Tag Archives: memories

i-ve been thinking mary—-dammit baltimore- you must always have the last word–

Try keeping some emergency bad ideas in your desk.

I am at a loss on several counts.

My sister and I are considering writing a book. I wonder if we should make an outline, or just attack with finger paints? I may start by making an actual visual map of everything I remember about early childhood. There’s the trailer, the addition to the trailer, the garage with the stash of St. Pauli girl bottles, the goat shed, the pile of red dirt I was not allowed to play in, the place where the cat got shot, the yellow jacket nest in the potato patch, my Sycamore tree. The yellow toyota with the Netherlands sticker, the old black truck with the running boards, the well, the Lady Slipper patch, the treehouse that was only 3 feet off the ground, the black tulips, the random sink sitting in the back yard, the root cellar. We had a dog briefly, named Barky or Bitey or something like that. He looked a bit like a beagle.

And there is more. Carpet in the trailer kitchen (ha!), lots of nudity, swimming, being allowed sips of beer, being hit with a shoe, books about proper British children, awful, awful food that once was part of the garden. Cherry trees, thick with worm nests. Drowning Japanese beetles from the grape vines in a bucket of water.

The Westvaco logging forest across the property line was filled with bulldozer piles. Sometimes you could find shards of china, with patterns. Exotic because we did not have decorative things. The ruts from the logging trucks filled with water and made bright red mud. We rolled in it and were hosed down before we could come inside.

The nearest town eight miles away. The shoe factory, the prison, the A&P, the library where I was forced to alphabetize at a young age. The nursing home, the railroad tracks, a snack bar in the gas station where I ate hamburgers with mayonnaise and once got food poisoning.


A Pocket Full of Poses

There is a certain kind of mood, a scent in the air as soon as it stops being so wretchedly cold, and suddenly I am 15 again, walking the long walk past Journal Square and the jailhouse (the inmates howling out the windows for us to lift our skirts) to my high school, my headphones tuned to Book of Love, Howard Jones, Heaven 17 and Depeche Mode.

Well, it is not quite that time yet, but I have been waking up listening to Lifestyle and Freezepop and whaddya know it’s skirt-lifting and chirping birds all over again.


Counterpoint: Bodddyyyy, I am tired of doing our taxes!

[pictured, from left: Licketysplit, Lambchop]

Why do I always have to be the responsible one?

I always say to Heather “Just once I would like it if you laundered the money!” But does she listen? Oh no. She is usually preoccupied by a shiny pinwheel or some other geegaw, while I gnaw a pencil to a stub and readjust my green visor. She’ll never sweat over off-shore holdings the way I do!

And it pains my soul, because I am fun-loving too, you see. I enjoy gumming jawbreakers, tissue paper flowers on sticks, crackers shaped like animals, and dreamcatchers. But everyone thinks I am the stodgy one because I have the head for figures. Oh, the trials of being 10 minutes older.

Finally, I will say to Heather that just because a kitten follows us home does not mean we get to keep it. Who will end up cleaning the litter box? Me, that’s who, and you will not even let me use our other arm. Oh no, you will be too busy styling your hair with the Twist-a-Braid!

I am not even going to discuss the turtle you allowed to wander away into the heating duct. Also, I’ve made up my mind, from now on I will only remember to apply under-eye cream to MY eyes! Please save your crocodile tears, I am too busy playing with this tinsel garland to listen to you! La la la la. La.


Oh! Bodddyyyyy!

Bodddyyyy, clinic why do you always get to kiss the boy?

We are a two man outfit in one sleek, supple vessel. Helen is really the brains of this operation. Our sweatshop in Malaysia was entirely her idea. It was she that earned us those splendid S.A.T. scores, pencilling in those little ovals like a Kennedy. Helen picks out the sweater sets and makes sure the juice boxes are packed. The butterfly tattoo and the cough syrup addiction were my idea. Helen is the one who speaks during Oral exams. I am really much better at flirting with policemen.

If I can prove that I have spent ten minutes of the day in a rational manner, she lets me hold the kite string. Sometimes I think I am a liability in her quest for world domination.

We are coming to your town in mismatched socks.


Hot 97

Continuing our riveting streak of self-flagellation, here’s a goth polaroid! Enjoy, eat it up. That’s me on the left, Heather on the right. What is it about teen angst that makes girls press their heads together and take high-contrast self-portraits?

Our thing was looking like we were about to throw up. That’s where the Vomitola name first came about. We used to click off a zillion shots, wait for them to develop, and then cobble them together to make a story, complete with captions. Sample: “Helen spies the bucket…” or “Now it’s Heather’s turn.”

We were also pretty into the two heads, one body idea, as you shall see from tomorrow’s offering.


Get up on this

So Heather came over tonight. We painted our nails and organized our sticker books. Then we busted out the 40s. Round two pictured here.

All Lisa Frank dreams aside, this picture was taken in 1996. It’s unflattering. We both had to use drastic mezures to hook up in those days. Hence the plastic knives. But that’s in the past, yo. And let the past be the past. Although that’s hard to do when one finds the PHOTO BOX. That’s right, we’re going to be taking a little trip trap through the misty watercolor memories in the corners of our minds.

I have to go take Lambchop’s bra out of the freezer. We havin’ a sleepova.


A Memoir

Back in the days of MUDs and alt. binaries.naked.teens Lambchop met Licketysplit on alt.rollyoureyes. After exchanging copious emails on strange diseases and the Pointlessness of Everything, we discovered our mutual love of booze drunk out of paper bags, Edward Ka-spel, gummy treats, and Douglas Sirk movies (same thing). So we arranged to meet on a subway platform. As we hurtled toward the station from opposite directions, we steeled ourselves to encounter a mouth-breathing, hunch-backed, pasty creature with spectacles and bad hair. Covered in eczema. (of course had that been the case we would have both kept walking.)

Needless to say, we passed muster and ran gaily off to consume Night Train under a bridge. These are the things that I think about on a Friday morning when I sit in my silent cubicle with nothing to do, pretending I’m Kafka.

Especially now that our Licketysplit is getting married. I really thought she was kidding. I thought the thousands of dollars she has spent on hand woven baskets and ermine place settings was all an elaborate scheme to make her beaux dance with her, and score a toaster. But her shower is on Sunday and I am very happy for her. She won’t forget beneath which bridge to find me.


So jung kommen wir nicht mehr zusammen

I just learned today that a girl with whom I went to undergrad at Boston University has died. At 27, pharmacy she was briefly ill and that was it. In digging out my memories of her (they are few, we were simply classmates in the core art program of a large university), I am amused by the great sense of self-importance that fills the mind and fuels the debates of young art students. It seems so comical now the way I roundly abused this girl for painting a still life of a toilet without providing a reason, some meaning or purpose, that we should have to look at it. “Why?!”, I shouted, “why should we care?!” I was a quivering ball of contempt and sincerity. The others were mainly coolly talented, and relentlessly pretentious. But not Jackie, painter of toilets. She was scatterbrained and cool enough not to pay attention to anyone, and take art school on the chin.

The last time I saw her was about a year after graduation. She was leaving Boston, going to study graphic design, like me making the rounds of shitty jobs, dizzy and chatty like always on a sunny day in Kenmore Square. We said goodbye.

Dog Mahal


My mother never met a project she didn’t like. These frantic digressions frequently involve some sort of amateur carpentry. She went into labor with my sister the night she and my father finished building a room extension onto our trailer. That woman once dug a storm cellar. Her solution to most things involves a circular saw, some chicken wire, and a gleam in her eye as she crows “We could jury-rig it!”

Once we moved to a real house made out of bricks, there was a lot less damage she could do. At least to the untrained eye. She cut a hole in several doors to make catty and doggy doors. That’s how we inherited Ricky, a spare cat, but that’s another story for another time. The back yard provided a new challenge. She had been accustomed to acres and acres of land, but now — how to despoil just a few thousand square feet!

First, she erected a fence around the back yard. Not a chain link fence, that would be too typical and durable. No, some sort of wire monstrosity. Did she hire someone to do this? That would violate the fundamental principle of “never pay anyone to do something unless you are in a full body cast.” This directly violates my principle that “there are people to do those things,” but again, another story. She painstakingly sunk every post herself. How many people do YOU know who own a post-hole digger? A tamping mallet?

The fence was ostensibly to contain the dog. We had a black border collie-lab mix, named Sparkie. “-ie,” my mom insisted, “because she’s a girl.” Sparkie was a peach, with fur like a Pat Benatar hairdo, and my mom saw fit to honor her with a dog house. The best dog house in the world. This dog house could safely house two children. It was insulated!

Inside it was finished with faux-marble waferboard paneling.

It also had a removable roof. I don’t know why anyone would need (or build) a convertible dog house with a marble foyer, but some things are not meant for me to understand. The dog pretty much refused to go in it. My sister and I would sit in there now and then. It smelled of caulk and fuzzy pink insulation. It was always sweat lodge hot, due to in the insulation and the fact that we lived in the South. My mother would be so pleased when we’d come home in the pouring rain to find the dog lying in the house, mournfully hanging her head out the door to avoid asphyxiation. “Look, she’s using it!”

Big was a later dog addition, a stray who just showed up and stuck around. He looked like a St. Bernard, with the saddle markings of a German Shepherd. He would sometimes stuff himself in the dog house, Clifford style. But mainly he preferred to stay in with us, watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns, my mother’s television show of choice. She’d leave the TV on for the dogs when we weren’t around, but Big liked it best when he could climb in someone’s lap. He’d happily pin you to the chair with his 120 pound bulk, and he would growl if you attempted to move. Much in the manner of his arrival, if he chose you, you were stuck with him.

The Dog Mahal sat unused, slowly decaying. We pleaded with Mom to tear it down, and she finally gave in. Eventually Sparkie and Big passed on to Cher’s dog house in the sky. In another act of stealth euthanasia, she had the vet come to the house and put them both down at the same time. Sparkie had lung cancer, and Big was in the advanced stages of a thyroid disorder. She didn’t tell us about it until it was all over, just like she saved the news of our cats being put to sleep for when we were within a block of our house on the car ride home from school. “Oh, I had Misty/Silver put down this morning.” She buried the dogs in the footprint of the dog house, in a deep hole she dug herself.

But my mom has a new dog now. She stole it from the neighbor. It looks, as my sister puts it, like a jackyl-headed bat dog, with pointy Egyptian dog ears and murder in its eyes. Murder in its soul, to be exact. It runs around inside the rusty fence, always on the same maddening path. I see frothing, snapping jaws, my mom sees pure doggy love. It comes and goes as it pleases, through a giant hole in the door to the basement. No need for a place of its own.

It is always tough to admit defeat. Sometimes a dog will spurn the Barbie Dreamhouse of mutt accommodations. Sometimes your children won’t understand that you’re just trying to do something nice, damn it, no matter how borderline insane the gesture may be, no matter how unsightly the outcome.

My dad always used to say “Dreamers build castles in the air, psychotics live in them.” And some people just stick to the back yard.

Shag me rotten


Back in 1986, we moved into a new house in Richmond, Virginia. Coming from a trailer, something without wheels was in itself a big deal. I explored eagerly, amazed at the stairs to a god-honest basement, the closet space, the linoleum in the kitchen instead of carpet. In a closet in a bedroom, I found a plastic garden rake. I asked my mom “Why did they leave a rake?”

“It’s for the shag!”

Yes, the cherry red shag carpet. So we’d rake the shag, as if it were a lawn.

Even though I was the oldest, I took the smallest bedroom to avoid the shag. My carpet was olive green. But it was low-pile. Even at eight, I instinctively knew shag was tacky. Meghan Daum has a great essay about the class implications of hardwood floors. To this day I refuse to rent an apartment with carpet. I am a floor snob.

Eventually my sister and I would use the shag rake in vicious one-sided jousting matches. Then I got a field hockey stick, and the shag rake was no match.

My parents ripped out the shag a few years ago. I was long gone, and I think my sister was too. They left the mirrored walls in the fireplace, though. And the purple “gro light.” Sometimes they put plants in there, as intended, but usually it’s just lit up, reflecting the room in a purplish glow. Confusing the occasional cat. The ghastly fireplace came with the house, and my parents aren’t really big on altering their surroundings if they don’t absolutely have to. Property value be damned. The house is unwittingly maintained as a1960’s pleasure dome. I hope to come back one day and find my mom wearing a lamé turban and serving rumaki in the grotto.