Friday, September 26, 2008

Doyen. Or doyenne.

“I asked my wife how much she loved me when we met. She said, ‘Honestly Emo, zero.’ I was crushed but I asked her how much she loves me now. She said, ‘Oh Emo, a million times that.” – Emo Philips

One of the great things about college is you’re expected to make mistakes. My problem was I made a lot of mistakes going into college, so it took me a whole semester to correct them. My first big mistake was having a long-distance relationship. A lot of college students have long-distance relationships. You get into UMass Amherst, she gets into Wellesley. You vow to remain faithful and then both find different people to have sex with who live a lot closer to you. Possibly across the hall. In her case, it’s a girl because she went to a women’s liberal arts school.

Three or so months into classes, I met a girl through a mutual friend. He and I met in a French class, and they met in a Canadian Studies class. He decided that we’d be perfect for each other, even though he knew she and I were both dating different people. We had a few lunches together and immediately decided that sex had to happen. I left my long-distance girlfriend a voicemail detailing our irreconcilable differences. She dumped her boyfriend on her way back from the dining hall. It was impulsive sex at fourth or fifth sight. It worked out great for both of us. Neither of us liked going to class, and we both liked getting laid.

In truth, I was head over heels in love. I had never connected with a girl like that before. I was committed to making this relationship last forever. A few weeks later, she said she wanted to leave me and go back to her old boyfriend. I begged her to reconsider. At least wait until the day after Valentine’s Day to dump me. She held off. She decided that we really did have a connection and skipped a lot of classes together to gaze longingly into each others’ eyes. All I wanted to do was spend every waking moment with her, but slowly she drifted away. Maybe I should have noticed this trend when, right after we went home for summer break she told me that she hated me and thought I was worth less than the sum of my internal organs. Unfortunately, this was her sense of humor so I laughed it off. I didn’t want to believe she actually hated me. Nobody wants that.

I had a friend who told me to ride it out. She really did love me, my friend said. She just needed space. I gave her space and found out one day that she had gotten engaged to her ex-boyfriend. Four months ago. She had been sleeping with him before coming over to see me. I don’t know what I did after that. I took the cuckold equivalent of a rape shower and cried for a while.

This is the part of the story where things get better though. The worst thing you can have when you get dumped is nothing to do. Luckily I had a concert to go to the next night. Do yourself a favor. If you’re going to get emotionally violated by another human being, make sure you have tickets to go see Cake the next night. They’re the greatest break-up band ever.

The other thing I had going for me was a part-time, unpaid, fake internship for a local baseball team. The Cape Cod Baseball League, according to my resume, is a summer baseball league for top-tier college players to hone their skills before going to the majors. For some players like Jason Varitek and Evan Longoria, that’s true. For players like Nathan Nery and Kevin Koski, it’s not. My position as Fake Intern was very important. First, I had to make sure nobody who cared found out I was pretending to be a Real Intern. Secondively, I ran errands for the Official Scorer, the Radio Broadcast Team and the Voice of the Hyannis Mets. This usually involved telling the Radio Broadcast Team that the Official Scorer ruled something a hit or error and getting drinks from the snack shack. Very important business, I must say.

This position, in case you hadn’t figured out was just another way for me to hang out with my friends from high school and attend baseball games without giving the suggested donation price. Every day after my shift ended at the summer camp – did I mention I was a camp counselor? Well I was – I’d ride my bike from the camp site (i.e., middle school where we played dodgeball all summer) to the ballpark (i.e., the field behind the school that I and every other ten year old in the greater Barnstable area went to fifth grade). After I had freed myself from the tyranny of a horrible shrew woman, I was able to enjoy what would end up being the most enjoyable summer of my life.

One member of the Radio Broadcast Team, John, has a very extended family. The other one might too, but his family didn’t have a reunion that summer. A bunch of John’s family members RV’d down from Canada. I have no idea how many people came to visit from the Great White North, but one of them was a stunning vision of pure Canadianity. She was fair, freckled and had a polite sarcasm that drove me wild. We talked at length about our interests, which included the fine game of cribbage. Cribbage is a game played with a standard deck of cards and a set of rules that you’d swear were made up. We played a few games, during which I famously announced over the phone to (ironically) my future wife that I would be kicking some Canadian ass. I lost in shocking style after blowing an early 28 point lead.

Unfortunately, she was only in town for a few more days so if I was going to make my move, it’d have to be soon. I wasn’t exactly sure what this move would be or how it would work. It’s not like there was anything we could do. Make out in her parents’ RV? White trash. Our last chance at spending any time together was a Hyannis Mets road game against the Wareham Gatemen. We packed a bunch of people into a car and headed for The Gateway to the Cape.

There’s not a lot Wareham has going for it. They have a Denny’s, which at the time was new and exciting. There aren’t a lot of Denny’s on Cape. Wareham isn’t even really part of Cape Cod. It’s on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal. Once you cross that bridge, you’re no longer on Cape, you’re somewhere between the Cape and Boston, and that’s a scientific fact.

Once we got to the game, we made our way out to the center field bleachers. This was a good idea because the bleachers provide the worst view of what would prove to be probably not a great game, and as such nobody else was out there to bother us. John’s Canadian Cousin and I awkwardly giggled our way through six and a half innings of conversation. During our discourse I lied to her and said I knew how to waltz. I figured this would make me look more like a gentleman, and would never, ever come up again during the course of our 72 hour relationship. When it was time to get up and stretch, the PA played Take Me Out to the Ballgame. This, of course, is standard practice. What we didn’t expect was that it was played in a slow, droopy ¾ time, perfect for waltzing. She asked me to dance and I inelegantly groped her through a 90-second stretch of humiliating and terrible waltzing. There are pictures to prove it. The game ended with a 9 – 2 Wareham victory and we all headed back to the Cape. I never saw or heard from John’s Canadian Cousin again.

That fall I returned to college. I started dating a girl who looked like John’s Canadian Cousin. This was less out of a real human connection and more in response to seeing my ex everywhere I went on campus. But that’s a different story for another time.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Well, it's third and six on the 53. Let's punt.

I went to two different high schools. The first was a charter school for the kids who wanted a challenge and a non-traditional learning experience. This seemed like a great idea for so many reasons when I was 14. First, I thought it would look good on a college application. Second, I liked the idea of smaller classes. Also I figured that a "non-traditional education" would draw the kind of radical crowd I felt I needed to be a part of. I was 14 and still believed in the value of God, Family and Democracy! I needed someone to explain to me why that was foolish. School started in September and by Halloween I had started listening to NPR, joined a creative writing workshop, become a vegetarian and fallen in love with a girl who had dyed her hair black and had terrible self esteem. I even managed to have a bizarre romantic - though non-sexual - relationship with my French teacher. The metamorphosis had begun.

While I was busy forming original thoughts and reading The Catcher in the Rye, I figured all my schmuck friends who opted for public school were being force-fed The Man's Education. I bet none of their "teachers" - if indeed they truly taught - listened to jazz! My English teacher had a poster of Frank Zappa on the wall! Have fun in pre-algebra you socially unaware retards! Haha! I took Latin classes while you poor chuclefucks were stuck in Health and Social Issues. Obviously I was a much better person for having spent time at this school. If you hadn't noticed, I was also completely goddamn insufferable.

This truly was an institute of non-traditional learning. However, it wasn't non-traditional enough to not have grades. At my lowest point my GPA was ranked 38th in my class. Of 38. What can I say? I just don't do homework. I realized part of the way through my junior year that if I wanted to get into any sort of college I'd need to get my grades up. But how? The only option I had was to bite the bullet and go to shudder Public School. I transferred before Thanksgiving break and met up with my guidance counselor (something the charter school didn't have). He helped me pick the classes I'd need to graduate. I told him that my old school didn't offer health classes and he told me that my health requirement had been waived due to my late enrollment. Sweet. The last thing I needed, he said, was to be stuck in a class full of freshmen who needed to learn about the dangers of energy drinks.

I reunited with my friends from middle school and slowly found out that public school wasn't all that bad. Did I mention that the charter school was actually in what used to be a furniture store? Well it was. We had classes in an area called "The Fishbowl" which was actually the window where they used to have whatever bed was on sale. We didn't have a cafeteria, library, parking lot, or science lab. We didn't even have a second floor until my junior year. But we did have character. So there's that.

There was one thing the charter school had that the public school sorely lacked: Standards. As such, I was able to skate through the second half of my junior year raising my GPA from 0.8 to 2.4, with the help of some strange bookkeeping on the part of one Bill Schlegel. Going into my senior year, I actually got to take some electives. I elected to take two classes with Mr. Schlegel to pad my GPA, a longstanding tradition at my school for all graduating seniors. I managed to secure a highly coveted spot in Mr. O'Toole's Shakespeare class, as well as a spot in (possibly closeted homosexual) Keith Caldwell's drama class. I drove a 1992 white-with-wood-panels Buick Century station wagon. Life was fucking sweet.

Three hours into my first class of senior year, I was called into my guidance counselor's office. He told me that I needed to take health classes because he found out that he didn't have the power to waive the requirement. When I asked why he didn't tell me earlier, he said he was "on vacation too, you know." What a dick. He signed me up for three health classes. One in my first semester, two in the second. When I asked why I had to take three classes, even though the requirement was two, he said it was "a fail safe, in case I managed to fail one." That's all I needed to hear.

The next day I walked into Bob Peck's freshman health class. Before me sat a balding, middle-aged man in a windbreaker and shorts. I could not have imagined a more accurate portrayal of a stereotype. He started the class by first telling us about himself. He liked SCUBA diving and ping pong, and he used to play for the Canadian Football League. I don't know what position he played, although I'm going to assume it's the extra, Canadian Slotback. I also don't know what team he played for, but I'm sure it was either the Ottawa Rough Riders or the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Also I bet he led the league in rouges scored.

CFL jokes aside, Bob Peck really was terrible at his job. He didn't teach. He didn't do much of anything else, but he especially didn't teach. He hit on all the Brazilian girls and took us to the fieldhouse to play ping pong. His tests and worksheets were full of misspellings. His midterm consisted of us watching Patch Adams and writing about how great it was. Early on I decided that the only way I could possibly enjoy this class without someone overdosing at their desk would be to fail in as spectacular a fashion as humanly possible. I befriended a sophomore girl in the class whose two favorite things were short skirts and cocaine and we made a pact. Our combined grades would be no higher than 15. We decided that the best way to stick it to Peck would not be to simply refuse to do work. If we did, he would be able to just put a big zero on our tests and move on. We would do just enough work so that he would be forced to grade us. We would make it a point to correctly answer one question at the beginning, middle and end of each test so he'd have to read through all of the wrong ones. We also used green ink to mark up his questions, pointing out all of the misspelled words, poor grammar and just to be dicks, split infinitives. After one exam he pulled showed me my test and said "What you wrote... these aren't answers," to which I responded "Well these aren't questions." Right before the Patch Adams midterm Peck sat us down and told us he was "concerned about our progress" in his class. We explained to him that his class was a joke and we refused to take him seriously as a human being.

Finals week came and Peck told us our grades, as well as what we'd need to get to get at least a B in his class. I had a nine and needed to score 133%, while my partner had a seven and needed a 140. This was completely unacceptable. Our combined grade was a 16. We needed to buckle down and seriously fuck this final up. The morning of the exam came and I picked her up at 9:00am. We drove to Dunkin' Donuts to get a hearty breakfast before showing up to the final 48 minutes late, coffee in hand. We did some quick math and determined that I needed to answer five of the questions correctly and she only needed four. We made it a point to leave one of those coffee cup rings on the paper and handed the tests to Peck seven minutes after showing up.

That January we got our grades. She got a seven and I got an eight, combining to achieve our goal of 15 points. We celebrated with a nice dinner and realized after a few other dates that we had little in common aside from our distaste for Bob Peck, although I do have an affinity for short skirts and cocaine.

I went in to my guidance counselor's office to fill out my course schedule for the spring semester. Apart from the other two health classes I had to take (and now pass) and my year-long physics class, I signed up for Mr. O'Toole's Shakespeare class and (possibly closeted homosexual) Keith Caldwell's drama class. When I found out that I couldn't take study hall in back to back to back semesters I took a journalism class with a teacher I liked and explained to her that in exchange for not expecting me to do any goddamn work, I would not do any goddamn work. It was like a study hall with learning!

I've managed to strike a balance in my life between what I learned at the School Without Walls and my time in Maximum Security High School. I still shop at farmers markets and listen to NPR but I've really settled down in the Fuck You Meat Eater department. I also no longer need to remain a closeted sports fan. Self-appointed societal rejects aren't supposed to care about the Boston Bruins or who got added to the Sox' 40-man roster. Once I stopped Caring About Things I was able to find out what I really ought to care about.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hello. My name is Josh and I've been to Ohio. Hi, Josh.

This weekend, Ohio State is playing USC in what can only be described as the football game I'm least interested in this weekend that doesn't involve at least one Oakland Raider. With that fact in mind, it's no surprise that I've encountered more than my fair share of Ohioans this week, all wearing their red sweatshirts and Buckeye hats. This reminds me, of course, of the nine days I spent in Akron, OH and the awesomeness that went along with it.

Late in 2002 I joined a message board for fans of a now defunct comedy website. At the time there were about 130 active members, posting fairly often and keeping things interesting. On this message board I met a beautiful young girl, and we fell in love. We spoke on the phone every night, talked all the time on AIM and told each other about our hopes and dreams, which is what you do when you're 17 and in love. The problem was, she lived in Akron, Ohio and I lived in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, a mere 600 miles apart.

I graduated high school in 2003 and was given far more money than any 18 year old should have at one time. I had the brilliant idea to go visit her and stay with her dad and stepmom. This was, from every possible angle, a terrible idea. This was a terrible idea, and then you need to take into account that her dad was a detective for the major tire producing company in Akron, as well as a former cop, as well as a Civil War reenactor - for the south, mind you - as well as a HUGE fan of the works of Anne Rice. That makes this trip a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Then I decided to take a train. That made it worse.

I decided to take the train because I was young and felt the need to See America. If anyone tells you they want to See America and you have any love in your heart for this person, please make sure they don't. America is fucking boring. It's the Land of Opportunity. It's also the Land of Corn Fields and Amish People. I got on a train in Providence, RI at about 6am only to arrive at my destination a scant 20 hours later. A lot can happen in 20 hours. Unfortunately, a lot of nothing happened that day. I sat next to a kind, older black guy who was genuinely interested in me and my life. I gladly talked to him for a few minutes and he drifted off to sleep. I had put my headphones on and started doing crossword puzzles when I was treated to the worst smell I had ever experienced. It smelled like a corpse had relieved itself onto a rotten egg, mixed in a bowl and dumped onto a white-hot hibachi. This smell lingered for the entire eight hours we sat near each other. I figured he was just old and had nobody left to impress so he had decided to live a life peppered with gross farts to liven things up. He got off the train at 10pm in Pittsburgh, PA, shaking my hand and wishing me a happy and safe rest of my trip. He stood up and on the back of his white linen pants was a spirographic swirl of liquid feces. All of the terrifying pieces had fallen into place. The train stewardess told me that at the next stop we were expecting a high volume of new passengers and I would be forced to sit in his old seat. I refused, explaining that there was shit on the upholstered seat. She put a blanket on it and sat another individual there.

When I got to Akron, I took a cab to her house. I was greeted by a stunningly beautiful six foot tall girl who embraced me. It was almost worth enduring Old Man River and his leak. I fell asleep on the living room couch and was greeted the next moring by a large man and a larger woman demanding I wake up to greet them. This was her dad and stepmom. I introduced myself and was told, in no uncertain terms that if I "fucked his baby girl there would be serious consequences." I assured him that little fucking would go on and he and his hugely assed bride left. When I asked my girlfriend what our plans were for the day, she told me that there wasn't a lot to do in Ohio. We walked five miles to a record store where I bought Dog in the Sand by Frank Black for $10.50, which wouldn't be noteworthy except that I got the limited edition with four bonus tracks, whereas the regular version cost $11. Great math, Ohio.

When she said there wasn't a lot to do in Ohio, she wasn't kidding. Let's look at some famous Ohioans, shall we? Orville and Wilbur Wright are generally credited with inventing the airplane, and they were born in Dayton, OH. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, was born in Wapakoneta, OH, and coincidentally went to the aforementioned USC. There was so little to do in Ohio that these people literally risked life and limb to attempt to escape the Buckeye State in experimental and dangerous modes of transportation. They could have just taken I-76. Other famous people to come out of Akron include Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde who rather than kill herself, moved to England at an early age, as well as "rock" band Devo. Winners, all around. Akron is also the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous. Make your own joke now.

Her dad, despite giving me quite a start when we first met, was overall a decent guy who wanted to show me a decent time during my stay in his fair city. When he found out I liked baseball, he almost took us to an Akron Aeros game, the AA afiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Think about how bad the Indians are. Now think about the players who aren't good enough to make the team. Now think about the players who aren't good enough to make THAT team. That's the product he was going to show me in an effort to make me want to stay in Ohio to make an honest woman out of his little girl. We also went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where I saw John Lennon's report card, the original, hand-written lyrics to the Who's Quadrophenia as well as David Byrne's giant suit from Stop Making Sense.

After a more or less sexless nine days, I went home once again via train. This time the trip wasn't as bad, although I forgot all the food I bought for the trip in her parents' fridge, leaving me with some rice cakes and exactly $1.28 in my pockets for the whole ride home. My trip wasn't non-stop and I got to spend six and a half goddamned hours in a train station in downtown Philadelphia, a situation that could be best described as frightening. I got back to Rhode Island the next morning and was picked up by my aunt and got a ride home from her house the next day.

Incidentally, trains, to this day, make me miserable. Not subway trains, but actual train trains, with a cow-catcher and all. An old man shit next to me on a train. A train took me away from a girl I really loved, who I never saw again. A few years later another girl I was dating regularly took the train from Bridgewater to Boston to cheat on me with a guy in her Bible study class.

That fall I went to college. I tried my best to remain faithful to her, but I just couldn't. In hindsight, I'm much better for not. We sort of broke up right before Thanksgiving, vowing to see other people but still talk every night. She wanted to stay together and proposed to me. I started seeing other girls soon after that, and slowly stopped talking to her. We talked a few more times in the years after, including an amends-making talk we had right before I moved to Los Angeles. I have no fucking idea what she's up to now.

The worst part of all of this is I refused to learn my lesson. I met a few other people from this very same message board with mixed results. I ended up marrying one of them. We live in Hollywood with a cat.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The phlebotomist

It's pretty easy to figure out what defines a person as crazy. They do crazy things. This begs the real question: why do crazy people do crazy things? The easy answer is to say, "Well, because they're crazy of course!" This doesn't quite accomplish anything, as you return to your original point. It's like being asked "How does one saute an onion" and replying "Why, you cut the thing up and saute it of course!"

Nobody is quite sure why my mother is crazy. She suffers from bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and depression. She also has an amazing combination of mind-blowing narcissism and mild dementia, or narcimentia. Her behavior has managed to affect the lives of everyone she encounters in a negative way. What's worse is her refusal to be diagnosed or treated. She's addicted to painkillers and marijuana. She refuses to leave her bed. She's utterly unemployable.

My mom was born in 1961, making her 47 years old right now. She is, I believe, the middle child in a family of five daughters. Her parents got divorced when divorce wasn't exactly a common or socially acceptable practice. She moved out of her father's house at age 16 to move into a shitty apartment with her older sister and she graduated from Barnstable High School in 1979. Having no real plans for herself she enlisted in the US Air Force and was given medical discharge less than six months later. This was likely due to her poor eyesight. Somewhere between 1980 and 1984 she got married and then divorced. Soon after that, she married a guy who she met working at the Christmas Tree Shop off of route 6 near the Sagamore Bridge. He claimed to have no family, both his parents were dead, and he had no friends in the area. Classic drifter. His name was allegedly Steven Christian, and they had a child. Soon after that, he left her and she found out that everything he had told her was a lie. He took off for Florida, where people go to escape their lives when Alaska's just not a viable option, and was never heard from again. She took a few community college classes when I was about six, but dropped out when she realized she just didn't care. Two of her sisters married and later divorced, neither marriages produced children. I was very much an only child until my mom remarried when I was nine and had two more kids within a couple years of that. Being an only child for so long is the reason I'm so good at video games. I also learned how to play air hockey against myself when I got an air hockey table one Christmas but had nobody to play with.

The earliest memory I have of her weirdness was when I was about seven years old. We lived in a housing development in South Yarmouth where they kept all 1,500 poor people on Cape Cod. It was one of those neighborhoods where all the houses were identical and they were clustered in groups of 30, all forming a circle around a communal parking lot. We were lucky enough to have a parking spot far enough away from the driving range so our windshield was only smashed by one stray golf ball in the eight or so years we lived there.

One day a kid in a nearby cluster of houses who was having a birthday party. I didn't know him particularly well, but a lot of my friends did so they went to his party. When my mom told me to go to a friend's house for the day, I told her they were all at this party. I didn't really want to go, on account of not knowing this kid. My mom, however, took great offense to this. Who the hell wouldn't want her son at their party? The nerve of this goddamned woman not inviting me to her son's party even though she doesn't know I exist. One of the problems with living in a planned neighborhood such as mine was it was really easy to figure out what somebody's phone number. It was (area code) something something something - four digit address. My mom called this woman and demanded I be invited to her son's party. His mom was smart enough to not argue with a crazy person, and allowed me to come. When I asked my mom what we were going to give him for a gift, she reached into the fridge and presented me with a deliciously over-ripe pear. When I asked why we were giving him fruit she said "Jesus Christ, I don't know who this kid is. We're not giving him something nice if he didn't have the good manners to invite you to his party!"

Knowing better than to show up at a party with only a pear and a smile on my face, I quickly dispatched of the fruit on the way over to this kid's house, which is to say I ate it. When I arrived, it was abundantly clear I was at best unexpected, and most likely unwanted. There weren't enough party favors or plates, and I was forced to stand while I ate my cake off a napkin. Later, the presents were handed out. He got this weird volleyball-type toy that you inflated by putting a balloon inside of a cloth sack and blowing it up. For added fun one could put a marble or something in there to alter the expected trajectory of the ball. I'm glad my kids will grow up in a world where the only acceptable gifts are cash and iTunes gift cards, because this thing was a piece of shit. After inflating one of the balloons that came with the "toy" and putting a nickel into it to give it a wacky flight path, we went out to the back yard to knock it around. We'd have played volleyball but weren't afforded with a net. When the ball came around to me, I gave it a gentle lob and the bladder popped. We re-inflated the ball and went back outside. Well, same song second verse, when it came around to me it popped once again. I was sent home a pariah. When I got home crying I told my mom the party sucked and I managed to make it even worse. She sat me down and said, "What party?"

In the ten years after that party my mom did a lot of crazy stuff, although none as retarded as that incident. To be totally fair, I may have blocked a lot of them out of my memory. I remember showing up to show and tell with a vinyl copy of The Stranger by Billy Joel, which admittedly is probably his best record. She sent me to years of therapy for my depression. I was a test subject for a drug called Paxil which, when administered correctly helped with symptoms of depression. When the dosage is too high, it heightens the feeling of depression and led to my first attempt at suicide. I swore off pills and continued giving a weekly $10 co-payment to three or four different therapists. One after another told my mom that I was pretty much a happy person and that there was a trigger for all of my dark moods and anger, but she refused to acknowledge that it could have been her. Finally one therapist sat her down and said, "You are the reason your son is angry. I don't know what you've done to him, but all of his problems stem from you." It was like the scene in Tommy when Ann Margaret throws Roger Daltrey through the mirrored window. I was free. I never went back to the therapist because my mom had decided they were all quacks.

She finally got some sort of certification or degree in the fine art of phlebotomy. She got a job performing paramedical exams on potential life insurance policy buyers. Since this involved going into people's homes, she got licensed to carry mace. This led to a hilarious Thanksgiving morning when my youngest brother took her mace and sprayed it into the central air vent of our house leading to a very itchy morning, particularly for anyone who touched their eyes or genitalia. The whizz-bang excitement of freelance phlebotomy didn't hold her interest for very long, however and she quit after a couple years. This marked the beginning of her descent into utter uselessness.

In the next couple years she moved from medical industry job to medical industry job. She worked as an assistant to some local doctors, most notably one whose daughter I had sex with in high school. Apparently my mom didn't know this and kept trying to foist her onto me. She was later arrested on cocaine possession charges and her dad on gun charges. Terrific.

Every day she accused another member of our family of hiding something of hers, destroying her jewelry, "sabotaging" her car. Mind you, if anyone had a good reason to mess with her car it was me. She used the money my dad had been saving for my college tuition to buy herself a Monte Carlo Supersport. Luckily I failed out of college after only two years so I'm only deep in debt, as opposed to being forced to take up residence in a Dickensian poorhouse.

This behavior continued to get worse and worse as time went on. She started smoking more pot than usual. She either spent her whole day in bed moping or left the house to spend money that she didn't earn and our family couldn't afford to spend on things like broken lawnmowers and a new puppy. This, combined with her bizarre behavior alienated her husband from his coworkers causing a schism that resulted in him leaving his law firm to open a private practice. Unfortunately, she refused to let him hire any type of assistant, believing he would sleep with her. Fortunately I was unemployed and was able to help set up most of his electronic stuff like computers, fax machines and the coffee maker.

The worst thing about people who assume that everybody is up to shady business is that once in a while, they're right. She worked as an assistant for a doctor who she thought was hacking into her email and bank accounts to prevent her from figuring out his deep, dark secret. She thought this secret was he worked for an Indian drug running cabal, when in fact he just wrote phony prescriptions for Oxycontin and Valium. When both he and his wife were carted off to jail, this not only confirmed ever suspicion she ever had of him, but every suspicion she ever had of anybody. Every time anyone tried to convince her that she was goddamned crazy, she'd shout, "WELL I WAS RIGHT ABOUT RAOUL! HOW CRAZY CAN I BE?" A stopped clock is right twice a day, I believe is the saying.

About two years ago, I was basically worthless. I was working at Blockbuster Video and made a whopping $200 every week. I lived, like every good loser, in my parents' basement. I slept on a mattress on the ground in what could very generously be called a "room." Cape Cod was hit with a gentle dusting of hurricane force rain and wind, which flooded our basement, and by extension my room. I came home one night to find two inches of standing water in my room, all of my books and CDs destroyed, and since it was a basement, a good deal of mold growing on my now soaked bed. I decided to sleep on the couch in the living room. I was woken up at 6am by my mom throwing me off of the couch and onto the floor, accusing me of being on crystal meth. I told her if I were on meth, she wouldn't find me asleep at 6am, that's for goddamn sure. She told me to get back into the basement where I found a family of mice huddled together in my bed. Not only did I not have the heart to displace the poor mice, I didn't want to sleep in a soggy, mouse-shit-filled bed anyhow.

With some help, I managed to find a free apartment, a job interview and a place to crash if things didn't work out. The minor snag was all of this was 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles. I talked things over with my friends and my boss and decided it was time to move out. I sold my '93 Mazda Protege for $250 cash, quit my job, bought a plane ticket and got a ride to the airport, all within about five days of finding mice in my bed. The Josh Grimmer Farewell Tour was underway. I went to the pool hall for the last time. I went to Wendy's for the last time. I went to my last Cape League game. Then I realized I had done everything there was to do in Hyannis and I had 36 more hours until my flight.

My mom is still on a never ending quest to get free money. She and my dad are getting divorced right now and she's angling to get full custody of my brothers, alimony, the house my dad had paid for before they got married, child support and $100,000 cash. I can't imagine this will go down the way she's planning. She just quit the first job she got in over a year. It was making sandwiches at a hospital for $8.25, part time. Her goal is to get the government to pay her disability for injuries she suffered during her time in the air force. I don't see this happening either. She has tried to sue every one of her past employers for wrongful termination, even though she quit. This is textbook crazy person behavior.

I haven't spoken to her for more than a few minutes in about six months now. It makes me too angry to hear a person act so willingly useless. When she said, "I can't look for a job now, if I do, they'll stop giving me my disability money." That was the last straw. Last week my dad asked me if I was willing to write a short summary of the reasons I felt she needed to be analyzed by a psychologist, I jumped at the chance. I just want her to be well. If this means she needs to be lobotomized or pumped full of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, that's fine by me.

When I sent the email to my dad detailing my opinion of her erratic behavior, it didn't feel great. I felt awful. I felt like I had buried my mom. The crazy woman who raised me is dead. Worse yet, I fear what could happen to me. Is it hereditary? I have no idea what kind of crazy genes my biological father passed on to me. He could be strutting around a log cabin in Wyoming, dressed like Napoleon and evading the men who have been chasing him with butterfly nets in an attempt to put him in a padded room. My two biggest fears are snakes and losing my mind. I've moved to the city so snakes aren't as much as a concern as they used to be. The hard part is making sure that 10 years from now, I'm not sending my son off to a birthday party for a kid he doesn't know with some old fruit in tow. What helps me through the day is they say schizophrenia doesn't set in until you're 25, so I've got two more good years of sanity until I have to really start worrying.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Stars - they're just like us (if we don't tip).

I work in Santa Monica, CA where the stars go to buy stuff and be seen buying stuff. I've helped out a lot of actors and athletes, as well as groupies and an individual who is famous for having a big ass and a sex tape. Most of the time the celebrated among us are pretty cool people, especially if they're only sorta famous.

When I was 13 years old, I got my first job as a caddy at a country club on Cape Cod. In between rounds of golf with Graham Wellington and Everett Horn III, I was told stories of the great tips my fellow loopers got from famous people. There was a celebrity pro-am tourament to be held later that summer, and I was thrilled. We were given first choice by seniority. Obviously the guy who had been there the longest wanted to caddy for Jordan, the next guy wanted Magic Johnson, the next senior caddy taking Charles Barkley and so on down the line. Since I had only been there for about two months, I drew near the end of the pack. The only person I had heard of on the list was Dave Thomas. I wasn't sure if it was the Canadian Dave Thomas of SCTV fame, or if it was the Dave Thomas of being the guy in the Wendy's commercials fame but either way, I knew who he was. Unfortunately for me, it was the Wendy's Dave Thomas, and boy did he ever hate kids. My first encounter with him was hearing him beg to have his personal caddy carry his bag for the day, and when he was informed that he had to use a club caddy he threw a bitch fit. Whatever. After a horrible 18 with the Non-Canadian Dave Thomas, I was given $20 and a five dollar gift certificate for Wendy's, which barely qualified as the club minimum of $25 per bag. What a dick.

About a year ago, Jon Lovitz was in the news for punching Andy Dick in the face. The details of the evening are sketchy, but suffice it to say Dick probably deserved it. After all, he is likely responsible for the death of Phil Hartman. Shortly after that incident, Lovitz came into my store. He walked around, not exactly sure if people knew who he was until I finally broke down and said, "Hey thanks for punching Andy Dick. It's about time somebody did." He took a moment and said, "No shit. I really hate that guy."

December of last year, our store received about 2,500 t-shirts with our company's logo on it and said "Santa Monica." Believe it or not, nobody bought them. Our manager got the brilliant idea that if you bought more than $100 worth of product, which isn't hard to do at a sporting goods store, you'd get a free Santa Monica shirt in the color and design of your choice. Tom Hanks and his two sons came in to do a little Christmas shopping/Hey look at me I'm Tom Hanks! We helped them out and he made his way through to the front of the line to purchase his items. When he was informed of our promotion, he decided that we were giving him a free t-shirt because he was famous, and him wearing the shirt equalled free advertisment for our store. We told him that everyone got one, and he was a lot less happy that we weren't treating him like a special person. Also his head looked like a stack of pancakes.

Last year during baseball season Jason Schmidt of the Los Angeles Dodgers came into the store and was given free stuff. He came in with his two daughters who got some new shoes for school. I told him I remember the first time I ever saw him pitch back when he was with the Giants. We talked about baseball for about 20 minutes and he told me that Grady Little was "a pretty good guy, but he's not exactly great with his bullpen." Just ask Pedro Martinez.

Finally about six months ago, we were paid a visit by USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his girlfriend, the daughter of one of the lawyers who represented a former USC running back and Heisman Trophy winner when he was being tried for the murder of his wife. Some people never learn. Reggie was fairly unremarkable as a person, but let me tell you that OJ's Lawyer's Daughter acted like somebody who was famous for having a big ass and a sex tape.

Monday, September 1, 2008

When all of your children start to resent you, won't you come see me Queen Jane?

Growing up, your life is shaped by people. When I was young, I lived with my mom in a terrible, low-cost housing development. We were on foodstamps and my mom barely got us by. The only real memories I have from being younger than five years old are my mom driving her Volkswagon Rabbit to and from her job and jumping up and down on the couch listening to Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. Later in life I realized that my mom was incompetant at best, and mentally unstable at worst. She's 47, unemployable, addicted to pain medication and refuses to support herself or the two kids she has with her soon to be ex-husband. Thankfully, Bob Dylan has done nothing to tarnish my opinion of him, and I hold his music in as high regard today as when I was five.

In the summer of 2003 Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson went on a tour of minor league baseball stadiums and my mom bought me tickets to see them as a graduation present. Unfortunately, this meant that we were going together. We got in the car and drove to Brockton, MA to where the world got its first glimpse of Mo Vaughn.

The seating was first come, first serve and we made our way down to the outfield to sit and enjoy the sun. My mom leeched pot off a few of the people around her and rolled herself a joint that she refused to share with me because I was "underage." That's responsible parenting. As night fell, Dylan eventually took the stage. He was dressed like a 5'7" Jewish cowboy. He played 13 songs, ending his encore with Like a Rolling Stone. I could have died that night and would probably have been okay with the way things ended.

After the set, everyone got up and milled about. I went to the t-shirt booth and got some souveniers and my mom made her way over to the bathrooms. Walking through the crowd was a tiny Jewish cowboy. I managed to gather myself and talk to Dylan for a few minutes. He entertained a small crowd and told a story about starting his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour in Falmouth, MA. My mom found me and tried to drag me away from the crowd, explaining that she had a busy day ahead of her, which I would later find out consisted of smoking pot and not leaving her bed. I pled my case but it fell on deaf ears. Finally, Dylan himself attempted to get her to stick around saying "Come on mom, don't be a square." She was ashamed to have been so thoroughly shit upon by her childhood idol, and the laughs from the crowd didn't exactly help. I was whisked away to her car and was given quite a talking to about how to treat your mother in public.