Going Back

They say you can never go home.

Spent three and a half days in Erie.

My hometown - where I was born and raised, where my families still reside, where my high school girlfriends remain, where old acquaintances linger and old boyfriends fade. Erie is where I spent my childhood at the beach. It's where my parents divorced when I was twelve. It's where I graduated high school. It's where I helped my grandparents in the vineyards. It's where my families' dogs are buried. It's where my dad is buried. It's a place that is infused with a myriad of memories and emotions - the bad blending with the good and the real blurring with the fake.

It's a place that I visit with high hopes and excited anticipation, only to be disillusioned when I finally get there. My brain idealizes and romanticizes my hometown, clouding my memories with a rosy fog. On my way there, I secretly hope nothing will have changed. And then realize upon arrival that everything has changed, and yet, still nothing has changed. It's a sad feeling. It's a feeling of disappointment and displacement.

Until I am standing in front of her, my brain only regards my mom as a smart, funny, independent woman. I forget that my mom is distant and private and always has been. I forget that my nana and papa can't remember they've told me the same news several times in the span of one day. I forget that they constantly repeat themselves. Until I'm seated at their kitchen table, I remember only their kindness and generosity and forget their prejudices and intolerance. Until I'm driving in the car with my sister, I think of her as invincible and forget that she has been deeply wounded.

I forget that when I'm with my girlfriends, it's not just the three of us anymore. I remember staying out all night dancing or partying on the boat or biking and kayaking at the peninsula. I forget that they have husbands and fiancés and children and houses and dogs and obligations. I remember the house where I grew up and forget that my stepmom has remodeled it so that she can forget. I remember people who I once cared about, who I was too busy to see or who were too busy to see me and I forgot that life goes on - with or without you.

It's a mixed bag. Going "home". It's smiling and laughing and hugging. It's hanging out at the Sloppy Duck and having lunch at Rum Runners. It's a drive down to the dock and a stroll through the vineyards. It's talking and thinking and crying. It's discovering old home-movies and photos. It's eating fresh corn on the cob and frozen vanilla custard. It's lounging on the beach and jumping through the waves. It's fun times and frustrating times and depressing times. It's a confrontation with reality. It's a confrontation with myself.


The Thrilling Existence I Lead

Occurrences of this past weekend:

1. Hiking with Terah at Percy Warner (yes, on the infamous Mossy Ridge Trail) where we
pretty much discussed boys for the entire 4.5 miles (and could probably have discussed for
another or 4 miles…but we ran out of trail).

2. Using my mad culinary skills (ha!) to whip up Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip for JP's party
(which, by the way, received buckets of accolades!)

3. Playing in poker tournament at JP's party where I managed to NOT humiliate myself - a
good thing since it was my poker debut.

4. Watching Il Postino (love that movie!) with a bowl of Haagen Dazs' Dulce de Leche while
doing laundry.

5. Congratulating Donna (after my initial shock of course) on her recent engagement (yes,
engagement to be married!)

6. Tennis with Loulee - first set was pretty close (played to deuce almost every game) and
then we started the second set but due to getting sunburned pretty bad, we called the

7. Giving all the Erie-folk a heads up that I'm coming into town for a visit this weekend - Yee


Romantic Comedy, anyone?

I finished watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice last night - the version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy (yum!). Austen's classic was one of my most favorite books as a teen. It was almost an annual ritual to pull it off my bookshelf and reread the warped, dog-eared paperback copy. For a long time, Austen's humorously written story was my romantic road map and the unconventional, sharp-witted Elizabeth Bennett my role model. I just assumed that's how life worked itself out. The Janes of the world got their Mr. Bingleys and the Elizabeths got their Mr. Darcys. Happily ever after. End of story.

Misunderstandings are always corrected. Miscommunications always remedied. Harsh words are forgiven, as are deceptions. Love is only ever temporarily unrequited. And it all comes off as politely effortless. Just be true to yourself and the person you love will love you back…eventually. Of course, there need to be a few little obstacles along the way, but in the end those will only serve to deepen your love and inflate your happiness. Yep. Sounds good to me - sign me up!

After my first real heartbreak and the end of my first adult relationship, I clung to my naïve notions formed through the pages of P and P. When you so thoroughly convince yourself of something, it's tough to let it go, especially when it's something as glowingly enticing as the relationship between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. I continually tried to draw comparisons and parallels between my fleeting relationships and theirs, attempting to make sense of the many "obstacles". Silly, I know.

At some point I glumly accepted Pride and Prejudice for what it is: a finely crafted piece of literature - not a blueprint for one's romantic career. And since then, the book has remained on my shelves collecting dust.

I don't quite remember what exactly prompted me to investigate the Pride and Prejudice mini-series (I'm sure Terah had something to do with it), but I'm glad I did. Watching the familiar story unfold was like catching up with a dear old friend over a cup of coffee. When it's been that long, you've both changed, but there's still a core of affection. And the betrayal I felt melted away as the characters re-established themselves in my heart.

Rekindling my relationship with P and P hasn't, thankfully, hurled me back to those teenage years of blindingly simplistic views of the path to romantic happiness. And I was relieved to discover that I am not so cynical yet as to reject the idea that maybe things DO work out …when they're supposed to.


Adventures in Babysitting

The events of this past weekend have seriously prompted me to reevaluate my ability and desire to ever be a successful parent.

I like kids - I really do. And kids have always generally taken to me. I'm the adult that doesn't talk down to them; the one that never, ever, underestimates them; the one who encourages adventure and imagination; the one who, more often than not, becomes a co-conspirator rather than a rule-abiding grown-up…maybe that was the problem, maybe I am far too immature myself to be an effective authority figure.

It's not like I don't have experience with kids. I was recruited at the tender age of 13 to babysit my younger cousins from the time they were infants. As a teenager I worked after school at a children's center and during the summers as a camp counselor. Throughout college I worked as a nanny for a family that became my own and who, even now after 10 years, still keeps in touch with me. Since then, I have been close to an ex-boyfriend's little niece and always have had fun hanging around with my young cousins and my friends' children.I used to think I related really well to kids (I even seriously considered a career in child psychology at one point) - they're fun and energetic and creative and silly.

At least that's what I always thought. Either, A.) I have always been fortunate enough to be responsible for extraordinary kids or B.) I have been out of the professional childcare loop for too long and have lost my touch. In any case, serious self-doubt has reared its ugly head.

My weekend was spent with two boys. Brothers. An 11-year old and a 9-year old. The three of us (plus one dog, one un-trained puppy and two cats) were together from Friday evening until Monday morning. Yeah, I know, I didn't think it sounded like a long time either. I thought, "okay, this is going to be fun - they're at great ages!"; old enough to have the attention spans to really grasp interesting activities but young enough to still be silly and playful without any teenage angst or self-consciousness. Plus, they live on the top of a mountain in the middle of the woods! How could we NOT have fun!?

When I got there Friday evening, I found the boys in the frigidly air-conditioned rec room playing video games. Gradually, I coaxed them away from the gigantic glowing screen of Mario and Donkey Kong to come outside and play with me and the dogs.

I suggested we go in the woods and scout out some good climbing trees, but they informed me that they were not allowed to go in the woods during the summer (snakes and ticks and stuff I guess).

So I suggested we hold races on the lawn to see how fast we all were, but it was too hot and races were too boring.

"Why don’t we scrounge around for some firewood so we can build a campfire tonight?"After all, what child can resist the temptation of fire!? I know I can't!These children resisted. "We've never built a campfire…it's probably not a good idea. It's hot out here, let's go back inside".

Stunned, I mutely followed back into the chilly interior environment, where my periodic pleas for board games and art projects went unnoticed as colorful electronic characters cavorted on the screen to a soundtrack of bleeps and bloops.

Later that night we went out for dinner. The boys hopped in the car, immediately stuck headphones over their ears and turned on the dvd player. Okay, I guessed they weren't interested in conversation. We got to the restaurant and as soon as we were seated, the boys whipped out their Nintendo Game Boys. Skeptical of this behavior, I inquired as to whether this was normal practice and if they were permitted to engage in video game activity at the dinner table with their parents. I was told, quite matter-of-factly that this was just how things were done. Duh. Otherwise, they might get bored waiting for their food. Ah yes…silly me.

After dinner I did get them to agree to go to the top of the parking garage to lean over and look down at all the little cars and twinkling lights. They weren't impressed. By the time we returned home, it was well past their parent-regulated bedtime and I mistakenly assumed they would be gleefully grateful at thwarting the schedule and would mount little resistance in going through the normal bedtime rituals. Wooooooo boy! "Mistaken" doesn't even begin to cover it.

They demanded ice cream. I explained that because it was so late and already past their bedtime, that we would have ice cream tomorrow instead. You would've thought I had told them we were going to eat nothing but broccoli for the next three days…in a dark, damp dungeon…with rats scurrying over our feet. The protestations were monstrous. While the 11-year old threw chairs around the room and punched and kicked the walls, the 9-year old went digging in the freezer for the forbidden ice cream. For a minute I just stood there incredulous and then nearly burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all! Eventually they calmed down when they realized I was actually serious and they would NOT be getting any ice cream that night. Good lord.

Over the rest of the weekend, they refused to go to the pool, they turned their noses up at a water balloon fight, they declined a hike at the nature preserve...they even turned down my offer to have some of their friends over to play and hang out. They ate nothing but various processed breakfast carbohydrates (including, but not limited to, Pop Tarts, cinnamon rolls, muffins, frozen waffles, and coffee cake) all weekend and just generally whined and complained about being bored unless they had a screen in front of them. Oy! What little patience I have, was gravely tested this weekend.

Okay, I know every generation thinks their childhoods were so much better than the ones following, but c'mon! besides having this annoying entitled attitude due to being hopelessly spoiled, these children were clearly over stimulated with modern technology and wouldn't know how to play Red Rover or build a tree fort if their life depended on it!

Yes, we watched television as kids. Especially on Saturday mornings when we would get up at the crack ass of what and lay on the floor with a bowl of cereal watching 4 hours of non-stop cartoons until our eyes felt like dried up raisins and our brains buzzed. But normally during summer vacation we were out the door by 8 o'clock and would come back home when the streetlights came on (that was the rule). Sometimes we'd stop back in for lunch. Sometimes not. We would build dams and bridges down at the creek and run through the storm drains. We would climb the enormous oak tree out in our front yard and pretend we were orphaned kids who lived up there. We would organize neighborhood olympics and circuses and parades. We would have scavenger hunts in the vineyards and climb the cherry trees in the orchard next to our house (the owners didn't mind, they said all our noise kept the birds away).

We would ride our bikes endlessly (always with a playing card attached to the wheel to make that cool motorcycle noise), sometimes down to the beach, sometimes over to my grandparents, sometimes we'd just ride as far as we could until our legs gave out. We played games of Red Rover and Mother May I and Red Light Green Light and Duck Duck Goose and Hide N' Seek and Kickball and Ghost in the Graveyard and Capture the Flag. Sometimes we would spend entire days in the swimming pool, coming out for dinner all wrinkly and purple-lipped. One summer we spent our days constructing a fort in the patch of woods near the train tracks. And another time we built a table WAY high up in a spruce tree at my neighbor's house so we could escape up there to play cards.

Fortunately, we lived in a neighborhood FULL of kids. Mostly we all got along. (except for the Great War of '85, but even that was eventually forgotten) The great thing was, there was very little, if any, adult supervision. Our parents didn't entertain us or cart us around to various lessons and activities or plan scheduled "play dates". We did our own thing and it was punishment if we had to stay indoors (of course we didn't have air conditioning so it was hot as Hades in the summer). I'm not saying things were perfect. I'm sure there were times when we complained about being bored. But you didn't complain too often, because if you did, an adult would give you something to end the boredom which usually included some kind of manual labor! We balked at the chores assigned to us (as every kid on the planet does), but we did them with the promise of going back outside to commence play as soon as we were done.

Maybe this past weekend I just wasn't being fun enough or creative enough to get them excited about anything other than video games and television. Maybe they were just bored with me and not life in general. I hope so, because it makes me sad to think that they are wasting their childhood in front of endless varying screens of simulated activity.


Gone. He's gone. Not for good. Not this time. This time, we parted at the airport with hugs and kisses and smiles and laughter and 'see you soon's. It won't be like that the next time.


Paris at the Belcourt

Friday was the opening night of Paris je t'aime at the Belcourt. F. and I had seen the preview for this film when we went to see Into Great Silence (the French monk film with no dialogue - yeah, good times). The preview for Paris je t'aime immediately captured my attention and I excitedly nudged F., who grumbled "looks like the French version of Love Actually" - which apparently is just too much cheese for the man to handle. But, when I mentioned it last week, he good-naturedly agreed to go with me Friday evening.

I like the Belcourt. I like that it's an independent theater. I like that you can purchase alcoholic beverages. I like the old building it's housed in. I like the wide variety of indy and art films they show. It's a great little theater. And inevitably, places like the Belcourt attract some... interesting... patrons.

As I was standing outside in the long ticket line while F. parked, a woman came up and got in line behind me. She was short and youngish and had an air of bohemian hippie-ness about her - you know what I'm talking about. And I could just tell she was going to start talking to me…

Hippie Girl: Is this the line for tickets?
Me: Yeah. (thinking…"no, we just enjoy standing out here in front of
the ticket counter for shits and giggles")
Hippie Girl: What are you going to see?
Me: Paris je t'aime - it just opened today.
Hippie Girl: (grabs my arm incredulously) No way!? I SO want to see that! I was going
to see La Vie En Rose…but not now. Oh, I am SO there! It's a sign!
Me: (smiles) I've heard La Vie En Rose is good…
Hippie Girl: (ignores my comment while picking some sort of floaty out of her tea)
Eww…there's something in my tea…
Hippie Girl: (intense stare) It's so weird, but I've had this whole Paris thing going on for
like the past month. Like, I can't get it out of my mind and Paris references
keep popping up in my life. My one friend's little girl all of sudden started
calling me Paris last week - how freaky is that?…and she doesn't even know
about Paris Hilton! I really think I just need to go to Paris…
Me: (smiles) huh…wow…that is a weird coincidence.
Hippie Girl: So, are you here by yourself?
Me: uh…well…yes at the moment…but I'm meeting someone.
Hippie Girl: (nods vigorously while sipping her tea) So, have you been to Paris?
Me: Yeah, I have…a couple of times…would love to visit again someday (smiles)
Hippie Girl: That's awesome - ever since I got on this Paris kick I've been trying to learn
Me: That's cool - I wish I had the discipline to learn another language.
Hippie Girl: (looks at long line still ahead of us) I hope they don't sell out!
(At this point, F returns from car parking and walks up beside me)
F: (smiles) Hey
Me: Hey
F: (looks at Hippie Girl expectantly, waiting to be introduced)
Hippie Girl: Oh! Don't worry, I'm not her date, I just started talking to her (smiles and
sips her tea)

She continued chattering until we finally made it to the ticket counter and slipped inside the theater. Once inside, F. chose the only two empty seats in the very middle of the crowded theater in the very middle of the row. Thus, Hippie Girl had to sit somewhere else…

Fortunately we didn't have to do without other interesting Belcourt patrons, as sitting directly in front of us were two people…maybe two women or maybe one woman and one man (was hard to tell from my angle). The one who I was fairly certain was female, sported gi-normous fluffy pigtails sprouting out each side of her head. And her companion of questionable gender had one side of his/her head shaved while the other side was covered in lacquer-shiny platinum blonde hair. Next to them sat a couple who had brought a thermos of coffee and continually passed the steaming beverage back and forth. F. was blessed with a squeaky seat (after all, what would be a visit to the Belcourt without at least one squeaky seat!?).

Aaaaanyway, the film was enjoyable. It consisted of 20 vignettes, each directed by a different director. The connection was that they all had to do with love in Paris - "stories of Love from the City of Love". All different kinds of love all happening simultaneously in various parts of the city. Unlike Love Actually, the connections (if they existed at all) between the stories and characters were not blatantly evident. But, each narrative began with the last shot of the previous film and ended with the first shot of the following film. I thought the fluidity worked well and the variety of the stories was engaging and entertaining. The epilogue was (as F pointed out) sort of contrived. It felt forced - as if they were like, "okay, in case you didn't get it, let us spell it out for you". Yeah, bordering on insulting. They should've just closed with the last story - which would've been a perfect ending. All in all, it was a great cast of actors and a great collective of directors and overall I give it two thumbs up.


Crab in the Eye

Went to the Rutledge Sunday night with Jen and Terah (and Jen E. was supposed to come too, but had a bizarre run-in with the Detergent-of-Death and sadly, was unable to join us due to the concussion - yeah, there's a story there…there always is).

Had never been to this recently renovated live music venue on 4th S. and was pleasantly surprised with the intimate atmosphere and great acoustics. Plus, it's non-smoking (yay!), has an outdoor bricked courtyard, a copper-top bar, and exposed 19th century brick walls. Yeah, kinda cool.

We were there to see Michael Reynolds (look him up on MySpace for more info), who's this rangy, folksy wisp of a guy with a voice as pure as…mountaintop snow…pure as drops of dew clinging to a spider's web just before dawn…pure as campanile bells ringing out in the piazza on a clear summer morning… pure as a baby's first laugh…pure as….oh…ah, sorry…where was I? Oh yeah. His whole style was vaguely reminiscent of John Denver (who I L-O-V-E) - i.e. GREAT songwriting talent, acoustic guitar abilities, and a strong clear voice; an artistically well-rounded musician. I'm not exactly sure, but I would guess his genre is (contemporary?) folk. It didn't seem quite country to me, nor was it bluegrass (although you could definitely detect influences from both of those genres).

Also performing that night was a band called The Big Dang Theory - who were just plain fun! And Nathan Spears - who was just plain annoying (he kept doing that weird Forrest Gump thing with his legs…you know the thing…the crazy Elvis leg thing - Mama said those shoes would take me anywhere!)

Halfway through Nathan's set, we went outside to the courtyard to join MR, Caron, and Bald-guy under one of the festively lit cabanas. Not only is Michael a very talented musician and performer, he's a really nice, friendly…and funny guy. He informed our little party that his new saying is, "that's a crab in the eye". This saying replaces such antiquated phrases as, "aw man, that sucks", or "wow, that blows". You get the idea. Now here's the story behind this trendy new phrase:

So, one of his female friends went to a male strip club and one of the male strippers got up close and personal (in other words, he stuck his crotch in her face - nice, huh?). Shortly thereafter she ended up going to the doctor with some eye trouble only to be told that she had crabs in her eye. I know, how shudderingly revolting is THAT!? Pretty much nothing would suck more than having a crab in your eye…hence the new patented phrase, "damn, that's a crab in the eye!" Use it freely and often!