Happiness and Age As A Choice

Revisiting a moment from last year’s blog:

Things I’m happy to be too old for:

– Skinny jeans
– The terms “BAE” and “Fleek”
– Breaking up with someone on Facebook
– Men with more expensive earrings than me
– “Teen Mom”
– Smart cars
– Music videos with naked people in them
– Fake eyelashes
– Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber
– Swiping left
– Ridiculously padded undergarments

Things I’m sad to be too old for:

– American Idol auditions
– Noah Syndergaard
– My size 3 black corduroys from 1987
– Making my kids’ Halloween costumes
– Ditto their birthday party favors
– Slam dancing
– A cute little two-piece swim suit
– Spiked heel platforms
– Summer break
– Day camp
– Bowie’s next birthday celebration

Things I’ll never be too old for:

– Harry Potter
– Disney parks
– The swingset in my backyard
– Chocolate anything
– Star Wars toys
– Perfume that smells like lemons
– Tossing my hair
– Eating only the frosting off the cupcake
– Clearasil, apparently
– Pink lip gloss
– Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
– Talking baby talk to the cats
– The Flintstones
– Dr. Seuss

Quarters With The Chippendales

Quarters With the Chippendales

chipp pic

I see the Chippendales dancers are doing a tour this year, including in my home town. I guess we have “Magic Mike” to thank for dredging back up the franchise; I thought they were defunct for a while.

I have a Chippendales story.

My first job out of college, I worked in Manhattan as a researcher with a major entertainment company. It was a lousy, entry-level job that only sounded exciting. There was one definite perk, though:  I constantly received postcards from city venues advertising special pricing and parties and such.

My buddy Sharon worked across the hall from me in the file room.  She lived in Jackson Heights, right over the 59th Street Bridge, and she owned a little Jeep. And oh yeah—Sharon was gorgeous, and boy-crazy, and never said no to anything. Like I explained in the story about the bass player, since going out in the city was a complex and often dangerous undertaking for young women, we had a pact:  Whenever one of us wanted to go somewhere, the other would agree to do it with them. It was the buddy system.

We were symbiotic:  I shared my special-event invitations; Sharon provided transportation home and let me stay the night at her house. I provided the classy Long Island college girl vibe; she delivered the Queens there’s-nothing-I-won’t-try bravado.

A postcard arrived on my desk for special admission to the Chippendales show.quarters 1

We got there early and claimed a decent table by the show floor. A shirtless guy in a bow tie, white cuffs, and black spandex pants introduced himself as Steven Our Waiter. He had Italian looking hair and nice cheek bones, but was kind of boyish compared to the dancers advertised on the billboards, and was not much taller than me. Sharon was immediately smitten, and started ordering glasses of wine like crazy.

Steven appeared and disappeared at our table throughout the show, as various dancers did their schticks, sometimes backed by a chorus of other guys. One guy was the fireman, one was the cowboy, one was the businessman, one was a cop… it was like the Village People on Broadway. There were about six different acts from individual guys, leading up to the Finale Guy, who slid all over a motorcycle seat in a g-string while colored lights splashed on him like an AC/DC concert.

Once the show was finished, the women were let loose on the floor to dance off their energies for another hour. The male dancers stayed around to take photos with the patrons; the line was an hour long. Sharon and I skipped the photograph, but did our share of dancing and drinking and hollering.

Late in the night, she took me aside. Steven Our Waiter stood behind her.

“Steven’s done with his shift,” she said to me. “We’re gonna take a walk.”
“A walk?” I said. “It’s 2:00 a.m.”
“Then maybe we’ll drive around.”

It did not escape me why she was going off with Steven. She had a habit of showing up somewhere with one person and leaving with another, never to return.

“Sharon, in your Jeep?” She didn’t have one of those big Jeeps with storage capacity and sturdy sides and such. She had a Suzuki Samurai, a two-seater with zip-up plastic sides. It was almost a golf cart.

“You’re leaving me here?” I said. “By myself?”

“We won’t be long.”

I knew there was no stopping Sharon when she wanted to … take a walk. There’s no way she was going to pass up the opportunity to get with a guy from Chippendales.

“I swear to God, you better come back,” I said. Although she lived right over the bridge, I didn’t. I lived at the outer edge of Queens, one of the very last numbered streets in the borough. 262nd Street in Floral Park. It was a distance no cab would travel from Manhattan. If you could even find one at that hour.

Half an hour, I promise,” she said. Shirtless Steven loomed in the background.

Then they were gone.

I downed another couple of drinks at our table and listened to the music. An hour went by, me looking rather pathetic at a table by myself, watching a bunch of screaming, jazzed-up women decimate the dance floor.

The line to take photos with the dancers started to wane. An MC announced they were closing. Sharon was still nowhere to be seen. In an era before cell phones, this was a problem.

Never has a woman felt so awkward as to find herself alone at a table in the middle of the Chippendales Club at 3:00 a.m. When almost everyone else in the place has cleared out. And you have no way home.

A couple of dancers paced by, giving me suspicious looks. Finally I flagged down one of the more sympathetic-looking guys, who had obviously been wondering what my problem was. He was not one of the headline dancers, but I recognized him from the show.

“I’m looking for a waiter named Steven,” I said. “He took off with my friend, and she’s my ride home. Does anybody know how to track him down?”

Close-up, the dancer guy seemed much older than I originally thought, maybe in his thirties, which when I was 22 seemed like a much more functional adult than I would ever be. Still, he was hardly wearing clothing.

“That’s so Steven,” he said. He sounded like any old Joe I might meet at work. I don’t know why I expected him to have some deep resounding voice, or a Mediterranean accent.

“Yeah, and that’s so Sharon,” I said. They were meant for each other. “I’m a little worried. I live practically on Long Island, so I don’t know what I’m gonna do if they don’t come back.”

“Wait here,” the guy said. “I’ll see if anyone knows how to find him.”

I thanked him profusely. He disappeared into some backstage area. Dancers and waiters had been milling in and out, some of them back into jeans and regular shirts. Once the guys determined I wasn’t a stalker, several of them stopped to say they were sorry to hear I got stranded at their club. By one of their waiters, yet.

The original guy—let’s call him Dan—came back out and sat with me. He had changed into street wear.

“Steven’s clothes and his keys are still in his locker, so he’ll probably be back here tonight,” said Dan.

“God, I hope so.”

“He’s going to get an earful when he does,” Dan said. “But don’t worry. We’ll stay here with you until those two show up. We don’t want you hanging around alone on the street at this hour.”

“You guys don’t know how much I appreciate this,” I said. “You’re much nicer than I would have guessed.”

“What were you expecting?” Dan laughed. “We’re pretty ordinary. Half these guys are a mess. See Charlie over there, with the long hair?”
“Yeah.” Charlie’s hair was rather lovely.
Plugs,” Dan said.

I laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Not at all. He’s a huge drama boy.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely. And Tom who did the routine with the fire hose?”

“Yeah?”

“He’s forty-six.”

“No way!”

“Yeah. Married with four kids.”

“Anything else I should know?”

“Can you keep your mouth shut?” He leaned in. “Did you see Mark, with the motorcycle?”

“You couldn’t miss Mark with the motorcycle,” I said.

“Did you notice that scar across his glute?”

“I don’t like to stare …” I said.

Dan whispered… “His girlfriend cut him.”

“Holy shit, really?”

“You better not breathe a word of this to anyone,” he said. “I’ll probably get fired if you do.”

I crossed my heart.  “Not a word. As long as you don’t toss me out on the street.”quarters 1

After another ten minutes with no Steven or Sharon, I had a whole table of Chippendales drinking a round of shift beers with me. The lights went up in the place, which then looked like a banal warehouse, with lunch tables and a railed-off wooden floor in the middle.

When Sharon finally strolled in, she found me and the guys in the middle of a rousing game of quarters, hooting and hollering. Just me and the Chippendales, 45 minutes after closing the place down.

I was so effing pissed at her.

 

 

 

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I’m Going Like This

I’m Going Like This

My husband does this thing. I tend to rush around my bedroom, jumping into clothes and multitasking, trying to accomplish some task and get clothed simultaneously. Sometimes I do this while conducting a business conversation via phone. As he sees me frenzying around, talking technology PR in a blouse and no pants, he invariably points and says, “You going like that?”

I drop what I’m doing and say, “Yes. I’m going like this.”

He and I will often conduct full conversations about our household as we change to go out somewhere, clothes flying. As I pull off a pair of jeans to transition to a different outfit, John stops mid-sentence and says, “You don’t have to get that excited.”

I do a happy dance about whatever ridiculously banal item we’re discussing.

After multiple years of this, I have gotten the hang of it. When his business line bounces to his cell phone too early in the morning and he hops out of bed to answer it, I mouth to him, “You goin’ like that?”

He silent-laughs at me.

Someday, he says, when we die, they should bury us together. Naked. And our headstones will read:

“THEY WENT LIKE THIS.”

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Winner:  First Place, Non-Fiction category in the Pennwriter’s Conference Flash Fiction “In Other Words” competition, 2016

ethereal-smoke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Message from Jason, 9/11

A MESSAGE FROM JASON, ALL RIGHT

I am a huge fan of Guideposts. Yet I’m not a huge fan of eNewsletters.  You’d never know this, because I receive an electronic heap of them per day. SmartBriefs, trade newsletters, Chicken Soup newsletters since I am a former contributor, spam eNewsletters … up the wazoo.  So many go unopened that a majority now end up in my spam file. I’ve been too distracted to go into them and unsubscribe.

A Guideposts eNewsletter appeared in my spam file yesterday.

Eh, I thought. Maybe I’ll read one today.

I clicked on “This is not spam.” The newsletter moved to my inbox.

THE STORY WAS ABOUT MY COUSIN.

My cousin Jason DeFazio worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, he was 29 years-old.  He had gotten married three months before. Much of mjason micheley mother’s family was at his wedding, laughing and celebrating with him. On September 11th, his wedding pictures hadn’t even come back from the photographer yet.

The last his mother (my mom’s first cousin Roseann) heard from him, he was in a stairwell.

That was all.

His family held a service for him in October.  Around the room, his wedding photos were displayed in frames on bakers racks. “This is all I have of him now,” Roseann said to me as she walked me through the sets of portraits. She had nothing to bury. She didn’t receive a physical scrap of him back. This is difficult for an Italian family. We want visceral closure, backed with physicality. We want something and somewhere to visit, to pay our respects.

I held Roseann’s hand. I wanted to repay her. I hadn’t spent a lot of time with her family in Staten Island, but almost 15 years before, my aunt had died of Lupus. Still a teenager, and one who identified fiercely with my Aunt Joanne, I was devastated enough to develop allergy symptoms that mimicked her disease, which continued for months to come.  Roseann came out to Long Island for the funeral and held my hand. She told me stories about when she, Joanne and my mother were girls. She stood in my grandmother’s basement and took my mother’s hand and tap danced on the concrete floor like they did when they were kids in dance class, and made my mother laugh. It made me feel like my beautiful aunt would not be forgotten, did not go into the ether. Note, that “Chicken Soup for the Soul” contribution I mentioned was about my aunt.

Right now, I don’t feel like being eloquent. I feel like figuring out what this is supposed to mean. I Google Jason’s name and see a plethora of photographs of him that make me cry, even though he was not a cousin that I spent time with. It still makes me want to repay Roseann more. Like the world owes her more.

The crux of the newsletter was that Roseann was receiving messages from Jason. I can’t help but wonder what message I was meant to discern when I randomly rescued an item from a spam file that turned out to be a posting about my own relative. Except that maybe I should write about him.

This is the story Guideposts sent around:

A Message of Comfort from a Loved One Lost on 9/11Marquee_GreenAngel

 

 

 

I Promised I’d Be Funny – The London Subway Platform

I Promised I’d Be Funny – Part 1

The London Subway Platform

I started this blog wanting to just write and be entertaining… what happened there?

My daughter recently disparaged a rowdy group of singing fraternity brothers on a solemnly-themed attraction at Universal Studios, Orlando, at 10:00 a.m. I confessed: If it were me as a young person, that would have been the crew I walked in with. Guys who were clamorous and ridiculous, re-enacting “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure,” imitating Bugs Bunny, or reciting a Monty Python sketch verbatim.

I bulleted several of these wild-guy incidents as evidence, which involved:

1) Swinging from an elementary school flagpole
2) Leaning out the open door of a moving vehicle to yell at the driver behind us
3) Dropping a cooked chicken cutlet from a ski lift
4) Singing fight songs at full lung capacity on a London Underground platform at midnight.

south ken

*                      *                      *                      *

“I was going to call you,” Miles said when he picked up the phone. It was actually difficult to call me. I shared a single, card-operated phone with 70 people, located in the common room of a dorm. I mean a “flat,” as they called it in London. And his name was not actually Miles, but I’ll call him that for now. “You fancy going out with us Thursday?” (Men in England say “fancy.” And it’s all good.)

My two drinking buddies Miles and Jon, members of a championship London Ultimate Frisbee team, planned to visit a pub only a few tube stops from the flats in Egerton Gardens, where the American students in my study abroad program lived. It was our last days before they were to kick us out; the semester was over. We were prepping to go home….

CONTENT FROM THIS ENTRY HAS BEEN TRANSFERRED TO MY NEW SERIES,

“A Run In My Tights”

ON THE LITERARY PLATFORM, “CHANNILLO.COM”

Take a read!

run

 

 

Immortalization vs. Exploitation

I realize here that I’ll be borrowing heavily from the lives of people I have cared about. People who entrusted themselves to me in the form of shared experiences that they at no time realized would be open for interpretation and repurposing years later. These people are still out there. And they did not opt-in to my projects.

Before Facebook and Google, it was all nice and neat and easy to forget that the people whose memories I plan to plunder are still functioning and in concrete existence. Now, with a keystroke or two, I can unearth evidence of their ongoing lives. It was easy ten years ago to think that people persisted only in my imagination, for the purpose of making me smile when recalling my history. They were memory-only, suitable for dredging up and reinventing on paper with a disguised name. Or to recreate, transmogrified and composited, sharing facets of a character that draws from several personalities—discrediting all of the source material in the process, as if each person were not whole enough on his or her own. Yet I spent decades learning and traveling and meeting people for the sake of discovering the secrets of the world, with the goal of building a base of experience wide enough to create a new universe of fiction, or creative non-fiction, on top of that.

I was always the type of person, somewhat like my children are now, who attracts others in need of empathy and guidance to support all their dire, f**ked-up idiosyncrasies.

I was the girl that guys came to with confidences, allowing me to glimpse the misfit pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that contrasted with whatever they presented to rest of the world.

Those people innately knew I’d keep their secrets and love them anyway, smoothing over the jaggedness. And they graciously did the same for me.

Those are the moments and relationships I am passionate about. That’s what I want to capture. Yet I can’t help feeling this translates to some kind of betrayal that will necessitate forgiveness. There is a thin line between immortalizing these moments (I mean these people–friends, love interests and charges) and exploiting them. And I’m doing so in order to present a cathartic, authentic, emotionally valid piece of literature for public consumption. For art.

The difference may just depend upon their point of view. And their level of clemency.

To all those people:  I always knew this day was coming. You didn’t.

Forgive me.

College Outtakes

Tidbits from Sophomore Year Journal:
~ ~ ~
“I have nightmares about the weatherman not knowing the weather …
And my parents running away from home.”

~~~
John’s friend learned he was about to fail out of Carnegie Mellon.
He marched into the Dean’s office.

“This,” he said, “is the worst run country club I’ve ever been in!”

~ ~ ~
Late Night Return to Two Sets of Bunk Beds:

“Mo-Mo?”
“Yeah?”
“Is the bed spinning?”
“Yes.”
“Good.  I thought I was imagining things.”

* * *
“Grace?”
“Yeah?”
“Is the bed spinning?”
“No. You’re imagining things.”
“You’re not on our bed!”

~ ~ ~