Monday, February 28, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Super Adventures of Supercat and Catzilla

Gentle Readers, just a one-day hiatus from the Alissa Milbert series so that I can present this week's Flash Fiction Friday work, which is a sort of Battle Royale. Enjoy!

The Super Adventures of Supercat and Catzilla

“Supercat, what did you do with my pink collar? Have you been trying on my clothes again? God damn you!” Catzilla was getting fed up with her brother and his little fetishes. It was all she could do to prevent him from sticking his head full on into any female humanoid’s shoe that found its way into the sprawling ranch house the butterscotch siblings inhabited with their humanoid slaves. Clearly he had a thing for high heels, and the stinkier the better. But cat-girl collars were another story entirely.

“Uhhhh….pink….what does pink look like again?” Supercat, although a bruiser who commanded an awesome power only by virtue of his enormous size, was far from the sharpest knife in the drawer. Without his brainy feline sister by his side to protect his image, he would have had his ass kicked a hundred times over by any cat in the vicinity.

“I am NOT going over this again, Super-Fat.” Catzilla only resorted to name calling when she was at her wits’ end, an increasingly common state of mind for her. “Have you even tried using those flash-cat-cards I made out last month? I clearly explained the entire f*cking color palate to you and provided example after example. Have you considered maybe spending one evening studying instead of licking your own ass?”

“Sorry,” groveled Supercat. “I guess maybe I was looking at your collars when I got inside the cat-treat cupboard.” Catzilla’s outburst served to jog his memory just slightly. “I remember having one of your collars on, you know, just for a little fun. But then it fell off when I got stuck on one of the branches to that bush outside the window in the humanoids’ office.”

“Okay…so my collar just ‘fell off.’ When YOU fell out of the window because you’re such a fat ass that the screen ripped open under your weight. Where the f*ck is it?”

“Hmmmm….well I did get a little scared for a few minutes after I fell …. so I guess I might have left it on one of the branches when I dove down to hide.” Supercat knew very well by this time where he had abandoned the collar, but he was too afraid of his sister’s wrath to own up to any further details.

“Oh for kitty-sake, Supercat.” Catzilla made her way across the humanoids’ living room to the front door, where she reached up to turn the door handle with the opposable thumbs she had grown through sheer force of will. “Hold on a minute while I go look for it.”

Catzilla had just slinked down the first two steps on her way into the yard when she stopped dead in her paw tracks. It had never been made clear to her just why her back would arch involuntarily when she came into the presence of pure evil. She growled softly to herself as her own tail lifted behind her, morphing into a virtual orange and white striped baseball bat.

As her ears folded back to lie flat on her head, Catzilla hissed “Ok Merlin, I know you’re around here somewhere. Your smell is undeniable. Come out from wherever you’re hiding and explain what you’re doing in my yard before I hunt you down and rip your silver-tabby ass to shreds.”

“Well, well Catzilla, isn’t that just the kind of uncouth talk I’d expect from a vulgar Ginger breed!” Merlin poked his head out from behind the large boulder that flanked the humanoids’ driveway.

Catzilla recoiled in disgust and spat out a double hiss. “I thought I told you to stay the f*ck away from my humanoids. These are OUR slaves and if you dare make a move to disturb anything here I swear I will kill you with my bare paws. Mark my hiss, Merlin. You have been warned for the last time!”

“Is someone having a low blood sugar moment, Zilla?” Her evil neighbor giggled as Catzilla seethed. Merlin had learned early on during their kittenhood at the shelter that nothing could send Catzilla into a conniption more than making light of the formal name bestowed upon Catzilla by her ginger-haired mother. “Need some milk, or a Zilla Wafer maybe? But oh, wait, I should really be talking about your fat ass brother, Supercat. Has he gone on insulin yet?” Merlin threw his head back, laughing in a manner one could easily describe as sinister.

“State your business before I dog-tie you and feed you to that loggerheaded canine next door, Merlin.” Catzilla’s voice grew low and quiet, which when coupled with her prickly fur could only mean she was beyond joking. “What brings you here? And this had better be good or you’re going to enjoy a savage feline ass-whooping in about thirty seconds.”

Catzilla’s fighting skills were well known throughout the cat-borhood, and more than a few errant canines had fallen victim to her vindictive fangs and talons. Most of these dogs had been convinced by Merlin himself to shit in Catzilla’s front yard so that he could sidle up in the bushes with a pinch of catnip and watch the show that would invariably ensue.

Merlin knew he would be no physical match for Catzilla, and although he recognized Supercat’s dimwittedness, he was still put off by the size of Catzilla’s lumbering brother just enough to want to keep a safe distance. Merlin could only retaliate with cat-guile and a villainous mind.

“Easy there, Zilla, just keep your cat-panties on lest you start emanating again. I guarantee you’re going to have a keen interest in what I’m about to tell you.”

“All right then ass-cat-wipe, make it quick. I haven’t got all day.” In truth, Catzilla did have the entire day to spare, but would undergo a voluntary declawing over spending even five minutes with Merlin, given the choice.

“I understand there may be a pink collar missing from your treat cupboard. Is that so, Zilla?” Catzilla’s amber colored eyes widened, her pupils constricting into tiny black dots.

“And what would you know of my pink collar, Merlin? Of what possible interest could my cat-robe have to you? Did you need some props to assist you in your laughable imitation of that Lady Cat-Ga song and dance you were attempting last week?”

“That’s a low blow, Zilla!” For the first time since his entry into his neighbors’ yard, Merlin sounded less than 100% confident. “You know I do that only to secure badly needed sustenance from my humanoid slaves. I’m sure you and Super-Ass have your own bevy of ridiculous antics with which you extract treats from the faggots you and your brother sleep with!”

Catzilla hissed and extended a skillfully sharpened claw. “Mark my growl, Merlin. If you dare make one more remark like that about my slaves I’m going for the jugular. I don’t care if I’m put away for eight of my nine lives. Watching you lose one of yours at my paw will be worth it!”

“Fine Zilla, I’ll just cut to the chase then. I know all about your and Supercat’s little catnip ring. I want a cut of the action or I’m going to the cat-thorities.” Catzilla froze. “That’s right, Zilla. The gig is up with you two. You slink around this entire cat-borhood, touting your precious little ‘Just Say Me-ow’ campaign, fooling all the mama cats into thinking you’re a couple of superheroes, clawing for trust, justice and the Feline Way. When all the while Supercat’s been engaging in his little back-shelter deals, trading his poorly homegrown bud for cans of stolen tuna!”

Catzilla growled again, this time more audibly. “That’s right Zilla, I know all about it. And don’t try to pretend it’s not true. I’ve seen the grow lights you’ve got running in your humanoids’ basement. Those can be detected using the right equipment, and all it will take to get the furball rolling is one carefully placed call to the Catnip Enforcement Agency. And don’t think for a second I won’t do it!”

“Why, you scheming little pile of rodentious excrement,” sputtered Catzilla slowly, speckles of her saliva landing on the stone pavement in front of her.

“Sorry Zilla, you will never outcat me. You may think you’re smart, and that tub of lard you call your brother may have others believing he’s some sort of Tommy Tough-Cat. But you two will never amount to any kind of match for my genius! Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa!”

Catzilla looked straight ahead with apparent resolve. “Just name your price, Merlin. Before I pin you down and pluck out your whiskers again, one by one, while you howl in pain. And this time I’ll also remove an eye for good measure!”

“Fine,” replied Merlin, wringing his paws in a manner vaguely suggestive of Catriah Heap. “In exchange for holding my sandpaper tongue, I will require exactly half of your tuna booty. No, make it two-thirds. To be delivered bi-weekly in unmarked cans to a spot I will designate under the bushes outside my humanoids’ kitchen window. Agree now while the offer still stands, Zilla, because you know very well I’ve got you both by the balls. Or, I should say, I would if your galoot of a brother still had any!” Merlin turned away from Catzilla, raising his tail high to expose his intact set of testicles. “Read it and weep, Zilla, read it and weep!” The evil feline neighbor slunk away slowly down the sidewalk.

Catzilla lowered her tail and shrunk into a reticent sphinx pose. Just as she was about to close her eyes, Supercat appeared at the front door.

“Um, Catzilla?”

“Not now Fatass, I’m thinking.”

“I just wanted to say I was sorry. Merlin would never have uncovered our situation if he hadn’t come over to the basement window when he saw your pink collar hanging in the bush nearby. I usually have the curtains closed but I had just opened them for five seconds, and there he was, peering in. He must have seen the grow lights.”

“And when exactly were you going to tell me this, you potbellied numbskull?”

“I’m sorry Catzilla, really truly sorry.” Tears welled up until they leaked down the sides of Supercat’s fuzzy orange and white face. “I’m trying to be less stupid, really I am!”

“Oh for cat-crying out loud, Supercat. Just forget about it. Shit happens.” Catzilla, for all her rough talk, could be downright sweet when you caught her at the right moment. In her heart she was a sucker for cheap sentiment, a fact that would horrify her if it ever became known openly.

“But if we have to give up any tuna, it’s coming from your share. And don’t pretend like I don’t know you’ve been hoarding away extra cans in the back of the humanoids’ closet. No wonder you’ve gotten so fat.”

Catzilla rose to her haunches and gazed at her ginormous brother through the screen door. “And as much as I despise that miscreant tabby, Merlin did have a point about the diabetes thing. You’re going on a diet starting right now. Or at least when I decide to get up.” Catzilla yawned and lay back down, stretching her lanky front legs onto the sun-warmed pavement.

“Ok, sis.” Supercat licked his paw before using it to wipe the tears off his whiskers. “All this excitement has made me sleepy – I think I’ll head back to catch forty winks. See you in nineteen hours.” Supercat waddled back toward the humanoids’ bedroom, as Catzilla curled up under the sun. “Just wake me up if Merlin comes back.”

“Ava, you bad little kitty-cat! What are you doing outside again?” Catzilla purred softly as Humanoid Slave Number One scooped her up into his arms. “I swear, you have grown opposable thumbs or something to help you open this door. HONEY! Did you know Ava was outside again? How does she keep getting loose?” The humanoid set her down on the lap of his husband, Number Two. “Grover just went back into the bedroom, right?”

Catzilla just yawned and smiled sweetly in anticipation of the long nap that awaited her in front of the television. It was going to be a good day after all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Alissa Milbert can suck my balls - Recap of Part 5

Recap of Part 5: CP attends a party at the home of one of his Hollywood idols.

Eventually I wrenched out of Lex a solemn promise that he would introduce me to Palison Yarngrim at his earliest convenience. Over the next few weeks I reminded him of his promise daily, or at least as often as I felt I could without giving him reason to have me killed.

"She TOLD you to call her!" I would lament. "She's going to think you don't like her or that you're snubbing her. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to be on Jellie Joleson's bad side. You should invite her to lunch! And tell her your friend Tom is coming! See how easy that would be? Just pick up the phone! Here, shall I help you dial?"

And then one day I hit the jackpot, pay dirt beyond my wildest imagination. Just as I was about to launch into one of my irritating tirades that would invariably send Lex running into this apartment to bolt the door behind him, he said "Hey Tom, guess what? I got an invitation to Palison's house for her 3rd wedding anniversary party and it says I can bring a friend. Would you like to go? And if I bring you with me will you promise never to speak to me again?"

I was about 65% sure he was just kidding about the never speaking to him part so I eagerly agreed, ready to take my chances that I could be trading in a loyal friend for a night with a washed up Hollywood celebrity. It was an easy choice.


On the night of Palison's party I struggled to maintain my composure despite my being dizzy with excitement. "I wonder if Alissa Milbert will be there?" was one of the many recurring thoughts I experienced at regular intervals during the long, slow days that preceded the party. I knew as well as the next crazed stalker that Alissa and Palison had remained close friends ever since the TV show ended; in my mind it was more than likely that she should be invited.

As Lex and I drove up to Palison's rather ordinary house in the Hollywood hills, I made sure to note the address since it would come in handy for future stalking purposes. When she opened the door to receive us, it felt like we were going to any regular Saturday night party and not to the home of one of my childhood idols, save for the fact that Palison greeted us wearing a leather bustier and a matching skirt. It would be explained to us later that leather is the traditional gift for a 3rd wedding anniversary, and therefore Palison billed the evening as her "Leather Anniversary Party." Just another indication of her goddess-liness.

"LEX!" she cried out as she embraced him warmly. And to me she extended her hand, saying "Hi, I'm Palison!" As she ushered us into her living room I immediately resolved to put on my "normal" personality so that I could try to fit in for the evening --- at least as well as a fan-crazed stalker-in-training could try to fit into a room full of leather-clad Hollywood types. be continued....................................

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Alissa Milbert can suck my balls - Recap of Part 4

Recap of Part 4: CP discovers that his good friend actually KNOWS one of CP's Hollywood idols. CP flips out.

My friend Lex and I would invariably consult with each other before and after our respective dating experiences. Lex played Mary to my Rhoda since he lived downstairs from me and, more notably, was less sarcastic and bitchy.

"How was your evening with D.E.?" he asked me the morning after my less-than-exciting evening out with Carol Burnett's former TV movie co-star.

"Oh, your usual disaster," I replied, wearily.

"Disaster? It couldn't have been all THAT bad, could it?"

"Oh yes, and worse. I'm sure I'll never hear from him again. And why didn't you tell me he was famous?"

"Famous? He's not really famous, is he?"

"Well, he's famous enough to have worked with Carol Burnett!" Lex could be really maddening sometimes. "There I was, sitting with him in El Coyote, about to babble on like some idiot about Carol Burnett, when all the while this guy knows her."

"Yeah, so?" Lex replied with a somewhat puzzled look on his face.

"Lex, he KNOWS Carol Burnett! How could you not tell me this? How could you have let me just go out into the evening like that with this guy who has worked with the greatest comedic actress of the 20th Century? He probably has her phone number, for God's sake! Don't you get it?"

Clearly, he did not. "What does having Carol Burnett's phone number have to do with any of this, Tom? All I did was ask you how your date went. I wasn't expecting a full on interview with 'Access Hollywood.' Just calm down!" Yeah, right, I thought.

He continued. "Did you like him or not? Did you guys talk about anything besides Carol Burnett?"

The truth was, at that moment I could not have cared less what D.E. and I had discussed; the fact that he probably had Carol's phone number was all I could think about and became my central focus. "Maybe I SHOULD try to get to know him better! That way I can look inside his address book, get Carol's phone number and address and then stalk her!"

Lex looked like he was starting to grow concerned.

"Well . . . I don't think I would recommend that particular course of action. And anyway, it seemed like D.E. did like you well enough at my party. Maybe you should call HIM."

"Me? Call HIM? Are you kidding me with this, Lex? I'm not famous enough to call him. In fact, I'm starting to think I'm not famous enough to live here any more. Everyone here is famous except me. I'm a complete nobody. I'm more of a nobody than Pia Zadora even, and THAT says something."

"That's not true, Tom, you're famous to US!" Lex replied, referring to our small group of friends. Sweet as the sentiment was, it was small consolation. I was feeling downright unworthy.


A few weeks later I developed a feeling that my luck was about to change when Lex and I walked up the street to attend the Gay Pride parade in West Hollywood. Because you see, Gentle Readers, right there in the parade, on a mid-sized float, amidst the drag queens, leather daddies and dykes on bikes sat Palison Yarngrim, who had in recent years developed a name for herself as a prominent AIDS activist, but who was best known to the world for her delightful portrayal of tween bitch Jellie Joleson on "Little Mouse on the Scarie" in the 1970s. I was absolutely giddy at the sight of this fabulous, yet for all intents and purposes, washed-up TV actor. What an unexpected pleasure, a veritable gold mine of special CP Hollywood moments!

But my pleasure would soon increase exponentially, almost beyond the boundaries of the known universe. As she rode by, Palison looked our way and shouted out "LEX! How ARE you, sweetheart? Call me!!!"

My jaw dropped straight to the ground.

"You KNOW her??? You KNOW Palison?" I blurted out, incredulously.

"Yeah, I know her. We used to work together at Tuesday's Pild," he replied with a maddening air of nonchalance, referring to a well known children's AIDS charity.

"How long were you planning on hiding this from me? What other information are you holding out on?" I immediately demanded a full accounting of every famous person with whom he was on private-phone-number terms. Not that it got me anywhere. Having grown up in Hollywood, Lex was completely unimpressed by any of these things and barely even understood why I was asking.

Poor Lex, I thought. If only HE had grown up in the Midwest, he might understand my particular state of excitement.

....... to be continued ..........

Friday, February 25, 2011

Alissa Milbert can suck my balls - Recap of Part 3

Recap of Part 3: CP goes on a date with a celebrity, with disastrous consequences.

As fun as it was to meet all these famous people, every now and again I became self conscious because I wasn't famous myself. The last thing a mildly retarded Punchman needs is another reason to feel down about himself.

Though really, I shouldn't have worried much about it, because I found not a small number of people in L.A., people who lived, ate and breathed Hollywood, who were fascinated by me and my life because I just had a regular nine-to-five job. Something completely alien to them. I remember one conversation I had with a woman at a party:

"So, like, what do you DO?"

"I'm a computer consultant for a publishing firm."

"Wow. So what IS that?"

"Well, I visit customers who use our products to make sure everything works, and I get them to install upgrades and that sort of thing."

"Ok dude, I am like totally you like, have an OFFICE or something?"

"Yes, I am in an office when I'm not visiting customers."

"Oh my GOD, I can't even IMAGINE...."

The fact that I didn't get screamed at regularly or that I had never been fired for forgetting to put two sugars in somebody's coffee was a completely foreign concept to this woman.

One time at a party I met a guy who worked on the "Larry Sanders Show." We kind of hit it off, and spent much of the evening talking together. I was upfront about the fact that I had never seen his show, so at the end of the night he invited me to come over to watch a few episodes sometime.

"I'd love to, thanks!" I replied.

A few days later this guy called and instead of inviting me over, asked if I wanted to go to the movies.

"Sure! What would you like to see?"

He went through some song & dance about how he needed to go see "The Secret Garden" because someone he knew had worked on it and he'd promised he'd take a look - or something to that effect, because as you know I don't really listen to anything a person says when I'm slightly nervous, as I was here.

In any event, I agreed on "The Secret Garden" and told him to pick me up at 5:30 - and that I would find out where it was playing. After we hung up I looked in the paper and saw it was playing at the "Beverly Center" at 5:45. Perfect.

D.E. (his initials) picked me up at 5:30 and drove us over to the theater, which was on the top floor of a shopping mall- so it took a few minutes to get up to the ticket booth. STRIKE ONE: We arrived at the booth only to find that the movie was not playing there at all.

"Oops...." I said. "It must be at the Beverly CONNECTION...." (the theater across the street.)

He let out one of those polite laughs, the kind you use when you are slightly annoyed but want to show what a good sport you are.

We rode the mall escalators down five floors to exit the building, after which we crossed the street to go over to the other theater. It was about 5:43 when we approached the ticket counter. I took out my wallet to discover I had no cash with me. STRIKE TWO.

I swear, I have no idea how people lived before ATM machines.

"Um, D, I'm afraid you're going to have to pay for my ticket," I said. "I'll have to go to an ATM after the movie to pay you back."

This time he looked downright annoyed - probably not because he had to pay for the movie, but because I was obviously a complete dingbat AND totally unprepared for the date. Oh, well.

After the movie we wanted to get something to eat. "Ever been to El Coyote?" I asked him.

"No, I haven't. But I've heard about that place and always wanted to try it." So off we went! I could feel the evening was about to improve.

Now I already told you in Part 1 or Part 2 of this series that whenever I brought someone to El Coyote for the first time, I would launch into my little story about how I hoped to see Carol Burnett there because my boss had sat next to her there once. Et cetera.

Something told me to hold off on that with this guy, though. He seemed like he might be a little too famous, or a little too connected to famous, to think this story was cute. He would probably find it annoying, or maybe even slightly stalkerish.

Thank God a Punchman knows how to follow his instincts.

As soon as we were seated and sipping on our drinks (he on an iced tea and I on a margarita, under what I detected as a subtle air of disapproval from him) we started talking about where we were from. I told him I hailed from the Upper Midwest, and he was also from somewhere "back East."

To Californians, anything East of the state line is referred to as "back East." They're almost as bad as New Yorkers that way.
"So what brought you out to L.A.?" I asked, as the obvious next question in any conversation of this nature.

His reply?

"I was working on a TV movie with Carol Burnett."


Although I was glad I'd had sense enough to hold back on my stupid "I hope we see Carol Burnett!!" story, I was mortified at the possibility that I very well could have shared that with him. I was also mortified that I was not famous enough to be there with him. I felt completely worthless.

Telling my Carol Burnett story would surely have been STRIKE THREE except that it didn't matter: the evening ended shortly after dinner, D.E. having refused my invitation to stop up for a cup of coffee.

And he never called me again.

...... to be continued ....................

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alissa Milbert can suck my balls -Recap of Part 2

Recap of Part 2: CP discusses what it's like to try to impress the stars. And recounts a cringy meal shared with a star and an out of town friend who insults her.

After my boss's pronouncement about the possibility of seeing Carol Burnett there, El Coyote immediately became my favorite restaurant. (Ok, so the cheap yet tasty margaritas and kick-ass green corn tamales didn't hurt either.)

Any time I went there it was all I could talk about. "I hope we see Carol Burnett tonight! My boss saw her here once!" I would gush to every dining companion who dared join me at this trashy yet lovable L.A. standby. I never did get to see Carol, but one time I was fortunate enough to be seated in the booth opposite from Ricardo Montalban. That's some pretty damn good washed-up star viewing if you ask me.

Over the course of my 5+ years in Los Angeles I became friends with a lot of "industry" people, mainly because the first few close friends I made worked in Hollywood. It was great for me to be around all these people while not working in the "industry" because I got all the benefits of rubbing elbows with the stars while not having to put up with any of the industry bullshit. (Save the fact that some movie or other would shut down all or part of our street about once a month for filming. L.A. people HATE that because it's more common than road construction.)

My friend Lex who lived downstairs from me worked at Paramount, so he would occasionally host parties where someone kind of famous would show up. My M.O. with these people was always to act as unimpressed as possible for fear of being seen as the total star-crazed geek that I was. One time I went on and on to Meri Stilpin from the show "Frazier" about my lower back problems until I thought she might want to kill herself rather than listen for ten more seconds.

(Note that I never use their real names in these posts for fear of being Googled. I am still in possession of a shred of dignity, although that is quickly wearing away.)

Sometimes this kind of nonchalantness could backfire. One time when my friend Beth was visiting me, we went out for breakfast with the gal who played Ellen Degeneres's love interest on her then-controversial TV show. I was kind of friends with Lisa already so I didn't feel I had to hide my admiration for her, and I think she enjoyed my pandering. (Who the hell wouldn't, I ask myself?) Beth, on the other hand, WAS actually unimpressed.

I asked Lisa what she had been up to lately.

"Well, I just wrapped another episode of 'Murder She Wrote,'" she replied.

"Murder She Wrote???" Beth exclaimed with surprise. "Murder She Wrote??? Who the hell still watches THAT?" She was at that time a Ph.D student in English literature and as such disdained anything so vulgarly pop-culture.

"Beth!" I replied. "What is with these manners of yours?! Lisa is talking about her job, here! Show some respect, will you?"

"Well I'm sorry! But god, who even WATCHES that show? It's so stupid that even my MOM likes it! It's like mystery-drama for geriatrics!"

Lisa was shocked to the point of not knowing what to say. She just let out a little grunt of horror. "It was really fun to work on," she quietly mumbled.

"Well, I guess I just don't watch that much TV," was Beth's final comment on the subject.

"Oh my God, that's even worse!" I thought Lisa might possibly cry, although it was probably all just part of being dramatic. Actors are like that.

Our breakfast, delicious as it was, slowly disintegrated from there. be continued......

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alyssa Milbert can suck my balls - RECAP of part 1


truly apologize for my long absence from blogging, and especially for starting these serials and then dropping the ball. I have decided I'm no longer doing that. If I start a series, I'm not posting ANY of it until I have all the installments written - at which point I will schedule them to self publish over a period of days, one installment per day.

Several of you had expressed a keen interest in this story and had been wondering how it would end up - and how I would eventually be inviting Alissa Milbert to suck my balls. So I am now replaying the earlier episodes, one per day, so that you can get yourself back up to speed on the story.

For each episode I replay I will provide a brief recap to save you reading time.

Love & coasters,

Recap of Part 1: CP recalls his years living in West Hollywood and owns up to being a star-crazy geek.

I have long been a fan of famous people. At least I've been a fan of people who are famous for the right reasons. I don't like people who are famous because they lock people in their basements and eat them. As a simple illustration, Shirley Booth = good. John Wayne Gacy = bad.

Actually, I realize John Wayne Gacy didn't eat his victims. It just sounded better that way.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1992, I was giddy with excitement each time I saw a famous person. One of my favorite things was to go to El Coyote for trashy Mexican food because it was such a great place for star sightings, especially to view stars of the "B" variety. (Washed up TV actors being my absolute favorite genre, if you hadn't figured that out from the Shirley Booth example.)

The first time I went to El Coyote I was with my new boss, who mentioned casually that he sat next to Carol Burnett the last time he'd been there.

"Carol Burnett?? Are you kidding me with this??" I demanded to know.

"Yes, I did," Michael replied. "You see a lot of stars here. Perfect restaurant if you're into that sort of thing."

And was I ever! Seeing stars was fun! be continued.....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Can you help a brother please?

I think minorities and women should help each other out at work. I am not saying that minorities or women should be promoted unfairly, especially when our work is not up to par. But I see it as the duty of minority people (and women) to help other minorities (and women) to make sure everyone has all the help and mentoring they need in a straight-white-male dominated environment.

Let me be clear that I have nothing at all against straight white males, and I’m not suggesting they move to the back of the bus. There should be plenty of room for all talented individuals, no matter their race, gender or orientation, at the head of the table. But the reality is, especially in older circles, that there are still a lot of straight white guys sticking to their own kind and keeping all the fun to themselves. So there are situations in which minorities and women need to be mindful.

So why am I writing this? I have seen and experienced, numerous times, instances of gay guys not helping each other in the workplace. And that gets my goat.

It irritates me when a gay guy at work doesn’t want to be my friend. Yes, I understand that not everyone in the world is going to like me ---- but in the grand scheme of the general population, anyone who knows me will admit I’m pretty inoffensive. I’m not overbearing or loud (not usually, anyway.) I’m not an asshole. I’m not stupid, I’m not lazy and I’m not incompetent. (Or, at least I know how to hide my stupidity, laziness and incompetence when I’m at work.)

So when I work for a gay guy who seems to distance himself from me, I usually assume it’s because I’m gay and he a) doesn’t want anyone to think he’s doing me any special favors, or b) he’s uncomfortable in his own skin, and my smiling face just reminds him that he should be ashamed to be a big ole’ queer and that he’d better not attract too much attention. So bye-bye to Tom.

This has happened to me several times, either with people I’ve reported to or people who have been in the same organization but slightly senior to me. (For the record, I’ve also had more than one gay friend at work, so this problem is far from universal.)

But Poor George has had this problem in at least one severe situation. He worked for this bitter queen who was a total self-hater and as such, could not stand to see Poor George’s happy face every morning. He never said or did one nice thing to George, and eventually even got George fired.

Yes, PG had a few problems with the job and was slightly – just slightly – in over his head. But it was certainly nothing that could not have been fixed with hard work and some friendly mentoring. And who better to mentor a queer at work than another queer?

But it was not to be. This happened about six months ago and I’ve been meaning to vent about it for a while now. So here it is.

Listen up, my non-white friends, my gay friends, and my female friends. Don’t undercut your brothers and sisters at work. You may not like every one of them, and you certainly don’t have to be best friends with someone you don’t feel some sort of bond with. But I’m here to tell you that it is your duty to try to help move your brothers and sisters along in their careers. Someone probably helped you --- and it’s time to return the favor.

So unless your minority friend is incompetent or just plain bad, get with the program and lend a helping hand.

Monday, February 21, 2011

CP's not so dirty Secret

At some point I need to let you all know that I’ve been changing my life for the better using The Secret. I’ve decided that now is that time.

Getting on board with The Secret is easily the most culty thing I’ve ever done, and Poor George has warned me that if I ever do anything like suggest he attend Landmark Education (formerly known as EST) courses he will leave me. I upped the ante on him and said that if I ever attend Landmark Education he is not only to leave me, but he must also kill me and make it as painful as possible.

(Oh no, negative energy! Negative energy!)

Anyway, I don’t think The Secret is very culty – it’s just a new way of looking at life and to attract the good things in life by thinking good and doing good. Pretty basic really, but the real proponents of The Secret (Secreteers? Secretons?) advise that the Law of Attraction is much more powerful than we realize.

The gist is that if you spend your time being a whiny bitch and thinking whiny bitch thoughts, all you’re doing is attracting more whiny bitchiness into your life. Which is pretty useful when you’re trying to write for a blog in a way that amuses people in that whiny bitchy sort of way.

But not so useful if you’re trying to have a happy life.

So I’ve decided to start living my life from a “half full” perspective. And I have to say I am a lot happier as a result. The only negative, as far as I can tell, is that Mindy June and others (including me) have described me as “doughy” and “non-descript” when I’m nice. I don’t yet know how to entertain others without my acerbic, sarcastic approach to everything. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday : An Open Letter to Brad Allen of Los Angeles

This week's Flash Fiction Friday assignment is to write a letter of unrequited love. Or a Dear John letter. Feel free to read my letter below and decide for yourself in which category it falls. Oh, and Brad Allen is not his real name.

Dear Brad,

This letter will be difficult to write because at your core I believe you are a pretty nice guy and I don’t want to hurt you. But truth be told, I cannot see you anymore because you kind of make me sick.

You’re probably wondering why I’m dumping you now when it was I who asked you out in the first place. I mean, why did I even bother if this is what it comes to in the end? Well Brad, I actually thought you were kind of cute and charming when I first met you. I really had no idea you were kind of a douche with personal manners not unlike that one guy in “Dances With Wolves,” you know, the one with rotted teeth who says “Ya cain’t figger them buffalo, ya cain’t!” before spitting the remnants of a pickled egg all over his chin. Next to you, Brad, that guy looks like Cary Grant.

Let’s review a few of our dating experiences, shall we Brad? I am afraid this will only be the tip of the iceberg, but I need to keep this to under 1,500 words.

Experience #1: You had explained during our first coffee date that the only three things in life you truly cared about were baseball, opera and sex.

“Opera?” I asked. “How did you develop a taste for opera?”

You gave ma a long winded explanation that involved quitting drugs and choosing opera as your new “habit” to latch onto. Or something like that. And we’ll come back to the drugs thing in a minute Brad, trust me.

At first I thought it was really sweet of you to invite me to see “Madame Butterfly” with you, especially since I learned later that your salary was around $17,000 a year. But the warning bells should have started ringing for me when you got into a near shouting match with the woman in front of you who, you thought, was leaning a bit too far forward in her seat for you to see. I thought it was a little weird that you were so vehement with her, considering that we were in the nosebleed section and we could barely see the characters on stage even without a partially obstructed view.

Experience #2: When we woke up in the morning after our first “sleepover” date at my place, you got out of my bed, buck naked, and went to the front door to get the paper. Setting aside for a moment the fact that you felt comfortable enough to walk nude around my apartment in front of all the wide open windows, you returned to my bedroom and proceeded to squat down on your haunches as you read the newspaper headlines.

And let out a really loud fart.

Brad, you hardly even knew me. What makes you think there would be anything remotely charming about that, let alone attractive? Gross. And you didn’t even say “excuse me” or try to act like it was a total accident.

I jumped up out of bed and told you I needed to take a quick shower. The truth was, I just wanted out of that room before I had to smell anything.

And then, Brad, you actually got into the shower with me. Without asking.

You know Brad, if I can give you one piece of advice, let it be this: If you are dating someone you don’t know very well, or if you are an overnight guest in someone’s home for the first time, do not make any potentially offensive invasions into your host’s personal space at any time, let alone first thing in the morning.

So after only one sleepover I was pretty iffy about you, Brad. But I wasn’t fully committed one way or the other, so I just decided to let the chips fall where they may. Yes, it was a bad decision --- a really bad one. Because about two weeks later we had the earthquake.

Experience #3: The Northridge Earthquake of 1994. January 17. 4:00 am. I will not soon forget it, because that earthquake nearly ruined my life, and not just because I lost all my glassware.

I remember waking up in a panic at the sound of breaking glass. I thought someone was breaking into my apartment to kill me, or at least rob me and beat me to a pulp. So it’s rather amusing than when I came to my senses and realized it was an earthquake, I thought to myself “oh, thank God it’s only an earthquake!” I held onto my bedroom door frame and hoped for the best.

When the jolting stopped I stepped over all the broken glass and went downstairs to Lex’s apartment to make sure he was ok. He was, and his place was not nearly as damaged as mine --- so I just sat there in his living room with him, talking for about half an hour or so.

And then I heard footsteps coming from my apartment upstairs. That really freaked me out. So I went up the stairs, and there you were, Brad.

“Oh, thank God that you are ok, CP!” you said. “I know you’re not a native Californian, so when this happened I was really worried about how scared you would be. I just had to come over to make sure you were all right.”

Wow, I thought, that was so sweet! You actually risked your life to come see me---because every Californian knows the rules about post-earthquake safety: it is a very, very bad idea to get into your car and drive right after a quake. You don’t know what kind of damage lies ahead. You might drive into a gaping hole in the earth; a power line or building might fall on you; etc. But you were willing to take that risk for me, Brad, and I appreciate it.

Even if you are the world’s biggest dumbfuck.

Anyway, since you were already there I told you to come down to Lex’s apartment with me. We had tested Lex’s gas stove, and all seemed in order so Lex had decided to fry up some eggs for an early breakfast.

Now Lex was my best friend in L.A., and this was the first time that you got to meet him. You are a gay man, Brad, and I know that you know meeting your boyfriend’s friends is akin to meeting the family for a straight person. I know you know this. And when meeting your significant other’s family for the first time, you should know to be on your best behavior.

Which is why I must ask you this, Brad. Why oh why, Brad, did you feel it was appropriate for you to take your fork, with which you had been eating runny, yolky eggs, and stick it directly into Lex’s jar of gourmet marionberry jam? Why on earth would you do this in front of anyone, let alone in front of someone you were newly dating? Or in front of anyone who is having you in his home for the first time? Were you attempting to prove to Lex that I had absolutely no filter or judgment in people?

I should have dumped your disgusting ass right then and there. You revolted me then, Brad, and you still revolt me today. What's worse is that your apartment was so devastated in the quake that I had no choice but to LET YOU MOVE IN WITH ME. FOR THREE WEEKS.

But oh, it gets even better.

Experience #4: There is so much more I could tell about you, Brad, but as I said I need to keep this to a certain length. So I’ll have to end with this coup de grace.

Remember the night I was over at your apartment and I was talking about having to go up to the courts for work? And I asked you if you had ever been to the courts? And you haltingly said “oh…yes…”? As if there were a story behind that?

So of course I had to ask you what the story was, Brad. You acted like you didn’t want to say anything, and I remained respectful but curious.

And then you decided to tell me. You blurted out the following sentence:

“Okay….I’m a child molester.”


A child molester, Brad. That is a statement that packs quite a punch, I must say. I think I remained quiet for a few minutes until I got up the urge to ask you what the fuck you were talking about.

You then told me the story about how you were messed up on drugs and alcohol for a number of years, and that you didn’t know what to do about your homosexual feelings. So you used to hang out at a park and watch these twelve year old boys playing basketball. You struck up a conversation with one of them, one thing led to another, and soon you were in the bushes letting him perform oral sex on you.

This carried on for a number of weeks until you had a sudden, brilliant revelation that maybe, just maybe something was wrong in your life and that you needed counseling.

And I do feel bad about what happened next, Brad, but I must confess to you that this is all a little hard to take. You went to see a shrink and told her everything --- about your drug use, and your sex with the twelve year old.

It is unfortunate that the counselor hadn’t warned you ahead of time that she would be required to call the police on you, Brad. I do feel bad because you were obviously trying to do the right thing by getting help, and I can understand the mortification you must have experienced when the police arrived at your parents’ house to haul you away right in front of a large family gathering.

But still Brad, how much of a dumbfuck can you be? Not to mention the fact you wanted to do what you did in the bushes with a grimy twelve year old kid.

The only thing that kept your ass out of prison is the fact that this kid testified that you did not coerce him, and that he blew you willingly. I’m glad that kid was brave enough to tell the truth. It’s unfortunate, but because of this, you now have to live out the rest of your days as a registered sex offender. I know that must be hard Brad, but I don’t like how you tried to justify it to me and other friends. You said you did it because you were confused about your sexuality.

Gee Brad, I didn’t know we needed to hand our enemies even more reasons to compare gay men to child molesters and sex predators. Just exactly what I want to be associated with as a gay man. Thanks for that.

I’m sorry Brad, but it’s just not going to work out between us. As nice as you may appear to be on first meeting, the fact is that you’re uncouth, lacking in any discernible taste or judgment, and just downright gross.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

CPW Series: Ways in which I'm kind of retarded

Gentle Readers, Ways in Which I’m Kind of Retarded is a new CPW series wherein I will describe to you, well, ways in which I’m kind of retarded.

Retarded is a word I was never allowed to use as a youngster. Aside from it not being very nice, my mom’s youngest sister was mentally retarded, and that was back in the days when retarded was still used as a clinical term to describe retards.

Now we just call them “mentally challenged” or “special” or "Sarah Palin." Since retarded is no longer used by medical professionals, I am reclaiming it as an OK word to use in describing someone who is stupid or otherwise just kind of a spaz. If you disagree, just haze me in the comments, after which I will laugh at you, call you a retard and move on with my life.

Note to self: Remember that thing I wrote recently about changing my life by being nice? Maybe not so much.

Anyway, today’s version of Ways in Which I’m Kind of Retarded involves Poor George, although honestly, any ex-boyfriends who find their way to this blog may also recognize these symptoms.

Poor George and I have a repertoire of about twenty or thirty different retarded things we say to each other, and even to ourselves, that are simply random pieces of noise we’ve picked up from the universe, or things we have dreamt up in our own sick heads. Things to say that serve absolutely no purpose other than, possibly, to satisfy my Tourette’s like cravings, or just to remind each other that we are both retarded.

Let me set the scene: I used to have a client that I visited weekly. My usual contact was a department head in the area of the company I used to visit. But when this person went out on maternity leave, she left me in the semi-capable hands of this large woman named Alaina Boodaya who can only be described as looking somewhat like a female Lurch from The Addams Family.

Whenever I would arrive at reception, Alaina would lumber out into the lobby to greet me and bring me back to the office. She spoke to me as little as possible and would merely grunt here and there as necessary to communicate with me as needed.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen Alaina Boodaya, but I miss her and her lunkishness. So, at random intervals I will just lean over to Poor George and say “I miss Alaina Boodaya.”

The best part is, he totally understands.

Georges rock. Everyone should get a Poor George.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Awkward College Romance -THE FINALE!

I fear that the key to your hearts, Gentle Readers, will lie in the fact that I am finally done with this story.

My friendship with Jeff largely returned to its pre-disclosure condition, albeit with a bit more intensity. We were spending so much of our free time together --- and again, only with each other and never with other people --- until my roommates started asking who this new guy was that I’d been hanging out with so much.

Jeff and I did not discuss any of the issues that had come up between us earlier. It was killing me, but as I explained earlier, I had already disclosed my feelings and I considered the ball to be in his court.

As the end of the year approached and finals loomed, we started spending late nights together, hanging out, drinking beer, smoking pot and ignoring our hormones.

Several times things got a little weird --- as in, we were just one drink away from one of us making a move, a move that neither of us dared make. I distinctly remember him sitting in my room one day, sitting in the same chair where he had first confessed his sometimes-feelings-for-guys. I was prattling on about some nonsense or other, when Jeff just stopped.

“Tom, where is this conversation going?”

Where is this conversation going? Well, where do you want it to go, you maddening little tease?

At least that’s what I felt like saying.

Instead, unfortunately, I made some lame joke and changed the subject.

And then, a few weeks later, came the night I most regret. The night I really could have made something happen if I had wanted.

We had gone over to Carleton for the day to study, just to have a change of scenery. Jeff had ridden his bike and I hitched a ride with another student since I had a stack of books to carry and only one working arm. We chose different parts of the library to study in so as not to distract each other, but met up regularly for meals, snacks and any other diversion we could dream up to avoid studying. (Well, maybe not every possible diversion….)

Mid-evening we decided to call it quits for the night and head back to campus. Luckily I ran into a friend with a car who offered to drive me and my books back to our campus. I had the brilliant idea to offer to carry Jeff’s rather heavy book bag for him, so that he wouldn't have to lug it up the hill to St. Olaf.

When I got back to my room with Jeff’s bag in tow, I called him.

“Hey Jeff, I’m back in my room so you can come pick up your books whenever you want.”

“Thanks Tom --- what are you doing?”

“I don’t know Jeff. Hey, I’ve got some beers in my fridge. If you’re in the mood, you can meet me out on the hill behind the Old Main. I love hanging out there. Unless you just want to go to sleep.”

“No Tom, I want to meet you. Very much.”

My heart skipped a beat.

I remember my roommates looking at me strangely as I loaded up my book bag with a six pack from our mini fridge. “Where are you going with beers at this hour, Tom?”

“Oh, Jeff and I are just going to hang outside. See you guys later.” I tried as hard as I could to talk to them as little as possible those days because I didn’t want them suspecting anything.

When I arrived at the Old Main, Jeff was waiting for me and it was all I could do not to wrap my arms around him completely. We went out behind the old building and settled down on the grassy hill, bathed in soft moonlight. As we lounged on the grass drinking beer and enjoying the night air, we both stretched out and laid down side by side, propped up on our elbows, about six inches away from each other. We barely talked at all.

I totally could have reached over and kissed him.

But I could not bring myself to do it. And neither could Jeff, apparently.

After about an hour under the moonlight, we finished our beers and retreated back to our respective rooms.

As the days of the school year drew to a close, Jeff and I started finding every excuse we could to be together. One day in the middle of the afternoon we decided, for some reason, to duck into a little stairway outside the college chapel. Again, just inches from each other with no one else around, even if it was in broad daylight.

“Wow Jeff, so I guess we won’t be seeing each other for a while.” Summer break was upon us. I was going home to my parents’ house in Chicago, while Jeff was headed back to work a job in his home state. Worse yet, I would not be at St. Olaf the following semester because I was planning to study abroad in the USSR.

“I know,” Jeff replied. “I’m going to miss you.” He said it so quietly it sounded like he might cry.

The last time I saw Jeff during those magical days, I was in my dorm room packing up my belongings to go home for the summer. I had seriously pissed off my mom and my aunt who had driven to campus, prepared to load up the car and take me home. I hadn’t even begun to pack because I had been so distracted with my school work and pathetic non-love life. Not to mention a gimped arm which made every task take three times longer than normal.

Jeff came into my room and was immediately made to feel uncomfortable by my relatives because they were so irritated with me. So Jeff and I just said our goodbyes quietly at my door, and that was that.

Jeff and I never had another meaningful conversation again. We corresponded over the summer, but the magic disappeared and Jeff lost whatever feelings he had seemed to develop for me --- probably because I had written something rather mean and sarcastic in one of my letters.

I saw him sporadically on campus when I returned from Russia for my final semester at St. Olaf, but Jeff no longer seemed to have any interest in being my friend, and we barely saw or spoke to each other at all, despite my attempts here and there.

A few months after we graduated, I wrote Jeff a long letter and told him everything I wish I had told him during our magical time together, when we had seemed inches away from expressing our romantic feelings for one another. I told him I was confused about how he felt for me. That I missed his friendship, and that I wished I could understand what had happened.

Jeff never replied.

Several years later, both Jeff and I were living in the Twin Cities and ran into each other occasionally at parties of mutual friends. Our conversations were polite but distant. At times I detected a seeming thaw in Jeff's attitude toward me, but I was done taking any further chances with him. Been there, done that.

(Or wish I had done that, anyway.)

I recently heard from one of my friends in Minnesota that Jeff is now openly gay, partially bald, partnered with a nice man and raising kids in the Cities. I’m happy that everything seems to have turned out well for him. And who knows --- if I lived there, maybe we would even be friends. But for now, Jeff Henderson lives only in the dark recesses of my memories, alone with me in that private place where we guard the vestiges of our first loves.

And of course, he will now live forever on the pages of Coaster Punchman's World.

Thank you all for listening.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Awkward College Romance - NEW INSTALLMENT - Part 11

“Are you kidding me with this Jeff?” I didn’t mean to sound incredulous, but this was big news.

“No, Tom, I am not kidding. I do have those feelings --- and I don’t know what to do with them.”

“Well I wish I had the answers, Jeff.” And boy, did I wish I had a few very specific answers. But being both Scandinavian and Midwestern, I was unable to come right out and ask if I could kiss him or something. Plus, so much had happened by that point that it would have been wrong.

“Jeff, it’s getting really stuffy in here. Do you want to go out an take a short walk with me?" I desperately wanted to change our environment, in hopes that in a different room everything wouldn’t seem weird and surreal.

“Sure Tom, let’s go. “

We went out into the night with no particular destination in mind. I needed to walk slowly so as not to jiggle my arm, which was nicely outfitted in a full arm plaster cast. I went into automatic chatter mode, which I’ve been well known for in times of crisis. For a man who is normally short on words, if you put enough stress on me I can prattle on about absolutely nothing for hours on end.

At one point we came to an athletic field of some sort and just walked around the perimeter several times in a row.

“So Jeff….what’s up for you next, then? What are you going to do?” (As in, what are you going to do….WITH ME?)

“I don’t know Tom…." He stopped and looked right at me. “What ARE we supposed to do about these feelings?”

I froze. No idea what to say. I had already laid out for him how I felt so I didn’t feel it was my place to go any further with that idea.

So I just continued walking, and Jeff followed.

Eventually we ended up back at my dorm. He walked me back to the room, but I didn’t intend to invite him in --- so I stopped outside the door, turned around and said “thanks for coming over tonight, Jeff. It was really nice to talk to you.”

“You too, Tom. See you tomorrow?”

-------to be continued----------

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Awkward College Romance - NEW INSTALLMENT! - part 10

I returned from the hospital after midnight, in major amounts of pain but armed with narcotic pain relievers. Part of me was glad for the distraction – finally I would have something beside Jeff to think and talk about.

“Hi Jeff, it’s Tom.” I called Jeff the following morning to break our date for later that day. “I broke my arm last night and it’s really throbbing so I’m going to need to cancel and stay in my room.”

“You broke your arm? What happened?” I explained the whole (stupid) story and was grateful for the sound of concern in Jeff's voice. “Wow Tom, that’s really too bad – I was looking forward to hanging out with you.”

“Well, if you don’t have your heart set on going downtown you can come hang out with me here. I don’t have any plans other than to do some reading and maybe smoke a bowl. I couldn’t have a better excuse!”

“Are you sure?”

What --- sure I don’t want a cute guy to come nurse me in my dorm room? Yeah, right.

“Yeah Jeff, come on over if you want. It would be nice to see you.”

Ok Tom, see you later.”

Jeff came over in the early evening and made himself comfortable in one of our lounge chairs. I grabbed my mini water pipe and prepared to light up. Before the flame hit the weed, Jeff said “I’m not having any of that if that’s ok with you, Tom.”

“Oh, well ok….” I put the pipe down. I wasn’t going to blaze up alone, at least not right then. I wanted my full wits about me if Jeff was going to retain his.

“So Jeff, I’ve been wondering something. I’ve never told a straight guy about my feelings for other guys, because I always figured they would freak out. I’m so glad you haven’t done that with me. What’s up with that?” I asked, just trying to make conversation and bridge the awkwardness of our previous encounter.

“Well….actually Tom, I guess I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

“Um…..ok…..what do you mean?”

Jeff then proceeded to tell me that maybe, just maybe he’s had feelings like that before. And had even acted on them a few times, mainly at the college he attended prior to his transfer to St. Olaf.

I was dumbfounded. Numb. I didn’t even know what to say. I don’t actually recall saying much at all because I was so confused. Here I was, in pain with a busted arm, sitting with a guy I had obsessed over for months, a guy for whom I had risked everything, a guy who had told me he was straight. A guy who had inadvertently broken my heart. And now he’s telling me he likes guys.

What did this mean? When he said he couldn’t return my feelings did it mean he didn’t have feelings for guys, or did it mean he just didn’t have feelings for me? And now had he changed his mind?

It would take a while for me to figure this out.

------- to be continued ------------

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday : Guitar

Note: We're taking a short (ONE DAY!) break from my "Awkward College Romance" story - tune in tomorrow for the next installment of that. Today we're doing something a little different here at CPW.

Following in the brave footsteps of bloggers Cormac Brown and Flannery Alden, I've decided to up the ante with my writing and join the community of Flash Fiction Friday.

Every Friday you are given something to write about, and you must publish by mid-week the following week.

Here is my first attempt. Our friend Dale might categorize this as one of my "give til it hurts" postings. Enjoy.


“Hummingbird, hummingbird, sing me your song….” Mama’s voice crackled as she strummed the wooden acoustic guitar we had found in the house the day she and Pops closed on it so many years before. She had such a strange manner of playing; instead of tucking the guitar under her right arm like most people did, she laid it flat on her lap and used one of those cylindrical steel bars across the strings to help her form the chords she needed. She strummed slowly, mechanically with her right hand and squeaked out the lyrics in a girly tone pitched at least two octaves above her normal speaking voice.

“Don’t sing, Mama!” I said as a joke, referring to the story she loved to tell of me as a toddler. Apparently I had not been as receptive to her sad attempts at lullabies as her first three children had been, and regularly reproached her for her nightly attempts --- thankfully, or so it seemed by her propensity to share the story, somewhat amusingly. Something about Mama’s singing always embarrassed me, and I remembered, cringily, my own fourth birthday party when I cried actual tears at my family’s tableside performance of “Happy Birthday.” Maybe it was because of my own inborn musical talent that I disdained any pitchy attempts at making melody. Or maybe it just hurt my ears; I can never really know.

Mama stopped playing and smiled thinly. “Your father always made fun of me too. I’m not sure I ever told you that. At first it hurt my feelings, but when I realized the bastard was seeing his diva girlfriend behind my back, I decided he was never going to control the way I felt about anything, ever again.” Her gray eyes turned to stone.

I felt my back stiffen as she brought up the topic of Pops’ affair with “the Diva,” as Mama referred to her. Pops was never great at hiding the evidence of his infidelity, and while his four kids knew about his dalliance with the bitch pianist we all hated long before our mother allowed herself to become aware, Mama eventually put two and two together and subsequently threw the equivalent of five grand mal seizures, in a dramatic style only befitting her severe alcoholism. Mama’s discovery had provided for quite the afternoon, just after my graduation from college, when she fairly entertained every neighbor within a three block radius, hurling obscenities at full voice while careening drunk about the front yard. It was a near perfect performance, diminished only by her inability to roll back her eyes and foam at the mouth.

“I thought we agreed not to talk about that any more, Mama,” I said, referring to my recent pronouncement that I would no longer serve as her marriage counselor. “You need to find a neutral third party to hash all that out.”

“What is there to hash out? He left me for that bitch and you all took his side. Seems pretty simple to me.” She put down the guitar, exchanging the steel cylinder for her nearly depleted glass of Tab and vodka. “I figured out a long time ago that it doesn’t matter what I say or don’t say; the end result will be the same either way. Everyone will always be against me.”

It drove me insane when she got like this, and I regretted making the joke about her bad singing. Though I quickly forgave myself, knowing Mama would have taken any subject I offered and found a way to tie it to whatever was currently upsetting her. It’s funny how she always complained about this trait in her own mother.

Mama always painted Grandma out to be such a bitch, though in fairness I never got that impression during the small amount of time I got to spend with her before she died. I remember the time during college when I drove down to Iowa to visit Grandma in her assisted-living apartment building because I wanted to take her to lunch. As we were eating, I said “Grandma, can I ask you a question about Mama?”

“Of course,” she replied, looking slightly wary.

“Was Mama always so quick to fly off the handle, even as a kid? Did she always go into hysterics the way she does now?” Grandma just sat there and stared at me. She put her fork down, glanced away for a second and then turned back to look me right in the eye. And nodded, slowly. In a manner suggesting I put the rest of my questions back in the vault, pending any future invitation to revisit the subject.

“Mama, I wish you would stop saying that. We’re not against you and we’re not for Pops. You two are adults, and your marriage is your own business. We just want both of you to be happy.” Against my better judgment, I added, not bothering to disguise the irritation in my voice, “And anyway, I thought I told you to leave me out of it. I’ve got my own life to figure out.” I wondered for a second whether I could grow to enjoy the flavor of Tab and vodka. Tastes for certain things have to be genetic.

“Well that’s certainly some fine talk coming from you, Mr. Fancy-I’m-too-good-for-my-own-family.” She jiggled the half melted ice in the bottom of her glass before jerking back her head to slurp the remnants of the drink, spilling drops of watery diet cola on her blouse in the process.

“GOD DAMN IT ALL TO HELL!” she cried, catapulting off the sofa to hurl toward the kitchen. I lowered my now-throbbing forehead to cradle it in my hands, wondering simultaneously whether I would throw up and what excuse I could invent to leave early this time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Awkward college romance - NEW INSTALLMENT! -- part 9

Really, this story will conclude soon - I promise!

“Hello?” Jeff said, in a voice indicating I had obviously woken him up.

“Uh, hi Jeff, it’s Tom. I’m just returning your call. Sorry it’s so late…”

“Um, yeah, well that’s ok.”

Note to self: if you’re trying to woo someone, it might be a good idea not to
call them in the middle of the night.

“So I guess we need to talk, huh?” was all I could say.


We made plans to meet the following morning, and we did. What follows is an approximate recap of our conversation.

“Well Tom, here’s your note back like you requested. Thanks for writing it.”

“Thanks, Jeff. I hope it didn’t make you uncomfortable.”

“Well Tom, the only thing I can say is that I feel sad because I may have lost a friend.”

OUCH. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch.

“What do you mean by that, Jeff?”

“I mean that you may not want to be friends with me if I can’t return your feelings.”


“Well Jeff, I guess you’ve answered my question --- but I definitely still want to be friends with you. Nothing has to change between us. I just don’t want you to be freaked out or grossed out by me.”

“You don’t gross me out, Tom.”

“That’s good to hear, Jeff.”

So that’s where we left it. I had been chasing after a straight boy. We proceeded to talk about him and his ex-girlfriend for a few more minutes, and then we parted ways because really, it was all very awkward.

I called Jeff the following Tuesday afternoon to make plans to go out for drinks together on Wednesday night; I was going to need some alcohol to celebrate finishing a mid-term history exam that would take place on Wednesday afternoon.

I poked around my dorm room for a while that Tuesday afternoon, feeling sorry for myself and not knowing what to do --- until finally, the adult part of me forced me to pack up my book bag and head to the library to study for the exam. As I bounded down the stairs I magically came to the realization that I just needed to pony up and be happy that Jeff was still my friend after my revelation.

I was so happy with this sudden shift in thinking that I positively flew out the front doors of the dormitory onto the cold stone steps.

Where I tripped on my coat tail and flew headfirst down the small staircase, breaking my arm in the process.

----------------to be continued----------------------

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Awkward College Romance - NEW INSTALLMENT! Part 8

(We're getting near the end, I promise you!)

Chuck and I walked down to the Rueb and enjoyed several of their famous Long Island Iced Teas before going upstairs to join many of our drunken classmates on the semi-decrepit dance floor.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much alcohol I consumed that night, but I’m fairly certain it was enough so that a doctor would have been able to cut me open to perform an emergency appendectomy without my feeling a thing. Thanks to God for my Scandinavian roots.

At one point near the end of our evening I found myself in a car packed with other students on the way up the hill back to the college. And speaking of Scandinavians, among my car mates was a Norwegian guy named Åge upon whom I had nurtured a quite obvious crush earlier in the year. Since I was drunk out of my mind, I thought it would be a good idea to make fun of his name for the entirety of the ride. “ÅGE, BOGEY, SKOGEY!!” I repeated at intervals, not really making any sense but just being really annoying. Poor Åge took it in stride and merely informed the rest of the car that I was just bitter because I was homosexual and Åge was straight. Touché! Luckily I was drunk enough not to be horrified at his altogether accurate assessment.

When we arrived back on campus I stumbled into my dorm and up the stairs to my room --- where, on the message board was a note from one of my roommates: “Tom, Jeff called.”

Tom, Jeff called. Such beautiful words had never before been written in the English language, at least not that I was aware of.

I looked at the clock on my dresser and it was 1:15 am. Naturally I decided to give Jeff a call right then and there.

-------to be continued-------

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Awkward College Romance - NEW INSTALLMENT! - part 7

When I arrived back at my dorm I was out of breath from my frantic sprint, but I knew it was important to get up to my room on the 3rd floor as soon as possible because I wanted to be there if and when Jeff called. Thankfully, my roommates were not around when I got to the room. I didn’t want to subject them to my pending emotional crisis, especially since I would not be able to explain my anxiety.

I paced around the room for about half an hour, periodically picking up the phone receiver to ensure we had a dial tone. I did nothing more productive than walk in quick, small circles and wring my hands. At one point I went to borrow the neighbors’ phone so that I could call my room to make sure the ringer still worked. I was a complete mess.

After a few hours it became clear that Jeff was not going to call me, at least not that night. I don’t even remember what went through my head, but I’m sure I was full of different ideas and theories, each more neurotic than the last. “Maybe he really likes me but he just doesn’t know how to come out and say it. Or maybe he could have liked me but I weirded him out by not giving him enough time. Actually he probably doesn’t like me at all and he just wanted to hang out. Now he’ll probably never speak to me again. Oh, why did I bother?” And so forth.

I have no idea how I did it, but I finally resolved to lie down and go to sleep.

The next morning things were no better. Jeff still hadn’t called, I had no one to talk to and had a buttload of schoolwork to think about. Realizing there was no point in pretending to be able to eat something, I went to the library with my books. Where I sat in a study carrel for all of ten minutes before getting up to pace because I was freaking out.

Then I realized that maybe Jeff could have written me a note of his own and left it in my student PO box. So off I went to the student center to check it.

No note.

I considered the possibility that Jeff could have called my room and left a message with one of my roommates, who had returned the night before as I was trying to fall asleep.

No message on the phone message board.

So I went back to the library and pretended to try to study for another ten minutes. At which point I repeated the entire process.

In short, I spent the entire day shuffling nervously between my three posts: library study carrel, student PO box and dorm room.

Somewhere near the end of the afternoon I realized I was going to drive myself insane –literally- and therefore resolved so call Lulu. Which resulted in one of the most memorable phone conversations of our friendship.


“Lu? It’s me.”

“Hi CP. How’s it going?”

“Terrible. Awful. I am having the worst day of my life.”

“Ok, what is it this time?”

“Here’s the deal, Lu. I am totally freaking out. I mean F-R-E-A-K-I-N-G out. You remember that time you called me in a panic because your roommate tried to saw open her wrist veins with a butter knife, and you were so scared you were hyperventilating and I told you to stop because it sounded like you were beating off?”

“Yes CP, I vaguely recollect that night. Have you worked on your bedside manner as I suggested?

“Ok Lu, it’s really, really important that you forgive me for that now and not judge me because I am FREAKING OUT! I don’t know what to do. I may have to throw myself down the stairs or something because I am FREAKING OUT!”

“Honey, it’s OK, I already forgave you. Now tell me, what is wrong?”

“I CAN’T EVEN TELL YOU WHAT IS WRONG – I AM FREAKING OUT!” At which point Lulu lowered her voice to barely a whisper and said “I need you to take a deep breath and repeat after me: It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be….”

It must have worked after a few minutes, because by the end of the call I had told her the story of writing Jeff the letter, my awkward hand delivery to him, my mad race back to the dorm, and my incessant cross-campus shuttling in search of a response from Jeff which was, as yet, nowhere to be found.

“CP, what you need is to go have fun tonight. Just try and forget Jeff for at least twenty minutes. You must have friends you are neglecting because you spend all your time either with Jeff, obsessing about Jeff or worse yet, talking to me about Jeff. When is the last time you saw Chuck, for example?”

“Chuck? I don’t know, I think I had lunch with him last week.”

“Yeah, well it’s time for you to see Chuck. He’s an alcoholic, right? I want you to call him right now - and I mean the second we hang up – and make plans for him to get you drunk tonight. Can you do that for me?”


“Ok then. So are you going to be all right?”

“No. I’m still considering hurling my body over the edge of the stairwell. That’s starting to feel like the most reasonable solution.”

“Please don’t do that CP –although if you do, can you leave me something in your will? I’ve been wanting that Ole Store sweatshirt you used to wear. But please, just call Chuck. Right now. And it’s going to be ok. Really, it is. Just keep saying that.”


I hung up from Lu, immediately dialed Chuck who was, thankfully, in his room. We made plans to go down to the Reub, our local bar, later that evening.

*********** TO BE CONTINUED *******************

Friday, February 11, 2011

Awkward College Romance - Recap of Part 6

Recap: CP writes Jeff a letter to confess his feelings and then runs like a little girl.

Dear Jeff,

This is going to be very awkward for me to write. If you don’t mind, please do me a favor and return this note to me when you are done reading it because I do not want it to fall into the wrong hands.

Ok, the truth is I don’t actually remember what I wrote verbatim, except of course for the most salient parts of my letter to Jeff. But I can paraphrase — so just work with me for a few minutes. After all, this was over twenty years ago.

I have enjoyed getting to know you and hanging out with you this semester. The problem is, sometimes I think maybe I like you more than I should. Sorry if it is awkward or uncomfortable for you to hear this, but I thought I should tell you what I’ve been thinking.

Nothing has to change between us at all as far as I’m concerned, but if you feel uncomfortable being around me after I’ve told you this I will totally understand. I guess I just wanted to say something to you because sometimes I think maybe you could feel the same way, but maybe I’m totally off base.

Anyway, I hope to talk to you more about this soon. If you would like to, that is.



I let the letter sit in an unsealed envelope in my top dresser drawer for a few days while I worked up the nerve to give it to Jeff. I already knew I would have to hand deliver the letter rather than leave it in his student P.O. box, since in those days the boxes were not private at all – no locks, and multiple students sharing one box. And since there were well more than one Henderson on campus, it would have been easy for the wrong person to intercept and open the letter.

So I waited until the following Friday when, as usual, I could drop by the snack bar toward the end of Jeff’s shift as per my weekly custom.

“Hey Jeff, how’s it going?” I said as I approached the snack counter on that fateful Friday, trying to act as if I were not about to reach down into my stomach with my bare hands and rip out my intestines.

“Hey Tom, not much, what’s up with you? Want to hang out when I get off?”

“Yeah Jeff, that sounds great!” I’ve always been good with the fake enthusiasm in times of crisis. So I stood next to the snack counter while Jeff closed up, and probably talked his ear off about God-knows-what until he had his coat on. When we exited the building into the cold night, Jeff turned to me and asked what the plan was.

“Actually Jeff, now that I think about it, I’m kind of tired and I think I might need to go back to my room and crash. Is that ok?”

“Yeah, sure Tom, whatever you want.”

“Great. Oh, Jeff, here is something I wrote that I want you to read if you don’t mind. Can you read this and not show anyone else?”

“Um.yeah, Tom…is something the matter?”

“No, everything’s cool. So just read it and don’t show it to anyone, ok? Talk to you later!” I couldn’t bear to say another word so I quickly turned and walked away, not looking back for a second. When I turned the corner around the building and became sure I was no longer in Jeff’s line of vision, I started to run as fast as I could toward my dorm.

“I CANNOT BELIEVE I JUST DID THAT” was all I could think. My mind raced ten times as fast as my legs, and I felt like I was going to throw up.

————————to be continued——————————