Friday Five: The Person Who

  1. At a business establishment you patronize regularly, what might the employees refer to you as, when they speak of you behind your back? I don’t think I’m notable anywhere other than the store where Paul goes in Washington for Magic the Gathering cards, where I’m probably just known as his girlfriend who stands around and either waits for him or peruses the graphic novels and comics.
  2. Similarly, at your places of employment, current and/or past, what do either the patrons or brand-new employees who don’t remember your name yet probably refer to you as? At IYS, I’m probably just “the features editor.” No idea who I am at work.
  3. Aliens have come to earth to observe families and take notes. If each member of your family is listed as the one who __________, which are you? (bonus question: what are the others in your family written down as?) I’m the one who writes and is always on Tumblr and listening to music.
  4. You meet someone you had a crush on in high school, someone who didn’t know you felt that way (let’s say you meet him or her in the grocery store, and that the snow is falling Christmas Eve…). He or she doesn’t remember your name, but does remember you. How are you cataloged in this old crush’s memory? Probably as the goth/punk girl.
  5. If a hobby of yours were to have some kind of club, and if the other club members only knew you by your particular preferences, styles, or behaviors in that hobby, how would they refer to you? Let’s apply this to class workshops: I was the one who wrote about Fayette County.

As always, from Friday Five.

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Top 5 on Friday: Beach

Top 5 “Beach” songs

1. “Beach Baby” by The First Class ALWAYS. It’s the perfect beach song. It’s about beaches. It’s got “beach” in the title. It has a poppy sound, though admittedly not quite on the surf-rock side.
2. “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel Yeah, so, it’s not strictly a beach song and it’s probably not even a song I would throw on a playlist for the beach, but it involves the sea, so it counts. And it’s really pretty and I need more Neutral Milk Hotel in my life.
3. “Starships” by Nicky Minaj Yeah, sure, I’ll go to the beach and get away. And it helps to have a song that’s upbeat and catchy as hell when the beach is involved. Either that or something super relaxing.
4. “Beach” by San Cisco First of all, I’m really into San Cisco’s album. It’s got a great synth-heavy, new wave feel to it. This song doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do with beaches, but whatever.
5. “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones My kind of beach, although I can’t picture The Ramones on a beach in all that leash and denim.
As always, from the Music Memoirs.

Friday Five: What’s It Like?

  1. What’s the outgoing message on your voicemail like? I think it’s just a generic computerized voicemail thing.
  2. What’s the wallpaper on your computer like? Promo wallpaper with the cover art for Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
  3. What’s stuck to your fridge door? A few magnets–most notably Stephanie’s save-the-date from last year–a perfume coupon, and a to-do notepad I have never used.
  4. What’s your daily organizer like? I don’t have one. I use my phone’s calendar to tell me what to do in case I forget.
  5. What’s the signature on your personal emails like? I don’t have one, and I don’t know if I’d ever use one. I have no idea what I’d say.

Top 5 on Friday: Gone Too Soon

Top 5 artists that were taken from us too soon

 1. Buddy Holly “Elvis Presely was America’s rebound from Buddy Holly,” my brother once said when a musical debate erupted when a debate broke out over who was better. I laughed really, really hard before I agreed. Buddy Holly was more original and probably would’ve gone amazingly far in his career if he wouldn’t have died in that infamous plane crash. Oh, yeah, Buddy Holly was more influential, too–without Buddy Holly and the Crickets, you don’t have The Beatles. Who do you think inspired their original look and insect-like name? Also, I don’t feel right calling him either “Buddy” or “Holly” like I might with Elvis–it must be his full name, Buddy Holly.
2Freddie Mercury Always and forever. Queen is one of the greatest bands of all time and Freddie had one of the greatest voices of all time. And he may have been very private, but as far as we can tell, he was a genuine, kind-hearted man. Honestly, can you imagine what the state of the world and music industry might be if he were still alive?
3. John Lennon I mean, come on. He was murdered, for one thing, and his death came at a time when there was talk of Beatles reunions and reconciliation with his son Julian. Now, Julian’s tales of John as a father are why I can’t 100% jump on the John Lennon Peace and Love Bandwagon and see him as a bit of a hypocrite instead, but who knows what would’ve happened to The Beatles and what John would have to say about current events. Fortunately, Yoko Ono and their son, Sean, give us a pretty good idea.
4. George Harrison So George was older when he died, but Paul and Ringo are still going. You know George would’ve been. When George died, my proper Beatles introduction was still a few years away. Plus George seemed to be the one who truly practiced what he preached–his best friend and wife had an affair together and he forgave them both. I have a hard enough time about not still getting pissed off when I think about my friends being dicks last year, and that’s not even near the same level of dickery as an affair.
5. Johnny Cash Really, I didn’t get into Johnny Cash until relatively recently, so it would’ve been nice to appreciate him when he was still around. I hope heaven is just amazing concerts with amazing dead musicians. But don’t tell my Aunt Vicky because she’ll say, “Really? That’s what you expect?” And yes, she actually said those words to me once.

Friday Five: The Grass Is Always Greener

  1. What’s something non food-related you have to go to a nearby town to do because the town where you live doesn’t have it? Frozen yogurt. I either have to go into the city or back home to Fayette County for it, which is weird.
  2. What’s something you go to a nearby town to do because your town’s version of it isn’t as good? I haven’t eaten any sushi in Washington yet, but I go home and have it. I also travel a little to do my shopping–we have a mall, but I’ve never been there. I go to the outlets or South Hills or just Pittsburgh. I was on a whole quest on Record Store Day in the city.
  3. What’s something people in nearby towns come to your town to do? The outlets! We also have a casino and racetrack, and around here, it’s either Washington, Pittsburgh, or the new one at Nemacolin, but you have to pay to get in.
  4. In what way are residents of a nearby town different from residents in your town? It depends on where you are because a lot of Pennsylvania towns are close to farm towns if they’re not one themselves. So I’d say Washington’s in the middle where you’ve got farmers nearby but also the city slickers in Pittsburgh.
  5. Many towns give themselves nicknames, like “______ Capital of America” or “America’s ___________est Town” or “Home of __________.” What would be a good nickname along these lines to give the town where you live? I don’t know enough about Washington to say, but we are called Little Washington or WashPA. My hometown’s longstanding nickname is perfect, though–Fayettenam.

Here’s Another List of Fun Stuff I’ve Done

  • Went out to wing night with Terra, Scott, and his friends, which was basically a fun trip of Scott and his friends amassing large piles of bones and Terra and I bullshitting and eating not wings. We’re both vegetarians. She’s the only solidarity I have in that.
  • Leah had a purse party for Thirty-One. I’ve concluded that a rite of passage for female adults is attending some sort of party where overpriced merchandise is sold and you buy some because you’ll feel bad if you don’t. That said, I did get a bag and matching wristlet I legitimately really like, especially considering I’ve been wanting a wristlet for a really long time and couldn’t find one I liked that wasn’t an even more overpriced Vera Bradley. This is also notable because it was the only Vera Bradley pattern I’ve ever liked. I’ll probably never find it again.
  • Paul’s company picnic was at Kennywood, which was a good time. We took Jonathan so he could hang out with one of Paul’s coworker’s kids, and they annihilated the arcade all day while Paul and I enjoyed the park and free lunch…
  • …And then we went to a Greek Orthodox church near where I work for their annual Greek food festival, and it was probably the best decision we ever made as a couple. If we get married, that food festival will be better than marriage. It was amazing. We had spanakopita, salad, baklava, grape leaves, gyros, and meatballs–which I even had a taste of (I’m hesitant but willing to at least taste meat products from other cultures because I think the experience is important). My only regret is that we didn’t go sooner–like, the first day. I could’ve had takeout feasts for lunch at work every day. Meanwhile, all the people were amazingly nice, and the whole atmosphere was so much different from the Catholic food-related fundraisers he and I are used to. The church was packed, they were playing loud, upbeat music, and people were dancing outside. That night, we rejoiced and made a pact to move to Greece when we’re rich writers.
  • My apartment is gradually being taken over by my recycling. The building itself doesn’t recycle, so I need to take it somewhere. If I’m back home, the recycling place closes at like 3:30 on weekdays and isn’t open on weekends. Usually, my best bet is to take it to this place in Pittsburgh when I’m in the city or to a place near work and my apartment but out of the way enough for it to not be worth it to do on my daily commute home.
  • Kelly turned 21, so we made an attempt to go out on the South Side. Problem is my brother, for some reason, insists on getting out here way early, and since he picked up Paul and Paul is on night shift, Paul was tired as hell and started falling asleep after dinner on our side shopping trip. True love is wanting to go get drunk (actually, it was more likely I’d have a couple then have to take one for the time and DD) but taking your boyfriend home to sleep instead. We picked up some beer and wine coolers at the six-pack shop near my apartment. Sometimes, living within walking distance of a college campus is awesome.
  • I turned 24! I had my birthday dinner at Shogun and got some pretty fun presents. Highlights are an upgraded iPhone from my family (but mostly my mom, let’s be real) and a signed copy of Neil Gaiman’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, from Paul–it was the only thing I asked for and the only time I’ve actually told him something when he asked what to get me. Kimmie declared him a keeper immediately.
  • We had a going-away party for Marion, who is now living in Phoenix. It was Fayette County-themed, which turned out amazing and was a good time. Paul and I didn’t stay the night, but we hung out and drank for a while and had a good time. Best of luck to Marion!
  • My car needed fixed. It was expensive, but my mom paid for it and my car feels practically new–or it would if I would clean it.
  • Duke had cataract surgery, had a cone on his head, and couldn’t be left alone, so when he was cleared by his vets, we went on a belated-birthday trip to the casino. I love playing those slots. I didn’t win,  but I didn’t burn through all of my gambling money, either, which is looking like it’s a trend with me. I suspect this is because I spend most of my time playing the Wizard of Oz slots until I start losing, and they do well enough to at least keep me playing.
  • One of my writing professors, Lori Jakiela, had a launch with her husband for hew new book, The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious. She’s awesome and you should read her stuff. She taught me (almost) everything I know about writing. She’s also a super sweet person and wrote the nicest things in my book. It was awesome to see her again. Now, I haven’t read the book and if you saw the stack of books on my nightstand right now, you’d understand why. If I had a dollar for every time Paul sent me a new chapter of something he’s working on and anxiously asked if I read it yet, you’d understand why. But don’t be like me–read it! The night was also a great success in that it finally gave Paul a proper appreciation for memoir, although I still keep bugging him to finish the David Sedaris book I had him borrow. Like I said, I can’t talk–I’ve had his copy of Gaiman’s American Gods for a sufficiently long time, and if I finish Fountainhead before I die, I’ll be lucky, especially considering I hate it so much it might actually be what kills me.
  • Brandon and I went to see Jimmy Eat World on kind of a whim, and they were fantastic. They played a significant portion of Bleed American, which is a stellar album, so I was very happy. Of course, their new album is also very good, but shit, man, Bleed American.
  • Went to the family reunion without Brandon or any of the cousins, but I still had a good time. I actually kicked ass at bingo this year and won enough bath supplies that I shouldn’t actually need any until I win more at next year’s family reunion. I tried to make my bath pouf last until this year for that reason, actually. Meanwhile, Kimmie, my godmother, gave me advice on dealing with Paul’s mom since her mother-in-law is horrible. Her advice was basically stand up to her but Paul has to, too–otherwise, I’m just a bitch to her.
  • Went to St. Rita’s street fair to see Leah’s cousin’s band play, which was a good time but it was really crowded, so I abandoned my dream of fried dough.
  • Paul finally got a car! It’s a nice Nissan Rogue, which is a good compromise between something big he can fit in and something small that’s good on gas mileage. I really like it. It rides nice and came with a free year of satellite radio. He’s been discovering lots of cool bands on it, which goes something like, “Hey, Janelle, have you heard of this band?” “Yes, Paul. When I was 15.” The car is also making things easier relationship-wise–we’ve been in a rough patch since just after my birthday, a lot of it having to do with his mom, so the car means I save time by not having to drive him when we go out, I save gas money by not having to make multiple trips or go out of my way, and I save sanity because I don’t have to encounter his mother much at all. In fact, if nothing is going on back in the Nam, I stay at my apartment, he comes over, and I don’t have to deal with anyone’s bullshit. Win/win.
  • Saw Pacific Rim. 
  • Brandon and Kelly got in a car accident in Lancaster visiting Kelly’s family. They’re both fine aside from his bruised knee and her concussion and her grandma being really difficult about it on a level similar to Paul’s mom, but Kelly’s car is not fine–totaled, and she just bought it in March. They went looking for a new one the other day.
  • I went on some little shopping trips last week to get birthday presents for Meri, Paul, and Terra. I was also successful in finding presents for myself. Getting out for a few hours on my own was nice, too.
  • Saw Suavity’s Mouthpiece this past Friday, which was a good time, as always. Justin’s new song, “UPMC Mercy,” is the best he’s written.
  • Paul turned 23! We went to Steel City Con again, lunch at the Green Mango, my new favorite Thai place, and made a stop for beer and wine coolers again at the six-pack shop. An employee declared us his favorite couple because of Paul’s Captain America shirt and my Crow shirt.
  • Went to his church picnic Sunday.
  • Worked all week.

Family Drinking Games

When I was a teenager, I had this red shirt that said “Dysfunctional” in black script. Uncle Clark hated it, and Uncle Clark hated whenever anyone would call that side of the family–his and my dad’s–dysfunctional, no matter how true it was. I mean, the dysfunction goes back far. There’s rumors my great-grandmother dabbled in prostitution. She was also married three times and allegedly paid more attention to her husband than my young grandfather, who grew up to be a pathological liar and cheated on my grandmother more than once. He favored my Uncle Eric, for some reason, and squabbles between the three siblings–mostly Uncle Eric against my dad and Uncle Clark–went on all through my childhood, the most notable one having something to do with losing heat every single winter in the house we shared with my grandfather, which also had Uncle Eric’s name on the deed, even though he moved around with the military a lot. I always get the details messed up, but I think the problem was my mom could’ve had someone out to fix the furnace the night it went out but he was refusing because of a warranty with Sears, who couldn’t fix it that night and gave us tiny space heaters to heat a big-ass, three-story old house that I believe they then made us pay for. Uncle Eric said if my mom called anyone else out to fix it, he’d call a lawyer, so she told him he’d better be prepared to pay for any medical bills should any of us get sick in single-digit temperatures without heat.

At some point, he apologized and they mostly decided to put their differences aside, except for when we’d go to the house after we moved out when I was 13 and they moved in some time later and my parents would complain about them and the changes they made to what was basically a historic, well-known house in the area. I don’t think it’s as bad as my parents think it is, but ripping our original fireplaces and gold molding was probably not smart, especially since my aunt did it herself.

Now, enough time has passed that I can let past transgressions go, but the problem is that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my dad’s side of the family is full of raging assholes, and they’re like that–possibly even worse–now.

Uncle Clark has been struggling for some time both financially and emotionally. The story is he took a huge pay cut after 9/11 and has had somewhat frequent medical problems since, which either caused or contributed to depression. Now, although my dad believes depression in the chemical-imbalance sense is legitimate, he must not think his brother is actually suffering from that, even when all signs point to it, because when Uncle Clark calls upset, my dad is just a dick to him, if he even answers the phone at all.

Uncle Clark’s money troubles are to the point that we suspect something bigger is going on, most likely an alcohol problem. Even when someone helps him out, he doesn’t seem to pay his mortgage, which he claims is the biggest problem. Attempts to get answers haven’t gotten very far, but then again, I don’t think anyone is trying very hard. After all, not only does my dad rarely answer the phone, but Uncle Eric and my grandfather don’t, either, and those of us who have pity on him are suckers.

Uncle Clark is my godfather. He spoiled me when I was little and he could afford it. I rarely ask for advice, but he’s offered up gems, like when I started college: watch out for my female friends at parties, don’t leave an open drink unattended, “And when the time comes, young lady, use a condom!” And my dad and I may not get along, but when he deployed for Iraq, Uncle Clark came over from the other side of the state, sat Brandon and I down separately to talk to us, made sure we were okay, and made sure we knew we had him if we needed anything. Uncle Eric never said anything from the other side of the county. Uncle Clark is my Sirius Black.

I get defensive when the rest of the family complains about Uncle Clark–he’s been there and made an effort. They haven’t. And beyond that, it’s basic human decency. Something is obviously wrong, but rather than try to figure out what that is or try to help him, they complain about him, ignore him, and talk about him. At least they admit this: someone went so far as to say if not for him, they’d have nothing to talk about. That’s only half true because they’d still be able to bitch about how Obama is ruining the country and I’m liberal scum who voted for him, but that leads into a whole separate drinking game we made for when my dad is on the phone with Pap Pap. (My favorite rule ever: one drink if my dad says, “I didn’t vote for Obama,” two if he adds, “Janelle did,” finish the drink if I’m home and yell, “TWICE, AND I’D DO IT AGAIN, TOO!” Which happened before we made these rules.)

Meanwhile, Uncle Eric’s wife, my Aunt Vicky, is on Facebook. She goes through spurts where she’ll be silent, then she’ll go on commenting sprees where she has something to say about everything. Paul declared her the most annoying person on Facebook just after seeing one of her comments, and I declared her horrible after she commented on a status about one of my paternal grandfather’s funniest anecdotes and how I hope heaven is him telling that story on a loop. She said, “Really? That’s what you expect?”

All this to say I was not looking forward to a family get-together for Memorial Day/my grandfather’s birthday, and neither was the rest of my family. So we made a drinking game. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the full rules, but they were basically along the lines of drink when someone pisses you off, twice if it’s Aunt Vicky.

I’d made up my mind that when they inevitably started on Uncle Clark, I’d nicely tell them they’re all assholes and remind them that that’s my godfather they’re talking about, who’s done a hell of a lot me for me–and other people–than any of them ever had. Fortunately, it never got to that point, but enough was said that I was able to get in a few not-so-subtle digs about how they’d better all hope they never need to call me for help.

And as for the drinking game, I didn’t play because they only had beer, which I’m not a fan of, but I caught my mom and Brandon exchanging very meaningful glances and taking swigs.