I suppose there are myriad ways to interpret today’s challenge. My mind hearkened songs that have been with me most of my life and that are still special to me, having never tired of them. The one that appears at the forefront of my mind is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. I suspect most of us that know this song first learned it as children, watching The Wizard of Oz. I have fond memories of watching the movie every October when it came on public television around Halloween. For me, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version rose to the top and remains my favorite. Once this version was introduced to me some years ago, I’ve never been able to appreciate any other version quite the same. Please. Do yourself a favor. And enjoy this treasure:
This next one has been in my life for a fair chunk of it, not necessarily from childhood on. But near enough. “Hallelujah” has been done and redone by so many talented musicians. And though I have a particular fondness for Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley created the ultimate version that I absolutely never tire of.
I do believe I’m feeling far too pensive today. So let’s mix it up to another completely different song I associate with childhood and that I have never tired of. I first heard this song the year it came out. 1987, the year I turned 7. I can credit my brother with introducing Beastie Boys into my life. I had no. freakin. clue. what the song meant. But, in one of my only fond memories of elementary school, I remember singing it on the playground and suspecting it must have had something to do with the monkey bars (which I never mastered). I still love these boys. Come on everybody, let’s get fffff….
Okay. So. I’m not dead. And I’ve been told I have to quit my fucked up emotional/mental block, stop stalling and fucking write for fuck’s sake. I promised I’d do so today. I swore when I came back, there would be this long explanation and apology and replies to all of you kind and beautiful people…but that’s part of what has kept me away. The anxiety ratchets up higher and higher the more I think about it. And the thing is, I don’t really even have much of an excuse except that I’m kind of a fucking headcase sometimes (which most of you already know).
So. Ahem. Part of my promise is that I wouldn’t delve into the whole thing right now (okay, okay, I’m getting to it). Instead, I’m supposed to copy and paste VERFUCKINGBATIM a rambly, typo-ridden tale that I rattled off to Ezekiel months ago to explain my whole broken foot thingy. Which for some reason he kept calling a broken ankle. Hence the title. Apparently, I’m not allowed to edit this rambly stream-of-consciousness mess. (Thanks, Ezekiel.) So, without further ado, here’s The Ankle Story about My Foot. (Brace yourselves. It’s messy as fuck.)
On the way to Glacier, I spent a day and a half at Badlands National Park. I did a trail called The Notch. My Fat Ass climbed the notch. I had CROSSED IT OFF my list of doable trails. But then I FORGOT the name of the trail, yeah?
So I’m walking along, see a trailhead.
I wanted to do that one, right?
Yeah! The Notch! Sounds cool!
I walk along for a while.
Then BAM. These steep, nearly vertical wooden steps held up on steel cables.
My heart was in my throat.
I nearly turned around.
You can’t do this, Stephanie. You’re too fat. Your arthritis is all hurty. You have GNP to look forward to. You can’t do this. YOU CANNOT. YOU ARE INCAPABLE. YOU’RE WEAK. YOU’RE FAT. YOU. CAN. NOT. DO. THIS.
And then I quite literally charged the motherfucker.
The self-hatred talking somehow lit a fire that had the opposite affect.
And I charged that motherfucking ladder.
And about 2/3 up, I froze. I froze.
And I started crying.
Realizing how afraid I was of the vertical climb at this point.
Realizing how weak my legs already were. (It’s not that high of a climb.)
And I started saying, out loud: I can’t do this. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.
Then I’d haul myself up to the next step. All the while afraid I was gonna fall and break my neck.
I can’t do this. I can’t. Ohmygod. What do I do now?
And then I snapped.
And said out loud.
FUCK YOU I CAN’T. FUCK YOU. YES I CAN!
And I finished it.
There were these hugely muscular dudes at the top waiting to go down (if I’d known this, I wouldn’t have climbed…good thing I didn’t know). I waited for ridicule, instead…they both high-fived me and were all “FUCK YEAH! YOU DID IT!”
I knew I’d have to go back down later, and that scared me, too.
But I focused on the trail ahead.
I nearly fell a couple times.
Had some scary moments of “I can’t” again. But I kept pushing forward.
Got lost at one point.
Found my way back.
I was so proud.
I climbed The Notch!
Sure, other people were running up and down the fucker. Could do it in their sleep.
Yeah…my body wasn’t up for it.
BUT MY MIND WAS.
And I did it.
GNP a couple days later.
My thighs were still PISSED.
But no way was that going to stop me from exploring heaven on earth.
One night, about halfway through, I knew I had a big hike ahead of me the next day. 12 miles in the mountains.
So I’m stretching at my campsite.
I know there’s a word for it.
But I’m kinda dim. So let’s see.
You know the stretch where you’re standing on one foot and you reach behind yourself and grab your other foot and pull it up to your ass? That stretch?
I was going for that one because it feels sooo good. And I needed it.
I grabbed for my foot.
Got my ankle instead.
BAM. My big toe flew straight down to the picnic table. Straight. Down. With all that force.
I clamped my hand over my mouth, screaming into my palm, and fell to the ground.
Blood was everywhere. I lay there for probably fifteen minutes.
Finally got up, limped to my first aid stash, cleaned it up.
Saw that I had split the nail in two.
Couldn’t move the toe without crying.
I had to skip the next day’s hike. I was supremely upset.
This was going to be an epic hike.
And I had to skip.
So instead of wallowing around in the tent all day, I wrapped my toe up all crazy padded and drove to some of the more lookout kinda sites.
The next (last) day, I scrapped the plans I’d made for it and did the hike I’d missed instead.
Fucking. Epic. Shit.
But at the very beginning/very end, there are these really high steps cut into the mountain.
I should have sat on my butt on the way back and eased myself down.
But I didn’t.
I practically flew down those steps.
Got a super happy pic at the end of the trail. People high-fiving me because I was so excited and pumped and like fist-pumping the air. I did it!
By the time I made it back to the car, I was limping.
By the time I got my boot off, my foot was so swollen I couldn’t articulate my foot/ankle.
I had broken my left foot.
And they only discovered it was broken in January. Because the breaks never showed on X-Rays.
Finally had an MRI in January, and two breaks in that foot.
After doctors had implied it was all in my head.
So. Uhm. Yeah. Ezekiel was right. (Yeah, yeah. Piss off.) If I even started trying to edit that, I’d never post it. (Which would defeat the whole purpose – to get my ass back to Stephellaneous and my dear Peopleaneous.) Look at that mess. Holy twatmonkeys. FYI: That’s a glimpse of what rambly conversations look like with The Stephanie.
I’ve recently been playing little Q & A games with a fellow blogger. They’re fun and hilarious and enlightening. Sometimes they’re silly. Sometimes they’re serious. You should totally try it with a friend, relative or someone you’re supertotally digging.
But sometimes seemingly innocuous questions accidentally invoke deeper responses. The following question posed to me had such an effect:
What is your least favorite song?
I didn’t even have to think about it. I immediately replied,
“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa.
He never asked why I chose that response. But someone else here knows the story and said I should share it sometime. I said “NOFUCKINGWAY AM I FUCKINGEVER DOING THAT. I’LL DIE A THOUSAND DEATHS BEFORE I’D EVEN CONSIDER IT.”
So here I am sharing that little piece of my history. Are you ready? It’s fucking nasty and terrible and traumatic and eyeburning misery. But apparently quite fucking hilarious from an outsider’s perspective. (Thanks a lot for laughing. You know who you are!) Let’s start with…
The Reason Why You Should Always Fucking Knock
So it’s like, what? 1989? 1990? That sounds about right, because given where we were living at the time, I had to be around nine or ten years old. Which puts my older brother at fourteen or fifteen.
The point is that this was the year of my doom. My life was ruined for fuckingever. Or at least for the rest of the week. Same difference. It has been twenty-fucking-five years, and I still cannot forget it. All because of a careless door opening and all the tits in the world descending upon my heretofore innocent little eyeballs.
I have no idea what I wanted. I really don’t. Hell, I may have even been being a nosy little sister. The music was blaring from my brother’s room. I figured he’s in there by himself, doing something he’s not supposed to be doing. Like those things he used to roll on my elementary school D.A.R.E. pamphlets, then admonish me not to tell mom. Or just listening to all that naughty music with the curse words that mom hated. Words like motherfucker and dick and pussy. I didn’t know what all that meant, except it was supposed to be bad bad bad and you’re going straight to hell if you even hear those words. And I’d heard a lot from my brother, so I knew I was doomed to burn in the fiery abyss for all of eternity and beyond. Of course I don’t hear, think or dare say words like that anymore. So maybe there’s some motherfucking hope for me yet.
I walk down the little hallway.
I turn the knob.
I open the door.
What had been seen would never been unseen. And I just knew I was going to frolic with Satan forever after this. No one could ever enter the pearly gates after witnessing…
The Tits That Sealed My Fate
My brother was in there, alright. But he wasn’t alone. There were tits all over the room. Wall to wall tits. I was drowning in tits. All I could see were tits. They were big and heavy looking. Thousands of them. Taunting me and my ruination. And the music of choice?
“Push It” by Salt-N-Peppa. Burned into my brain. Foreverandeverandfuckingeveramen.
The girl was curvy. Long, straight blonde hair. And completely topless. Totally naked on top.
She immediately covered herself, and I ran away crying. Seriously. Crying. Straight to the couch I went, curling up into a ball and sobbing. I didn’t really understand much at this point, but I knew it was bad bad bad. And it would definitely end in hell. My brother was going to hell. His friend was going to hell. And my eyeballs were most definitely going to hell.
But if I thought my torment was over, I was wrong. Woefully wrong. It had only just begun. What came next haunts me far more than the Bouncing Boobs of Babylon.
The Punishment to End All Punishments
My brother immediately followed me into the living room, followed shortly there after by Booby Betty. Thankfully she had put her top back on, at least one small act of mercy in my impending waterboarding musical torture.
He’d brought his little silver boombox and two cassette tapes. He pulled up a chair from the dining table, and the girl sat next to him, on the coffee table. They sat so close to me that I could smell their sin oozing through their pores. Fucking bastards.
First, he speaks to me in a soothing tone. But I’m still sobbing and refuse to roll over and face him. I kept my hands over my eyes, covering my face and my shame.
Then he starts shaking me and gets loud.
Steph! Look at me!
I’m not fucking kidding!
Turn over damnit and look at me!
I finally reduced my sobs to shaking sniveling snotty sniffles. I rolled over, and first he tells me I’d better not tell mom. And then he tells me how bad I was for not knocking. That this is all my fault, because I should have knocked. She wouldn’t even have been naked if I had knocked.
And then he tells me I need to be punished.
The girl looks uncomfortable, shifting on the table.
He pops the first cassette into the boom box.
And the lyrics of “Push It” blare out at full volume. Straight into my little skull. He played the song all the way through, singing along with it. Laughing. Yanking my hands away from my ears. Pushing me down when I tried to get up to leave.
When that was over, he wasn’t finished. I thought it was done, but no. The next hour of my life was complete and abject misery.
Never Sit on Your Sister and Punish Her with Music
He needed to make sure I was good and punished. And would never ever ever again forget to knock on the door.
He popped the next cassette in. One of 2 Live Crew’s.
He pushed play.
I tried to get up, to get away. I was sobbing my whole guts out.
Not so fast.
He got up and sat on the edge of the couch and held me down.
The girl started protesting on my behalf.
She was visibly uncomfortable and told him to stop.
He shut her up and told her I deserved it.
That fucker sat there and held me down through the entire album.
Then he finished it up by playing “Push It” once more.
By the end of it all, my ten-year-old little self was a devastated shambles. I felt guilt, shame, confusion, fear, sadness, all of it. I completely internalized the whole situation. I wish I could forget that day. It doesn’t haunt me like other things do. But damnit, that was a bad fucking day!
But lessons were certainly learned, my dear Peopleaneous.
The Moral of the Story is:
Always Fucking Knock. Or Ye Shall be Tormented ForFuckingEver by the Ghosts of a Thousand Tits. ~Buddha
Never Punish Thy Young Sister with Pornographic Music. ~Ghandi
Never Ever Ever Use Words like Motherfucker and Dick and Pussy. Or Ye Shall Surely Perish. ~Confucius
And when Someone asks You to Please Please Stop that Song, because You Just Don’t Understand, Please Entertain her Seemingly Silly Whim. For You will Only Truly Understand if You, too, have been Waterboarded Musically Tortured. ~Churchill
I am in the process of preparing my house to put on the market. This is finally the year that I put myself first, no matter how difficult that is for me – because it is completely out of character. And this is going to involve some major changes and upheaval. I always put others first, even (usually) to my own detriment, almost without exception. I have been this way my entire life.
This change wasn’t some lameass resolution for me. I don’t do resolutions, at least not in the way most do. Life changes and extensive shifts in perspective don’t suddenly and miraculously happen simply because the clock ticked over to a new year. Time as we know it is a man made construct anyway, but I’m seriously digressing here.
The point of bringing this up was to mention I’m working on getting my house ready to sell. And this means days and weeks of meticulous sifting through thirty-five years of accumulated stuff. Some of that stuff is meaningful; some of that stuff is being donated; some of that stuff is being sold; some of that stuff is outright garbage and has been hauled straight to the bin and to the side of the road where people pick it up (you know what they say – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), but some of that stuff is meaningful to me in some way or other and cannot simply be tossed out. Like the box of letters from my paternal mamaw. She was my penpal for a good two decades. Or my diplomas and commendations. Or my report cards and IEPs from elementary school, and the notes from teachers and little awards I received. Or the stacks of photos and photo albums. There have been lots of laughs, lots of tears, some raging and ripping up photos of that man who ruined my childhood and so much of my life and my outlook and behaviors, some quiet reminiscing, some shock; you get the idea.
One thing I came across was surprising to me. I didn’t even know I had it. A simple piece of paper brought on a flood of memories. Unpleasant ones at that. I was in 11th grade, I think, which puts me somewhere between 16 and 17. I was depressed and miserable and hated high school with all that I had. Not long after this period, I experienced some of the best years of my life until the bottom fell out of that, too. But for now, I was fucking miserable. I experienced suicidal ideation. I never cut myself, but I’ve always had this problem with picking and digging and tearing at my skin. So I’d wear long sleeves almost exclusively, in order to hide my arms.
I had changed schools that year, which is what seriously ramped up my depression and self-loathing. Those last two years of high school did a lot of damage to me, but the others did as well. Before I changed schools, I never had what you would call friends. There was simply a group of outcasts who would gather together during lunch. Some of them hung out together after school, but mostly we just clung to each other on the sidelines of life. It was our own little depressed group of grunge kids on this life raft we created to weather the storm of cheerleaders and jocks and geniuses and rich kids and bullies. It raged around us, splashing us with its venom and vitriol. The bullying had gotten so bad that I perfected this death to you glare and assumed anyone and I do mean anyone who looked at me meant me harm. I struggle with that still. And so we gathered together in this little corner at lunch. Playing hacky sack. Sneaking to the bathroom to smoke a roach. Talking about The Doors and Pink Floyd and Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Wearing the tie-dye Grateful Dead shirt I bought at a yard sale. Long sleeved of course. And that silly “Elvis is Dead. Deal with it.” t-shirt I wore all the fucking time. Mostly because it was black. And I was in a black wearing, flannel over-shirt phase. Close friends and confidantes we were not. But we needed each other. Or at least, I needed them.
So when I changed schools, I lost that. I no longer had a shield or raft to cling to against the raging tide of bullies. Especially the preps. They were the worst. Those were the ones that made my life hell all through high school. And now I had no protection. I had no wall of outcasts surrounding me to buffer me from the storm of bullying and back-stabbing. Which leads to the piece of paper I found last night.
I had an AP English class, which I would have loved (because English. Yay. My favorite subject for years.). Except there were about a dozen cheerleaders in that one class. They chose it on purpose because the teacher was the mother of one of them. I had no idea, or I would have scheduled a different class or requested a change. Such as it was, I was stuck in a very special hell of torment and glares and snickers and cruel jokes at my expense. Me, the poor girl in hand-me-downs, thrift store clothes, high-water pants and shoes held together with duct tape I’d taken a black Sharpie to on the black parts and White-Out on the white parts so the tape wouldn’t stand out so much.
At some point during the year, we had an assignment. We were instructed to write an original poem and then select one from our textbook that went along with the same theme. Then we had to buy white t-shirts and somehow paint our original poem on the front and the textbook poem on the back, then wear them to school on the day they were due and recite our poems from memory. This terrified me. I didn’t learn how to be able to do public speaking until college in my twenties. I can do it now, but I was terrified back then. Like vomiting over it a couple of times leading up to it the week it was due.
I couldn’t persuade my father to buy a new white t-shirt for me. “I don’t have the money for some fucking school poem bullshit. Use one of my old undershirts.” No, of course he didn’t have the money. He’d spent it on the twice weekly sacks of pot and pain meds from his 19 year old dealer. The shirt he gave me had the inevitable pinhole burns in it and huge deeply yellowed pit stains. I stole change off of his dresser to buy this glittery green puff paint to get the poems on the shirt. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. But I knew I would be humiliated, and I was. But this time, it was mostly in my head.
It was time. The teacher called my name. My stomach flipped and then flopped, and I felt dizzy and off-balance as I left my back-corner desk and walked to the front of the classroom. Voice shaking, I began:
You think that you are better than me
From your clothes, to your style and your hair
You think that you are better than me
But I have ceased to care
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I am not here for your pity
You smile and pretend that you are my friend
But I will have nothing to do with your sympathy
In your eyes, I am nobody because I don’t measure up to your standards
But I am not the one who tries to be something I am not
So before you judge me again, take a look at yourself
And face the reality that you are no better than me
And as time marches on
And your shine is all gone
For all of your glitter, you have nothing to show
Now you are nobody, and I am somebody
And you will never be better than me
To their credit, after the snickering subsided, the room got dead quiet. Not even the usual whispers and note-passing that happens during things like this. And the looks on their faces were a mixture of confusion, disgust, surprise, shame. This quiet, wallflower, grungy, nerdy weakling was speaking words of condemnation. To them. This was directed at them, and they knew it.
And then I read the poem I had selected from the textbook, and their shame and confusion turned to shock and fear. I could see it in their eyes, because I had finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact. And so I began:
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich-yes, richer than a king-
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
I somehow got through to some of them. But not in a way that made them nicer to me, more in a way to make them lean away, look away and leave me completely and utterly alone. Which was a relief and respite from the bullying, at least in that class. I think they were afraid of me. Nervous. Fine. Yes. Great. This I can use. And so my death to you glares increased. I rarely spoke, but I could shoot daggers. And I did. And I relished them shifting in their seats and looking away. I felt guilty for a lot of this later, in some ways still do. But at the time, I finally felt relief and used my anger as my new wall of protection, my new life raft.
I read the paper. I re-folded it and sat there in this reverent silence. Then I opened it and read it again, finally re-folding it and tucking it away among the things I’ve decided to keep. At least for now. As a reminder of what I was, and what I’m working so hard to leave behind. The anger, the fear, the skittishness, the guilt, the distrust, the anxiety, the self-loathing, etc.
Here’s to my year of change. It will happen slowly and then all at once. And I can’t fucking wait.
Rarely does a day go by when I don’t think about hopping in my car and driving “until the wheels fall off.” And then wherever I land, I can start all over again. Except not from my mother’s belly, because that would be gross. And who wants to go through puberty again. Ew and high school. Fuck high school.
My affinity for road trips (which I don’t think I’ve written about yet) is part of my larger affinity for travel. I’m peripatetic at heart, y’all. I really am. But road trips take a long time, at least they do when I’m doing them. Because I’m not talking about a road trip that takes four or five hours. That is not a road trip, y’all. And if you’re calling that a road trip, stop it right now. Because that’s lame and doesn’t count. (It sorta counts. I’m being snobby.)
Unfortunately, there’s only so much time in a day, and road trips aren’t always practical or even feasible for your purposes. Sometimes they’re downright impossible if you actually want to reach your destination.
Enter airplanes. But guess what? I had a fear of flying that I didn’t know I had until I was waiting to catch my very first flight. (Isn’t that funny? I wonder what other fears I have that I don’t know I have until someone puts cream cheese in front of my face and I bolt in terror and hide under the bed. Even if it is slathered on chicken. Who traumatizes chicken like that? Crazy people, that’s who.)
Stephanie Earns Her Wings (not the ones on pads – stop being nasty, y’all)
Flight one was a trip to New York. And I didn’t even have to pay for it. What? I sat in the holding pen with the rest of the cattle, and stared out the window at the enormous plane. And I could feel my stomach trying to take its own flight, straight outta me and to some rural farm somewhere, where everyone is called Bubba and only terrorists fly planes. My stomach would be nice and safe there. But since I had my stomach in solitary confinement, its fate was mine.
When I learned that the enormous jumbo plane I was looking at was only a lowly commuter plane, I was supposed to feel reassured. Until I was told those are the shaky motherfuckers that make you feel like you’ll plummet to the ground any minute. (Someone was rather enjoying my growing anxiety.)
The flight is called, and my intrepid little heart was doing somersaults in my chest. I told it we could work on our gymnastics later, but that insolent fucker wasn’t having it. We climb up into the plane, and oh my god. This claustrophobic capsule of doom was about the size of a sardine can. (Is there any such thing as sardine cans anymore? Don’t eat sardines, people. That’s nasty.) They packed us in there like sardines. We may as well have been in each others’ laps. To make matters worse, the little light above my head was flickering. IT WAS FLICKERING. That was surely a sign that I was about to get Final Destinationed.
By the time the plane was lifting off, tears were silently pouring down my cheek. (Of course they were silent. Tears don’t speak. Do you, tears? No, we don’t speak. That’s what I thought.) I just tensely sat there, quietly crying and willing myself not to look out the window. The thoughts that raced through my head were morbid and terrifying. And then we were up. My hand was held, and I was reassured. Slowly my tears dried up, and I willed myself to stop thinking about all the bad things that could happen. Because I’m here now, right? I mean, it’s a little late to change my mind.
And then something peculiar and unexpected happened. At some point along the way, we flew into a mild storm. And I shook, rattled and rolled until I went unconscious, then woke up in a plane filled with water and I lived the next several years of my life stranded on a deserted island, looking at a picture of my fiance. Shit, sorry. That was Tom Hanks in Castaway. My bad. So we hit a patch of turbulence, right? And the plane was shaking and jolting around in the air. And…
I fucking loved it! I even giggled! The people that were with me were most displeased at this turn of events. The two fuckers who had delighted in my fear were now terrified. And I had the audacity to giggle! From that point on, I loved it. Even the tiny little packet of peanuts. I’d have framed it if I didn’t eat them. And then the stupid flight bitch stole my wrapper. That’s why I have pockets, people! Next time you get your in-flight peanuts, stuff the wrapper in your pocket so you can frame it later. Or scrapbook it if you’re one of those weirdos.
And then we landed, and I was even more ecstatic. Kinda leaning forward in my seat, feeling the shaking sardine can. And yay! This is an adventure! My flight companions were rather pissed off at this point, because their ears were popping. And I’m all bouncy and let’s go again! Let’s go again! Can we do it again!
No Longer A Virgin of the Skies (Wait. Not like that, y’all.), Stephanie the Skyslut Goes for Rounds Two, Three and Four
This time, the plane was much bigger. A Seven Forty-Bigger. But I felt unfazed. What did faze me was DFW. The Dallas airport was dirty and loud and crowded. And we had to rush, rush, rush, hurry, hurry, hurry, run, run, run to our gate. Only to sit on the floor for several hours because flights were delayed. I took my laptop out and tried to work on a paper that would be due after winter break. But who can concentrate in all the noise and hubbub and chaos? Not this girl.
Oh, wait, I messed that all up. We had to go from DFW to Atlanta. It was in Atlanta that we had the asshole delays because winter storms or some shit. Lamesauce. Anyway, the points are the same.
I wasn’t nervous. Not at all. Instead, I was anxious to get on the plane and get going. And once we did, I found the plane bigger and roomier. Even my window was bigger, which didn’t matter at this point because it was super dark out and I couldn’t see shit. Lame. Other than that, it was all good. And I was disappointed that the landing wasn’t rockier. I got some annoyed looks with that observation. Apparently only commuter planes feel like they’re falling apart on landing. Damn. I was looking forward to that part! (No sarcasm, folks.)
Oh, and before I move on? The Newark airport can suck my dick. Well, it could if I had one. Because fuck that nasty, filthy, rude, mean place. Coming and going, it was the same. And they made me check my snow globe on the way back, because I could use it as a weapon! Or maybe I had bomb juice in there! And I pointed out that it wasn’t on any restrictions list, and then I got threatened that I’d be strip-searched. So I relented. But I was fuming. I was gonna burn that motherfucker down if they broke my snow globe!
Oh. One thing I did love about the Newark Airport was it was the first time I’d seen so many different cultures milling about in the same place. That was amazing, and I found myself trying really hard not to stare at people. I was fascinated and wanted to know all about them and their lives.
Stephanie Says Fuck the Cutesy Headings and Goes for Rounds Five through Twelve, All for One Trip
Next up was Paris. And before you think I’m some globetrotter (I wish), this was on a college trip. I was already in my mid-twenties, but I went back to school late. Anyway. Paris. To get there, we had to do the commuter again (YAY!), then more Seven Forty-Biggers. From Louisiana to Dallas to Atlanta. And Atlanta can kiss my ass, too! At least on the return trip when they broke my borrowed suitcase!
And then holy shit the Seven Forty-Jumbofucker! And you know what I felt when I saw it? Sadness! I lamented the fact that I wouldn’t get to feel any turbulence. I was scared again, though. But only mildly. The fears this time were more of…oh my god, eight hours over nothing but open ocean. What if there’s a fuel leak? What if we need help? What if that baby that’s already crying never shuts the fuck up? (It did…for about half the flight.) But other than that, I felt okay. At this point, I was the mildly annoying one that couldn’t wait for takeoff and landing, my two favorite parts. Unless turbulence, then yay! I didn’t actually say much, really. But the one or two people nearest me got to hear about my love of a rattling plane.
Other than that, I started turning my attention to the differences in airports. And learning to dread them like actual seasoned travelers do. I’ve already mentioned my loathing for the Newark Airport and getting miffed at the Atlanta Airport. And the crowds. Oh my god, the crowds kept my stomach in knots.
This time, though, I experienced something completely different. Flying into Europe, for some reason, we skipped over France and landed in Frankfurt, Germany. And what a weird airport it was! There were these floor to ceiling glass booths. Maybe about eight-foot square. And it was crammed to the gills with smokers. It was so weird and cool and brilliant. Because smokers who aren’t allowed to go outside and smoke will kill you. At the time, I was a smoker. But I wouldn’t go into the booths, because they were so full of smoke that I knew it would wreck me, give me a royal headache and make me smell like one giant walking ashtray. No thanks. And I was never one of those to verbally attack other people when I hadn’t had my nic.
The Charles de Gaulle Airport was awesome. Crowded, as usual, but it looked so cool. Plus it was crawling with French people, and I caught snippets of conversations here and there that I somewhat understood. And I was in heaven.
Stephanie Anticipates Flight Thirteen (maybe this flight will change that to a lucky number)
It’s been years since I’ve flown. Despite all those flights, most were connections. So there have only been two trips that required airplane travel. I’ve done some road trips in the meantime, two pretty epic ones over the last two years. But I can’t do a road trip this time. There simply won’t be enough time.
I’m planning a trip during the President’s Day holiday. And since that’s only three days, a road trip that far is out of the question. There would be no time left for shenanigans! Y’all know I struggle with anxiety, so it’s a pretty big deal that I’ll be going to meet a fellow blogger. A really fucking cool one at that. We’ve had some epic conversations, and I feel perfectly at ease. I’m excited about it, and hey…I am a woman and all, so the good news is I have a whole month to pack for the three-day jaunt. Ha! Hm, maybe four. I could always take an extra day off work and an extra suitcase. (Kidding. I’m pretty simple. Mostly.)
Plus, I’ll get to experience a new airport. I suspect it will be hell, too. It didn’t take long for me to dread airports, and I do. But I am very much looking forward to the flight and the landing and the visiting. I drove through the area once, but I didn’t stop. And I certainly didn’t meet an awesome blogger. And I’m no longer afraid of flying. In fact, I’m very much looking forward to this trip.
So for now, that is all I’m gonna say about it. More to come! In the meantime, do you have any flight or airport stories?
Journaling has always had a significant pull for me. I don’t remember the first time I asked for my own diary, but I know I was little. Even as a child, I was highly introverted and recognized I needed an outlet for my thoughts. Writing would be a way to process the world and my place in it, or so I thought.
Writing My Heart Out
I did pretty a pretty good job of keeping a regular, (semi-)daily diary up until junior high school. I was around twelve years old when I threw in the towel (the first time). That’s when my asshole brother violated my privacy and trust. I don’t remember whether I’ve assigned a name for him yet, so for now let’s just call him B. For Brother. Or Butthole. Take your pick (both will work in a pinch) (eww pinched butthole).
So there I was, journaling my angsty little heart out. About school. About bullies. About shame. About public humiliation. About depression. About music. About boys. Oh yeah. I wrote about boys: two boys in particular. One was a crush I’d had for two years already (who would later become boyfriend, then spouse, then shhh I don’t wanna talk about that right now). I talked about that one a lot. Oh what a crush I had for that little bad boy. And the other was for one who would be my first boyfriend.
I’ve mentioned him before. What the hell did I call him? Shit. (No, I most certainly did not dub him Shit. What was it? Fuck me, I forget.) (I totally need a system for this.) Let’s call him Miguel. Oh Miguel, you yummy thing you. He looked just like Anthony Kiedis, and I was So Fucking Smitten.
And before those of you keeping up jump to conclusions – he is not the reason I’m a diehard RHCP fan. I need to write about that soon, but for now – no. Miguel has nothing to do with that. We were way more into Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Green Day at the time. For some reason RHCP wasn’t huge among my little group. So they were mine alone. Anyway. Digressing.
But. P.S. Miguel still looks like that. Fucker. Anyway, so we were twelve, and I had such an overpowering, all-consuming crush on him that I sometimes lay awake nights thinking about him. We hung out together all the time. Listening to music, smoking pot, talking about life and parents and school. His mom was totally whack. I mean seriously. I smoked pot with her. When I was twelve. Yeah. But Miguel and his sister weren’t allowed to. Miguel never got much into it, but I would sneak a toke a lot. He really was a good boy – he was then and, based on everything I’ve heard through the grapevine over the years, he still is.
All of those thoughts and experiences were in my diary. So were the details of the day he finally asked me to “go with” him, and how excited and nervous and scared I was. My first real boyfriend! Elementary Mario had no idea he was my boyfriend, so that didn’t really count. (Shut up. It totally counts.) Miguel and I were only a thing for about two weeks. Three, tops. It was awkward, and he wasn’t ready for a girlfriend. I was all in, but he wasn’t ready. At least that’s what he told me later, and I believed him because he didn’t have a serious girlfriend for at least a couple more years. (It didn’t help that his best friend kept making fun of him about us – I mean hardcore, too. That butthole. He ended up being a crackhead. That’s what you get!) (And, I will confess it crushed my soul when I found out Miguel finally slept with some girl at a party he went to freshman year. Casey, you bitch.)
But that two weeks was enough for my diary to fill with the sordid details of kissing in his bed (on top of the covers) and how it felt when his hand went up my shirt. (He had even asked permission.) I’m certain that book was filled to the brim with award-winning writing and frameable art (who wouldn’t want to frame hearts and arrows adorned with Miguel & Stephanie 4-Ever?)
It broke my heart when he broke up with me, saying it was too awkward and he’d waited too long and now it felt like he was kissing his sister because of how close we were as buddies. He was sweet about it, and we miraculously remained friends until I moved away (to a different apartment complex).
Attack of the Pinched Butthole Brother
At some point after Miguel broke my heart and my crush moved back to the bad boy, B found my diary. I thought I was being clever when I hid it between my mattress and the box-frame. I hadn’t yet seen all those movies where every kid in the history of fuckingever uses that as a hiding space.
Not only did B find it, oh no. He also had to read it. And he was not content to stop there, either. I came home from school one day, and B and his bitchass pal, let’s call him “Bitch”..you know..for bitch, were already there, playing video games (on my NES, damnit). And oh the devilish smirk that plastered itself across B’s face when I walked through the door.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Then I shall spare you the suspense. B stood up, diary in hand, and commenced to reading it aloud while his bitchass pal, Bitch, literally pointed and laughed at me. He even had the audacity to hold his sides, laughing so hard it hurt. B really outdid himself, too, drawing out the loooooooooves and even holding the diary up and pointing at the hearts for all the world Bitch to see.
I hated him with an unmatched fury. Both of them. And I told them so, through screamy sobs.
I hate you! I HATE YOU! GIVE IT BACK!
When I finally snatched it away from him, I promptly ripped it to shreds. In his defense (the only one I’ll allow him here), he tried to make me stop. But it was his fucking fault; he’s the one who drove me to do it. I probably would have done it one day, anyway. I hadn’t kept any of the previous diaries, because I always felt childish, stupid and vapid. But this was different. This was the first time I’d had the privacy of a diary breached (the first time to my knowledge, anyway). I tore that bitch to pieces, marched it straight down to the apartment dumpster, came back upstairs and cried and cried of embarrassment and shame and hurt feelings and rage.
And Then There was You
I was mortified. Completely mortified. And I’ve had a pretty fucked up track record with diaries/journals ever since. I tried again a couple years later, but then my mother found it. B wasn’t living with us at the time, so I tried the same hiding spot again. Different apartment, same fucking spot. So fucking naive. Oh yeah, she found it. And for the first time in months decided to speak to me. Well, more like sobbing in my general direction. I lied to her about sex. I hadn’t had sex at that point, but I had gotten very fucking close. I told her those were just fantasies. She believed it. Probably because she was living in her head, anyway, and was willing to believe whatever made her life easier to live. I could have told her anything, and it wouldn’t have changed our relationship or her life. No matter what I told her, she was going to spend her home time crying in bed. So I made it easy,
I can’t believe you read that. But it isn’t true. None of it is true. Don’t worry.
And then I shredded it. I tried again a few years later, when I was living with the bad boy. But he always insisted I read the entries to him. So it was more a log of my life as one-half of a couple. It lacked depth and fullness, but I was happier then, for a long time. I still felt like I needed my own space, but I never got it (not that I pushed for it). I still have a few of them, all with twenty to thirty pages filled. But then I stopped for good, because they weren’t really mine. Not fully.
I tried a couple of blogs over the years. But I always bulldozed them. Never felt good enough or safe enough. But the itch, the need has never left me. The need to purge my thoughts, get them down and out. Work out the meaning of the world, or at least my place in it. In writing.
And then there was you. I’m finally sticking with it. And while I know I haven’t been with you long, believe me when I say this is what Stephanie sticking with it looks like. I also know this is far riskier than a little paper journal hiding in my bed or underwear drawer. Yet this blog is giving me something additional that no diary ever could: accountability, community, commiseration and dare I say it? Friendship. So, for now at least, I’ve decided the dangers of discovery are worth it.
Sometime this weekend, I had a little music fest with Andrew. I reminded him of U2’s song, “Bad,” and he reminded me of this Dylan gem:
Dylan has always been a favorite of mine. Even though old fuckers liked to tell me he was before my time, and I was too young to appreciate him properly, I still loved him. And fuck them for being exactly the kind of person Dylan would criticize.
I had the good fortune to see him in concert – alas, I was a teenager, and I’ve forgotten most of the concert. But the memories I do have are irreplaceable. I remember riding shotgun in the boyfriend’s car after work – he had just picked me up. I was…seventeen, I think? We were listening to the radio, and the DJ said Dylan was playing at some little theater in Mississippi. We looked at each other, eyebrows arched, silently questioning. And fuck yeah, we headed straight to the sound shop, bought tickets and drove to Mississippi.
It was a long drive, so we were late and missed the first song or so. And we got lost – had to stop and ask directions from a cop. (Good thing he didn’t search the car. He would have stolen our pot.) It was the first concert I’d been to where they kept all the lights on. It was bright, and we could look around at the rest of the concertgoers. We were definitely the youngsters. Those old fuckers were openly smoking pot, passing it around, dancing and singing, and just feeling good. It was an intimate concert. We were in the balcony cheap seats, but Dylan was right there.
I remember thinking it was sad that Dylan couldn’t sell out a tiny theater like that anymore. But I was also grateful, because it means there was still a ticket available for me. It’s a night I hope I never forget.
I hadn’t heard this particular song in years. And my god, I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. In some ways, I am, because I was a pre-teen or teen when I first heard it. And while I was far more mature than I should have been in those years, listening to this song now, I can see why it’s having a bigger impact now than it did then. It has shot up the ranks of my Dylan favorites and now rests comfortably at the top. (For now. This is always in flux for me, particularly with Dylan.)
“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was released on Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home. This is Dylan at his finest: the social justice poet, filled with anger and righteous indignation. He’s frustrated and pessimistic. The song is a bleak condemnation of the society he was living in (and his society will sound awfully fucking familiar to us): rampant consumerism, crooked politics, never-ending beating of the war drums, etc.
Look how he breaks it down (I started to bold some of my favorite lines, but quickly realized I was about put the whole fucking thing in boldface):
Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.
Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fools gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proved to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.
Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
That you’d just be
One more person crying.
So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to you ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing.
As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their marks
Made everything from toy guns that sparks
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.
An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it.
Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.
You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand without nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.
A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.
Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to.
For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despite their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.
While some on principles baptized
To strict party platforms ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God Bless him.
While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in.
But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him.
Old lady judges, watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.
While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Must get lonely.
My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me ?
And if my thought-dreams could been seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.
If you dig the song half as much as I do, it should rocket to your favorites. Enjoy.
So I believe Part 1 left off with mere Attempted Squirrelicide. Today, dear readers. Oh, today we get right into the thick of it. Attempted is for weenies. We’re talkin’ full-on Squirrelicide now. Don’t even bother hiring a detective, because I’m about to confess.
Squirrelicide in the First Degree
I was sixteen or seventeen when I went on my first hunting foray. (I may as well go ahead and tell you it was also my only hunting foray. Consider that a preview on how things went.) I didn’t care about hunting, but being out in the woods early on a weekend morning sounded lovely. So, even though I thought camouflage was stupid (still do – suck it), I donned someone’s spare camo and tagged along with my boyfriend. He wanted to go squirrel hunting, and he wanted me to go with him.
Sure, let’s do this thing.
We get out into the woods, and he’s being all manly protector and shit. I’m walking along the well-trodden path when Mr. Boy Scout practically unhinges his arm to stop me in my tracks.
Snake. There was a snake. Not a venomous snake, mind you, which he himself acknowledged. No matter, his girlfriend’s life dignity was at stake.
So he murdered the snake.
And I cried.
That was sign number one that we should have turned back.
About halfway through our trek, we come across a deer stand. He told me what it was and who it belonged to. I pointed to the knee-high mound of food and asked what it was. “That’s deer feed,” he said, “to lure the deer.” I’m sure you can guess my reply: “Are you fucking serious? That hillbilly dickwad motherfucker LURES them here?” I even quoted My Cousin Vinny. The part about the happy little deer putting it’s little deer lips to the cool water to drink, and:
Oh yeah. Then he explained the stench I was smelling came from the deer musk/urine sprayed all around the place to lure them and mask the scent of humans.
I was livid. And though he was highly amused,
That was sign number two that we should have turned back.
But we didn’t turn back. The rest of the trek was pleasant enough. Enjoying the cool autumn weather. The trees. The chirping of the birds. Learning to recognize animal tracks and hiding spots. It was a pretty cool morning, aside from the murder and mayhem.
We finally settled into a thick copse of trees, squatted down with our weapons and listened. Watched. Observed. Felt. So far, so good. I was cool with all of that, and was pretty good at spotting shit, too.
I had done some target practice a week or so prior – but it didn’t take much. I was actually really fucking good at it. I remember he was strangely proud of that – at least he wasn’t one of those weirdos who get jealous about that sort of thing.
So yeah, when I finally spotted a squirrel I deemed close enough, I didn’t even say anything – I just went for it. I was using this little .22, and I think I was too far away. (At least that’s what I was told in attempts to comfort me afterward.) After I shot, the squirrel fell from the limb he was on.
And we never found him.
We searched for hours, because I was insistent and at least mildly hysterical. But we never found him. I cried. Nay, I fucking sobbed. He was beside himself, first laughing and then desperate to calm me down. He swore the shot would have spread, and the squirrel was probably fine or we would have gone straight to him. But I was inconsolable; all that could be done was to leave and let me put it behind me.
But I never really did. Put it behind me, I mean. Though I was done crying by the time we emerged from the woods, I’ve never forgotten that day. And I’ve never believed that squirrel came out unscathed. He either died that day or ended up in hospice care.
I never forgave myself, and I never went hunting again.
The Three Stooges: A Shot at Redemption Ends in Triple Squirrelicide
That next summer – same boyfriend – he brought three baby squirrels home. The tree they were living in had been cut down, and the mother abandoned them. So he brought them to me. By now, he knew damn well what a bleeding heart I was. I was ecstatic! But I also had no idea how to take care of tiny baby squirrels.
I thought I did the right thing. I really did. I took them to a veterinarian. (I mean, I also used the Internet. What, Alta Vista at the time? Dogpile? But there wasn’t much information available.) The veterinarian sold me some kitten milk and an eye-dropper feeder (and a bottle for when they got bigger) and told me to keep them warm. Feed them every two to three hours, he said, and keep them warm with a rice sock heated in the microwave.
I was so careful with those little things. I had them tucked into a small box, with a fluffy towel and the rice sock. I always held it against tender spots of my skin first to make sure I wouldn’t burn the Three Stooges. That’s what I named them: Larry, Curly and Moe. And I fed them carefully and regularly.
Larry died first. First and fast. Almost right away, really. God, I was a wreck. I opened up the little box in the middle of the night, for a nighttime feeding and to re-warm the sock. And he was curled up there, lifeless. I was heartbroken. The boyfriend took care of burying him for me. I insisted Larry be buried.
Moe was next. He lasted a couple of weeks before giving up. He stopped eating, I think. I do remember calling the vet on his account. And he told me that all I could do was keep them warm and feed them regularly. Oh yeah, and I was also wiping them with a warm damp cloth to help them pass waste.
But it wasn’t enough. Moe didn’t make it. But I knew for certain Curly was solid. He made it several weeks. And he even got big enough to ride around in my breast pocket.
It just wasn’t to be. And I was absolutely shattered when I came home from work one day, and the boyfriend told me Curly had died. I know now that I should have sought the advice of another vet. But at the time, I trusted that particular one. He took care of the boyfriend’s dog, so he was like their family vet. But I know now that poor Curly was most certainly malnourished. He wasn’t large, not even fully juvenile. He was still a baby. But he had certainly graduated beyond the basic nutrition found in kitten milk.
I was devastated. And when the boyfriend found yet more baby squirrels some time later, he had the presence of mind to call me first. And I asked him to please not bring them home. I couldn’t go through it again.
So uhm. Yeah. That one wasn’t funny. My bad. But it did result in yet more squirrel funerals. It strikes me that I have a disproportionate amount of squirrel funerals in my life, as compared to…ahem…normal people.
And I can add Serial Squirrel Murderer and Stooge Slaughterer to my rap sheet. Oh hell, I got a rap sheet? Holla!
Additional Squirrellaneous Encounters
Far more recently (that shit happened when I was a teenager, remember?), I tried befriending my squirrels. The ones that live here. In my trees. And I love watching them play and roughhouse with each other. So I tried to befriend them.
Last year (that was last year wasn’t it?), I visited The Peanut Depot while I was checking out Birmingham, Alabama.
Seriously, if y’all are ever in Birmingham, you need to hit up the Peanut Depot. (And what the fuck is the matter with you if you’re grown and American and haven’t been to Birmingham? That’s an important city, and you need to go. You been told.)
Aaaanywho, I bought an assload of peanuts. The guy behind the counter flirted with me. I know, because I don’t get flirted with, and homeboy didn’t even try to hide it. But he also wanted to know just what the hell I was gonna do with all those peanuts. I bought a 2 lb. burlap sack of each kind (regular, salted and Cajun). And, he was right. What the fuck was I thinking?
Once I got home and realized the error of my ways – I mean what on earth was I gonna do with sixteen zillion peanuts? I tried to share them at work, but who wants peanuts? Though, I did keep a small nutsack of my own in my drawer. (Hehehe, this woman told me about her nutsack at work. I totally should have called mine that. If you haven’t made her acquaintance, you should. She’s delightful.)
So, I hatched a plot to befriend my squirrels. First I laid peanuts around the trees in the front, like little Easter eggs. It didn’t take long for them to find ’em. I’d peer out my window at them, watching one chow down and the other stuff his furry little cheeks and haul ass up the tree. Probably plotting to use them as soggy, nutty projectiles. No matter.
After a few days of this, I began sprinkling them in the yard. And then leading a path to the porch. I spied the two regulars munching on the porch a couple times. But this didn’t last. Oh no.
Because those fucking bastard assholes tore up my yard!
I told those motherfuckers I had enough peanuts to last a lifetime of winters. But nooooooooo, they had to dig! And you wanna know how I found out? Hmm? I couldn’t see the holes because of the copious amounts of pinestraw. But I was out there one day, feeding the sons of bitches and twisted my ankle in a squirrelhole!
So, like the Soup Nazi, I shouted (seriously, I shouted) NO PEANUTS FOR YOU! (I’m sure my neighbors find me positively delightful.) Then I called them bastards. No good dirty rotten scoundrels. I shook my fists at them up in the trees. They didn’t dare mock me, not til I went inside. But never again would I spoil those little bastards. Now they’ll have to be content with munching on acorns and my roof. Assholes.
I’ve had lovely encounters with the mountain squirrels of Washington, Montana, Wyoming…they liked to climb on me and check my pockets. You know what? That does it! Fuck these local squirrels. I’m moving! I know, I know…it’s only a matter of time before even the mountain squirrels turn on me.
It’s time for me to bust out the water hose and tear some ass up.
Oh my gosh, this is how it all began. Mr. Smith’s struggles were real. I see it all so clearly now. I’ll fight them in your honor, Mr. Smith! I’ll take no prisoners!
Wannabe Intro to My Squirrelstory (Like History, but Better)
As I sit at work today, pretending to be a productive employee while scratching my head in hopes of breaking loose a thought or three worthy of a post, I find myself pondering squirrels. And it strikes me that I just may have a particularly curious connection with squirrels in my life – at least compared to the average person. I mean, just how many squirrelly encounters have you had, dear Peoplleaneous? And I don’t mean that time your Uncle Bubba made you lick one for good luck. (Don’t worry, that totally didn’t happen to me. And if it happened to you, you’re a disgusting freak and can’t be my friend anymore.)
Y’all don’t believe me, do you? I’m telling you, homeslices. I have a weird history with squirrels. And I’m gonna tell you about it. As soon as I can figure out how to end this wannabe intro. Fuck it, consider this wannabe intro over.
That Time My Brother tried to Resurrect a Squirrel in the Bathtub (Holyfuck, that heading just spoiled the plot. Who comes up with this shit?!)
I think this one is less of a memory and more of something that has been implanted through countless retellings, because I believe I was like two when this happened. But since it’s the earliest “memory” of squirrels in my life, it must be told and it must come first.
My brother is a few years older than me, and depending on who tells the story, he was somewhere between five and eight. But given my age at the time, he had to have been at least seven. (“Why didn’t you just say seven to begin with and have done?,” is your logical query. To which I shriek, “I thought you knew me!,” and dissolve into a heap of tears.)
Anywhoodles. We’re living at my mamaw’s house, right? (She had this weird, awesome floor that you could pluck these little wooden tile thingies from. Pluck. Pluck. Slide back in like a funky puzzle piece. Pluck. Pluck. Man, I loved playing with that floor.) Well. Apparently B (Ima call him “B” for brother, aight?) had a soft spot for animals back then. (I say back then, because he sure as fuck doesn’t now. But don’t worry about it. This is a happy story.) So mamaw catches him waddling into the house, in nothing but his He-Man underwear. In his arms, he’s got this squirrel. His arms are wrapped around it, and it’s dangling down the length of B’s little body. It’s stiff and crispy – it had been burnt to a crisp when a transformer blew – and B’s sobbing and waddling into the house with the squirrel’s tail dragging between his legs.
Mamaw, naturally, freaks right the fuck out. “B! What the hell are you doing?! PUT THAT SQUIRREL BACK OUTSIDE!” B chokes out through the snotty sobs, “But Yamaw…*sniffle choke*…I have to give him a bath!” (This is why B was in his underwear. He had stripped down outside after formulating his plan to bathe the squirrel back to life.) B was dead serious, too. He really thought he could soak the squirrel in the tub and make everything right again. “Yamaw, yamaw, he needs a bath and everything will be okay!”
It took much pleading and coaxing to convince B to let mamaw pry the squirrel from him. (Who knows what she did with it – that’s never been included in the telling…) It took ages to calm him down and dry his tears; mamaw said it was the most pitiful thing she’d ever seen.
And no, B didn’t become a taxidermist. Or a faith healer.
Smile though Your Heart is Aching
The next memory I have is the infamous Squirrel Funeral. And no, it wasn’t even for the aforementioned crispy critter. As memory serves (mine and others’), this was a couple of years later, but it also took place at mamaw’s.
This time, my aunt found a dead squirrel in the yard. (What’s the deal with all the dead squirrels at mamaw’s? Kinda creepy, really.) And she decided that we needed to have funerary services to see the squirrel off into the afterlife. She was super serious, yo, solemn and dramatic as ever.
She and her father fashioned a coffin out of a cigar box, and we – me and my siblings – were ordered to prepare remarks and dress for the occasion. My aunt would deliver the eulogy.
We all gathered in the alley behind mamaw’s house. Just us kids. We dug a hole and set the squirrel’s box beside the dirt mound. We fashioned a cross of twigs and berries (shut up, pervert) and planted it in the ground at the end of the hole. Then we stood in a circle, holding hands. My aunt said a prayer and delivered the eulogy. I know we named the squirrel; and I swear it was something like Edward. (Y’all are right – something about me and “Ed-” names.) Each of us kids took turns saying our parting words to Edward and delivering him unto the earth. Y’all, this was some super solemn shit. And while I don’t remember things that were said, I do remember making shit up – about what a good squirrel Edward had been. How he was a good friend and playmate. Pretty sure we even made up a wife and kids that he was leaving behind. Some pretty creative and morbid shit.
With all of that finished up, we lowered his tiny King Edward cigar coffin (holyfuck, THAT’S why we named him Edward!) into the leaf-strewn ground and buried him. As soon as the dirt mound had filled the hole, the others went about their business. And I don’t remember many specifics, but I do remember lingering behind by myself. Crying. I cried for Edward the squirrel. And, in what was perhaps one of the earliest instances, I remember contemplating life and death and the finite-ness of our corporeal existence.
Depressing, no? Don’t worry, it’s not all like that. (It totally kind of is, though.)
Know Thyself, and Know Thy Enemy, or Devil, Thy Name is Squirrel
Another tale from mamaw’s house (years later, same mamaw, different house). In this neighborhood, the squirrels were vicious. A warring faction emerged, overthrowing the peaceful nut hoarders and challenging the humans for dominion. At least, that’s how Mr. Smith saw things.
Mr. Smith was a neighbor of mamaw’s, and while his wife was perfectly sane, Mr. Smith was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and who knows what else. And for some reason, perfectly docile Mr. Smith one day became the archenemy of the neighborhood squirrels: specifically the ones who dared trespass into his beloved tree.
Mr. Smith adamantly argued that the squirrels started it. That they stood atop the branches of his trees and taunted him with their racket and turned acorns into weapons, hurling the tiny projectiles at lightening speed toward his shiny pate. This was the squirrel of Mr. Smith’s waking nightmares:
Naturally, Mr. Smith launched a series of counterattacks. His two weapons of choice? The waterhose (affixed with a jet spray nozzle and the force of a firehose) and a wheelbarrow of bricks. Mr. Smith could (and did) spend countless hours outside, launching brick after brick into his beloved tree and spraying them with the waterhose of doom. And this otherwise godfearing man, hurled vicious swearwords up to those “NO GOOD BASTARD MOTHERFUCKERS! I’LL KILL YOU! GET OUTTA MY TREE!”
And while his poor wife was forever lamenting this new side of Mr. Smith, some of us who witnessed it were delighted. I was old enough to be aware that I was witnessing the cognitive decline of a human being. So while I was torn between sorrow and amusement, I’m ashamed to admit that Mr. Smith’s War on Squirrels has provided many hours of laughter in my life.
But I swear, y’all. Perhaps the years have colored my memories a bit too much. But I swear sometimes those squirrels really did mock him with their loud squirrel gibberish and the occasional rain of acorns pelting the poor bastard. (And, by the way, I was Team Squirrel all the fucking way. I know. I’m a terrible person.)
Sometimes Mr. Smith would finish gathering all of his bricks back into the wheelbarrow and start toward the house when one of those little fuckers would let fly a squirrelfanity, causing Mr. Smith to slam on the brakes, wheel around and launch another brick.
He never did catch one. For all his effort, his aims never found purchase. And one day, well. One day he just stopped coming outside.
I said this was a happier tale. Damn y’all, what’d you go and make me cry for?
I have more squirrel tales to tell, so I’m going to end this here, as Part 1. I have at least three more mini-tales to go, but this is already quite lengthy so I’m breaking it into two parts. I’ll have the rest ready for you tomorrow!