Colorful Personalities · Personal Anectdotes

Never Ask for Directions to the Cracker Factory…

pinkpajamasMEGREflymooseSometimes having very loud and embarrassing friends can actually be pretty funny. Today I speak of a friend who once went to a flea market with me dressed in nothing but bright pink pajamas. This sort of stunt used to mortify me until one day I just snapped and stopped giving a shit, shrugging my shoulders and giving people that look, “Yeah I don’t know, this has nothing to do with me…” or at other times I’ve stepped into that role of being the embarrassing one. That’s always super fun!

But this story is about being lost in the middle of Nowhere Maine – and I mean nowhere – like two hours away from civilization nowhere. We’d stopped at the only business we could find, a gas station aside the highway which we were fairly certain was run by moose. There was a man at the check out and my friend ambled right up to him and asked where she was supposed to be going.

Cracker_factory“Oh well, you’re almost there, just keep going up this road and when you see the cracker factory take a right.”

This is when my friend blurted out, “Cracker factory? Is that where they make all the white people?!” This threw the poor man WAY off as his directions stuttered to a halt and I gave a deep sigh.

“Uhm… no…?”

“It was a joke! You know like they call white people crackers…”

*crickets*

Childhood Memories · Colorful Personalities · Personal Anectdotes

Boy it must have Sucked Being an Openly Bi-Sexual Man in a Small Town in the 1980’s…

biflag1These days my brain has been kicking in and just throwing me completely with random flashbacks of seemingly nothing. Today it was a memory of a man whose name I don’t even know because at the time of this story I was probably only four or five years old.

tiedyetankIt was the late 80’s and this guy lived in a small town in New Hampshire as an openly bi-sexual man. He was… an oddity… in every way. He was also the only man to work making clothes at the sweatshop. This was ironic considering he only wore one shirt — for maybe twenty years. I remember it well. It was a tie-dye T-shirt that had been worn so often that it was literally just rags draped over him, huge slashes and tears, I mean there pretty much was no shirt left, just some tattered fragments of cloth where the seams still clung on for dear life. There was no back to speak of. To this day I have yet to meet a more loved shirt than that one!

noseringMaybe I am remembering him these days out of empathy – I mean holy fuck, that must have been a shit life… an openly bi-sexual man in a small town in the 1980’s?! WOW. He didn’t even get respite at work… the women in the sweatshop were horrible. Never have I met a more bitchy crew than those clucking hens! And if they weren’t bitching about men they were picking on the only dude in the room who had the misfortune of owning a cock and balls. Once he came in with a nose piercing. These lovely squabbling ladies immediately started in on this.

“How do you blow your nose with that thing in?”

“When it’s cold do you get booger icicles on it?”

“It’s like a shiny zit! How do you not pick at it?!”

This went on for a few weeks until the nose ring mysteriously disappeared. Not much later so did this unfortunate fellow. And so ends my story… a tale of both humor and horror. To this day it still sucks to be a minority in a small town, an individual and eccentric, but so long as people like this still flagrantly deny this reality I still have hope. So if by some weird chance this poor guy is out there reading this – I hope you’ve found whatever it is you needed in life. Thanks for giving those biddies something to squawk about!

Childhood Memories · Colorful Retellings of History · Objects · Personal Anectdotes

Mourning the Death of Microsoft Paint

AOL2I grew up at a strange time right before technology exploded when boom boxes with shiny new CD players were where it was at. It was also an age before home computers were common. Few people had them and my father was one of them. He probably had to have one for his work, you see he was working with this strange new thing called The World Wide Web. I was five and that sounded so deliciously mysterious to me. He tried to explain it to me, saying that he worked with computers – computers that talked to each other. Of course having no concept of the Internet I thought the computers were some sort of sentient beings that gossiped to other computers about their owners. I wondered if they’d be critiquing the scrawling doodles I was making in Microsoft Paint or share the story I was plagiarizing typing in the word program. Now I think about it this is pretty telling of my later social anxieties that instead of making the computers out to  be benevolent creatures they were fiercely critical spies… Huh!

dot-matrix_printer_paperBut anyways… since I didn’t live with my father I didn’t get to learn the computer much. My mother wouldn’t get a computer until I was ten, or maybe even twelve, – a pass down, as was much of our belongings. We were lucky to have it then, most of my other poor peers did not. The only thing it could really do was type and print what you had typed on long sheets of perforated paper. Ripping the “dots” off the sides of the paper was one of the most satisfying activities ever but it had to be saved for after something was printed, otherwise the paper would be useless. It was a cruel trick.

trojanIn these early days of the PC these were fragile machines. Being a kid I crashed them almost every time I had a chance to use them and even completely wiped the hard drive twice. Children have always been the worst virus ever to hit technology but I digress.

Over the years I learned how to use Microsoft Paint. Of course I drew houses like everyone else. It was so easy! Just make a box and a triangle and there you are! A house! A few more boxes and you had a chimney, windows, and a door. The perfect lazy drawing. Only in my teens did I take myself somewhat more seriously but not really… I started drawing comics of Glen the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar. He was the great grandson of the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland… and one of the biggest reasons my bestie at the time would constantly be yelling, “WHHHHY do you have to make everyone think you’re on drugs?!” Glen was fat, rubbery, and made adorable babbling and squealing noises in my head. Recently I considered resurrecting him from the dead only to find Microsoft Paint is no longer being installed on new computers. The horror. The only user-friendly drawing program is dead! RIP Microsoft Paint. I will miss you.

HALhobbitfeminineprotection

 

 

Childhood Memories · Colorful Personalities

That Day I Stalked Some Random British Guy

balloon wreathWhen I was a tween I remember being forced to work for free invited to a wedding in Maine. To make it worth my while my mother drove me up there with my beastie at the time. We spent two or three days preparing for the wedding by helping prep food, blowing up one balloon less than it takes to pass out on the floor, and taking rides with perfect strangers. We were frenzied and exhausted but still having fun until my mother pitched a plate of pigs in a blanket on the floor. They quickly got covered in cat hair and that whole blanket terminology became all too real.

cameraFinally the day of the wedding came and we were handed cameras. Mine was fancy – and manufactured in the 1970’s so it weighed about thirty pounds. Thank God it had a strap. I hoisted it over my neck and started to wander around like the paparazzi. I wasn’t the only one with a camera. They had “hired” a friend of the bride to be the official photographer. I will never forget his arrival…

moptopSometimes people show up one day and although that’s the only day of your life you’ll ever see them they just leave that big of an impression that you never forget them. That would be this guy. I had heard the mother of the bride talk about him in fleeting moments and I didn’t garner much about him other than he was “a little weird” and British – and not just a little. I mean holy fuck was this guy was British. He was immediately recognizable due to the fact he was running around with the most outrageous mop-top haircut I had seen since 1964. Whhhhhhy?? Of all things! Was that some sort of joke? Like yup, I’m British, let’s dress up as a Beatle. Irony? An ice breaker? Maine’s first hipster? And why was he working at Wal-Mart and living in the shittiest corners of Maine? Punishment for something? I had to know.

Most people use their mouths to ask questions using a serious of noises they call speech yellowsubmarinebut that’s too easy and besides it was much more fun just stalking the guy. He was really socially awkward almost as if he was avoiding people because we were all carrying plague. He seemed utterly lost besides. This was great. I got to watch my own British comedy in all it’s delightful awkwardness unfold before me. My friend was less amused with this than I was.

“Why are we following this guy?!”

“We’re just watching.”

“But WHHHHY?!”

“Shhhhh…”

I thought I was remarkably well behaved even if I was stalking him. I hadn’t burst out into any random Beatles songs and that was hard not to do.  I mean upon driving in my mind was blaring, “Beep beep’m beep beep yeah!” The rest of the day was no better… at every corner so many opportunity for puns…

deathatafuneralThe wedding party was getting dressed and I was loitering around the living room with my bestie when the photographer made another appearance. I thought to myself, “Oh shit, he doesn’t have the balls to waltz into the back of the house with all that estrogen flying through the air to take any shots of this moment!” I was right. He sat idly in the kitchen watching small children screech by and wondering if he should pursue this further. I watched with intense anticipation. Another child flew by knocking something over with a giant thud which seemed to really disturb the poor guy.

My friend looked at me. I looked at her. Not ten minutes had passed before he yelled, “TIMBER!” I started to giggle. My bestie elbowed me in the side. She did that a lot. “Impeccable timing.” I whispered. I got elbowed again.

A whoosh of commotion. Suddenly everyone was on the move. The photographer made it outside with them. Yeah, whatever, it’s go time!

crosshairsThe ceremony was beautiful and simple. The bride walked down her own porch barefooted but dressed to the hilt otherwise, beaming. A nervous groom. Ten groomsmen and bridesmaids lined up leaving half the audience empty…. and where was the photographer? Shit, I lost him. Where’d he go?! He didn’t Doctor Who it out of here did he?? Oh there he is… five hundred feet away as if he were trying to photograph some sort of shy migratory bird. The audience was about three hundred feet closer. Why is he in the back forty?? With the same lens a sniper might use…. Huh. This guy was getting more interesting by the minute and it was driving me crazy. What was up with him?!

After the wedding I was whisked away to prepare the reception hall and never saw the photographer again. But I did see his photos! The bride’s mother lamented, “The photos you guys took were so much better! Close up! All his shots everyone is TINY. Like ants!” Perhaps he was avoiding people cooties…

 

Childhood Memories · Colorful Personalities

The Strange Case of the Painted Toe

farsideHave you ever woken yourself up from a daydream or a memory by laughing at some image your brain has randomly thrown at you? I do this a lot, probably because my brain never shuts down and it’s really quite sporadic in what it sends my way.

Today it was a memory of second grade – sitting on the floor of the classroom after recess, taking off our snow pants and boots and putting on our indoor sneakers as was the daily ritual. Nothing too odd about that except the kid next to me on the floor. He was a beautifully awkward child, the kind that struggles in these small town scenarios just as badly as I did. Today he was sitting on the floor stocking-footed when he decided to unleash a confession to me – not because I was a close friend, more because I just happened to be there.

“My mother is strange.” This is often how he started conversations – with no segway or reason.

“Why?”

“I probably shouldn’t show you. She told me not to tell anyone.” He said as he unfurled atoepolish sock and stared at his bare feet. “She painted my toe nail.” I looked over and indeed, his big toe was sporting vibrant crimson polish but just the big toe, nothing else. I found myself more annoyed the rest of the toes weren’t painted rather than wondering what possessed his mother to paint his toes in the first place. And being seven years old this is where either conversation ended or my memory of it. Now I’m in my thirties wondering why I am I remembering this now?? And this specific and odd memory?? I have no answers.

mealwormraceIf you’re wondering if this kid ever grew any social finesse the answer is no. My next memory of him was seventh grade science class. This was a class in which smarter students would get their work done in five minutes and spend the next forty finding increasingly strange ways to keep entertained. I was fond of the mealworm races myself. My fellow student of ennui on the other hand… One day he went around class asking every student if he could “borrow” a piece of paper. He showed up at my desk last with a whole stack of badly torn notebook papers and asked the same of me.

“No… but I can give you a piece of paper.” He giggled. Finally someone got the joke! No notebookpaperone borrows paper. I tore a page from my notebook and handed it to him hoping for more of an explanation. He wasn’t hoarding paper for any reason other than to keep occupied with the borrowing joke but now I was talking he made note of how cleanly torn my paper was, a nice sharp edge perfectly ripped at the perforation. There was no reason to have it any other way and yet all the papers he was holding were torn crazy, one was only half a page. We laughed at the half-assed attempts at kindness the other students had put forth. “But you already have paper!!”

osiris_leftThe next day he wandered around class asking each individual if they believed in Osiris…. as in the Egyptian God Osiris…. Blasphemy at it’s best.

 

 

 

Colorful Personalities · Personal Anectdotes

You Remember when that Ten Year Old Stole the Car… I Fucking Do.

mytreeYesterday my thoughts wandered to a strange time in my life, almost a decade past, where I thought it would be a brilliant idea to move North where the vast majority of my extended family lived. Sounds sort of sweet, peaceful, idyllic, a place to get back on my feet after a rough patch in my life. Who could have guessed this would have just added more misery!

tinceilingI was living with my uncle, in a house my mother inherited after my grandmother died. It was a sweet little architecturally fucked dwelling, apparently the result of “four shacks nailed together” in 1944, according to my gram anyway. The bathroom was clearly an addition, with the structural integrity of an up cycled chicken coop. When you entered one of the bedrooms upstairs you had to step down into it. The wallpaper was psychedelically dazzling, a vast array of colors and bad floral prints my great grandmother had chosen. And the living room ceiling was an attraction all on it’s own. It was an ornate tin ceiling, painted entirely in neon pink… but we weren’t French. My great-grandmother insisted her taste in flamboyant colors had nothing to do with those nasty French Canadians. We were English mutts dammit! Racism in Maine apparently extended to various enclaves of white people. Who knew!

MCII was up there attending Driver’s Ed four times a week, a class I had to walk over a mile to. The teacher was a retired cop, a guy who really loved the Sopranos and thought it was based on real life mobsters. He liked my obvious attempts at favoritism. I felt like a spy here because I was actually… and this is God’s honest truth… a liberal. Not just that but an edju-ma-cated one! My family’s church caught onto this and banned anyone from talking to me. Apparently I was too worldly and was planted there to lead people to sin… or something.

But this story isn’t about any of them, this is a story about three feral children who used to come over to the house every weekend for three, sometimes four days. It started when they’d come over Saturday and Sunday to be with my uncle, whose relatives they were, but this quickly grew to encompass Friday afternoon after school into Monday if it was a long weekend, and there seemed to be a lot of those. They were as follows… an adorable five year old ginger boy whose sisters tormented him so relentlessly he had some serious rage issues, the middle child, maybe eight years old, who I nicknamed Prosti-Tot because she’d come over looking more and more like white trash with every visit, and my favorite, the eldest at ten – a gifted girl. All were feral. No one had bothered to properly raise them. They were hellions.

lord-of-the-flies-coverOne night I woke up with my heart leaping out of my chest because I heard a pig being slaughtered upstairs. As it turns out there was no pig, just one very screamy little girl. None of these kids slept. At all. Ever. And every time they were over to the house, even though I had nothing to do with them, I was expected to keep the house clean and the kids watched — because I had tits and a twat, the two things that apparently a Mainer needs in order to take on these responsibilities. Great. I was living in 1880. Wonderful.

It got so bad I started locking myself in my room like it was a bunker. Or sometimes I’d go for a “walk” and find myself under the underpass enjoying the relative quiet of cars driving over my head. Once I even walked into the woods and stayed there for twelve hours, contemplating if I should spend the night or go home and lodge myself in the barnfire again. I couldn’t face being in the house anymore – not when there were screaming children dirtying EVERY dish in the house, throwing knives at the wall, and disposing of used cigarette butts in the linen closet of the bathroom (because if you’re going to hide the fact you’re smoking in the bathroom why would you throw them smoldering fuckers in the toilet and flush em’, much better to start a house fire…)

grandtheftautoThings came to a head when not too many weeks after I moved in the kids were staying overnight, this time with two friends, because that’s exactly what I needed, more. At some point things got quiet – too quiet – so I went out to investigate and found the eldest, her two slumber party friends, and my uncle’s car were mysteriously missing.

I called my mother. She told me to wake up my uncle. He called the cops and within forty five minutes a Boy Scout showed up at the door. I think he was twelve. He looked twelve. He asked me if I had a recent photo of the missing children…. uhhhh…. no…. I had one selfie she shot after she nicked my cellphone a few days previously but being digital he had no Wiggum_(1960's)idea what to do with this impromptu portrait. In fact he didn’t even have a notepad with him. I watched in horror as he wrote on his hand the numbers of the kids parents. No Amber Alert was issued. He told me she’d come home — as if she was a lost dog of some kind.

“What if she’s wrapped around a tree?! She’s TEN and she’s DRIVING A CAR!”

“I’ll go look around ma’am. I’m sure she’s fine.”

Wiggum_drops_Ralph_on_his_headI don’t know how far the boy scout looked. Probably about five hundred feet from the driveway. I was up all night violently ill. No one else except me seemed to be freaking out about this. My uncle was concerned but he believed she’d be back. The father and caretaker of this child didn’t even bother to show up. The mother, who had lost custody in favor of staying with her wife-beating boyfriend, showed up for a few minutes but seemed more lost than anything. She did go out and drive around for a while – maybe an hour.

Five hours passed. I was shaking violently, physically and emotionally shattered when one-way-signwe finally got the news… They had driven through five towns and ended up in the city. A taxi driver called the cops to tell them of an erratic driver and when they went to investigate they ended up chasing her the wrong way up a one-way street in a slow speed chase. At the end the little varmint knew she couldn’t win by running so instead she ditched the driver’s seat and flung herself in the back where she tried to pretend she was asleep the whole time – after being kidnapped by a ghost driver apparently.

texas-online-drivers-ed-reviewsI was supposed to put in two hours of practice driving with the Driver’s Ed instructor the next morning. I called him up and said, “I can’t come in today… I’m violently shaking and haven’t slept a wink all night. I’m pretty sure that’d make me pretty fucking unsafe…” Embarrassing. Then I had to attend written classes and regale the whole class with what had happened.

I lasted in Maine for nine gut wrenching months. I survived my insane family, several creeps in big dark vans who were stalking me, a church that was shunning me, and I got to watch in the early days of the heroin epidemic as it began to hit the area with reckless abandon. I will not be going back…

 

 

 

 

Animal Tales · Childhood Memories · Colorful Personalities

A Hamburger Named Holly

Today I had a five hundred pound cow (pictured left) try to come up to me and get scratches like a really large dog. Some cows just don’t know they’re big and will lean on people or try to sit in their laps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s been many years since I have been this up close and personal with a cow and I must say it sparked a lot of nostalgic and funny memories.

My father was a homesteader for a while. HeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA felt it was important to raise his son (and to a lesser extent me) with a farmer’s work ethic. This meant that at one point he had a pretty substantial vegetable garden, a field for haying, an adequate barn, a couple horses, and at times there was a cow or two on the property. The cows were male dairy calves bought on the cheap and raised for meat. Before I go much further I will state that male dairy cows are almost given away all day every day because they’re pretty useless. They take forever to grow, do not have a lot of meat on them, and their “feed to meat” ratio would best be described as a money pit with four stomachs. And if you get attached to the cow and decide to keep it as a pet dairy bulls are…. Temperamental assholes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI remember going to the neighbor’s farm where there would always be ten or fifteen proper meat cows growing out. Meat cows are a totally different ballgame. They’re huge, bleary-eyed, and generally think they are dogs (hence the one that tried sitting on my lap today!) I loved those things! And I always was struck by how disturbing it was that the cows bred for meat were also by far the friendliest. Yes, please eat me, I love you!

My brother’s first cow looked more like a tall goat than a proper cow. He was some sort of dairy cross, even cheaper than the purebreds which might be bought by a breeder if they were of decent enough quality. He had named the little calf Mooooove-on, which he claims was the name of a baseball player, omitting a few o’s perhaps. Moooove-On was dumb as a brick. I never got the sense my brother ever liked him and by the time I was around (long after Move-On had been turned into hamburgers) the only relic of his short life was a hollowed out bloody horn sitting in my brother’s room. Apparently the cow got it stuck in the fencing one day and rather than moo for help he just ripped the whole damn thing straight off his own head. The dried blood made this artifact all the more horrendous an image.

I grew up with my mother … and wasn’t fed beef or pork growing up, this I only had a OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfew scant times in my life when I was at my father’s. The last time I remember was when I was in my teens. The hamburger package was sitting next to a huge, hard, heavy green mass in the freezer that looked vaguely like a volleyball made of impacted grass. As it turned out that was some sort of blockage surgically removed from one of the horses when their stomach turned over. I was a girl of few questions and it never occurred to me that I should ask what was up with this. Or perhaps I was too busy staring at the hamburger. It was labelled “Holly.” Apparently we were having my dental hygienist for dinner. How very German. “Didn’t these packages used to have dates?! Names are a bit morbid!” My father didn’t have a good answer to this and when he served me the traditional chunk O’Holly it was still bleeding. That’s the thing about my dad…. He likes his meat almost raw. He also sports and Amish beard and I don’t ever remember a TV being in the house growing up and as far as I know there still isn’t one. He’s not Amish though. Really. Just a tad eccentric.

 

**Credit: The first three photos in this article I took at South Mountain Road Farm in Northfield MA. The last two photos were taken at Clover Creek Farm in Rochester MA**

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA