Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Daddio

Hi frenz!  My micro-essay “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Daddio” is up at Foliate Oak Literary Magazine today.  It’s a short humor piece about how I successfully tricked a local radio DJ into playing my favorite Starship song when I was a kid.

No, really.

You can read it here: Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Daddio

Foliate Oak is the literary magazine for the University of Arkansas, and the irony that I did not attend a single day of college in my entire life is not lost on me here.  This is my first publication in a university journal, which basically means I get an honorary doctoral degree now or something, so you may now commence calling me Doctor Pissypants.

I have actually been to Arkansas, though.  Right in that area where you drive over the Mississippi River out of Memphis, Tennessee and you see that “Welcome to Arkansas!” sign in the middle of a corn field and say to the person in the passenger seat, “Uh oh” and then turn the car around and drive back to Memphis for more day-drinking.

Thanks so much for reading!  I’ve just been walking around all day lately not believing my luck.

And here’s your weird boyfriend Nicolas Cage, who is also my weird boyfriend, and the universe’s weird boyfriend.

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Steel Maggie-nolias

I threw away my old Doc Martens combat boots after 27 years of ownership.  As I pitched them into the trash and they clunked towards the bottom of the can, they yelled, “Do they have a steel toooooooooooooooe?!” on their way down, because after so many years of excellent service, this was unfortunately the memory I associated most with them.  Because teenage boys.

Oh!  Do tell, Myrtle!

I remember the day I got my Doc Martens in 1992.  Grunge was now all the rage, and no teenage grunge queen was complete without a pair of Doc Martens to go with her sundress, tights, and flannel shirt.  They were all I wanted in life that year, and I begged my mother to buy them for me.

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Fine, these flowers aren’t magnolias, but spoiler alert, those are Doc Martens on my 16-year old feet.  And a cigarette in my hand, but that’s neither here nor there.

Things had finally started to turn around in our household, our roof had been fixed up after Hurricane Andrew (thanks to insurance) and Mom had landed a better-paying job.  Plus, it was just me and her left in the house since my sisters had both moved out.  We were no longer destitute and there was even a little left over for spending.

I told her I needed a new pair of shoes, so we hit the mall.  Just a few years before, besides my yearly pair of $15 sneakers from Fayva the discount shoe store, my two sisters and I shared a single pair of black flats that we fought over mercilessly.

Three teenage girls, one pair of dress shoes, you can imagine the carnage.  You could make ten full wigs out of the amount of hair we pulled out of each other’s heads over those black flats.

As Mom and I stood in the shoe store, she flipped the Doc Martens boot over to see the price tag and said, “Ha!  $120?!!  Not in your wildest dreams, kid!”

She started to walk away, so I had to jump on her to present my proposition.

“Okay, okay, I know this seems nuts, but just listen to me!  If you buy me these boots, I promise I will wear them every single day for the rest of high school.  For two years!”

She said, “You have almost another two years of high school, and you’re telling me, you’re promising me, that you will wear these stupid, ugly things every day?  EVERY day?”

I nodded my head like a maniac, “Yes!  I promise!  Every single day!”

The next day, I swaggered into school in my black sundress, red plaid tights, and my brand-new Doc Martens.  I felt like the coolest mofo on the planet – until the first teenage boy saw me.

“Nice Docs,” he said, pursing his lips and folding his arms.  “I bet you got them at the mall.  Do they have a steel toe?”

(Like he got his Doc Martens trying to fight the Krauts back from the border of Poland in World War II.)

I looked down and said, “No?  Why would I need a steel toe?”

He laughed, “Heh.  Well, mine have a steel toe, so…”

Soooooo…what?  What the hell did I care if his OR my Doc Martens had a steel toe?

“I’m just saying only poseurs wear Docs that don’t have a steel toe.”

He walked away, still laughing.

I had never spoken to this guy in my life, and we didn’t even know each other’s names – but he felt compelled to walk up and insult me.

Were we doing construction work there in the 11th grade, where steel-toed boots would be the only thing standing between me and a pile of broken toes?

As it would turn out, in the two years that I wore my Doc Martens to school EVERY DAY JUST LIKE I’D PROMISED, this was an unsolicited question I was asked by teenage boys on a weekly basis.  I got so tired of having the steel toe conversation, I considered just writing, “No Steel Toe” across the top of one boot in white-out and “Poseur” on top of the other to save myself the time and aggravation.

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Look who’s still wearing those Doc Martens a year later at 17!  Never mind the beer, it’s neither here nor there.

It’s so funny, too, looking back on the whole thing and realizing what stupid ass hats those guys were.  My shoes bothered them so much that they felt the need to barge up to me, a stranger, to interrogate me about them and then try to make me feel like they were better than me?

I don’t think I’m better than anyone except Melissa’s mom, and everybody knows that.

They acted like they had somehow “earned” their combat boots as teenage boys and I was merely trying to game their system.  Like they were wearing them for actual combat when I was just wearing them for fashion, even though it was the 90s and we were all just wearing them for fashion.

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18 years old!  Still wearing those Docs!  I was SO HIGH IN THIS PICTURE, but that’s neither here nor there.

And what are we even talking about here?  Did they think I wasn’t cool enough to be into grunge?  Is there even such a thing as a person who isn’t cool enough to be into grunge?

I present this photograph of Jeff Ament and Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, as Exhibits A through Z in my case:

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These two look like what would happen if Gallagher had sex with a dreamcatcher on top of a deflated beach ball in the middle of a Spencer Gifts in Omaha.

If you’re reading this and realize you were one of these steel-toe jerks back in the day, I want to impress upon you how obnoxious I thought you were then, and still think you are today.

I hope your closet is filled with nothing but ill-fitting, moose-knuckle khakis, GREG.

I hope you have a neverending hangnail that catches on your pants every time you put your hand in your pocket, JASON.

I hope it burns just a little every time you stop peeing, like you had to cut the stream short even though you didn’t actually cut the stream short, MATT.

I hope you have the short stream burn, Matt.

The short.

Stream.

Burn.

Years later, I got a job at that same shoe store so I could get the employee discount on further Doc Martens purchases, but I had to quit after my first day because of herpes.

Stay tuned for that one next week.

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19 years old.  First office job and wearing Doc Martens at the reception desk.  Also sleeping on the job while clutching a stuffed animal, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Bad Corey

I used to have a special gift for finding the biggest project in the room.  The insufferable, destructive ass hat.  The one that was equal parts narcissist, emotional trainwreck, unemployable, and leather pants.

Any time a guy would walk into a party backwards, still peeing on the front porch, zip up and drop a cigarette from his mouth onto the carpet, and grind it out with the heel of his boot while yelling, “It’s not my fault you were dumb enough to put white carpet in here!” my ass hat spidey-sense would go off and the little hairs on the back of my neck would stand at attention.

Then some random girl would walk up to him, throw her drink in his face for some unrelated reason and storm out the door, and I would think, “Well, this is obviously the guy for me.”

Had I known back then that I could cut out the middle-man known as “Misplaced Hope”, I would have just walked straight up to any of these types of guys and said, “So where do I fill out an application to worship you, pay all your bills, have you steal money from me and then cheat on me with one or more of my friends?  I am accustomed to disappointment from every man I’ve ever known and, on a subconscious level that I won’t uncover for many years, your brand is as comfortable and familiar to me as a mother’s perfume is to her child.  Maybe I can fix the past by fixing YOU!”

Like so many girls who sprang forth into adolescence headfirst down a hole of despair and emotional depravity, it all started with The Bad Corey.

This may come as a big surprise to you (except not at all because hello), but in the late 80s I was all the way into The Coreys.

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That would be Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, in case you’re not familiar, and if you’re not familiar, I don’t even know where to start with you.  Maybe somebody is offering Remedial Corey classes at your local night school.  I highly suggest you bone up on this information, because it will be on the test.

Calculators are only permitted for the “Box Office” portion of The Coreys Test, where you will have to figure out how much money the “Meatballs” movie franchise lost when they cast Corey Feldman in “Meatballs 4″, a classic sequel to a sequel to a sequel, as the “hottest water-skiing instructor in town.”

I don’t know how that conversation went around the producers’ table, but I assume it started and ended with, “Let’s do this thing!  Oh god kill me now please please kill me what has my life become.” <sound of Drano being chugged>

It’s not one of the better Corey movies.  All Corey movies are graded on a curve, by the way.  It’s not fair to grade them against “other movies”, or what some people refer to as “good movies”.  It’s only fair to grade Corey movies against other Corey movies.

Were you your best Corey in this film today?

Could you have Corey-ed it up some more?

What did I learn about Corey in this movie that I didn’t already know?

I tell you what, though, and I seriously, seriously am not even remotely kidding here.  Corey Feldman should have won the goddamned Oscar for his performance as “Teddy”, the abused kid with the burned-off ear in “Stand By Me”.

When he calmly informs the junk man, who’s insulting his father for being crazy, “My father stormed the beach at Normandy,” before eventually exploding into threats and tears as the boys drag him away from the junkyard, it GUTS me.  Give it a re-watch and see if you can make it through the emotional complexity of that really terribly abused kid actually defending his abusive father without wanting to just die inside.

Yes, of course I read his autobiography, “Corey-ography”, so knowing how badly Corey Feldman was abused in real life as a kid, that scene makes me want to curl into a ball on his behalf.  That may have just been a scene in a movie, but that abused kid in that scene was very, very real.  That’s a hell of a big ask for a kid on a movie set, and I can only imagine how tapping into whatever he had to tap into to pull off that scene must have torn him to shreds.  He was just a kid, for god’s sake.  That would have hurled most adults into a 72-hour hold.

Hey dramatic departure!  Let’s lighten it up a bit, huh?

You didn’t really have a choice in the matter when it came to loving Coreys in the 80s – they were everywhere.  You would never ask a twelve year old girl if she was into The Coreys.  You just asked her which one.

Now, you would think with all my gushing over Corey Feldman in “Stand By Me”, that would mean that my Corey of choice was Corey Feldman, but you’d be wrong.  Despite being the long-haired Corey, the bad attitude Corey, and the damaged Corey, there was someone far, far, far more damaged.

Someone who seemed to be a shiny, jangly, pretty boy, who later turned out to be a bottomless pit of screaming, soul-ripping darkness.

Corey Haim, for his pretty boy face and the adorable smile that made America fall in love with him in movies like “Lucas” and “The Lost Boys”, would surprisingly end up becoming The Bad Corey.

I always liked cute Corey, sweet Corey, Corey who just wanted to take Heather Graham out on a nice date in “License to Drive”.  I liked him just fine.  But the moment The Bad Corey publicly emerged?  Goodbye to Sandra Dee.

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Tell me about it, stud.

I remember the moment it went from a “like” of Corey Haim to a “love”.  It was in the old movie theater down the street from my house, watching “Dream a Little Dream”, and my formerly sweet-faced, blonde highlighted Corey Haim, the one with the cute smile where his lip kinda curled up at the corner like Elvis (and don’t even get me started on Elvis), the Corey with the clean jeans and high-tops, appeared onscreen before me, looking like this:

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Smoking cigarettes?  Check.  Hair dyed an unnatural color?  Check.  Ludicrous clothing and accesssories?  Check.  Foul-mouthed?  Oh god.  Check.  The pasty, lifeless complexion of a person who is clearly on drugs?  (angel harp music) Check.

My Corey?

My Corey had blossomed into The Bad Corey.

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I got chiiiiiiiiiiiills, they’re multiplyin’. And I’m loooooooooooosing control-olll.  ‘Cause the power, you’re supplyin’, it’s electri-OH MY GOD LET ME SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF.

What was that?  LET ME SAVE YOU FROM YOURSELF?

You know that’s the one, right?  That line?  That’s the one that leads so many women down that road.  “Fixing the broken guy” road.  “Giving him a reason to live” road.  “Being the one who makes him see that the love and devotion of a woman will make him stop destroying himself” road.

The alternate name for this road is, “You will spend a lot of time and money in therapy after this guy has ruined your life.  You cannot fix a broken past by breaking your future.”

I don’t know if I can adequately express to you just how much I do not recommend this road, especially when “Nice Guy Who Doesn’t Snort Prescription Diet Pills Because His Coke Dealer is in Lock-Up” roads are also nearby, and won’t cause the kind of wear-and-tear on you that will leave you stranded on the side of life’s highway with an empty wallet and a vaguely itchy crotch.

I’m not going to tell you these roads are always easy to find, sometimes you just have to get lucky, but as my therapist told me in not so many words many years ago, they’re much easier to find if you stop driving your car in circles around Sodom and Gomorrah with a bullhorn out the window shouting, “Free girlfriend, money, psychiatrist, and laundry service here!  Standards nonexistent!”

And I won’t even charge you a co-pay for that bit of counseling, sister.