For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today’s story is dedicated to my friend Amanda, who, earlier today, wouldn’t stop telling me what an asshole our friend’s cat is.

First of all, I know he’s an asshole. I used to live with that cat. You don’t need to tell me.

Second of all, even an asshole cat is just a cat. You are still bigger and better than him. Why do you let him get to you?

And so, I present:

 

Nine Reasons Why Being You is Better Than Being That Cat
(And One Reason Why It’s Not)

You’re better than that cat because…

1. You’re taller. According to science, basketball, and all the guys I’ve ever dated, taller is always better. Always.

2. You can open the fridge. That cat can open doors. He can open pizza boxes. He can open a vein with one swift swipe. But he can’t open the fridge. Oh, I am sure that he has tried. That cat is a fucking pig. Remember when Betsy’s six-year-old son asked, “Is your cat a walrus?” It wasn’t because Betsy’s six-year-old son didn’t understand how walruses work. It’s because that cat is fucking fat, like a big blubbery walrus. And that cat is always hungry. And he can’t open the fridge, which is where all the good food is kept. And you totally can.

3. Toilet paper. That cat licks his own ass.

4. You know the other day when you were like, “Mmm, you know what sounds delicious? Spaghetti. I should make spaghetti,” and then you made spaghetti? And you ate the spaghetti and it was, in fact, delicious? And remember how you can do that any time you fucking feel like it? That cat never gets to make spaghetti! He doesn’t get to be “in the mood for Thai” or “feel like chicken tonight.” He eats the same dried-up mealy fish flavored cat food every single day. And you get to make spaghetti.

5. You have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design from the School of Visual Arts at the University of North Texas. That cat can’t even spell “meow.”

6. You can drive a car and ride a bike and roller-skate. That cat can only roller blade.

7. I’ve heard that sex with you is awesome, whereas sex with that cat is pretty gross.

8. Remember that time you saw Built to Spill at SxSW? You waited in line all day for tickets, but then you got in and saw them play with Excene Cervenka from X and The Old 97s and they rocked your fucking face off? Remember how you laughed when they started playing “Freebird” but then it turned out to be surprisingly awesome? And then the next night they played a secret show, but you found out and snuck in and saw them again? That cat has never even heard of Built to Spill. What a loser!

9. You only sleep in a dude’s basement when you want to. That cat does it every damn night.

***

That cat is better than you because…

1. He is still on Facebook.

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today is a big day. It’s the halfway point! I’ve written 15 stories in 15 days and I can see a light at the end of a very long 15-more-days tunnel! Thanks for coming along with me this far. Please do not leave me now, because I am afraid of tunnels–even metaphorical ones.

Today’s story is all about teen angst and high school hijinx and how intelligent discussions about s-e-x are avoided at all costs.

It is, as always, absolutely true.

 

Reformed Schoolgirl

Did you know that the press is not allowed on public school property without permission from school administrators?

That’s what I learned my senior year of high school, after alerting the local Channel 12 news team about a newsworthy predicament I thought needed some attention. I called on behalf of a group of students who felt abandoned, unfairly punished and unnecessarily censored. And I had no idea how much trouble I would cause with one tiny little phone call to one tiny little local news station.

Okay. I had some idea.

It all started in rural Texas, of course. I lived in a lakeside community out in the country, and attended a nearby school in a town with a population just under 200. I had moved from the bustling-metropolis-by-comparison Palm Springs, California, to what seemed like the middle of nowhere–a town with a gas station, a feed store, a couple of Baptist churches and not much else. There were 38 other kids in my class; the entire student body was barely enough kids to earn a Swarm badge on FourSquare.

Not that there was a FourSquare. It was 1989–before the internet, before cell phones–Hell, it was even before Super NES. Our Nintendo was decidedly un-super!

Back then, in Texas schools, your football-coach-to-kids ratio was pretty high. I’d guess a third of the faculty spent part of its time coaching some athletic team or another. But they also had to clock time as teachers, which is why my Geometry, Chemistry, Journalism, US History, and Health teachers were all referred to as “Coach.”

The coach who taught my Health class was a first-year teacher, really young and good looking and generally regarded as “cool” by the kids in his class. For example, I once bet him he couldn’t stop drinking Dr. Pepper for a week, and when I caught him with a can in hand, he lived up to his end of the bargain and removed 10 tardies from my permanent record. (Ok, haha, I know. Remember when having a “tardy” on your “permanent record” was a big deal? But it was a big deal then, which is why it was cool of him to remove mine in bulk, as the result of some silly bet.)

He didn’t stay cool for long.

Coach had assigned us a project for health class–something vague and wide open with possibilities. We were supposed to create some sort of presentation that incorporated what we had learned throughout the year. I was a drama nerd and an overachiever, so I came up with the idea that I would put on a play–a play about sex. And the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I thought about how I could take a shot at directing, and how we could perform it in front of the whole school, not just the other kids in Health class, and how it was going to be so much fun and slightly scandalous and that this was going to look so good on my college applications!

The play I found was called “Dolls” and is described as “a face-to-face telling of young people’s stories to young people by young people.” Honestly, it’s a little pro-lifey for my tastes, but I knew it was a safe bet for school administrators who may be afraid of parental outrage. It was frank without being graphic; safe, while still addressing sexual consequences in a meaningful way.

And there was no denying that the kids in my high school could use a little extra sex ed. A couple of pregnant teenagers in a big city school represent a tiny fraction of the student body. A couple of pregnant teenagers in a class of 39 represents half the Student Council. And you can pump your kids full of all the small town family values you want, but after all the cows have been tipped, there’s not a lot to do in the country, which makes drinking and fucking the top two ways for kids to spend time together.

I made my pitch to Coach and he thought putting on a play was a fantastic idea–he even offered to be in it. He became our official faculty advisor and attended the first few rehearsals as I put the cast and crew together. He also let me bring in my drama teacher–also a young, first-year teacher–as an additional faculty advisor who could help me learn to direct. Both teachers were still under the impression that enthusiasm and creativity should be encouraged among enterprising students. Both were about to find out otherwise.

I developed a short presentation for the principal, with hopes that I could convince her to let us perform the play for the entire school. She dismissed the idea, arguing that without parents’ permission, we wouldn’t be able to expose the students to any kind of sex education outside the approved curriculum, regardless of how reserved, how timid or how compelling. The next day I returned to her office with a stack of permission slips I had typed up myself and asked how she would like me to distribute these to the parents. Unprepared to respond, she sent me to the school superintendent to solicit his permission, knowing he would never give it and I would subsequently leave her alone.

The superintendent seemed overwhelmingly disinterested in anything I had to say, but didn’t say “no,” which gave me hope. He mumbled that he would take a look at the play and get back to me.

Two days later, I had gathered the cast after school for a rehearsal. This thing was finally coming together! Then Coach showed up with a look of concern on his face. He told me that he would no longer be able to be in the play, so I would have to recast his role. He went on to say that while I could go ahead and continue my rehearsal, the “powers that be” had decided no one would ever see us perform. End of story.

He seemed pretty sympathetic when he saw the dejected look on my face. He offered solace in the form of good grades–telling me that my work up to this point had earned me an “A” on this assignment.

“Big fucking deal,” is what I wanted to say. “This play is important. It’s crucial. It’s a really great opportunity to make an impact–to actually teach kids something that could save their lives,” is what I wanted to argue. And I really believed it. All the work I had done trying to sell the idea to our principal and superintendent had convinced one person (me) that performing this play was vital to our very survival.

Keep in mind this was the late 80s. AIDS was a very real threat, and yet most of my classmates felt immune–partly because we were seventeen and immune to everything, and party because (in rural Texas, at least) AIDS was still widely-believed to be a disease that only gay people could contract, like being a good dresser or listening to Erasure.

Coach said he’d work on changing the superintendent’s mind– at least to let us perform the play for the other students in Health class. Then he left me to deliver the bad news to the rest of the cast. After discussing the possibility that all our hard work would most likely be wasted on an audience of one, we decided to power through. Who knows what support we might find over the next couple of weeks? Maybe we could address the school board at its next meeting! Maybe a petition would change the superintendent’s mind! We had not at first succeeded, but we were damn sure going to try, try again!

About an hour later my Drama teacher arrived to crush whatever hopes remained. She told us that not only would we be performing the play to no one, but also that she and Coach had been “asked” to resign as our faculty advisors and remove themselves wholly from any further involvement. Without any faculty support, we’d no longer be able to use school facilities for rehearsal or anything else.

In short, it was all over. As a small consolation, she allowed us to have the rest of the evening to figure out how to proceed and left us to our own devices, alone at the school.

We were angry–really angry. We felt oppressed, misunderstood, belittled, and disregarded. We became even angrier at the thought of our cool, favorite teachers being threatened or bullied by the administration. We were sure that Coach and Miss Drama had fought for us–would fight for us–had they been able to do so without losing their jobs.

We talked about how important this play was–how much our school needed it. Our homecoming queen was married and several months pregnant, and she wasn’t alone. Girls got pregnant all the time. And one of the most popular guys on the football team had been accused of date rape by more than ten girls. How could they say we didn’t need to talk about sex in our school? How could they dismiss us out of hand like that?

We decided we had a pretty powerful story on our hands: Small Town School Takes Small-Minded Approach to Sex Ed. We decided to call the press.

I guess our thought was that after they saw it on the news, parents and other members of the community might support us in our cause. And if other adults brought enough attention to the matter, the superintendent would be forced to rethink his decision.

We also decided to stick together–no matter what. I would make the call, but we’d all be party to the decision. The blame would not fall on my shoulders alone, and we would not back down, no matter what the consequences. Our only hesitation was in creating trouble for our “cool” teachers who we believed had been on our side all along. We wanted to distance them–shield them from any of the repercussions.

So we did two things. First, we used a pay phone at the school to call the local TV news. I unloaded the whole story to an interested reporter.

Second, I went home and called our teachers. I told each of them that the cast and I had decided to take action, to fight for our right to sexually educate our peers. I wouldn’t give them any details, but assured them no laws would be broken. I felt that for their own protection they should know nothing more–it was important for them to have plausible deniability.

I don’t know exactly how long it took the “cool” teachers to sell us out, but I’m guessing it was a matter of minutes. They both called the principal at home to inform her that we had some devious tricks up our sleeves.

The next day I was called into the principal’s office just after the first bell. Coach and Miss Drama were waiting with her, and I spent the better part of first period being yelled at by the three of them.

They wanted to know what we had planned. I wouldn’t tell them anything.

They threatened to suspend me, expel me. I wouldn’t tell them anything.

I tried to defend myself. They didn’t want to hear it.

They told me that my actions would likely result in getting good teachers fired–ruining their lives forever. I cried. I believed them. I felt guilty. But I wouldn’t tell them anything.

They finally dismissed me and I went back to class, teary-eyed, red-faced and already exhausted. Ten minutes later they called me back into the office and asked me why the Channel 12 news team was calling for an interview. What did they know? What had I told them? Was I an idiot or just determined to get everyone fired?

I was told to “call off the dogs” or face a stiff punishment–one that would make detention seem like Spring Break. My principal watched as I dialed the Channel 12 newsroom again. I was openly bawling at this point–I had become an emotional basket case, and the basket was full of guilt and humiliation. The reporter was unavailable because, as I found out later, she was waiting with a camera crew just outside school grounds to try to get this story. So, after some more yelling, I was sent back to class.

At lunch, the cast and I gathered in the auditorium. They had heard my name called over the loudspeaker all morning, and seen me walking around the halls like a crying zombie. Some of them were pissed at me for crying. They thought it was a sign of weakness–that I had buckled after promising we wouldn’t back down. Others defended me, saying that even though we were all supposed to stick together, I was the only one being screamed at in the principal’s office all morning.

That changed when Coach found us and marched us into a classroom. Miss Drama stood in the corner of the room as Coach sat us down and gave us the talking-to of our lives. He marched back and forth, yelling at the top of his lungs. His face turned red, then purple, then red again. He treated us as if we had set the school on fire. There was no sympathy for our cause. There was no “thanks for the heads up last night.” He just paraded around the room, screaming and calling our actions stupid and reckless and irresponsible and indefensible.

Man, I hope he never finds out about Columbine.

I stopped crying and I got angry again. But this time it was a quiet anger. A Clint Eastwood anger. You know? It’s a cold, detached anger, with a calmness that terrifies. It’s the anger that comes with understanding. I was finally realizing that the people in charge were not on our side, and never had been. The adults who we had been so concerned about and whose jobs we had been so prepared to fight for–had turned on us at the first sign of trouble. They had probably never been our advocates–never pushed back in any way for our benefit. They weren’t being bullied by the administration. They were the bullies. And Coach’s red-faced rage-filled ranting was proof.

It’s not like we got caught drinking or doing drugs or cheating or ditching class. It’s not like we had vandalized the school or started a food fight in the cafeteria. It’s not like we had allegedly date-raped more than ten teenage girls.

We just wanted to put on a play. We wanted to be heard. We wanted to make a positive impact on the people in our community.

I sat perfectly still, unmoved, until Coach finished his rant and dismissed us. And then I was called into the principal’s office one last time.

That’s when she informed me that the press is not allowed on public school grounds without permission. The Channel 12 news reporter I had called would not be allowed on campus. There would be no big story on the news that night.

We had failed.

But it felt more like she had failed me. The school had failed me. And the “cool” teachers had failed me most of all.

I put it all behind me when I graduated. I left town and never really looked back. There are certainly teachers from high school that I remember; ones I admired, who inspired me and pushed me to achieve. But the rest of them are just an unpleasant smudge on my permanent record.

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today’s story is the shortest, but I love that because I like to imagine that short things make Randy Newman extremely angry.

 

Crazy Talk

One time I went to visit a friend who was in the psych ward after a suicide attempt. And while I want to point out that a mental hospital is not the hilarious place that Dudley Moore and Zach Galifianakis want you to think it is, there are still conversations that take place there (like the one below) that make me giggle.

For lack of an actual name, I will refer to the lady patient in this story as “Julia Louis-Dreyfus.”

To protect his identity, I will refer to my friend Brian as “Doug.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: What are you reading?

Doug: It’s a book called Youth in Revolt.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: What’s it about?

Doug: Um, it’s about a kid who does some wacky stuff.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: And he gets in over his head?

Doug: Sure.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: So it’s like War Games?

Doug: Okay.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Cool.

 

That is all.

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Tonight I had dinner with my favorite film professor whom I haven’t seen in 16 years. He’s in town on business (the business of seeing Godspell for the second time! Zing!) and seeing him reminded me of two things.

The first thing is this: he used to leave a sign-up sheet on final exam day for anyone who wanted to know his grade ahead of time. You’d take his test and then leave your number. He’d call to let you know your grade, so that you wouldn’t have to sweat it for two weeks, waiting for it to come in the mail. The first time I left my number I came home to a paranoid and accusatory mom.

“A Dr. Wyatt called you about some test results…? Is there something you want to tell us?

I laughed so hard and assured her that I wasn’t pregnant or in any sort of trouble–that the doctor was my teacher and that the test he referred to was my Film Analysis final. Then I explained that if I were to ever make a secret doctor’s office visit, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to give them my parents’ phone number. I got into college! I can at least figure that out.

The second thing is about what happened when I took that final. It is absolutely true.

 

Not Duk Dong

When I was in college I was in at least four classes with this guy Ben* who knew several of my close friends. He lived around the corner from me and he hung out with my roommate from time to time. And yet every time we ran into each other at a party or a show he would introduce himself.

“Hi, I’m Ben.”

At some point I started answering, “Yeah. Dude, I fucking know you.” But it didn’t make any difference. So after a while I just started introducing myself to him, pre-emptively.

Anyway, we were in a film analysis class with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Wyatt. For the final, we watched Slaves of New York and then were given a question about the film that we were to answer in essay form. That was our whole final, and a big part of our grade.

So after the film, before we started writing, Dr. Wyatt allowed us to ask him questions, about the movie, and about the test. All hands went up because it was a final exam and people were taking it pretty seriously.

Ben raises his hand and asks, “I was wondering, is that guy who played the doctor in that one scene – isn’t that the same actor who played Long Duk Dong?”

Dr. Wyatt paused for a second, I assume to consider two things:

  1. Really? That’s what you wanted to ask?
  2. The doctor in Slaves of New York was Indian. Long Duk Dong was not.

So his answer to Ben was, “Um, the Indian guy?”

And Ben said, “Yeah. He played Long Duk Dong, right?”

And Dr. Wyatt says, “The actor you’re thinking of is Asian.”

And Ben still wasn’t getting it. He was like, “It looks like the same guy, right?”

A visibly irritated Dr. Wyatt replied, “No. They’re not the same guy,” and moved on to the next student.

Ben was not convinced. After Dr. Wyatt wrapped up the Q&A session he let us take a bathroom break before beginning the exam. I went out into the hall to stretch my legs and get a drink of water. As I walked back toward the classroom I saw that Ben had Dr. Wyatt cornered by the bathroom door and was pressing him: “You don’t think it was the same guy…?”

A few years later Ben moved to New York and committed suicide.

I don’t know what actually happened, but I like to think that he was on a quest to find the actor that played the doctor in Slaves of New York, and the fact that it was not the same actor who played Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles was too much to bear.

*Not his real name.

 

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Five Films That Made Me Want to Be A Teenager

1. Foxes

Foxes painted an all too real picture of teenage life in the late 70s, including drugs, sex and abusive parents. But all I saw was parties, rock concerts and best friends having slumber parties on a school night. It made me want to feather my hair like Cherie Currie and hang out with skater boys like Scott Baio. It did not make me want to marry Randy Quaid.

2. Jaws II

I know that most people who watched Jaws II left the theater with a terrifying fear of the water. I left with a dream of living on the coast, sailing to secluded beaches with cute teenage boys and making out on a Catamaran. It didn’t phase me in the slightest that the kids in this movie were terrorized by a killer shark. It just made me think that if I were ever in their situation, I hope the girls prettier than me would be the ones to get eaten.

3. Grease/Grease II

Here’s what I love about Grease: it’s a universally beloved movie with a message to young girls that if you really love a boy, you’ll start dressing like a slut. Grease II tried to be a little more progressive, giving the female lead all the power in the relationship, but ultimately it told us that books smarts are only good if they help you land a pretty, dumb chick. Despite all that, I thought being in a nonviolent gang with matching jackets and silly nicknames was like, the coolest. You dig?

4. Over the Edge

Over the Edge taught me that whenever parents just don’t understand, teens can fight back. Those kids were mad as Hell and they stopped taking it anymore–and I loved it. I’m not sure why I felt so put-upon by grown ups. I mean, the most oppression I ever suffered was being forced to clean my room when I didn’t want to. My parents used to take us to an arcade for dinner and video games, pretty regularly. My dad had a boat he named “The Pac Man.” They were pretty fucking cool, for parents. But Over the Edge showed me that if they ever got out of line, my teenage buddies would be able to teach them a lesson. It also showed a lot of Matt Dillon in cut-off tee-shirts.

5. Night of the Comet
This movie started with one teenage girl working at a movie theater (dream job!) and another punching her step-mom in the face (dream punch!). Then 20 minutes later they were the last people on earth! They shot Uzis at abandoned cars and took over a shopping mall and a radio station–my kid-wishes couldn’t come any more true than they did in this movie. I mean, except for everyone in the world being dead and the constant threat of killer comet-zombies, this movie was the ultimate teenage dream!

 

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

It’s Friday! It’s Day Eleven! And I’m extra excited about today’s story, which is a totally true story, except for the words you filled in from our Mad-Libs-style challenge. I’ve highlighted them below, beginning with the title. Thanks for playing!

 

Avatar: Dark of the Titanic Moon, Part Two (the Deathly Hallows)

Of all the guys I ever dated, the tastiest one was this kid named Blanket. We went to the same college and worked together at a rose tattoo store—I was in the bakery and he was a game show host.

He was a nice kid, real dorky and prematurely blinding at the young age of 64. Sometimes he tried to act cool, saying “hip” things like Got any cheese? or, That’s racist! as he walked by the bakery. It was kind of cute, how pathetic it was.

He finally asked me out right around my birthday. He told me he wanted to bring me flowers and asked me what kind I liked.

“I don’t know. I kind of hate pansies. Anything, really, except those.”

He then asked me about ten more times and tried to get me to be more specific, which was a real turn-off. I thought, “If this Joey-Bag-of-Doughnuts can’t just buy a girl some flowers without specific instructions, what does that say about him?”

What it said was that he lacked creativity. He bought me pansies. Purple ones. “I know they’re pansies but I thought they were kind of different because they’re purple, right?”

Our date was uneventful, but not metallic. A few days later he asked if I wanted to come hang out at his tree after class. I agreed, thinking maybe I could be the “bad girl” that turned him from a clean cut carrot into a hermaphroditic handgun.

We sat on the floor in his living room. He asked if I wanted to listen to music and pulled out his cassette collection. My eyes martinized as I spied two Bette Midler tapes and two Nickelback tapes.

“What the Hell?” I asked.

“We-we don’t have to listen to those. Pick something else,” he offered.

I dug through the box and pulled out a Richard Marx album.

“Oh my god…” I said. I couldn’t even look at him. I made a face like I was going to be sick.

“What? You don’t like buoyant music?”

I stood up and started backing up towards the front door. It was like I had found a bloody hatchet under his couch—this guy was a maniac and I had to get out of there!

He tried to reason with me. “But we don’t have to listen to them!”

“It’s enough that you own them. It’s enough that you own them.

“I’ll throw them away,” he offered. He picked up the box and started walking with it toward the kitchen.

“No. It’s too late. You bought those. You HAVE those. I have to go.”

I turned and ran out of there as if being chased. I just panicked, I guess. I mean, I know that my behavior was less than stinky. It’s clear that I overreacted.

But then again, did I?

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

It’s the tenth day. I’m on my 10th story. WE’RE A THIRD OF THE WAY THERE, PEOPLE!

Or should I say, “person?” I’m not sure how many people are even reading these. If you tell 30 stories in a forest and no one reads them does it make a sound?

“Helloooooo… ellooooo… loooo..”

I’m going to find out tomorrow by asking you to participate. Once I finish tomorrow’s story, I’ll omit some words, Mad-Libs style. I’ll leave comments (on THIS POST), asking you guys to give me some new words. You reply with your suggestion(s) and I’ll pick my favorites and post it as tomorrow’s story. So look in the comments section below (or come back to this post later if they’re not there yet).

But for now, let’s get on with story number 10.

 

 

You Dropped Something

On occasion I am guilty of namedropping–mostly by accident. Generally, I am too blatantly thrilled to have bumped elbows with a celeb to try to sound cool and casual about it. (Once I wanted to speak to Frank Black at a very crowded after-party, but he was busy hitting on a girl, and even I know that cockblocking is no way to meet a hero, so I literally bumped elbows with him at the bar until he turned around. I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” and gestured to the people behind me, indicating that I had been pushed into him by the crowd. He turned back around and resumed picking up that girl. And now I can tell all my friends about the time “I talked to Frank Black!!!”)

When someone’s really obnoxious about namedropping, though, I’ve found ignorance to be the best/most fun cure. I discovered this when I was 23. I met this kid online who shared my interest in film making and we decided to meet for lunch. He was only 19 or so, but in his mind he was already running Hollywood. (I forget his name–should find out if it was Bret Ratner.)

I was polite at first, but I found his constant namedropping unbearable. And considering his ego, I knew calling him out for it wouldn’t help much. So I started playing dumb.

“Blondes play more dumb” is the expression, right? It works well because some of you guys are so ready to believe it. I once got out of several traffic tickets by pretending I didn’t know that drivers licenses expire. I really dumbed it up and walked away scot-free.

Anyway, I started playing this game where any time he would drop a name (and then look to me for recognition) I would pretend to be really impressed and then completely misidentify the person he had mentioned. For example, when he said, “I’ve got a meeting in Los Angeles with David Schwimmer’s agent,” I replied, “Oooh–the guy who played Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley?! That’s so cool!”

It really frustrated him that I didn’t understand how impressive he was.

Guy: “You haven’t heard of Friends?”
Me: “You’re friends with Squiggy’s agent?”
Guy: “No! The show FRIENDS. David Schwimmer is on Friends.”
Me: “No. I watch that show. I would have remembered if Squiggy was on it.”

You see how it works? Later, he told me he had directed some music videos and he was being considered to direct a Montell Jordan video.

Me: “Oooh, maybe you’ll get to do one of those ‘Who is the baby-daddy’ episodes!”
Guy: “That’s not Montell Jordan–”
Me: “Oh, you’re right, that’s Maury Povich. Montel is the one with the psychic lady.”
Guy: “No, the musician.”
Me: “Alan Thicke?”

And so on.

He quickly stopped trying to impress me with all of his celebrity connections. I’m mean, with David Schhwimmer’s agent on the line and a Montell Jordan video in his sights, that kid was on his way to the top and he didn’t need some dummy like me slowing him down.

 

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

 

Okay. Today is totally cheating, I know. But I stumbled upon this old IM conversation I had with my friend, Matt Tobey, and it made me laugh so hard that I thought I’d share it. We could all use a laugh, right? RIGHT?

It features a script idea for THE GREATEST STORY NEVER TOLD. My apologizes to the families of Patrick Swayze and Lou Gehrig.

 

Patrick Swayze’s Final Podcast

Darci: I miss Junkiness
Darci: I’m gonna bring it back in podcast form and its going to kick your podcasts’s ass
Darci: (podcass)
Darci: But I need someone else’s magic touch. Find me someone to give me a magic touch.
Darci: besides your dad
Matt: what about Patrick Swayze?
Darci: he is like the wind, I suppose
MT: and he’ll be dead soon
MT: patrick swayze’s final podcast
Darci: oh and also, I am writing a new script
Darci: it’s for a dark comedy/dramedy/sci-fi/fantasy film
Darci: it’s called Patrick Swayze’s Final Podcast
Darci: In it, Lou Gehrig plays Patrick Swayze, the luckiest guy in baseball. “Swayze” goes into the future to the year 2010, where everyone has a podcast.
Darci: Everyone. Literally. Even newborn babies.
Matt: LOL
Darci: He looks himself up on iTunes and finds that his last podcast was uploaded a year ago
Darci: which means he’s dead
Darci: and in order to find out what happened, he has to listen to his archives
Darci: the problem is, his ancient modem from 2008 is so slow
Darci: (and his podcasts are so boring)
Darci: But he is persistent, and finally learns he will die of Lou Gehrig’s disease
Darci: (IRONY!)
Darci: so he goes further into the future and discovers a cure
Darci: then goes back to 2008 and cures himself
Darci: then goes back to Lou Gehrig’s time and cures him, so that he can later star in this movie
Darci: and he changes the name of the disease to “shit sucks syndrome”
Matt: LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLl
Darci: Then he goes back to 2007 and marries Diablo Cody for some reason. He dies two years later at a baseball game when he gets hit in the head by a foul ball. Turns out, with Lou Gehrig surviving his case of “shit sucks syndrome” he continued playing baseball and became famous for hitting foul balls. So now when a player hits a lot of foul balls, they say that player has “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
Darci: So “Swayze” changes everything – and yet, he changes nothing. It’s so deep. SO so deep.
Darci: Oh, and Babe Ruth makes a cameo as a dancing enchilada
Matt: I would see that
Darci: right?

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

 

Cakegate!

I used to work in an office where there was both a physical and emotional divide between the sales staff and administrators on the top floor and the photo research staff and IT department on the bottom floor.

I was on the bottom floor with the computer kids. Most of the time we kept to ourselves and the people upstairs kept to themselves—very segregated, very “jocks vs nerds.” The only time we really got together was when it was someone’s birthday.

Well, let me rephrase that. The only time we really got together was when it was an upstairs-someone’s birthday. The sales people liked to celebrate themselves at every opportunity, and they would come around to collect a few bucks from each of us—even the cavedwellers downstairs. But their party planning committee fell asleep at the wheel in the months in which only a downstairs-someone celebrated a birthday.

On one hand, who cares, right? I mean, it’s an ice cream cake and a forced conversation. But on the other hand, it kind of soured some of us on the “chipping in” part. So I stopped. A few of us did. We skipped the birthday parties altogether and celebrated in our own way with those coworkers we actually liked.

That did not go over so well with the party planning committee.

At first they didn’t really notice. But early one May, they came around asking for birthday party contributions. Party Lady made a bitch face at me when I declined to chip in, even when someone else informed her that my birthday had come and gone just days earlier without any fanfare or cake from the folks upstairs.

A few days later, on my way to a smoke break, I noticed the receptionist was eating ice cream cake. “We have cake?” I asked.

The receptionist was shocked. “They didn’t invite you to have cake?”

I realized this was the birthday cake I had declined to chip in on. No surprise they had not invited me to participate. “Oh, it’s the birthday cake. I didn’t chip in – forget about it.”

The receptionist would not forget about it. She thought it was rude of them not to share the cake, whether I chipped in or not. But I got it. They were really showing me! “This is what happens when you don’t pitch in for cake!” Boy, I was really learning my lesson!

And even though I didn’t really want any cake, the very sweet receptionist went upstairs to get a piece and brought it to me outside. I handed it to my friend and co-worker, Kimberly who also had not chipped in on the celebration. She joked, “I’m going to be in so much trouble if they see me holding this cake!”

We both laughed at the very idea of “getting in trouble” over cake. And then we went inside and when the very well-intentioned receptionist wasn’t looking we threw the piece of cake in the garbage.

What we didn’t know is that we had been spotted holding the cake. Party Lady had looked out the window and seen us with it. She furiously stomped over to the sales manager’s office, slammed the door, and screamed (Seriously–I am told she literally screamed):

“THEY’RE EATING THE CAAAAAAAKE!!!!!!!”

Red-faced and puffed up, Party Lady explained to the sales manager why we had no right to eat the cake and why it was absolutely imperative that he discipline us, immediately.

So within minutes of Kimberly’s joke about “getting in trouble” for the cake—within seconds of returning to our office and throwing that damn cake in the garbage—my telephone rang and the sales manager explained to me, respectfully, that if we were not going to chip in on the cake party, we should refrain from eating the cake. To which I replied:

“I KNEW IT. THAT FUCKING BITCH SAW US WITH THE CAKE. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING WITH THIS BULLSHIT? I DIDN’T EAT THE CAKE. I DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR THE CAKE. JENNY BROUGHT ME A PIECE BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLY SELFISH PIECE OF SHIT CASEY CAN BE. YOU KNOW NO ONE IS GOING TO EAT ALL THAT CAKE, RIGHT? YOU KNOW IT IS GOING IN THE FRIDGE TO ROT UNTIL SOMEONE THROWS IT AWAY? I CANNOT BELIEVE SHE MADE YOU CALL ME. YOU WANT ME TO CHIP IN? I’LL CHIP IN. I’LL GIVE YOU 20 BUCKS TO LET ME TAKE ALL THE CAKE THAT IS LEFT AND MAKE THEM WATCH ME SHOVE IT IN THE FUCKING GARBAGE.”

The sales manager informed me that that wouldn’t be necessary and begged me to give him a break–he was only calling because Party Lady had come to his office in tears—IN TEARS! She cried about me getting a piece of stupid birthday cake and forced her boss to reprimand me because of it. If she had any kind of power at all, I would have been fired.

But she didn’t. And she left the company soon after. Hopefully to start her own ACT LIKE A STUPID BITCH service, because she had so much professional experience and skill at acting like a stupid bitch.

That company went out of business within two years. As web technology exploded, the stock photography market changed drastically and the company just couldn’t keep up.

But also, the cake thing.

 

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

You guys! I never thought I’d say this, but, I am tired of telling you stories! Are you tired of hearing them? Well here’s the good news: you can stop reading them any time. But not me! I have committed to writing them, so here I go again.

Today’s story is kind of brutal, actually. It’s hard to make jokes about a guy getting beaten bloody. I mean, I’m not above it, I’m just saying it was hard. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Read it below.

The First Rule of Fight Club is: You Must Agree to Be In Fight Club.

I worked the fuel desk at three different truck stops while getting my college degree. I guess you could say that interstate commerce helped fund my education. Well, okay, my parents funded my education, but interstate commerce paid for the alcohol and concert tickets that went with it.

The first truck stop I worked at was located at the junction of two roads in the middle of nowhere, Texas. The large complex included a restaurant, liquor store, Post Office, and bait shop/video rental store/dry cleaner (all in one).

It was at this truck stop that I witnessed the kind of backwoods Texas tragedy that made-for-TV-movies are TV-made-for.

My boss, Bill, was a fairly private, soft-spoken and extremely nice guy. And even though he very much minded his own business, there are no secrets in a small town. One’s private affairs are discussed quite publicly, especially by the regulars who spent hours in the restaurant booths sipping coffee and chit chatting. If any local residents were sleeping around, drinking too much or missing church on Sunday, Bill probably knew about it.

Just before midnight on a random Wednesday, Bill and I were getting ready to close up shop when a man came in to buy a 12-pack of beer. I was putting things away in the kitchen. Bill was working the register. The customer was leaving when a second guy came in.

I hadn’t really noticed much about the first guy, but the second guy got my attention. I saw him walk aggressively toward the first guy, getting right in his face and speaking angrily, though surprisingly quiet. It was clear there was some sort of issue and the first guy stood his ground, but looked terrified.

I should have been minding my own business, but I couldn’t look away as Bill walked over and separated the two guys. In his friendly, calm manner, he explained that there was a time and a place to discuss whatever issue they were having, and that this was neither.

That issue, apparently, was that the second guy’s ex-wife had started dating the first guy? And I guess Ex-Hubs was not cool with New Guy taking his place? I don’t know. But based on what happens next, I assume this ex-wife character was some sort of superhero in the sack. Like, her pussy must have been lined with kitten fur and cocaine, or something, because these two gents were about to get into some serious shit.

Still puffed up, Ex-Hubs backed off and walked out the front door. New Guy apologized to Bill for the trouble, but stuck around making extremely awkward small talk until they both saw Ex-Hubs drive away. A little more small talk and then New Guy left through a side door and Bill and I picked up where we left off, getting ready to go home.

One last car pulled up for some gas and a couple got out and waved for us to activate the pump. I walked over to do so, but then I saw them both walking toward the side of the building, staring curiously at something. Then the guy ran inside and yelled, “He’s killing him! Call an ambulance!”

It is worth noting that even though I recognized that this situation was suuuuper serious, I couldn’t help laughing out loud at the way the guy pronounced it “AM-bah-lance.”

Bill ran outside and I called 9-1-1, even though I had no idea what was going on. I handed the phone to the gas guy and heard him tell the operator that a man was beating another man to death on the sidewalk. He repeatedly requested an “AM-bah-lance” and I assume the operator knew what he meant.

I started walking toward the side door to see if I could help, but Bill ran in and yelled at me, “STAY INSIDE!” It was the first time he had ever raised his voice to me. He then took the phone from the panicked customer, gave information to the 9-1-1 operator, and ran back outside.

I tried (or rather, pretended) to keep busy as the police and AM-bah-lance came and went. It was eerie being all alone inside a truck stop, surrounded by sirens and flashing lights. After everyone was gone, Bill came in and, without a word, started filling a large white bucket with hot water. He emptied a gallon bottle of bleach into it and told me to bring it to the side door when the bucket was full.

“Do NOT open the door,” he said. “Just knock and I’ll come get it.”

I’m not that squeamish, really, but I did as I was told. I brought the bucket to the side door and knocked on it. Bill opened the door just enough to pull the bucket outside and the amount of blood I saw–just through the barely-opened door–made me immediately fall to my knees and vomit.

HOW DO WE HAVE THAT MUCH BLOOD INSIDE US? I almost vomited again, just thinking about it.

I filled another bucket with hot bleach water and cleaned up my barf. Then I filled four more and Bill took each one to clean off the sidewalk. He also had to take my keys and drive my car from the side of the building to the front, so that I could leave the store without seeing more blood.

New Guy lived, but it was a fairly close call. His nose had been kicked off his face. His NOSE had been KICKED OFF his FACE.

That’s a real fucked up way to play “Got your nose.”

Ex-Hubs came to the store a few days later, after being released on bail, to apologize to Bill… for making a mess, I think? He seemed pretty level-headed and not crazy, but, you know, he still had that look of a guy that could kick the nose off of another guy’s face.

He also came over to the register and apologized to me. I don’t remember what he said, or what I said, but we were both pretty uncomfortable during the exchange. I mean, it’s not like he borrowed my jacket without asking. He tried to straight up murder a dude at my job. I’m pretty sure they don’t make a Hallmark card for that.

Anyway, I never saw him again, presumably because he did a good bit of jail time. A few months later I got a job at the mall, where the only crimes I witnessed were the repeated purchase of the most terrible ladies’ blouses. Oh, man were they awful. I almost vomited again, just thinking about it.

For an explanation of 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

It’s Day 6 and I don’t feel like writing anything today. But when I asked myself how I would like to describe my day to someone who might ask tomorrow, I decided “I spent the day writing” sounded better than “I slept in and watched a bunch of Lifetime movies.”

So, I spent the day writing and I ended up with three almost finished stories that are way too long and rambly and pointless and self indulgent and just generally kind of the worst. Kind of like the Lifetime movies of stories. I threw them all away and decided instead to write down three very short anecdotes about my grandmother.

ONE: The Wrong Word.
Once my grandmother was with my aunt and my teenage cousin when their car would not start. They spent a few minutes trying to get it to start, and then lifted the hood like people do when their cars won’t start, even if they do not know how to fix cars. Finally, my aunt went to find help and returned a few minutes later with a nice man carrying jumper cables.

My grandmother said to my cousin, “Oh, I bet that man’s going to jack us off!”

http://sadtrombone.com/

TWO: Baby It’s Cold Outside
For a few years in the mid 1980s my grandfather, who worked in the oil biz, got stationed in North Dakota. I remember going to visit them and being blown away that they were living in an apartment, instead of a house or mobile home. It seemed very cosmopolitan.

My grandmother told a story about shopping in Bismarck–how she stopped to admire some hand sewn pot holders and embroidered pillow cases in a booth in the middle of the mall. The woman running the booth was ancient–“in her 90s, at least,” according to my grandmother. She approached the old woman holding a pot holder and said, “These are beautifully made. They must have taken a very long time.”

The woman replied, “Well, gets so cold here in the winter, the only thing there is to do is sew… and fuck.”

GRANDMA FACE.


THREE: Ancient Herstory

None of us know anything about my biological grandfather, really. My grandmother’s first husband, my father’s father, was out of the picture when my dad was still a kid. And as far as my grandmother was concerned, he no longer existed. There were no photos, no stories. I only knew that his nickname was “Puss” and that he died before I was born.

That’s the thing about my grandmother–once you messed with her or her kids, you became a ghost. You were out of the picture–and I mean that literally. When I inherited her photo albums I found hundreds of pictures of my aunt cut in half, or with gaping holes in them. They were all photos of her first husband who had been unceremoniously removed after their divorce. My grandmother wasn’t satisfied in just cutting him out of our future–she cut him out of our past as well.

When I think of my Uncle Dick, I can’t quite picture his face, so I just think of a phantom arm around someone’s neck. If my grandmother had been in the CIA she would have been really good at giving burn notices.

My aunt and uncle

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Oh, man. Writing on a Saturday, when it’s so nice outside? Ugh. Feels like weekend homework – something I’ve avoided forever. And yet, here I am, as promised. Today’s story is both sad and adorable like Old Yeller. You know what else is sad and adorable? I once heard a friend refer to that dog as “Old Yellow”, which she assumed was the dog’s full name.

Whoops!

When I was six, I lived out on an old ranch outside Nocona, Texas. I had a horse named Elmer (named after the glue, because he was totally old and about to die when we got him) and a collie named Patches. My older brother had a mutt named Buster, but I always thought he was a Dalmatian because he was white with black spots and I had read that book a hundred and one times.

Buster was neutered, but Patches had not been spayed and the first time she went into heat, we started noticing a little stray dog hanging around. I thought he looked like Benji, but as I have already established, I was not super good at knowing what dogs look like, basing all my dog breed knowledge on fictional dogs from story books.

My dad did not want Patches to get knocked up. The last thing we needed was a bunch of puppies. So whenever he would see stray-Benji hanging around, he’d yell at him or wave his arms menacingly to get him to run off.

But stray-Benji always came back.

Eventually, my dad had to get sinister and teach stray-Benji that when he said, “Go on, get out of here!” he meant it. So he started throwing rocks in the general direction of the dog. I know. It sounds pretty mean. Imagine how I took it, being a six-year-old Benji fan. But he assured me that he was just throwing the rocks near the dog to scare him away, and would not hurt the dog.

Not hurting the dog didn’t teach the dog anything, and stray-Benji kept coming back. We lived out in the country where our dogs ran around free, and as long as Patches was in heat, and stray-Benji was hanging around, we had to keep them apart, which was kind of a pain in the ass.

So my dad got out the heavy artillery: a pellet gun. This sent both my brother and I over the edge, as we were certain that our father was on his way to becoming a dog murderer.

“Hello? Special Victims Unit? Come quick!”

Again, my dad assured us that he was only going to shoot the gun in the air, hoping that the loud noise would scare the dog away for good. It did not. Eventually he took aim at the dog, swearing to us that he would just hit the dog in the butt, and that a pellet gun could never do any real damage.

You guys see where this is going, right? I apologize in advance to the tenderhearted.

So, “Sharpshooter McGee” accidentally hit the dog in the spine. The dog went down, and my brother and I saw everything. My dad had succeeded at keeping stray-Benji off our ovulating collie, but had failed at keeping his children from crying and screaming, “YOU KILLED HIM!” over and over and over. He promised us that the stray dog was just fine, then he picked up the dog and rushed him to the vet.

All that dog wanted was some sweet collie tail, which I assume he is getting a lot of in Heaven.

The thing is, my parents couldn’t really afford to get my dog spayed. And they couldn’t really afford to raise a bunch of puppies. A strapped budget had gotten my dad into this mess, and now he had to cough up the dough to have this poor stray dog put to sleep. And after that, even though we couldn’t really afford it, he had to bring home a live dog and convince us it was the same dog he left with.

My dad worked for an airplane parts manufacturer at the time, and there had been a stray dog hanging around the factory for weeks. He and the other guys at work would feed her scraps, from time to time. She was a beagle mix and she was more than happy to come home with my dad and pretend to be another dog, if it meant two square meals a day.

The other thing she was is pregnant.

She gave birth to eight puppies a few weeks later, which completely thrilled my brother and me, and almost made up for the fact that our accidental-dog-murdering dad tried to fool us with a fake-stray-Benji.

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today’s story may read like the plot of a Macaulay Culkin movie, but the events described are absolutely true. And by “absolutely” I mean “as far as I can remember, because it happened a long time ago and I’ve slept since then.”

Occupy North 92nd Street

I was only nine years old when I participated in the Great Babysitter Beatdown.

I was living in Omaha, Nebraska, in a neighborhood full of kids my own age, for the first time. Before that, my family had lived in small-town-Texas, often outside city limits, where we had no neighbors at all. It sounds funny, but Omaha, for me, was full of adventure and mischief and cheap thrills. Sure, most of the time I was reading books and riding bikes and playing with Smurfs. But this was also the town where I tried vodka for the first time. It’s where I got my first Queen and DEVO and Blondie records. I stole my first pack of cigarettes here, and smoked them in a US Postal Service parking garage on a Sunday.

I learned a lot about how to be bad in Omaha, Nebraska.

But I learned something else, too. I learned about power in numbers. As a kid, one often feels pretty powerless—adults have the final word in just about everything and it sucks. And when adults aren’t around you still have to answer to older kids and bigger kids.

Being a little kid means constantly being reminded of stuff you want that you can’t have, and stuff you have to do that you hate. It’s a lot of chores and eating your peas and words you can’t say, without explanation beyond, “Because I said so,” and, “I’ll give you something to cry about.”

But when pushed too far, kids can snap. The fear of reprimand goes out the window, and when kids unafraid of punishment get together, it’s TERRIFYING.  Don’t take my word for it. Watch movies like The Children, The Brood and Village of the Damned. You’ll see! Oh, YOU’LL SEE!

I saw. I took part, even. I got caught up in a tiny, torch-wielding mob of grade-schoolers, pushed to the edge, determined to teach one bad babysitter a lesson.

I don’t remember the babysitter’s name–some teenager who sat for a few kids on my street, but not for me. I don’t even remember the specific nature of her crimes, only that to the kids on my street, she was sort of universally despised. Parents trusted her, kids hated her—that’s all I needed to know.

In the summer of 1981, the babysitter got a long-term job watching the Thompson* boys at the end of the block—Richie, who was about my age, and his five-year-old kid brother, Scotty. They both had bright red hair and freckles and Scotty was loud and hyper, like you would expect a five-year-old boy to be. But for the most part, they stayed out of trouble.

I guess at some point, their feud with the babysitter heated up, and the prospect of spending an entire summer under her regime became too much to handle. A plan was put into place. And in the early evening hours of a warm June night, on a street that seemed completely devoid of parental supervision, somehow, that plan was executed with Seal Team Six precision and Reservoir Dogs style.

I had no idea what I was walking into when I went to my friend Laura’s house after dinner. Her parents were out and there were eight or nine kids from the neighborhood in her kitchen, making water balloons and cutting the tops off of empty two-liter soda bottles. One of them handed me a ski mask. A SKI MASK. They ALL had ski masks. In JUNE.

What?

They told me the mask would hide my face so no one would recognize me (as if a bunch of four-foot-tall maniacs would be hard to identify!). But I didn’t ask questions. I had seen this movie before—you put the mask on and you fill up that Pepsi bottle with water and you don’t ask questions.

Minutes later we were running out the door, led by Richie Thompson to the side of his own house, where we prepared to attack. We put on our ski masks. We readied our balloons and bottles. One kid turned on the hose and filled a bucket with water and dead grass.

For the record, the way to win any water fight is the dead grass. I learned this from my older brother and his two best friends who took on an army of grade-schoolers in the field behind our street. You get hit with a bucket of water, you get wet. You get hit with a bucket of water and dead grass, you get itchy, gross grass stuck all over your body (and in your mouth! ugh.) that is impossible to remove until you dry off.

Anyway, there we were, waiting and watching the back door. The babysitter was inside, talking on the phone or something. Richie coached his little brother Scotty for a few minutes and then Scotty ran into the back yard, plopped down on his back and started to cry loudly. Richie then ran into the house, screamed to the babysitter that Scotty had been hurt, and led her outside.

To her doom.

In a movie, this part would be played in slow-motion, scored with crazy scary opera music. We had lured an unsuspecting babysitter into the yard. We quickly moved in and blocked her path, trapping her there. And then we attacked.

She screamed as we pelted her with water balloons. We’d throw them two or three-at-a-time, from pretty close range (had to–the long range aim of a nine-year-old is pretty terrible!) and then run back for more. When we ran out of balloons, we emptied the bottles and the bucket. One kid just sprayed the hose on her the whole time.

I don’t even know if we yelled anything while we did it. I just remember it was crazy and chaotic, and it was over very quickly. When the last bucket was emptied, we all just took off. We ran back to Laura’s house, cleaned up, dried off and went home as if nothing had happened. We didn’t discuss much before, and we never talked about it after. We just went back to being kids, playing four square in the street and listening to records and talking about Star Wars. We never even got caught—never got in any trouble at all!

You know what else never happened? That babysitter never worked our street again.

The Thompson boys were grounded, of course. It was really the only consequence–the only reminder that the assault even happened. For the rest of the summer, every time I rode my bike past that house, I’d see Richie and Scotty Thompson staring forlornly out their living room window. I’d wave a sad little wave and they’d smile a sad little smile.

And then I’d pedal the fuck out of there before anyone asked any questions.

 

*Some names have been changed to protect the guilty, and also because I don’t really remember. What do you want from me? I was nine.

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today I thought I’d go back to the beginning. The VERY beginning. It’s the story of the day I was born, which I love, because it seems like it was a difficult and ridiculous day for everyone involved. I obviously have no memory of it, but I’ve been told it went something like this:

Origin of the Me-cies

Sacramento, CA, 1972: My parents have recently moved across town to a new house. As far as I know, they don’t really know many people in Sacramento—they moved there when my Dad got some sort of construction job at the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant (home of “the third most serious safety-related occurrence in the United States!”).

My brother, Todd, is almost five and our cousin Bridgette (also five) is visiting, along with her mother and grandmother. Between my dad’s job and his as-yet-unchecked alcoholism, he’s keeping pretty busy, so his mother and sister have flown in from Texas to help take care of things whenever my mom goes into labor.

That was the plan, anyway. I am more than a week overdue (“Never too early to start being late for stuff!” –me) and my grandmother and aunt are getting impatient. They spend each day asking my mom “When is that kid gonna come?!” and entertaining two five-year-olds with trips to local attractions. My cousin tells me that she and my brother were promised a trip to Disneyland the day before I arrived, and that my being born ruined it. (“Never too early to start ruining stuff!” –also me)

Losing patience, my grandmother makes my mom drink a glass of Castor oil to induce labor (the seventies!). Late that same evening, her contractions begin. It’s after midnight. My dad is out drinking beer and playing poker somewhere and has our (only) car.  Wherever he is, he can’t be reached by phone. And he doesn’t have one of those “Daddy Beepers” because beepers don’t exist because they haven’t been invented yet because it isn’t the future. (Help us, TIME CAT!)

My mom knows that calling an ambulance will be too expensive, and apparently taxicabs won’t pick up a woman in labor, for insurance reasons. So, out of desperation, my mom calls her former neighbors from across town—a couple in their 50s that she barely knows. She wakes them up, explains her predicament and they rush over to take her and my aunt to the hospital. My grandmother stays home with the kids and waits for my Dad (her son), with whom she (and everyone) is now furious. I mean, have you ever had to call a casual acquaintance in the middle of the night to ask for a hugely inconvenient favor because you are out of options? I can imagine my mom spent every non-contraction moment feeling either mortified or livid or both.

WHAT A JOYOUS DAY TO BE BORN!

Hours later, my Dad arrives home. My grandmother hears him come in, and doesn’t confront him right away. She is waiting for him to realize that my mom is missing (in the middle of the night), panic, and come to her, looking for answers.

Instead, he passes out in the bed, completely unaware that anything is out of the ordinary. My grandmother waits a few minutes, then bursts into his bedroom and yells, “JUST WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOUR WIFE IS?” To which my dad replies, “Guh?” and then slowly gets it together and leaves for the hospital.

For the next 30-some-odd hours, my mom is in labor, and after a day and a half she is craving sleep, food and cigarettes (the seventies!), which she is not allowed to have. When my dad, grandmother and aunt are not busy eating and smoking in front of her, they complain about how long this birth is taking. If my mother hadn’t been exhausted, in constant pain and living on nothing but ice chips, she might have punched all of them in their smoking, eating faces. Instead, she kept quiet and carried on forcing a human being out of her vagina.

THE MOST SPECIAL DAY, AM I RIGHT?

Finally, I am born, and I am pretty awesome (so I’m told). I am named after the daughter of one of my Dad’s Navy buddies. My Dad just liked the name Darci, and he won the coin toss that determined which of my parents got to choose the name. A quarter landing on “heads” instead of “tails” is the only reason you aren’t currently reading the story of the day Chrissy Ratliff was born.

Almost four decades later, my cousin and my brother have still never been to Disneyland. You know who has been to Disneyland? Me. (YA BURNT!)

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today’s “story” is not a story. It’s a list of titles for other stories that I made up, based on a very famous boy detective and his well-worn book titling convention. If you want an actual story, you’ll have to settle for this anecdote: one time I read the word “titling” and in my head I pronounced it “TIT ling” and I spent 5 minutes trying to figure out what the hell a “TIT ling” was and then I finally moved on and after reading the rest of the sentence realized that the word was “TY tul ling” and it meant “to give something a title” and I was an idiot. The year was 2009.

Okay! Without any further ado, I give you:

Six Encyclopedia Brown Books for 2011

  1. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Groupon Massage
  2. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Twitter Trend
  3. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dubious Divorce
  4. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Movie Renter’s Mess-Up
  5. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Stupid Scorpion Jacket that We Are All Going to Have to Deal With Being a Thing for a While
  6. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Dr. Pepper Dipshits

Six Encyclopedia Brown Books That Describe My Weekend

  1. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Thundersnow
  2. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Law and Order Marathon
  3. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missed Birthday Party
  4. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Accidental Nap
  5. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Grown Woman Watching the Movie Spooky Buddies All By Herself for Some Reason
  6. Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Macaroni and Cheese Binge

Six Encyclopedia Brown Rip-Offs

  1. Thesaurus Bronze and the Claim of the Comparable Cousin
  2. Dictionary Dave and the Case of the Voluminous Vocabulary
  3. Wikipedia Brown and the Case of Anything Goes
  4. Detecting for Dummies and That Time What We Got Into Trouble
  5. Clancy Brown and the Case of the Shawshank Redemption
  6. A. Whitney Brown and the Big Picture