A Week Made of Win

Me, Winning. (Best caption I've ever written on this blog, I'm telling you what.)

It’s been a banner few days for me.

I won the Story Slam at McGhee’s, taking home a sweet gift certificate for dinner for two, complete with app/entree/dessert/drinks. Winning food! How awesome is that?!

The next day, I won poker, taking home a sweet twenty bucks. My last hand was an ace-high straight, and my hands were like that all night.

And then, I finally got to the bottom of my shoulder injury, and, yay! No surgery for me! When I got this news I was floating all day long. I was so, so relived.

All of this left me feeling pretty glorious, especially the stand-up win at McGhee’s. Evan, his mom and I had gone one night a couple months ago, stumbling across this open mic contest. I watched and listened, and thought, with much modesty and humility, I could totally win this.

And I totally did.

People asked me if I was nervous, or commented that it took bravery/courage/guts. My family though, they knew the truth. Giving me a stage and a microphone is like giving a kid a candy bar. Thing is, my mother was a dancer and my father used to go by the name, “Freddy the Fire Eater.”  He’d do tricks at parties with a mouthful of lighter fluid and a match. Performing is in my DNA.

So, you’d think I’d be on cloud nine, but I’m not. To be honest, this shoulder thing has got me down. I tried sorting it out today, and I realized I’m getting old. Not because I got injured. I’ve been injured plenty over the years. Concussions galore, broken toes at horse shows, broken back thanks to a jumping fall, bursitis in my hip from running, tendonitis in my right wrist that formed a giant, rigid bump that creeped people out when they looked at it. (So, you know, there was a plus side there.)

But this shoulder thing is the first injury I didn’t want to play through. Partly, that’s because it hurt in a way I found disturbing. Partly, because it always hurt. The bursitis would flare-up and then go away entirely, the shoulder was always letting me know it was there. And when the shoulder got angry – I’m not going to lie – it hurt pretty badly.  Bottom line – I didn’t want to mess with it.

Which isn’t like me. Growing up a horse girl, you’re inordinately proud of your battle scars, of your lack of judgment. You brag about things like, “I fell off and got a concussion but then I went into the championship class anyway and I won!” (I did this, FYI, back in the day.) Or you start riding a month after breaking your back because you have Regionals coming up and you know where your priorities stand. You certainly never stop to think things like, “Maybe I shouldn’t try to lift this giant weight over my head,” you just see if you can. 

And the thing is, despite whatever injuries came my way, I was always sure I’d bounce back, or that it wouldn’t make things worse to play through it. Now, I’m not altogether sure I will bounce back, and I definitely don’t want to play through it. Which is tough, because a big part of my self-identity is wrapped up in my willingness to say, “it’ll be fine,” and “I bet I can do more.”

To quote the Dude, “It’s a bummer, man.”

Origins, Cont’d

We have six inches of snow on the ground, might hit seven by 1pm, at which point the weather people say this will turn to ice. Ice = Complete and Utter Destruction. Last time we had an ice storm, we were without power for three days. I called the power company and told them we have seniors on our street. They could’ve cared less. I called them a day later to tell them we had a live power line down, with people driving over it. They appeared within the hour. I don’t know why I didn’t lead with the live power line.

Anyway, I wanted to get a second Freddy Joe Bedtime Story out into the ether before the Icepocalypse hits. (Ack! As I wrote that sentence the weather changed from white, fluffy flakes to ice! Noooo!!! And it came an hour and a half early!!!!)

This story is dedicated to Kat Owens, as it is entitled, “The Insect Collector.”  Please visit Kat’s blog, and also please know she isn’t a sociopath! And in fact is quite a nice lady. : )

Once upon a time, there was a boy who collected insects. It was his all consuming passion. Everyday, he’d harvest as many bugs as he could find. It didn’t matter whether they were a new species, or one he’d already collected. He brought in everything he got his hands on, because what he enjoyed most about insect collecting was pinning the bugs to his display board.

Dead bugs... or are they?

He’d take the day’s haul to his bedroom. The bugs, still alive, would scramble against the glass jars and plastic boxes he’d put them in. But their struggle was all for naught. One by one, the boy would pluck the insects from their clear cages and pin them to the board. Their many legs would wave feebly for a few seconds and then they’d go still, never to move again. The boy liked watching the life leave each insect, and he wouldn’t pin the next until the first had died.

In this way, the boy amassed a giant collection. It was so vast and varied, even scientists were envious. A professor asked if could borrow the boy’s praying mantis collection for a study, but the boy refused. He liked his insects where they were, displayed on his bedroom walls.

The day he denied the professor’s request he suffered a horrible nightmare. In it, he was in darkness, surrounded by clicking. He couldn’t see anything, didn’t know what the clicking was, but it terrified him. In the morning, he noticed his newest praying mantis had fallen from its spot on the display board. He carefully returned the mantis to its spot. Over breakfast, he accused his mother of going into his room and causing the mantis to fall, but she denied it.

The next night he had the same dream. In the morning, two mantises were on the floor. Enraged, the boy yelled at his mother, and demanded she confess to messing with his collection. She said she hadn’t done any such thing. That afternoon, the professor came by the house to ask, in person, one last time to borrow the collection. He told the boy that so much good could come of this simple favor. The professor’s studies would be used to help the insects that the boy obviously loved so much. The boy shut the door in the man’s face.

That night, he had a hard time falling asleep. He was so angry that his mother had messed with his collection, that this man thought he was entitled to it. His collection was his and his alone. He’d killed every one of those insects himself. They belonged to him.

He finally fell into a fitful sleep. No sooner had he drifted off, than the nightmare began again. Pitch black, the boy could see nothing, but there was the sound of clicking, clicking, clicking. A new sound arose, the thrum of insect wings. With a thrill of horror, the boy felt the bristly legs of a cockroach run up his bare arm.

He sat upright, and felt an avalanche of insects roll down his body. He was blanketed in them. He wanted to yell, to scream for his mother, but then he found they were in his mouth, choking him. Wake up! he wanted to yell at himself, Wake up! And that’s when he realized–he was awake.

In one moment, as though on a prearranged cue, the attack came. Those that bit, bit, those that stung, stung, those that had no weapon, smothered the boy, crawling into his eyes and ears and mouth.

The next day, at breakfast, the boy’s mother wondered why he hadn’t come down for his pancakes. She went upstairs, opened the door. The room was in perfect order. The boy’s insect collection hung in straight lines on the walls, his room tidy, his bed so neat it almost looked as though no one was in it.

The only thing amiss was the boy himself–he was dead, his eyes and mouth frozen wide in an expression of sheer horror.

ALTERNATE ENDING

Sometimes, when my dad told this story, the insects attacked the boy with the pins, causing him a million tiny stab wounds. And at times the mother would find all the insects down from their displays, littering the floor and covering the boy. My dad liked to switch it up occasionally.

Origins

Almost every day, I take a walk with Tom Foolery and Shenanigans, my purebred American Mutt Dogs. (Their father was a blue heeler, their mother a Roughcoated Collie x Great Pyrenees cross [And they even have the extra toes to prove it. {In case you didn’t know, Great Pyrenees have extra toes.}])

Anyway, the point is, I go on a nature walk just about every day with them. Last week, I finally met the man who maintains the trail. His name is Norman, he is retired, and he does it for fun. He liked Tom and Nanigans, and told me about a new trail he’d made. I followed his directions and soon found myself walking along a river. It had flooded into two large pools, thanks to two beaver dams.

On the way home, I was struck by the trail’s aspect. It is sort of the Platonic ideal of a trail–flat, broad, leaf littered, bordered by deciduous forest, now leafless, thanks to winter. It gently arched away from me, disappearing into the forest, hiding whatever lay in wait around the corner.

This image of a trail was innately familiar, and strangely unnerving. Something deep within me raised a warning flag. This beautiful little place held secret dangers. I looked at my dogs. They were fine, and if there’d been anything to be worried about, they would’ve let me know.

And then it came to me, where I’d seen this trail before, and why it made me uneasy.

It looked just like the trail from my imagination, a trail created by one of my father’s favorite bedtime stories. My dad is a world class storyteller. I’ve had people tell me I’m a good storyteller a couple of times, and I always say, “You should see my dad.” I can bring someone into a story if they’re willing to come. With my dad, it’s different. He talks and people listen, no matter who they are. If they’re alpha, ADD, a non-stop talker, impatient, holier-than-thou, it doesn’t matter. They stop what they’re doing and they listen, because that is the special magic my dad has.

A little girl's best friend.

And so, once I realized why that trail looked so familiar, I thought, I should really put my dad’s bedtime stories up on the blog. They’re good stories. Also, disturbingly violent. Which really explains a lot, if you think about it. Without further ado, I present, “The Teddy Bear.”

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved her teddy bear with all her heart. She loved her bear so much, she brought him with her wherever she went. She even took him to school.

Her walk to the bus stop was a long one, and she’d found a short cut through the woods. When the little girl told her mother about the short cut, her mother told her not to take it. She needed to take the road all the way to the bus stop.

The little girl and her teddy bear had a rough day at school. The other kids always teased her about her bear, and this day was worse than any before. The little girl had told her classmates that her bear was actually alive. He could see and hear and think and breathe. They mocked the little girl ruthlessly.

When she got off the bus, an idea came to her. She didn’t want to walk the long way home with her tormentors. She decided to take the short cut through the woods. It was winter, and already getting dark. She knew her mother didn’t want her to go this way, but if she hurried, she could get ahead of the other children, and her mother would never be the wiser.

She trotted off into the forest, hustling as fast as she could go. Halfway home, she saw a figure in the deep shadows. A man stepped out into the path. Fear stabbed the little girl right in her heart. “Where’re you going?” he asked. “I’m going home,” said the little girl.  The man fell in step beside her. She shifted her teddy bear to her outside arm. She didn’t want him taking her bear. He smelled badly. She knew he was mean, he was a mean man.

The little girl bolted for home. But in three steps, the man caught her. He grabbed her by the ponytail. Her bear flew from her arms, landing in a mud puddle. She spun around and kicked and punched and bit. She did everything she could to fight the man off. She felt his hands close around her throat. He was choking her. As she lost consciousness, she saw a giant shadow loom overhead, she heard a thunderous growl, but it all seemed so far away. She fell to the ground, and knew no more.

The little girl woke up hours later. Her parents were there, and so were policemen. She still lay in the mud. Paradmedics with a stretcher were on their way. She looked up. The dancing beam of a policeman’s flashlight slipped over the body of a man; the little girl’s attacker. He was dead, covered in blood.

“Where’s my Teddy?” the little girl cried. Her stuffed animal was handed to her as she was strapped into the stretcher. He was cold and wet from his time in the mud puddle, but stranger still, all the fur had been ripped from his paws, revealing the white stuffing inside.

As they loaded the girl into the ambulance, she heard a policeman tell her parents,”What are the odds… this man, mauled to death by a bear just before he could do this poor child any serious harm.”

   

Happy 1102 Everybody!

 
Happy New Year!

So! 1102! Interesting things going on in Poland! Wladislaus might kick it, if so he'll be replaced by Boleslaw III. Also, stuff going on with the Crusades... Henry I is king of England... yep... 1102! Good times!

Here’s a pic I took of my friends on my lawn trying to spell 2011 with sparklers! Pop Quiz: How many advanced degrees does it take to spell 2011 correctly with sparklers? I don’t know, but it’s somewhere north of 8!

In any case, I hope 1102 is a great year for all my fanfreakingtastic readers! Thanks for sticking with me through 2010, or, you know, 1101, as the case may be.

A Lesson from Aunt Scary for All the Kids

(Note: Names of the innocent have been omitted. The name of the not-so-innocent has been altered.)

In my latest blog post, I mentioned an “unfortunate incident” that left me ordering orange juice at W hotel bar. As I look back, it occurs to me that perhaps some good can come out of my misfortune. Perhaps, through an edifying narrative, and then a handy dandy list of tips, I might save someone from going where I went. While I cannot say, Picard-like, it was a place no one has gone before, I can assure you it is a place no one wants to go. So! Without further ado, here is a lesson from Aunt Scary for all the kids.

I shall begin slightly before the beginning. On Tuesday, I was certain I was coming down with the 24 hour flu bug everyone has been getting around here. But by the afternoon I’d seemed to have shaken it off, and by Wednesday, I felt 100%. This was good news for me, as my good friend was having her holiday party Wednesday night, and I’d been looking forward to it for some time.

Upon arrival I found my friends ensconced in the kitchen. Among them was my bosom buddy, Rat Sick. “Hey, Fat Tick!” I said, “What’s on offer?” My good friend explained he’d recently gone on a trip, and was making Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist. The other option was mulled wine. I love mulled wine, but it doesn’t love me, and I’m all about making smart choices. “Sign me up for one of those Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist, Flat Mick, and make it snappy!”  

I enter this photo into evidence of me and my friend Bat Kick from the night in question. Please note how small those solo cups are!

As it so happened, Tatt Lick had these wee little solo cups, so small they were, like nothing I’d ever seen before. Moreover, my chum was only filling them three quarters of the way up. The Bloody Marys with a Fabulous Foreign Twist were spicy deliciousness, and the company was excellent. I chatted with old friends, made new ones, and everything seemed to be going splendidly. In retrospect, I can spot three warning signs that all was not as it seemed. Here, then, some advice from Aunt Scary for the next time you’re at a party.

  • Overeating – Look down at your plate. Whaddya have there, pardner? Is it your 3rd helping of the homemade Indian someone brought, a ham asparagus wrap, and two gluten free brownies? Stop. This is not a triumvirate of food items put together by a sober person.
  • Braggadocio – Are you cornering people in order to tell them about how your buddy Gat Wick is such a lightweight, whilst talking up your Irish Catholic drinking prowess? Guess what hot shot, you’ve just outted yourself as a lightweight, too. Good job.
  • Are You Literally Picking Up Small to Medium-Sized Men, Carrying Them to the Living Room, Then Spinning Them ‘Round and ‘Round? Congratulations, you’re hammered. No, child, I want no protests from you. Yes, it is fun to haul around adult men in a princess carry (right arm under shoulders, left arm under knees) and spin them around, but believe me when I tell you, this is not normal behavior. You are drunk.

(Note: While I only spun small to medium-sized men, I did make a good faith effort to carry around men from the 200+ bracket, it’s just I was unsuccessful in doing so.)   

Despite all of the above, I still thought I was a-okay until I arrived home. It was at this juncture that my body suddenly went to high alert. “Mayday! Mayday!” it screamed. “We’re going down!” As this was not my first rodeo, I knew emergency evacuations were in order. I went to bed, stomach empty, thinking I was okay.

That night, I dreamt of being in a European plaza. Anthony Bourdain was there, and I wanted to talk to him. However, these beautiful clear glass coolers of fruit and herb-infused water beckoned to me. I drank glass after glass of orange water, lemon water, mint water… the water was so delicious I could not stop drinking it, I could not leave it even for a moment, and so Anthony Bourdain sat, untalked to, at a table mere feet away.

And so you can see how the eternal widsom of the physical self outweighs that of the conscious mind. I’d made a mistake, kids. I had not rehydrated. And so I woke up feeling as though death himself waited outside my door. I will not give you the details, other than to say, I lost four pounds, was sick until 2pm, and finally, with much rejoicing, kept down a single piece of toast at 3pm. But holiday parties wait on no man, and so it was that evening, my friends, that we set off on our two hour drive to the W Hotel.

To wrap up! Warning signs are: Over-weird-eating, Bragging, Carrying Adult Men. Once it’s too late: Rehydrate before going to bed, lest you miss out on a conversation with Anthony Bourdain. Hey, don’t say your Aunt Scary never did nothin’ for ya!