Thursday, November 24, 2005

Quite possibly the worst Thanksgiving breakup story ever ...

Usually bad breakup stories are reserved for Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day. This one just happened to occur over Thanksgiving week.

I met her while I worked in the Print Shop in South Philly. If Kim Deal [The Pixies; The Breeders - "Cannonball"] needed yet another twin sister, she was more than qualified. She may have been the Proto-MILF. She was a proof reader, I was a layout guy. She wrote poetry and liked my artwork. She was 28, I was 22. She was separated (her husband was really flaked; Goth before Goth was Goth, you know; never went out during the day, didn't work, smoked a LOT). We got real flirty at work, went out after work a couple times, just for a drink or two. One afternoon (we got out at 3:00 on Fridays) she took me down to Roosevelt Park, across the street from the Vet - now Citizens Bank Park. We started making out, in her VW Beetle. We really going at it. She couldn't exactly take me home, and I was living in Jersey, so she gave me, well, you know ... something to remember the day by.

I still do.

By the following spring, we were super serious, but she wasn't divorced yet. I had moved back to Philly to be closer to her. We'd go to her poetry readings and openings. Everyone in her nouveau-beatnik clique knew who I was. During breaks, we'd slip off to have sex in bathrooms, and stuff like that. All my friends at my neighborhood bar knew her, too. Then her kids started asking me to stay over. Her husband got even nuttier. She wanted to reconcile with him - for his mental health, such as it was. I said fine, "Let's take the Summer off."

In the meantime, I got a new job, so it wasn't a workplace situation anymore. I met new girls, my "horizons" expanded. However, her whacko husband - who all the time begged her to come back - didn't want to now. She moved in with her parents in Upper Darby and tried to make another go of it with me. I was seeing a couple of much less, shall we say "dramatic", women at the new place and didn't really share her enthusiasm to try again. But, being the sweetheart I am, and attempting to make a nice ending to the story, I went out with her a couple more times. She must have thought I was just running a game on her; that my heart wasn't really in it anymore; that I was just looking for sex. Feeling used and betrayed, she tried to snuff me in my sleep with a pillow. She wasn't really trying that hard, but the point was made. She went home that night.

The following Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving - I received a letter from her stating that we would both be better off without each other, and that I shouldn't try to call her because she wouldn't talk to me. Even though I had other things going on, the attempted murder and subsequent "Dear Randy" letter shook me up quite a bit. I went to the Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia and watched it alone in the cold rain.

By December 1st, I was adjusting to life in Florida.

I made it till March.

I thought that I'd shaken her of my scent [so to speak], until one April afternoon after I moved back. I'd managed to sub-out my apartment while I was gone and returned to my old neighborhood like nothing had happened. As I was doing my daily run up at Penn, behind me I heard a screech, crash, yelling and screaming. She had driven her VW up unto the curb and tried to drive me through a store window.

Missed me!!!

She told the cops that her kids were fighting in the back seat and she was trying to calm them down when she lost the wheel. Oh, yeah, I'm beyond "Stab-worthy" ... I'm "Smother-him-with-a-pillow-and-if-that-doesn't-work-run-the-Bug-up-on-the-sidewalk-by-Franklin-Field-the-Friday-of-Penn-Relays-worthy"

About a year after that, she called me to borrow some money to move to Arizona.

That was all twenty years ago this week.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Another winner - literally ...

This was entered in Jim Anderson's Beer Philadelphia: Beer Lit 101 Contest, sometime back. The task was to craft a story around a dozen or so beer/brewing terms. Can you find them???

It was early to mid-April. I’m not exactly sure now. But it was definitely after Easter.

Anyway … I had just settled down in front of the TV for the evening. I put on the Comcast Sports channel to see what was on tap. Hockey or baseball? The Phillies were winning; the Flyers losing. I should have known there was trouble brewing.

Mother’s Day was just a few weeks away. Who was I going to bring to enchant dear Mother? Would it be Nikki Mars, the tall blonde candy heiress? Or perhaps Muffy Busch, the petite auburn brewery babe? I had been dating them both without the other’s knowledge for nearly sixteen months now and both were getting anxious. Both thinking I was after their fortunes as well as … well … ass.

My decision would be made for me and sooner than I had imagined.

Just as the penguin was singing “Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo”, my door flew open. It was “Batchelorette Number One.” And she was upset. I should have never given her one of my spare keys.

“So! You didn’t think I’d find out,” she ranted, “You thought you’d covered your tracks. A clever little bunny who hops from one garden to another and eats all the flowers he wants. Well, I followed your pellets right to your hole, Bugs!”

Even in her agitated and much pissed off state, she put a rise in my trousers like yeast in fresh bread.

“I want a commitment and I want it now!” she shrieked.

“Honey, relax. Let’s go to the soda shop and get a chocolate malt,” I pleaded with her. I figured that if I said the most stupid and clich├ęd thing I could think of, I could buy some time while she tried to get whatever it was that I just babbled. It didn’t work.

“When I think of the times I waited for you to call, and you didn’t. Of course you didn’t. You couldn’t. Because you were with her.” If it was possible she was getting even madder as she thought about it. “It makes my blood boil!”

“Hey, baby,” I was really back-pedaling now, “There were times I didn’t call her ‘cause I was with you, too, ya know. I played it fair, right down the middle. I wanted our relationship to ferment a little before I made up my mind.”

“Well, it didn’t ferment; it aged. And now it stinks like bad cheese.”

Those were the last words she’d speak to me. Someone else would do her talking now.
She reached into her purse and pulled out the most elegant hand-cannon her trust fund could buy. And I was sure she’d gotten the matching lawyer and self-defense plea bargain to go with it. The light was dim, but I could see five little Indians smiling at me from the cylinder of the revolver, and the Big Chief was already in the bottom of the barrel.

When my body hit the floor, the spilled lager from my glass mixed with the blood on the Pergo in a gruesome raspberry vinaigrette of loss and guilt.

I knew I wasn't going to die, not today anyway. I found the strength to look up her skirt, perhaps for the last time. My heart lifted when I saw that she wore the ring I gave her for Valentine's Day. She was mad now but she had already forgiven me.

I could barely hear the dialtone from the ringing in my ears as I called 911. (Quick lesson, never discharge a firearm in a small closed room.) As rapidly as the Police and EMT’s arrived “on scene,” as they like to say, I was down at least a pint or two as I was loaded unceremoniously into the vehicle. The multi-colored lights on the truck looked like candy. And the red and white truck looked like a big can of Bud. I lost the grip on my consciousness like it was a canoe paddle and I had just realized I was too drunk to swim to shore if I had to, which too far away to make it anyway.

Although we weren’t married, or even living together for that matter (and never would be now), it still went down as “Domestic Disturbance”.

Sometimes life isn’t all Skittles® and beer.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Life Inside A Ping Pong Ball

A lost gem - and, may I say, I'm kind of astonished that I wrote it.

Since the room was spherical, stark white and totally featureless, I had no landmark to say what was up or down. I had come to call the space immediately below my feet “the floor”, immediately above “the ceiling” and everything else “the wall” Its translucent shell bathed me in a diffuse twilight, with no definable shadows or highlights, much like I’d seen during a partial eclipse of the sun.

I was just sitting there minding my own business when the whole room suddenly and completely lost any regard it had with the laws of physics in general and gravity in particular. In the matter of a brief second, I was squashed to the floor, thrown to the ceiling, and spun around the walls with such abandon I could only imagine that it must have been what Dorothy felt while in the Twister, on her way to the fatal encounter with the Wicked Witch of the East, and subsequent adventures in OZ. Except there was no way for me to open the door and have my black and white world transformed to delicious Technicolor.

Nope, I was going to be here a while.

“Come on, doesn’t anyone want to play?” I heard a muffled voice ask. It had been a long time but I could still recognize a human sound when it presented itself. And this voice had the characteristics of a girl in her late teens, obviously drunk, definitely bored, and probably very attractive.

I had some physical evidence to support the first three assumptions.

Her voice had given up the helium filled timbre of childhood, shed the squeaky uncertainty of adolescence, and matured with the husky confidence to challenge the world, or at least her corner of it. It also was soaked in the summery vapor of once cold beer, now warm in a cooler of melted ice upstairs on a sun bleached deck, next to the cobwebbed gas grill, between two mildewed vinyl chaise lounges, purchased from Kmart in the beginning of the last decade. That voice held the breathy impatience of seeing too many sunsets across the same open expanse of Midwestern prairie, evening after evening, summer after summer, and knowing that the sun that was setting right now behind her house was at the same moment rising in front of an equally desolate house in Australia. But it was a rising sun, and rising suns bring warmth and hope. Setting suns only bring cold and darkness.

A young woman with that much inner awareness couldn’t be plain. Not in my world, bleak and monochromatic as it was.The room rushed over itself again, then leaped up and crashed down.

“You guys are all afraid of me, aren’t you?!!! Well, I can wait. You’ll get bored and want to play.”

Slushy voices called down the stairwell, and echoed off the bare ceramic tile. The music in the background gradually grew louder and more distinct as the speakers from upstairs were positioned strategically in the doorway to provide the most perfect balance of thundering bass and shrieking guitar.

“The music of pickup truck rebellion will never change,” I thought to myself. As long as there are girls, beer, and cars there will always be songs to sing. And as long as there are boys, beer, and guitars, there will always be someone to sing them.