It's Time

to introduce Georgia's new boyfriend, Blaise, someone I hope to blog-abuse here in the near future. They met this summer in the restaurant where they both worked. He's a senior at Tech; she's a freshman at Berry. The road between is smokin'.



Saturday Things You Might Not Know

Before your next trip to Vegas, be sure to read about this interesting, insidious marketing strategy. Smart, though.


Friday Nostalgia

The Rifleman, 1958-1963

When I was a kid, I watched this in re-runs all the time. The good old days, when TV wasn't so violent.


The Good Ol' Days: Obscene Phone Calls

Several day ago, a friend of mine told me about a grad student who was doing a study on personal bloggers for his thesis. She asked if I'd agree to talk to the guy on the phone. The deal was, he'd interview me, which would take about an hour, and in return I'd get a $50 gift card to Amazon. Everyone knows I could talk about blogging until the Great Door opens in the sky. And for me, being interviewed is like finding a twenty in my pocket, losing a pound, and Lo spending the night with my mother all rolled into one. I'd have done it for free.

My friend said she'd pass along my email address, and he'd contact me to set up a time. The next day, it occurred to me to wonder how this guy had found my friend and whether she felt for sure he was legit. So I emailed her, "How do you know this guy's not some kind of phone perv?" to which she responded that he had put a notice on Craig's List, asking for volunteers, and that she'd already received and used her gift card. Then she added, "You're going to end up dying from making up a million scenarios just like this one in your head."

I felt better, knowing that she'd answered an ad as opposed to him having found her or sought her out. If he'd called her, randomly, claiming to have come across her blog or to have been referred by someone else, I'd have been mighty skeptical. In fact, I'd have speculated that he'd contacted her for the express purpose of getting to me. I realize that would make about as much sense as asking your best friend's brother out because he used to go out with the sister of the guy you're really interested in, but still...I think you'll come to understand.

See, I don't have to "make up a million scenarios." I've already lived them, back in the days before caller ID, back when phones were anchored to the wall and if you were lucky, you had a cord that reached from the avocado kitchen to the corner of the orange velvelour sofa in the den.

Case in point #1: I was about 12, and it was the first week of summer break. It was probably noon, but I was still in my pajamas, because why get dressed to watch The Price is Right, nose through your parents' closet, and rake the shag carpet? The phone rang, and when I answered it, the guy on the other end said he was doing a survey and that if I answered his questions, I'd get a free subscription to the magazine of my choice. Then he asked if I thought any of my friends would be interested in participating and getting free magazines, which prompted me--imagining a sea of Seventeen, Tiger Beat, and Mad magazine--to offer up the names and numbers of every girl I knew. I even looked up the numbers of my third-tier friends in the phone book for him. Then the survey began:

PP: How old are you?

TR: I turned 12 in March.

PP: Do you play any sports?

TR: Softball. I'm a pitcher.

PP: What are you wearing right now?

TR: A yellow nylon shortie gown with little orange and green flowers on it.

PP: Are you wearing panties?

TR: Huh?

PP: Would you say your nipples are the size of a dime, a quarter, or a half dollar?

Exactly. I had to call everyone on the list I'd given him. Then I called my mother at work, who called the phone company, who called me and made me relive the trauma--meaning the hot shame of my own stupidity.

Another memorable phone incident happened when I was in my late twenties, already the mother of two, and much more worldly. The call came from a close friend of my then-husband, a guy named Mike, who looked like your average post-fratboy. You know, sort of Ted Bundy-ish. Mike had been hanging out with my husband for several months, had become a regular fixture at our house. When he called one afternoon, I assumed he was looking for my husband, but when I told him J wasn't home, he said he'd actually called to talk to me.

He hoped I'd keep the call confidential. See, he was upset, because it was the first anniversary of his fiance's death (fiance?), and he didn't know who else to talk to. He thought I'd be able to understand, since he knew I'd lost my sister recently.

Oh, I felt so sorry for him, Poor Mike. It was hard for a man to admit he was hurting--and he must have been in terrible pain, considering that in the countless times we'd all gone out to dinner, or hung out by the pool, or rented movies, he'd never once mentioned his true love's name, the fact that he'd been engaged, or the event of her death. And it would explain why he was often abrasive--nay, downright rude-- to his new girlfriend, his fear of getting close to a woman again.

Somewhere between my explaining to him that anniversaries were particularly difficult--how the whole season of spring had been especially tough for me--and my answering his questions about what my sister was like, I became aware of a strange slapping sound that got gradually louder until it became annoying. Simultaneously, I caught myself trying to talk over his breathing, which was getting heavier and heavier...Um, yeah.

There are other examples, of course. I've been tracked down at school a couple of times; for example, someone claiming to have read my poems online wanted to talk to me about my work for a college English assignment. It went bad quickly, after he asked me for a picture...

I even set up a student once, when a guy with a British accent called, claiming to be Madonna's personal assistant. He was all business, informing me that the material girl had come across our catalog and especially loved the work of one of our (beautiful) design students. Madonna, you understand, wanted her name and phone number...I FELL for it (He used Madonna's real name). I was excited for the student.

You have to feel sorry for the phone pervs these days. It must be quite the challenge, circumventing the new technology. But I have faith that they are adapting, evolving in this digital/cellular/security age, developing new ways to get to me. I have to be careful.

New Hat, Crap Camera


Left Holding the Bag

So Lo comes downstairs bawling, Biggy is chuckling, and the ceiling above me is practically rumbling, because Jack is laughing so hard in the room directly upstairs. Before I can determine what great comtragedy has occurred, Biggy announces he's going to the Y, and just leaves me to deal with his daughter. (Turns out, she'd jumped out from behind a door earlier and scared him, and he'd simply returned the favor.) I happen to be holding my camera and punch the button for posterity's sake, but Lo doesn't know it's running. My favorite part is her dramatization rationalization for why what her dad did was worse than what she did. (Oh, and he did it TWICE!)

I was serious about the payback. Biggy and Jack, sleep tight.

Where the F*** is Bob?

It was July 23, I believe, the last time we checked in with Bob. I know you've been wondering how much progress he's made in three months, since his family officially moved out of the house on my street and into the brick traditional a couple of miles down the road.

As you can see, the old roof is coming along, as well as the porch. He hired a guy who was around for a couple of weekends, and occasionally Bob himself would show up and drink a cold one on the porch-in-progress. He'd talk to the help, put his hand on his hip, stretch his back, and look at his watch.

As promised, we've been keeping track of the state of the new home, resisting the urge to warn his current neighbors about what's coming. I was waiting for the process to begin again before I started sharing, inviting you back to experience the circle of life that is Bob. We knew it was just a matter of time; Ladies and Gentlemen, this is indeed the beginning:

Chihuahuas Will Do Anything to get Attention

It's true.
Thanks to MM for sending this.

Too Bad I Have No Reason to Use FedEx Kinkos

Maybe it's because I have to help create presentations several times a year, but I LOVE this commercial.



Pretty Busy

Dear Elsa,

Math what?

What is it About Boots?

Today I wore a black dress with black boots, because we have graduation tonight, and I sure as hell didn't feel like being in pantyhose all day.

Since I've gotten to school, I've heard more than one comment about the black boots. It comes out of males as a gutteral, instinctive sort of gasp, which has nothing to do with me and everything to do with my footwear. Honestly, I show way more skin most days, wearing shorts and sandals. Right now, sitting, about six inches of my flesh is exposed; standing, I'm showing about four. The dress itself is modest, below-the-knee, loose, with long sleeves.

Can someone explain?

Friday Nostalgia

Janis Ian, '76


Dear Elsa

While you were eating tacos, I signed on with Santa. Now, bring me my hat back and go find yourself some lederhosen.


Some Jack For Sadie and MaMa and Them


And So It Begins

Having been thus challenged, we'll give you one outfit a day, for as long as Jessica and Elsa can keep it up.

Look eye! Always look eye!


Lighter Fare

A little before lunch, I sent Biggy an email, picking at him for not commenting on my shuttle post. He tends not to read my entries if they are longer than a bumper sticker or more substantial than a Cheeto. Below is the email chain, starting at the bottom.

For anyone else I might have bored with my long story, here are Stella and Fay in their new sweaters, frolicking on Georgia's bed while she's away at school:


I'm Done With Shuttles

Once, when Georgia and I were buying groceries, she made an utterly profound observation about the ridiculous waste of time and energy that this activity demands:

George: Think about it, Mom: You put the groceries in the cart; then you unload the groceries onto the conveyor belt, where they're loaded into bags; then you put the bags back into the cart, roll the cart out to the lot, where you then unload those bags from cart to car. After that, you drive home, take the bags back out of the car and into the house.

TR: Dang! I never really thought about it. You're right.

George: There's GOT to be a way to eliminate some of those steps. It's ridiculous.

The only other practice that compares is shuttling. If you attend a concert or festival or fair in a venue that doesn't have adequate parking with a short walk to the fun, that means a gadzillion people are expected. And that, in turn, means: You fight traffic to find a parking space near the shuttle area, then wait in line for the shuttle, after which you get packed like ghost poo into a school bus, or a trolley, or a Red Flyer wagon that smells like old peanut butter sandwiches and Aquanet, which in turn sits in traffic, crawling to the site.

I have a long history of bad shuttling experiences, but the most memorable happened many years ago, when my first-batch was five and under. My friend Leslie, who had a two-year-old and an infant, and I took the kids to the beach, which is its own story--enough to fill a memoir the size of Anna Karenina. But I'm sticking to the shuttle for today.

To the point: Me (right, I), Leslie, a five-year-old, a three-year-old, TWO two-year-olds, and an infant are vacationing at the Sawgrass Resort, a fancypants place we clearly do NOT belong but where my then-husband has (kindly) arranged for us to stay in order to keep us from coming home early when my father's free condo turns out to have a six-lane highway in the front yard (like I said, a memoir). The resort itself has all to do with golf, so it is situated well off the beach that you must drive to. Or shuttle.

It takes us probably 45 minutes to an hour to get everything we need packed for the beach: diapers, bottles of formula, towels, crackers, juice boxes, sun screen, port-a-crib, umbrella, cooler, baby seat, chairs...and yet we still make it down to the waiting area with 15 minutes to spare. And we're the first ones in line for the shuttle that arrives every half hour.

During that fifteen minutes, people begin trickling down--women in Adrienne Vittadini swimsuits and Jimmy Choo flipflops, men like peacocks in Alexander Julian. And there we are, wiped out and dishevelled from the relocation, wearing knock-off Humbros and t-shirts, with our tired, diapered little snotties: two moms riding herd as we wait for the tram.

What happens next is a cartoon--or an episode of Keystone Cops: The shuttle finally pulls in, and before we've picked up the first beachbag full of Cheerios and Enfamil, it is chock-crammed with golfers and Junior Leaguers. Having poured past us faster than a keg drains at Sig Ep, they are now looking down on us from the open windows.

No one offers to help, no one offers his seat. And the whole smug shebang drives off, leaving us in a cloud of exhaust.


So fast forward to last Saturday's apple festival, another shuttle-event. We are directed by boy scouts to a parking lot at the Ellijay Primary School parking lot. We walk over to the crowd of people congregated for the school-bus-cum-shuttle. We wait at least 20 minutes...The rest is as I've already described.

But it's the return trip that breaks this camel's back. So let me declare here and now: I WILL NEVER SHUTTLE AGAIN. And I mean it. I know there are things I've sworn off and gone back to-- Mellow Mushroom, my own family dinner table, Perez Hilton--but I'm serious this time.

This is where we waited for the return shuttle for over an hour on Saturday. We were, luckily, closer to the front than the back. The pic with the back of the guy's head is of the line ahead of us. The other is the stretch behind:

When we got back to the campground, we had this exchange with the Martha Stewart family, who had also attended the festival--mom, dad, THREE KIDS UNDER FIVE:

MS Mom (in her treacle voice): So, what did you think of the festival?

TR: I'd give it a six--subtract five for the shuttle.

MS Mom: Oh, we just walked the three miles back and beat the bus.


Friday, we went camping. Biggy left work early, picked Lo up from school, went to pick up her friend K, and set out for Ellijay with the pop-up in tow. Since I had an afternoon class, I took a separate car--meaning: I didn't have to help set up camp. (Truth be told, I have never had to help. I always "have a class.")

We stayed in a cool, retro campground (Are all campgrounds retro?) called Camp Cherry Log, and our site was right beside the old lodge, so the girls could come and go to play pool or ping-pong, put together puzzles, or steal all the plastic coffee stirrers (which I found last night in the washing machine after I washed Lo's clothes).

Saturday, we went to the Apple Festival, where Biggy and the kids consumed apple juice, apple cider, apple dumplings, and candied apples. They also partook of non-themed ingestibles-- pizza, blue slushees, and homemade root beer, but passed on the deep fried pickles.

There was quality entertainment all day long.

That evening, back at the campsite, we found ourselves next door to the Martha Stewart family of campers: Mom and Dad ("We're training for a marathon!"), three kids under 5 (all dressed in Eddie Bauer and J. Crew), roasting strawberry marshmallows ("Have you ever had the strawberry marshmallows on S'mores? They taste just like chocolate-covered strawberries") on store-bought roaster prongs, while they sang "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." Meanwhile, we roasted white marshmallows on muddy sticks and played a round of Would You Rather..."Would you rather bite Dad's toenails or Mamoo's?" "Would you rather kiss Laszlo in front of your whole class or lick Mom's armpit after she comes back from running?"

More later on Why I Hate Shuttling.


Shall We Talk About Advertising?

I'm no prude. And as I've said many times, I don't sit around wondering or grumbling about "what our society is coming to." To my mind, it's always three steps forward, two steps back, which means that progress is being made nonetheless. We hear about a lot of evil, but the very hearing means we're making progress.

So I bring this up as a topic to mull over among us--especially those of us who are directly (PC grads and students) or indirectly (me, Jennifer--as teachers) involved with advertising and the communication arts.

The above, a post card, came in my mailbox recently.

Granted, it comes from Project 9-6-1 (Oooooh, how edgy!), formerly plain ol' 96 Rock, so I get the demographic. It would be guys--rockers--with average-to-lower IQ's, who'd choose Penthouse over Playboy. It would also, naturally, catch the attention of younger teens, like my son, for whom cars and girls are irresistable, no matter the context.

Fine. You've got to appeal these folks simply, with cars and sex. Check. So far, I don't have a problem with it. It's sad, of course, but so what? Put the half-naked girl up there, straddled, against the car. I wouldn't mind seeing a scantily-clad Patrick Dempsey up there in the same pose.

Say: "Win"--most preferable, or I wouldn't even raise a stink over "Win this"--a little less preferable.

However, "Win this ride" is entirely UNACCEPTABLE when you turn the card around to see: "The car, not the girl."

For some reason, I can tolerate the lower-level objectifying of Prize=Girl (where she's still human), whereas I can't abide Girl=Ride.

For me, whose lines are probably already too forgiving for most feminists, it crosses a line. It turns from "sad" to "dangerous."

I'd like to hear your opinions.

Friday Nostalgia

Junior Prom, 1980

Too bad I was madly in love with some guy from Michigan (Ray Corridor, not that I much remember him) whom I'd met on one of those infamous PCB trips with Pops. I barely gave prom-date Scott (baseball player) the time of day, even though he went all evening without dipping snuff just for the occasion.

Please note the ankle-deep shag carpet. Nice shit.


My Diabolical, Demonic, Murderous Fay

at work today.

Feel the Flow

Thanks to the PC student who alerted me to this product. (He prefers to remain anonymous.)


View From the Driveway

As I was getting in the car to go to work this morning. I've had a hard time living with myself today.


Tonight, my mother (Mamoo) met me at McEachern High School, so we could watch JackMan play with the band at the Cobb County marching band exhibition. I graduated from McEachern in '81, so it was a little homecoming for me. Mom and I did some reminiscing between shows:

Mamoo: Look how small Campbell's band is!

TR: I know! It used to be huge. Campbell was where that really cute guy--what was his name?--oh yeah, Daryl Purvine--played football. Heidi and Ann started the Daryl Purvine Fanclub at McEachern. What was our other big rival school in Smyrna. It started an L--or had L's in it.

Mamoo: You mean Wills?

TR: No!! That's not it.

Mamoo: Oooh, look at those flags. Those are really pretty. Is that a guy on the colorguard?!

TR: Osborne!

Mamoo: Your eyes burn?

TR: No, Osborne. That was the name of the school.

Mamoo: The one with the L's?

TR: Yeah.


I'm Game

Dear God,

I don’t pray as often as I should, but I saw this sign at the church up the street and thought it was worth a try.

First, I have to say thanks for this husband. He’s not perfect, but he sure beats that piece-of-work you stuck me with last time.

This one's been a good dad and always makes the children a priority. He’s made me a better parent by guilting me into attending band parent’s meetings and open houses--and by insisting that we take the kids with us on vacations. He also plays with them and takes them to the circus so I don’t have to.

If it weren’t for him, my son would never get to ride his bike or go camping or explode things like Axe body spray cans. Jack wouldn’t have the paint guns or knives, either. My husband insists I let Jack be a boy—as much as Jack can be, given his tendency to act like a pensioner.

My husband can be a hard-ass when he needs to be, however, and by means of threats and personal tutorials is single-handedly responsible for helping Jack get a 100 on his last Algebra test. You know I can’t help with that, Lord. Homework gives me a rash. (And let's don't pretend you didn't see how I cheated my way through high school algebra and barely passed Math for Liberal Arts Majors in college.)

Plus, my husband is sweet; he let me get a puppy.

Anyway, I have a lot to be grateful for, and I appreciate it all, but there are a few things my husband could use some help with, and since I would like for our marriage to be even better, I’ll give it a shot and pray for him, just like the Lutherans said.

Let’s start with his tendency to be overly “frugal.” I mean, I’m glad that his refusal to live beyond our means keeps us debt-free—and I've gotten used to setting the thermostat to 68 in the winter and 79 in the summer…but—c’mon--I’ve had the same grocery budget since 1999, back when a gallon of milk was two bucks.

Also, while I generally love his idealistic spirit, his optimism, and his faith in miracles, it would be good if he’d finally accept that the hole in the kitchen ceiling is not going to fix itself. Along the same lines, his belief that if he works out hard enough he can get washboard abs like Clay on Newport Harbor is downright delusional. He’s not 22, after all. Besides, don’t you agree that Clive Owen would be a better role model?

And speaking of Newport Harbor, I pray that you will cure my husband’s addiction to reality tv. I know what you’re thinking, Lord—something about the board in my own eye. But you know I’m merely a social watcher, whereas, my husband can’t pass the television, ever, without getting a fix.

It must have been all those years with teen girls in the house. He got hooked on the constant drama, the highs and lows of it all, making fun of the boyfriends with their puka shell necklaces. Now, with both of the girls gone, he’s turned to shows like The Hills. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse--that he’ll start calling in sick to work to watch reruns of Laguna Beach.

Which reminds me—it would be great if you could send him another big project at work--something enormous like the one he had last year. And let there be another sinkhole and a contractor who's a real dick. Then he won't be so bored all day, and he won’t have as much time to surf the net and send me links like this or forward invitations to events like the ‘Women of Faith’ conference. No offense, Lord.

While I’m at it, I guess I should ask you to give him a hand in the compliments skills area. If you could somehow heal him of thinking that phrases such as “Your hair looks good today; it’s not as big as it usually is” and (while mountain biking) “You’re not as slow as you were last weekend” qualify as honeyed words.

Oh, I realize this is asking a lot, God, but I'm begging you--send him some decent friends. He only has three friends now, and they're serious losers--you have to admit.

And finally, if you could open his mind a tiny crack, show him that there are other kinds of cheese besides 'yellow,' better times for sex than after ESPN SportsCenter, and more to the fall season than Florida football, the state of our union would be much improved.

I’m telling you, take care of these things, Lord, and I’ll have the perfect marriage.

Hey thanks. You rock. Amen.

Don't Call Him Biggy

I just walked in to find Biggy watching 'I Love New York II.' He seemed pretty impressed by one of the meat candidates, including the guy's handle, and asked me to change his Biggy-name to Pootie. Consider it done.

Anything for you, Pootie.

Saturday Things You Might Not Know


Storytime #2

Georgia asked me to share this—one of her favorite stories from my high school days:

I’m thinking we were freshmen when we did this. My friend Tracy and I loved to torture her sister Lisa, who was a year ahead of us in school but acted like a big ol' baby. Both Tracy and Lisa were practically albinos, very Flowers-In-The-Attic looking, with white-blonde hair and translucent skin, but Lisa had the angelic disposition to go with it, while Tracy had a redhead’s soul.

Lisa was a pretty, sweet chicken, a good Baptist, extremely insecure, and misguided enough to seek our advice when she was having trouble. She always took our advice, no matter whose ass we’d pulled it from, so eventually, just for kicks, we began offering our counsel without being asked: “Cute haircut, Lisa, but your bangs need to be about an inch shorter…” Or:

Tracy: You know, Lisa, if you’d mix lemon juice, salt, and white vinegar, and use it to wash your face, those craters on your forehead would go away.

TR: True. But it needs to be really hot—as hot as you can stand it—and you should scrub your face with your Buf-Puf first.

Not only did we get the satisfaction of watching her mix and torture herself with our recipe; we also relished her new and ongoing obsession with her forehead.

But the ultimate hoax we played on her took a little more thought and preparation. Tracy’s family lived in a big contemporary house way back in the woods behind our school. It wasn’t a subdivision—just about three houses, maybe, on four or five acres. It got a little scary back there, sometimes. Sometimes, Lisa would even ask us if she could sleep with us in Tracy’s room.

For this particular plan, we started planting the idea that the house was haunted. We’d run into Lisa’s room in the middle of the night and act terrified. We’d tell her about the shadowy figure we’d seen at the window. We did this kind of thing for a couple of weeks, telling tales of flying hairbrushes and lights turning off and on by themselves—all of this part of the master plan.

Tracy’s and Lisa’s bedrooms were connected by their bathroom. It was a straight shot between. One night, once Lisa was sufficiently convinced a ghost inhabited the teen suite, we took fishing line and laid it along the walls on the floor, from Tracy’s room, through the bathroom, to Lisa’s room. We tied the line to objects on her dresser—perfume bottle, comb, picture frame-- and her night table—lamp, bible, “Happiness Is…” statue, as well as to shoes in her closet, and the things propped in the corners of her room—the giant tissue paper flowers, etc.

Then we watched reruns of the Twilight Zone until the smell of lemon and vinegar alerted us to Lisa’s presence. We waited for her to go to bed and gave her time to fall good and asleep before we pulled the first line, knocking over the lamp (we’d removed the bulb, of course), the noisiest of the items, waking her. Slowly, with pauses between, we began pulling the others, sliding the comb across the dresser, clunking a shoe against the closet door, until we heard her whimpering and finally screaming for us to come and rescue her.

I’m telling you, good times.

Friday Nostalgia

Family Ties, 1982-89.

I was devastated. At least they got together in real life.


Father Daughter

Biggy took Lola to the "Halloween store" yesterday to look at costumes and when they returned, she was bawling, and he was, in a somewhat raised voice, telling her to go to her room. Which of course made her blubber even more. Seems his refusal to buy her wax lips had sparked another jag in our little almost-eight-year-old crybaby. The child is not used to not getting her way, was feeling downright traumatized. From her bedroom, Lo mumbled insults at her father as they occurred to her. If she thought of anything really good, she'd shout it between the tears.

I had a meeting with the chief editor of the Chattahoochee Review, thank god, so I got to leave, knowing she'd most likely be asleep when I got home.

When I got back, all was quiet, and this was on our dresser:


Speaking of Denise

After I posted the story on Monday, I took a little trip down the memory lane named Denise Gordon. When I was young, I hated cheerleaders in general, but Denise represented everything I despised about the ilk. She was beautiful, mean, stupid, and good for nothing except screaming “We’re NUMBER ONE!!!!!!” with her arms raised high so her spankies would show—and, of course, whatever the jocks did with her in the backseats of their Camaros. Oh, and she always wore her dark hair in two thick pigtails that looked like turds. (Except for the phase after "10" when she wore it in Bo Derek braids.)

I’m sure it says much more about me than it does about her that I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy devising ways to torment her. A few of those ways:

1. My friends and I would sit on the second row at basketball games so that we could hide our squirt guns behind the peoples’ heads in front of us and shoot her as she cheered. Oh my god, it was so great to watch her miniscule brain work to figure out where the water was coming from.

2. We’d order brown wrapper items out of the back of Cosmo and have them sent to her house.

3. One of our teachers, Mrs. Wynn, always put items that had been left in her classroom up on the chalk board tray and would announce whatever it was the next day before she started class: “Someone left their Bonnie Bell Lipsmacker yesterday. You can come up and get it.” Well, I worked as a library aid, and there was a book in the library called “Teenagers, Sex, and Dating.” I’d check it out in Denise’s name, stamp it, and then leave it in Mrs. Wynn’s room. Over and over. The more Denise protested that it wasn’t hers, the funnier it was.

Of course, I’ve grown up since then, and I’m ashamed of my behavior. Besides, it was high school. A long time ago. I hardly remember it.

You Don't Say...

To read the entire article, click here.



I've got nothing today, so I've been rummaging through the archives of my mind to find a story to tell you. Here's one from high school (The names have been changed to protect the innocent). There are more where this came from:

Starting when I was 16, my friend Christine and I worked for her stepfather for a couple of years. We'd turnkey apartments, which meant doing everything that needed to be done between tenants--cleaning, painting, wallpaper, steaming carpets, you name it. We made $16 an hour (each), which was pretty awesome in 1979, when the minimum wage was $2.90.

At first, her Pops would drive us to work in his '69 Chevy Caprice station wagon. The missing front passenger side window was covered with plastic, and the interior smelled like bar-b-que. Eventually, we started driving ourselves. When I was 16, my parents wouldn't let me take my car on the Interstate. My father kept a close eye on my mileage, too, so Pops let Christine drive his boss's old truck when we had to go somewhere far away like Riverdale. He didn't care that she was only 15, a year younger than I.

We'd crank up some REO Speedwagon on the boom box, pick out the ugliest 1960's surplus wallpaper we could find in the complex basement, and redecorate slum-like apartment communities such as Barclay Arms, the student housing for Life Chiropractic College. Before papering or painting, we'd write notes all over the walls for the cultural anthropologists of the future to find--usually graphic messages about Denise Gordon, one of our McEachern High School cheerleaders.

Christine's stepfather was the only father she'd ever known. He'd raised her since she was two. Besides the hard labor of his construction job, the man took care of the household duties as well. He cooked for her and her two older brothers, took care of the house, did the shopping, everything. On a good day, her mom would lie on the couch in her pajamas, waiting for Phil Donahue to come on. On a bad day, she'd hold a loaded gun to Christine's head and threaten to pull the trigger. I'd witnessed this personally. The woman was certifiable. So we were extra thankful for Pops, who'd make us frisbee-sized pancakes on Saturday mornings and buy us liquor. And since I preferred him to my own father, an alcoholic exhibitionist with the temperament of a Pentacostal deacon, I spent most of my time at Christine's.

Every now and then, we'd do a bigger project for Pops, like assist with the remodel of one of those mansions in Ansley Park. That meant scraping paint, stippling ceilings, sanding floors, and staining baseboards, much harder than hauling out the abadoned stashes of Penthouse in the closets at the apartments. When a huge renovation was finished, he would take the whole family to Panama City Beach. At the Redneck Riviera, he'd fill our pockets with airplane sized bottles of vodka to sneak into the Miracle Strip amusement park. We'd mix it with orange juice to fool security. We'd usually end up meeting some townies in the Fun House and driving around with them all night, listening to Aerosmith. Pops would give Christine's wacked-out mother a sedative so she wouldn't shoot us when we came in at 3 a.m.

You might be surprised to hear that Christine and I were as pure as driven snow--and this despite the fact that utility men often showed up at the apartments we were cleaning, only to find us trashed and giggling because one of us burned our feet on the eye of the stove or accidentally stuck a screwdriver in an electrical outlet. We had no intention of having sex until we were 18, and as far as we knew, we hadn't. But at the beach one of these times, Pops insisted on offering us 'morning after' pills he'd scored from a pharmacist "associate" of his. Christine's mother walked in during this discussion--one of maybe three times I ever saw her vertical--and spied the pills in his hand. Showing her usual interest in pharmaceuticals, she asked what they were. He told her it was sinus medicine, but we could tell she thought he was holding out.

We assured him that we had no need for the "Sine-Aid" or whatever, and that he'd already been more than generous, what with the copious herbs and spirits. He was so warm and kind, so incredibly understanding and sympathetic to us, the two teenaged girls in his care. He said he respected our resolve but warned that teenagers had "desires" that could lead us to do things we didn't intend. He urged us to accept the meds--just in case. It almost seemed as though he wanted us to have sex. We refused.

On the way back to Atlanta on that particular trip, Christine's mother became very ill. She was delirious, moaning, in and out of consciousness. She was having hot flashes and raging nightmares. This went on for a couple of hundred miles, while we listened to our Christopher Cross tape and mocked her in the back seat. During one of her lucid moments, Pops asked her a few questions: Had she eaten the shrimp he left out overnight or missed a couple of doses of her Haldol.

Finally, she confessed that she might have taken too many of his sinus tablets.

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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