Thursday, July 28, 2011

Me? Guest Blogger?

Who would want my insights?  As it turns out, several people.  And this week was my first guest blog and I have a few more coming up in the coming weeks.  You can find my first one, which is an intro to this blog and a song with great meaning to me over at Life Thru Lucy Lastica's Lens.  Be sure to check it out and then check out the rest of Lucy's amazing blog.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Apartment 2

Back in '88 and after a rather unfortunately first apartment experience, I moved into my second apartment.  This time my roommate was male.  Thirsty T and I had been friends for a little while and got along great.  Plus there was no romantic entanglement there.  I really had no attraction to Thirsty T and I know the feeling was mutual.  I was already dating The Man and he was fine with the arrangement.

Ahh but the family was not so fine with it.  Mom was mortified.  How could I be moving in with a guy!  "You weren't raised that way!" she told me.  I guess she conveniently forgot that my sister lived with her boyfriend for several years before they married.  Never underestimate the power of denial.  Yes it was a scandal.  It was out of the realm of things that occurred in my family.   Living with someone, not my boyfriend.  "What happens when you take a shower and come out of the bathroom in just a towel?  He'll get ideas," mom warned me.  Wow, I'm flattered!   Or am I outraged?  Did mom think that just my mere presence in a towel was going to send Thirsty T into a rapist frenzy?   And what will people say!  How can she explain this to people?  Alas, my poor mother is always concerned with what people are going to say.  She was spurred on by my brother who was absolutely aghast that I was doing this and that The Man would "allow" it.   As I recall it, his reaction to The Man not caring about the living arrangement was, "well, he just better protect what's his!"  Wow, Neanderthal much?

It became quite apparent to anyone who has known me that from about the age of 14 on that I was going to do what I was going to do and there really wasn't much that anyone could say to change that.  I set my own rules, I do my own thing and I like it that way.  It may take a round about way to get there, but in the end I always do.  So the idea that these objections were going to stop what I wanted to do was pretty much an exercise in futility.  But hey, they had to try I guess.  I really never understood the big deal.  We weren't sharing a bed or even a bedroom and really, so what if we were.  It was a sharing of expenses and a space.

We found the perfect place in Cleveland Hts.  It had two bedrooms, hardwood floors, gorgeous built ins, a big fireplace in the bedroom that would end up being mine, laundry facilities in the basement and it was $325 a month.  Not too shabby.  It was perfect.  And our landlord was a gem.  I loved this apartment.

We decorated it in a style I call Early Punk Rock... posters completely covering the walls (Clash, Siouxsie, Ramones, Sex Pistols, of course Peter Murphy and Bauhaus posters as far as the eye could see and so many others).  I had a stunningly huge poster of Mickey Rourke that made me swoon whenever I walked by it.  This was the late 80's before he became a plastic surgery disaster.  He was that smouldering masochist from 9 1/2 Weeks and the hauntingly depressing drunk in Barfly.  He was my fave.  And just look at him.  This is what he looked like then.  This is the poster I had on my wall, that I walked by several times a day.  Did I mention he was stunning.  He so was.  I haven't watched either of those movies in many years, but I used to know them pretty much by heart.  He was great.  Rumble FishAngel HeartDinerThe Pope of Greenwich Village.  Ahh Mickey!   I love you so, you made me go off on a tangent! 

Besides posters our decor consisted of a mannequin (stolen from a dumpster of course) named Sheena, obviously, because she was a punk rocker.  A life sized cardboard cutout of Elvira.  Hand me down and/or thrift store furniture.  And of course, zebra print.  It was all a gal of 22 could ever want.  It was perfect and I ended up living there with TT for 5 years.   Five years of laughs, great times, parties, drunken debauchery, sex, loud music, insane neighbors.  Damn, why can't we stay 22 forever?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Year

It was at this time last year that one of my best friends was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Lung cancer!  Not J!  It's pneumonia, it has to be, I remember thinking.  She's so healthy, she's never smoked a day in her life.  This is not real.  No she wasn't around second hand smoke.  I want to bury my head in the sand, stick my fingers in my ears and not listen, not hear it, don't tell me any more.  And I'm not even living it, I'm just the friend of the person living it.  But it was crushing.  And I cried, a lot.  Every time I thought of her, of that disease, I cried.

I didn't look things up online because I couldn't bear it.  Finding out more information seemed like a really bad idea to me.  And out of respect for J, who was having her own bouts of denial at knowing more, I opted to just take whatever information her husband was giving.  But my heart knew it was not good.  And I cried some more.  I cried because I love her.  I cried because it was the most unfair thing I had ever heard of.  I cried because she'd had enough to deal with in her life already.   I cried because I don't want to lose her.

We met because of a silly soap opera, one I have a website for.   As she likes to tell it, she wrote to me to disagree with something I said.   And when I wrote back I was kind and understanding, not a raving lunatic like so many others tended to be at the time.  I don't remember exactly, but I do know how I write back to people who are respectful when they write me.  I am respectful back.  An email friendship grew from there.  And one year I asked her if she wanted to come to NYC with me for the All My Children events.  She did.  We actually went together several times, with our friend T.  And the three of us had the greatest times.

I've found over the years that because of that All My Children website, I have met some of the best friends a woman can have.  And those friends are people that, without that website, I would never have had a chance to meet or know.  Truly how would a punk rock loving, purple haired and tattooed up freak of fucking nature in Ohio ever meet a woman from Cincinnati who works for a big medical insurance firm?  A teacher from Germany?  A New Hampshire home schooling mom?  A mother of two who works at her husband's company in upstate New York?  A freelance writer and foodie extraordinaire from Indiana?  A daycare owner in Austin, TX?  A caregiver, mom, and Corgi lover in Las Vegas?  A kick ass computer guru in Virginia?  And so many others.  They've enriched my life in so many ways. 

When J stopped watching AMC, as eventually just about all of my good friends I've met because of it have, it didn't stop our friendship.  We had long since stopped talking about it anyway.  We had other bonds, other commonalities, a real solid friendship.  She's been there for me at the worst of times.  She's had my back and been a voice of reason when I felt beyond all reason.  And now I'm doing the best I can to be there for her, to listen when she wants to talk, to be the supportive friend she's always been to me.  And I hope I'm doing at least half as good as she does.  Love you J... Shrink, Erase, Eradicate!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


My maternal Grandfather died when I was seven years old.  I didn't really know him well and when I did see him, I was a little afraid of him.  He had a very thick Italian accent and I wasn't around him enough to feel comfortable with it.  He was already pretty old then, in 1974.  My Grandma was much younger than him.  Theirs was an arranged marriage, and a rather interesting story. Grandma was the oldest of eight children and stopped going to school in the third grade.  She was needed to help raise the rest of the children.  The way I remember this story from the many times she told it to me, my great grandfather ran a little gambling circuit in the basement of their house.  Grandma was about 14 at this time and my Grandfather would come to the house to gamble. Well, he caught Grandma's eye when he went through the house to get to the basement.  She thought he was very handsome.  He was in his mid to late 20's at the time.

She wanted him to notice her.  And isn't that typical? Seems teenagers in the '20's weren't much different than they are today!   Times were definitely different though because she was not allowed to speak to him.  So she came up with a plan and implemented it immediately. The next time he came through the house, she took a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at him.  And it hit him, grabbing his attention.  That was all it took for my great grandfather to demand that he marry her.  And so, they were married.

And they stayed married and developed that enduring kind of love that people only dream about having.  They had three children, two boys and a girl (my mom).  He gave her space, which was not something that was the norm for old country Italians.  She was an independent though and I don't think he could have kept her in check even if he had tried. She traveled without him, she didn't go to church ever and she worked most of her life.  Maybe that's why she was able to live, and go on after he died. So often in relationships such as theirs, when one dies the other soon follows.  But she kept herself going.  She is someone who I feel privileged to have had in my life.  A role model for sure.

When my Grandfather passed away, he was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.  All the old Italians (and others) were buried there.  It was the place to be seen after you die.  It was huge and sprawling and you needed a map to find the grave you were looking for.  But through the years the neighborhood around it got worse and worse.  There were reports of mourners being robbed while visiting the graves of loved ones.  Eventually Grandma couldn't go there any longer.  That bothered her.  She needed to go there to be near him, to tell him how much she missed him.  And slowly it dawned on her. Her plot was right next to him.  If she couldn't go to see him, then who would go there to see her?

And that's when she hatched the idea to move him.  Over the years, a new go to cemetery was being used by the family.   So against the advisement of her son, she sold her plot at Calvary, bought a two new ones and made arrangements for my Grandfather's body to be exhumed and moved to this new cemetery.  A place where she could go see him and she knew people would go to see her. It cost a bundle, but she didn't care. It was something she had to do if for no other reason than to give her peace of mind.  And it did.

I go to that cemetery now from time to time even though I don't believe I need to go there to speak to her.  I talk to her all the time, anywhere and everywhere.  She's always with me.  But that cemetery was important to her.  So I go.  I bring flowers for her and my Grandfather and say hi to all the other relatives that are nearby.   Sometimes it seems silly to be doing it.  But it wasn't silly to her so I go, with all the love I still have for her and always will have.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Screw Guilt

I was driving along today and thinking about guilt, when all of a sudden I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Screw Guilt."  At first I kind of laughed.  But as I saw it again and again, at each stop light it started to empower me. "Yeah!  Screw guilt!!" I thought.  I'm not going to question why I saw it, I'm just going to accept the fact that it was there to punch me in the gut and snap me the fuck out of it.

Over the past week or so I've felt guilty.  Guilty because I want to do something for myself. It's not the best time, granted.  The man has been out of work for four months now and things are a bit rough.  We've had to make a lot of changes.  But we've also held on to some of our more important vices (cable, cell phone, internet).  He still goes to the gym, I still go to my weekly meeting.  But going out is a thing of the past.  No dinners out unless we have a gift card or something like a Groupon.  No movies.. ha!  We never went anyway.   We've had to file for mortgage assistance and he is currently on unemployment.  My business is not picking up so that hasn't helped.  Things are just not great, but yes, they could be worse.

In the midst of all this, it's time to take my winning trip.  I get free round trip airfare and 2 nights accommodations in Los Angeles.  My plan all along was to stay longer.  To spend a week visiting with different friends and possibly going to some All My Children events which were being held several days after I arrive.  It would be my last chance to do that with AMC canceled (or not, who the hell knows what's going on with that now!) and it would be like closing that chapter of my life.  It feels so meant to be. I win the trip, the show is canceled.  I've had my AMC website for 13 years.  I make peace with that part of my life ending and going to LA feels like the closure I need.  My soap friends even chipped in so I wouldn't have to worry about money on the trip.  It all seems so perfect.  So meant to be.

I received word when the trip would be and was told that if I couldn't make it, I could opt out for a $500 buy out. Now what do I do!?  Clearly we need the money.  But so many people have already generously donated to my good time.  Of course I'd give it all back, but do I want to?  Is $500 really going to make a big difference in our lives?  Will the trip make a big difference in my life?  I'm confused and troubled by it all.

I think about how much I have given of myself, especially to my parents, over that last four years.  I would do it all over again, but that doesn't mean it's easy.  I think about how hard it's been just getting by the last four months.  I think about how I won another contest this year and gave that prize up for the greater good.  I think about all of these things and then the guilt creeps in when I start think, "when is it my turn?"  When do I get to do something for myself?  When can I stop worrying about everyone else and just unwind, let loose, have fun?  Do I not deserve a little something just for me?  Does everything I do have to be to benefit someone or something else?  When the fuck is it my turn!

All these thoughts were going through my mind this morning when I saw that bumper sticker.  "Screw Guilt." Good advice.  Screw the guilt!  I'm allowed to do something for me.  I'm allowed to do it without being made (made by me, because I take things too fucking seriously) to feel like shit about it.  I don't need to be tied up in knots every time I make a decision that maybe someone else wouldn't make.  When I got my last tattoo, I was so nervous about my mom seeing it that I planned on hiding it.  Until I snapped out of that stupidity and said to myself, "I'm 45 fucking years old, and if I want a foot tall Bela Lugosi on my leg then I can fucking have it!"  It is my life after all.  And it's the only one I have.   So come July 22, I'll be on that plane to Los Angeles.  No regrets. No guilt.

Friday, July 1, 2011


In a the bloggers group I am a part of, we've been talking about the first blogs we've written.  That discussion has led me to think about a different first.  Yes, that first.  I remember so clearly the day I met him, the guy who would be my first.  It was 1986 and I was 20 years old. Yes, I was really still a virgin at 20.  Growing up Catholic can really fuck with your head on so many levels.  And I was terrified I'd be damned to hell if I had sex.

It was the Husker Du concert at the Phantasy Theater in Cleveland.  The place of many many fine shows back in the day.  I so clearly remember that night, meeting H.  I was decked out in all my punk rock finery.  Long black skirt to the floor.  A black and silver top with my Grandma's rhinestone brooch pinned to the top button. Hair with my trademark skunk streak in it and lots of jewelry.  And the pièce de résistance, my BFF's aunt's fox fur around my shoulders.  You know the ones that are basically full fox pelts with a clip put into their jaws so you can clip a few of them together, mouth to tail, and wear them around your shoulders?  Oh yes, I was a vision.  At least I thought so, and as it turns out, so did he.

He struck up a conversation with me in the back of the theater between bands.  BFF had met two guys that night and they were kind of fighting over her.  How this happened I'm not really sure, since I was the one wearing that dude magnet fox fur.  But when I saw his stunning blue eyes, I forgot all about BFF and her troubles.   I was mesmerized.  He swept me right out of my granny boots.  He wasn't a flag waving punk, but he was at a great show so he was alright in my book.  We talked, went to watch the show when Husker Du came on and he held my hand while they played.  Then we made out a little until BFF really did need help and H came to her rescue.  Ahh blue eyes, good kisser and was there for my friend in need?  It might just be love.  We exchanged phone numbers.  And he called, he actually called.

We made a date to meet halfway between where we both lived.  We lived about an hour away from each other. I was excited and mom was thrilled.  I was 20 years old and didn't have a boyfriend.  This is a calamity for an Italian mother!  At this rate I'll never get married, at least that was her line of thinking.  Our first date got off to a rocky start.  I thought he stood me up and called my mom in tears from a pay phone where I thought we were to be meeting.  These are the days before cell phones. Lucky for me though, mom had call waiting and he called on the other line while I was talking to her.  He was waiting for me at a different Bob Evans.  I went to the wrong one.  Since that night, we were inseparable.  My family loved him, especially mom.  He was polite and spoke to her when he came over, he didn't look weird like all my other boyfriends had, he was half Italian.  And those eyes... have I mentioned those eyes?

Things had been pretty hot and heavy between us and he was starting to put on a little pressure to seal the deal.  I did agonize over whether or not to do it, but my hormones were pretty sure I would.  I cried, a lot.  Felt very alone in this decision process. Would I be able to do it without excessive guilt? Would my (to borrow my friend L's perfect phrase) Roman Catholic clitoris even work?  Would I go to hell?  Would lightning strike us dead while we were fucking?  And then he said the most perfect thing that in my eyes made everything alright... "I love you."  True love and my hormones ended up being stronger than the nuns damning me to the fiery pits of hell for all eternity so I went to my doctor to get put on the pill.

So much planning was made for the big event.  About a month and a half into our relationship we were going to the Jesus and Mary Chain concert.   

He had come over early that day and my parents were having a cook out or something in the back yard (in March?  weird.. must have been unseasonably warm that year, but I remember everyone being outside).  I was on the pill by now and we were just waiting for it to kick in. We were in the house listening to music and making out, when it just became all too much and we did it right then and there.  No more waiting, all plans for the big event... the sex, not the concert, tossed out the window.  And he had condoms with him so we were doubly protected.   We did it in a room that faced the backyard with the rest of the family right outside the window.  It was over fast but hallelujah and saints be praised, my Roman Catholic clitoris did work!  An orgasm, on my first try!

I'm not exactly sure I felt different, but I definitely knew I'd be doing that again.  And again.   And again....

Interestingly, while I write this I discover that every event with H is tied to a musical event.   We met at Husker Du, we had sex the day of Jesus and Mary Chain, and we broke up at the big yearly outdoor music festival at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland some months later.  It was a painful break up, but it was the right thing to do for various reasons.  At the time, when I gave him my virginity, I truly thought I would marry him, but never regretted having sex with him.  He loved me. To me that mattered.  Sorry Sr. Mary Oppression, in the end I made a decision I could live with and the church has since stayed out of my sex life.