Thursday, April 30, 2009

Greatest Joy in Life

I really, really, really love to curse. I would become a sailor just to have cussing as part of my job duties. I've never seen anything wrong with most of the bad words out there. I love vocabulary and they are just more colorful, effective words to add to your lexicon. The first time I swore, I was five and uttered "shit" while watching Sesame Street. (Probably identifying early on with Oscar the Grouch, because you know he enjoys a good expletive) I did get my first taste of the Ivory and it sort of deterred me from swearing for awhile. I figured out that it was an adult thing to do like driving or drinking. When I hit my teens, it was time to hit that crass rite of passage.

I know there are times it isn't called for like work or religious services or around your kids. My issue would be mostly around my kids. I guess the worst crime you can commit when you have kids is to say fuck around them. You will most certainly lose your Gymboree Mom membership and be shunned for life! Growing up, all the adults cursed around kids (smoked as well) and I think we grew up mostly OK. Suburban parents these days are very concerned with making the world sterile and Splenda-rific. You know, sweet, but in an artificial no calorie way. Obviously salty language has no part in that world.

I do try to watch my language, but only a small part of me feels guilty when I don't. I adore bad words, maybe, sometimes crave them. They can make you laugh. They can express your anger. They can create a bond among like minded strangers. They just won't make you Mom of the Year. I guess that's alright with me, I wouldn't be able to continue my Gymboree Mom Don't list and that would be a serious travesty.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Ride

Another shameful fact about me is that I rode the bus all through high school. I had issues with the stick shift and since it was the only kind of car available to me, I had no other choice. As embarrassing as it must seem to most people, I actually enjoyed it!

The bus stop was a happening place. We played 2 square and kickball. We watched one of the Monkey brothers remove his fake eye. We'd tease the Panek boys about eating sour cream and tortillas for breakfast. It was like an early morning recess and there was always something to do at 8 am.

Once on the bus, we'd immediately head straight for the last seat. My sister, D.D., myself and I would squish into one seat. Sitting in the back meant you had seniority and that you basically owned that bus. It took a few years before we got to that point, but once we were there, we never left.

Our driver, Ms. Ashmore, had this gnarly strip of hair on her wrist that looked very much like a bracelet. She was a tough broad and yelled a lot, but was a decent driver. Sometimes we would have a clueless sub drive the bus. Once this guy was so lost, he decided to drive the wrong way down Hwy 17. It was exhilerating like being in the movie Speed.

There generally was a lot of noise on the bus, kids laughing/singing/dancing/shrieking/fighting. You could yell out curse words and Ms. Ashmore it was you. I once spent 6 months flirting with this BeloRussian exchange student in the seat in front of me and then the next 6 months scowling at his unattractive Tajik replacement.

Things were some bad moments on the bus like when this boy Opie puked out the window and it streaked past the windows. We had vomit on the windows the whole year.

Once the youngest Thorton kid managed to spread lice all over the bus. I had to have my hair washed in gasoline in the backyard to get it all out. Cheaper and more excting than Nix!

I look back on my days on the bus with fondness. My free rides continued into college when I rode the free bus to school and to work. Those experiences are not so wonderful. Public buses seem to be playgrounds for the insane, but I had some pepper spray so that was always my silver lining.

Swine Flu Words of Wisdom

The funniest things you hear are generally when people aren't purposely trying to be funny. The latest media mania of the Swine Flu has led to lots of conversation everywhere and I've heard two things lately that amused me greatly.

"I don't get it. Just wash your damn hands!" ~Systems Engineer/WHO volunteer

"It's already predestined if you're going to die from swine flu. Just accept it, at least it's an interesting way to go." ~Alec Baldwin's #1 Fan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mom Don't #2

Don't tell your 5 year old to stop jumping on the hood of your car because he's not in some fuckin' WhiteSnake video. It will only pique his interest because you mentioned the word snake.

Eat Fresh

To put myself through college, I was a sandwich artist. It's alright to snicker about it, it still makes me laugh nearly 10 years after uttering the words "mayo, mustard, or cheese" on a daily basis. The mall I worked in was dead and it was disappointing because I had always hope for a Fast Times experience. There was a skating rink above the shop so I did get to hear Britney Spears and various boy bands ad nauseum. That was a plus. We also had weird suppliers and there were often pubic hairs in the bread and eyelashes in the cheese. It was a normal minimum wage job.

One monotonous afternoon that couldn't quit playing games with my heart, I noticed a group of guys approaching the counter. I immediately recognized them as the band, Ben Folds Five. My opinion of them had been that they were lame assholes with crappy music, but as soon as I saw them, I went running like my ass was on fire to the back. I told one of my coworkers that I couldn't take their order, they were famous! I am extremely embarrassed to admit it, but I stayed in the back watching on the security monitor alternately silently shrieking and doing some queer kicking dance. I always prided myself on the belief that if I came face to face with anyone famous, I would be cool and aloof and not even acknowledge their celebrity. Here was this B list band and I was going ape shit!

When they left, my coworker came into the back and said "Those were rock stars? They were filthy!" I was teased mercilessly for my dash to the back. That was my one and only brush with fame and hopefully it will stay that way.

They ordered veggie subs if you were wondering.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Original Freegans

Long before it was popular, I was a dumpster diver with my sister. We were mainly on a mission for junk food and found it aplenty behind the Food Lion. We were never allowed much growing up, so when we found some we hoarded it. I am still a sugar addict to this day so I've resolved not to be anal about with my own kids. A moldy blueberry pie hidden under your bed at 12 can lead to regular 5 lb Twizzler binge in college!

The Food Lion dumpster was like a filthy Wonka factory. We were able to scavenge all sorts of goodies there like cases of Sweet Tarts, Moon Pies, and generic Oreos. There were other people there, but they wanted meat and produce and were happy enough to leave the junk for the weirdo kids that constantly patrolled the area. Once we got the goods, we'd have to find bushes to hide them in and would always be going out for "walks" to go and snack.

There was also a pizza shop and Chinese restaurant that often threw out perfectly good food. I never thought about how utterly disgusting it was to eat in a sticky back alley while the sea gulls watched. I did make friends with a one legged seagull and would give bits of food to him.

Freegans seem to be looking for healthy, organic foods. They like finding kale and quinoa and free range chicken. They like saving the earth and being frugal. The like being part of a trend. I don't know. It's not as cool as sharing chicken chow mein and a Moonpie with a handicapped seagull squatting on a giant vat of used oil.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mom Don't #1

Don't go ninja on a bumble bee with a twig and then tell it to fuck off in front of your kids.

Uncle Earl

I assume that most kids grow up with a neighborhood addict/pervert. If they don't, then they are missing some crucial element of childhood. I think they teach you to be wary and quick and of course give you great stories for your blog!

I lived next door to a family that had their wizened uncle stay with them. He continually insisted that we call him Uncle Earl and I honestly can't imagine not calling him that. All the neighborhood kids love to talk about the fact that he was always liquored up, but I believe he indulged in crack too. He liked nothing better than to sit with his special pipe on the porch watching the kids play under the streetlights while he was hidden in darkness.

I have two memories that stand out in my mind when I think of Uncle Earl; public urination and illicit solicitation.

He really enjoyed pissing all over the shed in my neighbor's back yard, but he sometimes would mix it up and paint our white fences yellow. I don't think this was a perverted act necessarily, just some minor disorientation caused by beloved time spent with the rock. He had a very rotund, blonde, and young wife and she usually would come out and herd him back inside.

I'm sure you're very anxious to know about the illicit solicitation, the meat of this post, right? Well, one day my sister and I were playing in the woods behind our house. These woods separated our street from Tiffany Lane. There was a giant ravine used for old appliances, tires, dog shit, and Uncle Earl's liquor bottles. (Kind of like the prequel to my Compost Woods only less earth friendly!) Uncle Earl came staggering into the woods and asked us if we would dance for him for $5 to spend at the Lil Champ. At 13 and 11, we didn't really have much pocket money and I had to think a spell on his offer. $5 would buy so much at the Lil Champ! We could get peanuts to feed the snapping turtles, soda that we were never allowed to have, and enough candy to share with the whole Bicycle Gang. After giggling nervously, we ran away. We could always look for scratched off lottery tickets on the side of the road and maybe find a winner. Danger averted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What Does Your Favorite Candyland Character Say About You?

I'm sure you've always wondered as deeply as I have about the characters of Candyland. It was a beloved game of mine as a kid and it's one of the few that I don't mind playing with my own children. Sometimes you have to wait awhile for a young child to take their turn, so it gives you ample time to decide the personality traits of the characters. I love personality quizzes so I've made one without the annoying questions, just fast forward to the answers!

Queen Frostine: You are haughty and aloof, but very attractive and that's all that really matters. You married for money and have no regrets.

King Kandy: You are an ineffective, but benevolent ruler. Most likely henpecked by your trophy wife.

Mr. Mint: You are socially awkward. You generally are helpful and friendly and can make people laugh unintentionally.

Gloppy: You have a happy disposition, but are prone to gluttony and lethargy.

Jolly: You are jolly like your name, but can get obsessive and distracted easily.

Princess Lolly: You are sweet and sassy, but hate maternal authority, specifically your stepmother Queen Frostine.

Lord Licorice: You are sardonic, dandified, and a wee bit evil. Physically alluring to both men and women. You may not be a pimp, but you have the potential to be.

Plumpy (although I prefer Plumby): You are sort of miserable and hate people. Very observant and industrious.

Grandma Nutt: You are warm hearted and eccentric. You are happy being a caretaker and never have an unkind word to say.

I hope this post has proved enlightening. I'd like to thank my son for his contributions to this post and give a shout out to Plumby, my personal favorite since '85.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tiffany Lane

What do you do if you're a latchkey kid after school in Georgia? You look for good times in a trailer park. I was lucky enough to have two small mobile home communities within biking distance for my afternoon amusements. Once the Bicycle Gang was assembled, we'd pedal off to explore. Although I may not remember all the exploits, I have another person's memory to draw from for future tales.

Tiffany Lane
This was a mainly neat and quiet collection of streets. There was a trailer with a great garden where we would pillage fruit. I distinctly remember trying to get a palmetto fruit and stabbing myself in the eye with a palm frond and the scar still remains. There was a persimmon tree with the bitterest fruit you could ever imagine. Then there were the scuppernong grape vines. We called them bullets and would suck out the pulp and spit the skins on the scalding asphalt. I guess Tiffany Lane can be known mainly for illicit fruit gathering although there was also the terrifying allure of Roach Wismet's home. In the front yard, there was a giant puppy graveyard, only the owners never really got around to burying their dead. If you got anywhere near the vicinity of the yard, fleas would party in your socks for the rest of the day. Luckily, Roach Wismet wasn't part of the Bicycle Gang and most of the fruit we could steal without attracting her attention and her invitations to the corpse visible Pet Cemetery.

The Bumpy Road
The Bumpy Road is the Mecca of all trailer parks. It was surrounded by trees dripping in Spanish moss. There were speed bumps all throughout the circular street, thus giving it its name. Those bumps were the biggest appeal for the Bicycle Gang. They were great for riding over with no hands or doing awesome pop a wheelies. I'm not sure if I ever managed to do a pop a wheelie with no hands, but we could all imagine that I did. This park also had a stunning view of the salt marsh. Generally, I'm sarcastic as hell, but I really did enjoy that view. I loved riding fast and hard through the bumps and then gazing onto golden waving cattails that inspired a very famous poem. (For the sake of anonymity, I will refrain from mentioning it).

The park also contained this je ne sais quoi smell about it. I couldn't say exactly what contributed to the scent, but I would recognize it almost immediately if I came upon it again. Of course, my town had a smell to it anyway, but this smell was mixed with that, maybe salt marsh, definitely garbage, cigarette smoke, mildewy homes, beer, oil fumes and much, much more.

There was a small room in that trailer park that housed a public phone and a soda machine. It was always fun scavenging for coins out of the phone and the machine or telling the trailer park manager you lost money in the soda machine and getting yourself a free generic orange soda. I also had one friend who lived in this park for about six months and she lived across from the "unlimited free soda room as long as you use a different kid everytime". Her name was Michelle, but I insisted on calling her Mickey, from that annoying cheerleading song. She probably hated me for it, but I needed to have a pal with that name and I was only slightly envious of the green jeans she wore all the time.

I think I've written enough parts of The Bumpy Road to make it appealing for everyone, but can you imagine the biggest draw for us there? It was our own personal club house, an abandoned trailer. I wouldn't exactly call it breaking and entering since the door was unlocked. This place called to me. There was a sign outside that said "The Willoughbys" and being a girl who read way too much Austen, it seemed serendipitous. No, we didn't recreate Sense and Sensibility in the ruins of 70s decor and lingering mold on the walls, but we did have a place to call our own. I believe a policeman nearly caught us there once, but we were fleet on our bikes and could handle those bumps on our flight from the law with grace and aplomb.

The Compost Woods

I am a recycling fiend. I try to recycle almost everything I can. I feel true ire when it's trash day and I see massive amounts of garbage bags and one lone pizza box in a recycling bin. It's even worse when there are massive amounts of garbage bags and one lone bag of dog shit in a recycling bin. I could go into detail about about my exact feelings upon seeing fecal waste in a recycling bin, but I'll spare you the vehemence.

As I was saying, I try to do my part to help Mother Earth. Composting interests me greatly, but it sort of interferes with the lazy part of my personality. I prefer to fling apple cores and stale bread into the woods behind my house rather than toil over a box of dirt and worms. I'm almost positive that these actions anger my neighbors, but as they are the same people that recycle their canine crap, I don't particularly care.

I am extremely popular with the local wildlife. I once saw a crow catch a tandoori chicken leg in mid flight. It was a sight to behold and I tried not to let the thought of fowl cannibalism bring me down too much.

Yes, I know that I could be inviting the rabid and the feral into my home, but I generally do not see the recipients of my composting. I throw out unwanted food scraps and the next time I check, they have vanished. Unfortunately, I believe my son may have witnessed what he calls a "werewolf" while playing in the backyard. It must have come by for a snack and now he is terrified to play out there. It wasn't long before the Scooby-Werewolf mystery was solved and the culprit identified. It was a very tame and obese fox that calmly trotted by my husband one night in the backyard. I may or may not recall an evening last summer when I tossed some food scraps from a cookout to a fox kit hiding in some bushes. Apparently he's fattened on my offers to The Compost Woods for the past year and has become a werewolf.

Should I stop this half-assed composting? The threat of animals foaming at the mouth could lurk in the shadows of the trees, but I have to think about the fact that my trash does biodegrade very quickly in the bellies of wildlife. It's like truly being part of a circle of life. I could go ahead and put that Elton John song into the soundtrack of my life and I believe that it makes Mother Earth very proud.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've lived in many places, but there is a small, slighly smelly town in Georgia that I call my home. It's the place where I came to my awareness and shaped me into an adult. I have not been back since the day after graduation, but I look back on my memories and adventures there with fondness. I hope over the coming days, weeks, months that I can share those stories.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood sandwiched between salt marshes and scrub pine, trailer parks and mildly scary duplexes. I had complete freedom to roam about on my bike or my skates, often in the company of my younger sister and neighborhood friends. There were times it was like we were a motley bicycle gang, certainly up to no good and always looking trouble. Did I participate in illegal activities? Yes. Did I enjoy them? Of course.

My hometown is hot, insanely hot. I think the heat forces you to become very somewhat lethargic in both speech and action. I miss that. I like to amble along. I like to conveniently drop syllables from my words and smash them into other words. I like the simplicity of that life and the way humidity adds almost a reluctant passion to your nature.

It's been a long time since I've seen that world. Maybe it's changed from the treasured images of my memory. Maybe it's become a city with a purpose and has a brisk pace to match modern times. Maybe the trailer parks and duplexes have been removed to make way for new, improved subdivisions. Maybe children no longer dare to ride their bikes in packs looking for dangerous opportunities, they have too much texting and facebooking to do. I hope not, because it would take away from the ordinary magic of a unassuming town.

Favored Pastime

I have to admit that I find motherhood taxing. To be really truly honest, I find life quite taxing. I am an introvert and I adore alone time. I understand the appeal of being a hermit. I have a secret wish to one day become a sadhu. Suburban motherhood does not exactly give you the means to wander off alone in contemplation, but I've found a substitute that isn't too shabby. When my kids are high on life and the house looks like an insurance ad featuring a natural disaster, I like to put on a record (preferably James Taylor's Greatest Hits) and lie down upon the floor. I call this act rotting on the ground. I let my head empty of all thoughts no matter what chaos is unfolding around me. I meditate on the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston and nothing else seems to matter. It's like mentally crawling into a void and it is very refreshing. Once I've had my fill of nothingness, I can return to the shrieking and the clutter. I can put on the soundtrack to Flashdance and become Alex Owens for my kids. I am not a serene person and I'm not one for prayers, but somehow tranquility and spirituality can find you prone on the ground listening to the familiar scratching of vinyl.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Everyone Needs a Preface

Like most prepubescent girls, I had a diary. I thought I was enormously clever by naming it Tree. I suppose I believed I was paying homage to the tree that gave its life for the pages of my composition notebook or perhaps I didn't have any better ideas. Still, it was a name that stuck and grew into a mystical entity for me. Throughout the years, I often find myself addressing journal scribblings to Tree, so it is only fitting that the name becomes incorporated into my blog. I may no longer write about many of the things that made up my girlhood entries, but the confessing spirit of them still remains. I think of my life in terms of stories; stories I've lived, stories I'm in the midst of, and stories not yet realized. I hope to continue these stories in a new format while forcing myself into a new age. I'm not sure if my online literary sojourn will prove successful, but there is something leafy out there urging me to continue.