Babies Got Sauced

Dear Drunk Twenty-One Year-Olds On The Subway,  There are certain ground rules that should probably be followed if you live in a city and you’re a woman–particularly if you’re a young, attractive woman. They are as follows:  

  1. Do not talk to strange men on the subway at midnight.
  2. Do not tell strange men on the subway that you’re drunk (and if you can hide the fact, do your best). 
  3. Do not tell strange men on the subway where you’re getting off the train. 
  4. Do not tell strange men on the subway how many drinks you’ve had and what they were. 
  5. Do not suck on a lollipop, of any shape, size, or flavor, in front of strange men on the subway at midnight. 
  6. Most importantly, DO NOT, under any circumstances, tell strange men on the subway that the reason you’re so wasted is because you just came from a sex toy party. EVER. Got it?  

The fact that there were three of you only makes it more enticing, as I doubt any one of you had the alacrity to avoid an oncoming turtle or the dexterity to tie your own shoe. It’d be like those bad running dreams, where your feet are full of lead…  I hope you got home safely. And I hope that in the morning you remember what you did, tell the story to someone else, and they slap you until the dumb comes out your ears.  

  • Sincerely,The Voice of Reason  
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The Steel-Toed Boot of Sadness

I’ve never been really excited about holidays. Not since I was a little kid and looking forward to getting big boxes of presents. Religion passed me by, and I’ve always had a small family, which is perpetually shrinking, and has shrunk now to the point that the people I consider my family are not even related to me in the technical sense. It’s not just Christmas, either. Growing up, I never had a Valentine, and half of the kids in my class didn’t even give me the ones they gave everyone. As an adult, I’ve only been in a relationship at Valentine’s Day twice, and both times were rocky. So Valentine is out, Santa is out. I object to the celebration of Christopher Columbus’s men giving a bunch of Native Americans small pox, so Columbus Day is out. Aside from the fun of using explosives, the Fourth of July is out. I suppose what’s left is Halloween, Thanksgiving (which I celebrate merely for the gluttony), and April Fool’s Day.

Christmas is particularly hard. When I was living in California, I either didn’t celebrate it at all, or I celebrated it by drinking. It seems as though the past few years when I’ve been home, the drinking has followed me. This year, I have to do my best not to turn Christmas into a full-blown, sloppy whiskey jag. In the words of a dear friend, I want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me.

There are multiple reasons that I dislike Christmas, some deep and some shallow. There’s the obvious sadness that accompanies a holiday that’s bookended with tragedy–my mother’s anniversary is January 9th; my dad died the day before Thanksgiving. There’s the feeling of an ever-shrinking family, the loneliness of surviving, the feeling that survival coupled with such intense loneliness is not survival at all. There’s the cold, and the horrendous bells, and the terrible commercials, and the commercialism, and the awful combination of red and green. There’s the theory that if you’re not well-behaved you’ll get nothing, which in my experience has proven just the opposite. There’s the smell of cinnamon, which makes my nose itch, and the knowledge that my favorite thing about Christmas–egg nog–will very rapidly increase the size of my posterior. There’s the memory of my mother slipping me slightly-spiked egg nog when I was ten, which reminds me of the first time my father gave me a beer, which reminds me how happy he was when I threw him that 50th birthday party, which reminds me that he just barely made it to 60, which makes me want to hurl myself off of something tall just so that I’ll feel enough pain to actually cry.


I haven’t bought most of my Christmas presents yet. I’m broke, and I hate shopping, and every time I go near a mall I have to restrain myself from bashing the bell-ringer (there is a less obnoxious way to do that, I’m sure of it). Most of all, though, the reason I’ve put it all off is because every time I’ve attempted, I find a dozen things I want to buy for my Dad. I want to get him something that will make him smile like the surprise party did, like the iPod I got him for Father’s Day did, like every semester I made the Dean’s List did. But it won’t work. I could spend a thousand bucks on things he’d love and I’d still have no one to give them to. I can make a hundred people smile, but it will never be his smile, and it will never make me feel the way it made me feel to see that he knew that I loved him, and he felt appreciated, and he was proud of me.

A year ago, maybe two, I talked with a good friend of mine about going to Mexico for Christmas, just us girls. It was to be an escape from family, a voluntary excusing of ourselves from the drama and bullshit. I wish that was what I was doing this Christmas. But it wouldn’t be an escape from family this time. It would be an escape from the steel-toed boot that’s been kicking me in the chest every five minutes for almost a month.

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Tonight, it was proven to me why I want to move back to Martha’s Vineyard, at least for a while. For the past week or so, two of my good friends have been organizing a benefit concert and dinner to raise money to help me pay for my father’s services and expenses. It’s something my friends did on their own, from finding bands to play for free, to booking the space, to organizing people to bring food and serve it. The newspapers offered free ads, a local cornware merchant donated plates and cups and plasticware, the radio station advertised, a bunch of people stayed afterward to clean… the outpouring of generosity was astounding. 

More people came to the show than I could ever have expected, and the benefit raised over 1900 dollars. Because I don’t feel right about taking the money outright, I’m going to donate a matching amount back to the community, after his estate is settled, in the form of a Scholarship Fund in my dad’s name for high school students who want to pursue metal working.

 I’m completely overwhelmed with gratitude and a sense of community–this wouldn’t happen anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I don’t really know what to say, except Thanks, Martha’s Vineyard–Thank you for caring, and for remembering my Dad so fondly. Even if I only end up staying a month or two and leaving in the spring, I’ll know what it was that brought me back, and will continue to bring me back throughout my life. The Vineyard, as twisted and backwards as it can be at times, has a firm grasp on what it means to be a community. This island helps its own, without asking why, and every one of its children is raised by a lot more than a village. Even when you leave for years, it will remember you, and it will be there when you need it to be. Thanks again, islanders. I won’t forget to give back.

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On The Corpulence Of Santa Claus and Other Social Problems

My friend Mike, a close friend of my dad’s who later became a close friend of mine, looks like a member of ZZ Top. He’s got a long white beard and a long white ponytail and he rides a Harley. He’s a Harley mechanic, actually.

Due to his natural resemblance to the Jolly One, Mike’s been playing Santa Claus at his church for the past few years. This year, he was asked to ride a motorcycle dressed as Santa for the local Harley Riders chapter’s annual Toys For Tots run–a look that was perfected by the Santa hat sewn on outside his helmet and the dark black ZZ-esque shades he wore. There was a photographer on the run with us, and he took a picture of Santa Mike with a horde of bikes behind him that ended up on the front page of the Calendar section in the local newspaper (I was on the run with another friend, and although we were in the picture–my very bundled-up face and the side of my friend’s helmet–we were so teeny tiny you’d only know it was us if you’d been there). The people who organize the annual arrival of “Santa” on the ferry in Vineyard Haven happened to see the picture, and as their usual Santa had fallen very ill, they called up Mike to see if he’d be willing to do the job. We spoke on the phone several days later.

People are real weird about Santa nowadays, he said. You know in Australia, Santa’s not supposed to say “Ho Ho Ho” because it’s sexist, or degrading to hos, or something. So everyone who plays Santa in Australia is supposed to say “Ha Ha Ha” instead.

And now the Surgeon General says that Santa can’t be fat, Mike said. Apparently it’s misleading to children to present such a positive role model as being obese. So that’s the reason American kids are fat. I always thought it was the fact that there’s a fast food restaurant on every corner and a big screen TV with 500 channels in every living room in the country. Boy was I wrong.

First there were the worries about inappropriate touching (“Okay kiddo, I hope you’ve got good balance because I can’t put my hand on your back to hold you up, I might get arrested”). Then there was the trouble with Hos in Australia (“G’day, Little Dibbie. What’s that? You wunt a paony? Ha Ha Ha!”). Now, Santa’s not even allowed to be round. What’s next, PETA claiming that it’s unethical for Santa to use reindeer to drive his sleigh, or the American Association of Little People protesting the use of the term “elf”?

This is an imaginary character, people. An imaginary big fat man in a fuzzy white suit, who smokes a pipe (or at least he used to when I was a kid, I’m sure the pipe was nixed sometime in the 90s) and rides around the entire world in the span of 24 hours, managing to climb down the chimneys of 6 billion houses–a character sketch which completely explains why most people cease to believe he exists by the age of five. So what’s the big deal? Isn’t there something more important the Surgeon General could be worrying about?

Leave Santa alone, for fuck’s sake. And if someone is willing to put on a terrible, itchy, silly-looking suit for three hours and play pretend so that a bunch of kids can pee on him and yank his beard and spit in his face and walk away convinced that Christmas is something to look forward to, then damn it, leave that person alone, too. We’re raising such a cynical, superficial generation of kids that Santa Claus will probably be obsolete in ten years anyway.

Besides, a skinny Santa would be really, really creepy.

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Freedom Disguised As An Excuse

For the past several years, I have wanted to move back to the West Coast. I kept telling myself, and other people, that the reason I did not was because my father was here, and he didn’t want me to be so far away. This reasoning became ever stronger when he became sick last March. I will not leave my Dad, I said. But who knows how long that will keep me here?

 With the terribly premature passing of my Dad last week (I thought we had years left, maybe decades–they said they’d get him a liver, and they lied), I inherited a bunch of stuff. I am now the proud owner of a house in the middle of a town I’ll never have a desire to live in (and my father knew this–he wanted me to use it as collateral to buy my own home, which I will do). I also own a grey minivan that I’ll probably never use as my own because it’s so old and run down that it only makes sense for a gearhead like my dad to own. I’ve got a half-built hot rod, and a shop full of incredibly cool tools I don’t know how to use (but hopefully will someday), and a cherry red 1953 GMC 630 semi with a white Coke-bottle stripe that’s fully restored. And a decent chunk of change, too, the amount of which I will not specify.

 And I have the freedom to go wherever I want to go, without feeling guilty about it, or missing the most important person in my life. Because the most important person in my life is gone.

 And I thought about it, too. Years ago, before he got sick, I thought to myself, when he goes, I’ll be able to go wherever I want without getting lectured about being a bad daughter. If only I could bitch slap the face of my old self now. Oh, how stupid I was, and so willing to take for granted that he’d always be there. Sometimes desire can be a truly terrible thing; can make us think of things we should never think of.

 Nevertheless, I have the freedom now. I can go wherever I want–New Zealand, Europe, California–and I’ve chosen to go home. Back to the place I came from. I’ve chosen instead of running away to some glorious faroff place to return to the tiny island that spat me out all those years ago.

 There are some who think that I’m using my father’s death as an excuse to make a foolish and un-thought-out decision. That I’m going to drop out of school and be absorbed by the island, transformed instantaneously into a lazy, pot-smoking Island-duh, and that I’ll never leave again, never get anything accomplished.

 It couldn’t be much farther from the truth.

 For the first time since I left home in 1997, when I was 18, I realize what made my parents move there and raise a child in the first place. Although my father later became embittered with the forces that were acting upon our tiny island and left it, he could never say that the magic was completely gone. There is a community aspect of living in so small and isolated a place that’s hard to achieve anywhere else. And not only are the people on the island familiar and isolated, they’re smart (most of them, anyway). And they’re artistic.

I’m not going home to hide out, or to escape my demons. I’m going home in search of something I think I may only find there–solace. I’m going for the trees and the ocean, and the deep dark of the winter night sky. I’m going for friendly games of wine-infused Scrabble, and heaping pots of homemade chili. I’m going for the fresh-baked smell of pastries in coffee shops, and the knowledge that every door I walk through will reveal a face that I know. I’m going for free concerts by local musicians, and dinner parties that happen every week, and people who will band together with or without your consent and throw a benefit concert when your dad dies suddenly and you can’t afford to pay for a memorial service for him.

The things are mine, much as I wish I could trade them in for another day with my Dad. And they, too, mean freedom. Wheels to take me anywhere, if I want to go. A house to live in if I ever need a roof, or a rest. Something to show the bank when I want to buy my own home that I’m good for it. And a little money to help me along the way.

I want to believe that my father would have approved of my decision to move home. I’ve almost convinced myself that he would. What I do know for sure is that he would have believed I had the right to make my own decisions, and that if I’d taken the time to think them out, they were probably the right ones. The only time he ever told me not to move somewhere, my destination was Texas. He told me the whole 8 months that I was there that I had to pack up my duffel bags and get back on the bus and go back the way that I came–and he was right.

I’m not exercising excuses, I’m exercising freedom. And I’m using my freedom to stay nearby, and look for a quiet life instead of adventure. Dad, I hope you understand. Nobody else’s opinion even matters.

 I miss you, but if I can’t have you back, I’m grateful for the freedom.