s gonna happen.

Jake Ryan is the guy who doesn’t exist in American high schools. I’m not saying that the nice guy doesn’t exist. There are lots of them. I’m just saying that he doesn’t look like he belongs on the cover of Tiger Beat, drive a glossy red sports car, live in a suburban mansion, play football and date the head cheerleader. Later, this guy might become a decent guy, but it’ll be sometime in college before it takes hold. It was true then, and it’s true now.

So, Sixteen Candles was every teenager’s dream come true. But did you know that if Hughes had had his way that Molly Ringwald would have ended up with Anthony Michael Hall? I read on the internet that he wanted the Ringwald character in Pretty in Pink to end up with Duckie. The studios intervened in each case. However, they didn’t win in the end with Some Kind of Wonderful. This was like Hughes’ middle finger to the system. He thought, “I’ll show you. The geeks will fall in love, and I will make you like it.” And sure enough, he does.

Some Kind of Wonderful is another Hughes film with a song title. It’s one of his lesser known films. I’ve seen it before, but the first time I saw it was on television some time in the 1990s. Hughes wrote it and was highly involved in the filming, but someone else directed. Howard Deutch was given the script as a peace offering after he made Pretty in Pink with the alternative ending that audiences preferred, where Molly Ringwald gets her Blaine.

I’m a little surprised they didn’t film a third version where she ends up with James Spader, the Iago of John Hughes villains. Seriously, everything’s better with James Spader in it. I would put him in my morning coffee if I could.

If the internet is a reliable source of information (in other words, be somewhat skeptical), when Some Kind of Wonderful was filming, the leads Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson were dating in real life. A scene where Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson are practicing kissing and then blush so charmingly? It’s said to be real since Thompson was on set. After filming wrapped, Howard Deutch married Lea Thompson. Eric Stoltz went on to make Mask, and Mary Stuart Masterson went on to the Chick Flick Hall of Fame in Bed of Roses, Benny & Joon and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Some Kind of Wonderful is a better movie than Sixteen Candles. Lea Thompson plays Amanda Jones, the popular girl from the wrong side of the tracks who landed the wealthy and popular boyfriend, Hardy, (Craig Sheffer) who just so happens to be the world’s biggest douchebag. Chynna Phillips has a small part as Mia, Hardy’s mistress, if you will. Stoltz plays Keith, the sensitive artist who moonlights as a car mechanic. Masterson plays Watts, his tomboy best friend from the third grade, a tomboy who wears boxer shorts and t-shirts as lingerie and plays the drums. She and Keith are inseparable. He pines for Amanda Jones, and she doesn’t seem to realize she’s got a thing for Keith until Amanda is actually within his grasp.

When Amanda catches Hardy whispering sweet nothings with Mia one time too many, she dumps him very publicly, and Keith quickly steps up to the plate. She accepts his offer to go on a date in order to solidify her decision to dump Hardy. She doesn’t really want to go out with Keith. She just wants to hurt Hardy. Hardy is too much of a narcissist to be “hurt,” but he decides that Keith must be punished for having the audacity to “steal” a girl out from under him, even though Keith is so obviously socially inferior.

It’s pretty basic, predictable fun from there. I won’t spoil it for you, but Watts steals the show. The ending is plausible and sweet. In the end everybody gets what they deserve, including Amanda Jones. The best lines in the movie come at the end.

Keith: Why didn’t you tell me [you were in love with me]?

Watts: You didn’t ask.


Keith (to Watts): My future looks good on you.

June 10, 2011 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

Be Prepared: Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance

Hi. You might not know me. I’m Kansas State Representative Pete DeGlaaf (R), and I love women and babies. In fact, I just kissed a baby 5 minutes ago. You missed it. During a recent house debate my colleagues and I were discussing a motion to make private health coverage for abortions illegal. I mentioned that women who were the survivors of rape or incest might just want to be prepared.

I mean, after all, I have a spare tire. I have life insurance. Why shouldn’t we expect women to plan ahead for these inevitable contingencies of life? Isn’t that what being a responsible adult is all about? We have fire insurance and flood insurance. Why shouldn’t we have rape insurance, too?

That’s when it occurred to me that I had come upon an excellent business plan, inadvertently. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t take advantage of my accidental flash of entrepreneurial genius! First, I googled to make sure that there wasn’t already a rape insurance policy out there.

It turns out there is, but it’s only available in South Africa. So, I thought why can’t we be like the progressive people of South Africa and offer this service to American women? I contacted my friends at Mutual of Wichita. They felt exactly the same way, and they made it happen.

I’m now pleased to announce that you can purchase Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance at a very affordable rate. You can, like a Boy Scout, be prepared for life’s emergencies, such as random acts of penis. What does it cost? Well, the monthly premium is very affordable. And like life insurance, we base it on amortization tables designed to minimize risk. But any woman* can afford rape insurance.

Affordable Monthly Premiums

Girl, 18 & Under, Virgin


Adult Virgin


Female, Experienced, under 30


Female over 30














You might ask, what is the deductible, Pete? And again, it’s very affordable. The deductible is only $800. That’s right! $800! For the mere cost of a rape kit, you can start taking advantage of your rape insurance coverage.

What does rape insurance cover? I’m glad you asked. There are two options available for women. Both options, working, of course, in conjunction with your health care provider and your employer’s EAP, will pay for a portion of 8 counseling sessions with a qualified, approved Christian counselor.

We will pay, in conjunction with your health care provider, for a portion of the health care costs associated with the rape, up to and including the morning after pill, four AIDS tests, the recommended AZT cocktail, and a full test panel for STDs. We will also pay for your ultrasound and prenatal care and labor costs, if necessary.

For those of you that are victims of rape and incest, I am truly sorry. If, after 8 weekly sessions, your qualified, approved Christian counselor determines that an abortion is necessary for your mental health, then it will be covered after certain secondary requirements are met.

The Jaycee Duggard Plan The Joan Crawford Plan
Counseling Counseling
Health Care Health Care
Ultrasound Ultrasound
Pre-Natal & Delivery Polygraph Test
College Trust Fund Wire Hanger
Tea Kettle
Hydrogen Peroxide
One Gallon of Distilled Water
2 Tea Towels
1 Box of Sanitary Napkins

We will, of course, require you to submit to a polygraph test and an ultrasound. If the polygraph determines that you have, indeed, been the victim of a rape or incest, then we will provide you with a coat hanger, a teakettle, a bottle of distilled water, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a small hand-held mirror, and one night in a private hospital room. If you absolutely must kill babies, then that burden should be on you alone. This is called the Joan Crawford Plan.

For those of you that aren’t baby killers, we have the Jaycee Duggard Plan. This option covers not only your medical costs associated with gestation and labor but also provides your rapist’s baby with a college education, regardless of whether or not you decide to keep the baby. That’s right. You can give your baby up to a loving, caring, Christian family that’s just waiting for a bundle of joy and rest assured that your child will receive a college education at an approved Christian college.**

But wait!! That’s not all. If you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, to a panel of Christian clerics and medical experts, that you were a virgin prior to your assault, then you will receive an extra $10,000 for pain and suffering to be spent in any way you deem fit. You can also qualify for discounts on your insurance premiums if you agree to carry pepper spray, take a self defense course and never leave your home without your arms, legs, ankles and decolletage fully covered. We will provide an additional discount if you wear a burka or another full head and face covering.

*  Mutual of Wichita Rape Insurance doesn’t cover strippers, massage therapists, sex workers or transgender women. Pre-existing conditions such as prior sexual abuse can disqualify you for coverage as well.

** Approved Christian colleges include Liberty University, Bob Jones University, and Oral Roberts University.

Disclaimer: I am not Pete DeGlaaf or Pete DeGraaf, the dumbass Republican member of the Kansas State House of Representatives. This “advertisement” is a satire meant to call attention to the stupidity and misogyny of Representative Pete DeGraaf of Kansas.

June 2, 2011 at 2:56 am 1 comment

The Hulk

In my last blog post about The Bully I mentioned a minor character named The Hulk. The Hulk is someone I went through all four years of high school with even though we weren’t close. I rarely had classes with him. We certainly didn’t have the same extracurricular activities. You wouldn’t have caught him dead on stage singing or dancing. I’m also reasonably sure he never voluntarily read a book.

Frequently, I would see The Hulk in the halls. So, this is what I would do. I would make sure he couldn’t see me. Then I would cup my hands over my mouth, lower my voice a full octave, and belt out, “Hulk!” and then wait for him to survey his surroundings and find the 5’3” 120 pound freckled thing that had yelled at him. I’d grin. Sometimes he’d walk over and we’d exchange pleasantries or sometimes we both kept walking. After our freshman year this was the nature of our relationship.

So, naturally, when he called me up one day the summer between my junior and senior years in high school and wanted to ask me out on a date, stunned would be a good word to describe my reaction. I didn’t say yes right off  ‘cause, frankly, I wasn’t really sure what we’d have to talk about in order to date. So, I told him we could hang out and see.

By this time I knew that The Hulk was no longer playing football and was wrestling instead. He’d gained some weight, either because he was exercising less, not playing football but eating the same, or, maybe from a lot of partying or some combination of the two. So, now on top of just generally being a bigger guy, he was chubby. This didn’t bother me. I just mention it to show that his status in school had dropped, and he wasn’t King of the Hill anymore.

He came by my home to pick me up one afternoon. My dad was at home. This was when we were living in the married student housing apartments over by State Mental Hospital University. The Hulk came over on a big chopper. This wasn’t a scooter or a motorbike. This was huge. My dad said under no circumstances was I getting on that bike.

That was a small disappointment to me, ‘cause The Hulk riding up on that motorcycle was like something out of Days of Our Lives. He was a nice looking guy with dark hair and dark eyes who’d taken the time to grow a decent mullet. Bo Brady had come to pick me up and take me away from my boring summer. I tried to talk my dad out of this, trust me did I ever try, but he would not be dissuaded.

So, instead, The Hulk and I walked to the State Mental Hospital University stadium. It was deserted, so we had the whole stadium to talk. This was not, however, what The Hulk had in mind. We walked up to the box on the visitor side, and I think he had his tongue down my throat within the first 5 minutes. Within the first ten minutes he was on top of me, and the roaches were on top of us. Very romantic.

Now he was a good kisser, and he didn’t grope me or force me to do anything. He could have, very easily. I just didn’t think this inauspicious beginning boded well for our non-existent future. So, I interrupted him every two minutes or so to try to start a conversation. Notice I said try.

At one point I remember I interrupted him to say, “If this is what we’re doing now, then what are we doing in a couple of months?”


I think I really tried his patience to the exponential. He was probably weighing just how badly he wanted to get laid. After only about a half hour or so, I told him it was probably time for me to go back home, and he walked me back.

And then he gave me a proposition. Straight up. No sugar coating. He was more popular than I was. I could improve my popularity by dating him. If I wanted to be popular, then I should call him. The implication about just what I was going to be doing for my newfound popularity was not lost on me. I knew what kind of bargain I’d be making. And I guess it saddened me, both that he’d make the offer and that he’d be stupid enough to think I’d be interested. He gave me his number and told me to call if I was interested.

I did call, but it was to tell him that I wasn’t interested. I knew I’d be in over my head with The Hulk, and I wasn’t so sure that he actually liked me. Wanted to have sex with me, sure, but like me…I don’t know about that.

The man who answered the phone at The Hulk’s house had an accent. He was charming, and he took a message. Now I almost rethought my decision just because the foreign accent thing did bring an exotic element into the mix that wasn’t previously there.

When The Hulk called back I said, “I didn’t know your dad was from the UK.”

“Yeah, he and my mom are immigrants. They’re Welsh.”

“Cool accent.”


“I don’t think I’m going to be dating you, but thanks for asking.”

“Your loss.”

I never felt like I lost out on anything not dating The Hulk. It became increasingly obvious during our senior year that he was troubled and probably had issues with substance abuse. I did have a class with him that last year. Keyboarding, which was basically a typing class. He couldn’t even manage that class. He hung out exclusively with girls who had less than stellar reputations. Dating The Hulk might have improved my popularity but not in the way that he meant it. I’d like to think that things have changed in American high schools today but if you can tell by the media stories of girls who get bullied for sexting or from the movie Easy A, some things remain the same.

May 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

The Bully

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Image via Wikipedia

I moved from Nowhereville when I was in the 9th grade. We moved to a suburb of Oklahoma City with a reputation for affluence but, to clarify, not the neighborhood in the City where the butlers bear king sized candy bars on silver trays for Halloween. It was a huge school. There were close to 1,000 people in my graduating class, which means that the student population of the high school that I graduated from was 1/3 of the total population of the last town I lived in.

Coming from Nowhereville, my new school district felt that my education must have been dubious at best and insisted on putting me in a regular English class when I told them I needed an honors English class. That lasted a semester, and then they switched me to a class that was sort of an intermediary between the regular and honors English classes.

In that class was a boy named Joe Steele. Joe and I also rode the bus together to and from school, and he quickly noticed that I had a habit of comparing and contrasting my new community with Nowhereville, such as starting sentences constantly with the phrase, “In Nowhereville…” So, Joe, himself a new transplant to the town as well, took it upon himself to christen me Nowhereville. Joe Steele was a football player, and all his athlete friends called me Nowhereville as well. This lasted for my entire freshman year. I was rarely actually referred to by my real first name, unless I was at home.

As a side note, this was the year that the big controversy came out about Romeo & Juliet. Some idiot fundamentalist Bible thumper found out that we were going to be watching Franco Zeffirelli’s movie version of Shakespeare’s play and got upset about it. There was nudity. There were teenagers having sex! We might be tempted to do the same. We saw the movie anyway, and all I was tempted to do was to strangle the giggling Olivia Hussey.

While the controversy still raged, the Oklahoma City news stations were dispatched to our school. I got filmed for the evening news reading the part of the nurse to Joe’s Romeo, wearing my Nowhereville school mascot sweatshirt. Apparently, for a brief time I was a local celebrity who didn’t even live there anymore.

Joe Steele, for some odd reason, took a real liking to me. He’d come to our fair city to live with his father who did considerably better financially than his beleaguered single mother. He was in high school now, and he wanted the opportunity to be popular and do it right, so moving in with dad made that happen. But he missed his mother and his younger sister. So, even though Joe and I were very close to the same age, Joe constantly told me how much I reminded him of his little sister.

In English class our teacher made us write on a daily basis in spiral notebooks that we called our journals. These journals were supposed to be private, and our teacher said she didn’t read them beyond checking to make sure that we wrote something daily. Joe read my journal. Regularly. He was like the one man NSA. This was how he kept tabs on me. If he thought I was up to something that wasn’t maybe healthy or wise, then I’d get a mini-lecture.

Joe had two athlete friends who rode the bus with him. One played football with Joe. He was a defensive player and solid muscle. His real name was Matt, but we called him The Hulk. He was huge. The other friend’s name was also Matt, and he played basketball. He had blond hair that he always got cut into a perfect flat top. (I can’t remember if Top Gun had come out by then or not. Oh, well.) Matt was very, very patient with me because I was endlessly amused by tapping the top of his head with a pencil to watch his hair bounce. It never failed to make me laugh.

On the same school bus that I took every day with Joe and Joe’s girlfriend and Joe’s girlfriend’s best friend and The Hulk and Matt there was another solid hunk of muscle besides The Hulk. I’ll call her The Bully. The Bully was a girl whose name I don’t even remember right now. She was a big black girl with an attitude, and for some inexplicable reason she could not stand me. As instantly as Joe’s affinity for me had arisen, so had her complete disdain for my existence on the planet.

I’m a friendly person, and I used to get on the school bus and smile and greet everyone. For a long time, The Bully simply ignored me. And then one day she basically got in my face and told me that she didn’t want me to so much as look in her direction ever again. Well, I’d been beaten up by bullies before, and I figured I’d survive it. I didn’t go out of my way to make conservation with her but I wasn’t going to avoid all eye contact just so she wouldn’t pound me silly. I told her so.

The next time I got on the bus I didn’t seek her out, but I didn’t avoid eye contact, either. And…nothing happened. Nothing ever happened at all. Apparently, she was all talk and no action. And I couldn’t figure it out. The Bully was five times my size and probably actually knew how to fight. She could have beat the shit out of me. So, why didn’t she? Meh. It didn’t trouble me for long. I was just glad that I hadn’t been injured and went on living my life.

It wasn’t until many months, maybe even years later, that I found out what happened. One of the Matts told me, probably The Hulk because I was closer to him, but I honestly don’t remember now. Joe had confronted The Bully in a school hallway with both the Matts there. He told her that if she so much as touched a hair on my head he wouldn’t care if she was a girl or not, he would beat her black and blue, and if he couldn’t do it, then one of his friends would.

I found Joe Steele on Facebook and got to thank him for his intervention. He’s happily married with children, living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s an accountant. Sometimes you get the opportunity to thank people for the kindnesses that they bestow upon you quietly and anonymously. Isn’t that nice?

May 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm Leave a comment

Check Engine Light

Picture of Rocky Mountains

Image via Wikipedia

The kind of comedy I love best is the kind that sort of points out the flaws in human beings, the kind where we can recognize and laugh at ourselves or at the foibles of our society in general. Keeping Up Appearances does this well. It’s a British television show, and it could probably never be remade in the United States because, for one thing, the humor is gentler than American humor. I like the kind of stories where you can tell on yourself and laugh. Or tell on someone else and laugh. That’s good, too.

Damian Carson, the subject of two blog posts back, is one of the few men I’ve ever known who was good at this kind of humor. He didn’t mind being the butt of his own joke. He had a self-deprecating sense of humor, which I would say is generally a trait that women share. Men, not so much.

I don’t hear a lot of men willing to make fun of themselves. I think it’s probably something about our culture that doesn’t encourage this, like little boys have to be strong and perfect. Maybe it explains some of the examples of misandry that are found in popular culture today. Men won’t make fun of themselves, so we do it for them.

Damian told me a true story once that was hilariously comic. Perhaps it was so funny because it was tragic. Frequently, there’s an element of pain of some kind in the things we laugh about.

Damian had a Plymouth Neon, back when they were called Plymouth Neons and not Dodge Neons. It was a hatchback. He had a girlfriend he was dating at the time. They went to New Mexico so that he could go on a job interview for this opportunity that would have been a big raise for him. He made it a date, too, and brought the girlfriend along.

The trip was to Albuquerque, a beautiful and scenic destination. Damian and his date decided to take a drive up the Rocky Mountains to do some sightseeing. They were a ways up the mountain when the check engine light on his car came on. Naturally, this was the summer. They were nowhere near a filling station or anything of the kind. He decided to drive on and risk it.

When his engine actually started smoking he decided to stop driving and pull over. He left the girlfriend in the car. He could see that his engine needed some fluid, some kind of coolant. But they didn’t have any water in the car. They hadn’t even brought a bottled water with them to drink.

So, what does he do? Maybe you can see this coming. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he whips it out and pees under the hood of his car right in front of his shocked date. He lets that sit for awhile. You can just imagine how pleasant that smell must have been in the middle of the summer in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in the cab of a car with no air conditioning. I don’t think this chick’s date with Damian worked out as well as mine had.

After what he felt was a sufficient amount of time, Damian tries to turn on the engine again and finds that it will not start. Actually, it will never start again. Maybe if he had stopped at the moment when the check engine light first came on it might have. But because he waited so long when the car finally got to a mechanic the mechanic told him that he might as well buy a new car because the engine had to be completely replaced.

You might wonder how Damian and his date got down from the mountain. Well, here’s where the date might have actually improved. Fortunately, he did have a cell phone and was able to call for some kind of mountain rescue. So, in the end they got a helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains, which was probably very cool.

And the moral of this story is.

  1. Don’t ignore the Check Engine Light.
  2. Take water with you before heading for the mountains.
  3. Don’t pee in your car.
  4. Just pay for the helicopter ride over the Rocky Mountains. In the end, it’s less expensive.

May 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

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