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Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em

  • February 28, 2009

One weekend in 1987, when I was still attending the University of Iowa, I decided to go visit Stacy and Lisa at Iowa State University for VEISHA.

VEISHA is an annual weeklong celebration held each spring on Iowa State’s campus. There’s a parade and open house demonstrations of university facilities and departments. The acronym VEISHA stands for the colleges of the university that existed when the celebration was founded in 1922. Now they just call it Veishea since some of the names of the colleges have been changed.

We could have cared less about what VEISHA stood for (and probably couldn’t identify all the colleges anyway). All that mattered to us was that VEISHA meant two things: Boys and beer.

I met up with Stacy and Lisa at their dorm and Kristin joined us a short time later since she was driving up from Des Moines.

We started the evening at a party that Stacy and Lisa knew about. We stood around holding red plastic solo cups of cheap keg beer trying to meet as many guys as possible. After a while, we decided to head to a bar since no one seemed to be having any luck at the party.

I was driving, and we tooled around Campustown in my 1981 Honda Prelude, sunroof open, Scritti Politti or the Outfield blaring from the stereo. We had all taken our keg beers for the road and I was less worried about being pulled over for a DUI than I was about driving a car with a manual transmission while simultaneously chain smoking Benson and Hedges deluxe ultra light 100’s and trying to keep my beer from sloshing all over the front of my miniskirt when I went around a tight corner.

We decided to see what was happening at the Cave-In, a favorite Campustown bar known for its dime draws. I parked around back and we all got out of the car.

I don’t know exactly how it happened but Kristin tripped by the back of the car, hit her chin on my bumper (the force of which spun her around), then hit the back of her head on the bumper and landed on the pavement hard, sending one high heeled white pump flying across the parking lot.

I lost it. We all did (well, not Kristin). Lisa was pretty near peeing her pants and we were all on the ground by this time trying to get a hold of ourselves.

But wait. It gets even better.

What we didn’t notice right away was that the cigarette Kristin had been smoking was someone extinguished by the beer in her plastic cup that splashed up when she fell (or landed). And that extinguished cigarette had enough beer on it to make it sticky enough to stick to Kristin’s forehead.

And she didn’t realize it.

And we didn’t tell her.

Because we were too busy having hysterics in the parking lot. And Lisa was now telling us that she was going to pee her pants any second. I was pretty much in the fetal position on the ground of the parking lot because I could not get myself under control to save my life.

Kristin still doesn’t know there’s a cigarette stuck to her forehead. And what are the odds that the only one of us who doesn’t have bangs is Kristin? She did have big, huge, shiny waves of late eighties hair shellacked a couple inches high with no less than a quarter can of Aqua Net. But she wore her hair off her face, which left a veritable sea of forehead available for errant Marlboro Light 100’s to land.

I guess she couldn’t feel the cigarette. Not that we helped by pointing it out or anything.

(Straight-to-Hell, party of three? I believe your table is ready!)

So then we walked around to the front of the bar and got in a very long line with a whole bunch of other drunken college students. We managed to turn it into our own personal mosh pit because we were so out of control and hyper and Kristin kept falling down. Random people kept asking her if she needed a light and she kept saying, “I don’t have any cigarettes” which frankly did nothing but set me and Lisa and Stacy off again.

It sounds horrible that we didn’t help our friend. Kristin was, and still is, a very pretty woman and I think we were a little bit j-e-a-l-o-u-s. She never could hold her alcohol though and this mishap was just not going to get by any of us unnoticed.

Finally, after a couple more falls, the cigarette fell off and we waited in line until we got into the bar.

The next morning, when we told Kristin what had happened, she was kind of pissed. But not only was Kristin pretty, she was sweet and good natured and didn’t hold it against any of us, even though she would have been justified in doing so.

I told that story for years, complete with re-enacting the fall. Maybe that’s when I started being so entertained by people wiping out.

Kristin set the bar pretty high. There hasn’t been a fall I’ve witnessed since that has come close to making me laugh as hard as I did that night. Then again, maybe nothing can compete with a college memory of girlfriends, cheap keg beer, and a wayward cigarette.


  • January 27, 2009

Our friends Tom and Amy bought a pontoon boat a couple years ago and we affectionately refer to it as the party barge. As an Aquarian, I love being on the water and have no trouble whoring myself out to anyone who owns a boat. I don’t barter with sexual favors but rather my ability to put together a picnic spread that would make Martha Stewart proud (though once I know the boat gig’s a sure thing I get lazy and start showing up with a bucket of chicken from KFC).

Dave contributes by being the de facto first mate for Captain Tom. He does a bunch of rope tying and generally helps Tom avoid hitting stuff. They’re mostly successful as a team.

I’m in charge of gathering up all the shit we need to haul to the lake like floaties, and towels, and sunscreen, and chairs. It’s piled up so high Dave can barely see out the back window of our SUV. I also stock the cooler and it would be nice if the kids would stop calling their juice boxes “kid beer” because that does not paint us in the best light parentally.

One evening Dave and I got a babysitter and joined Tom and Amy and two other couples for a sunset booze cruise. I was almost high I was so excited at the prospect of being on the water without worrying about anyone drowning or complaining that we were out of Chips Ahoy.

We left the marina around 6:00 and boated over to party cove. We docked the boat on the sand and uncorked the wine.

I was having a fabulous time. I didn’t have to worry about my pathetic bladder control because I spent much of the evening standing waist deep in a big lukewarm toilet swilling wine with my friends. It’s not often I encounter situations where it’s totally appropriate to pee right in my swimsuit. I drank so much wine I didn’t care that my friends standing near me were using the lake/toilet as much as I was.

We stayed at party cove until it was dark. I was really glad that navigating us back to the marina didn’t fall under my list of responsibilities. Tom and Amy’s boat is really big and I could only imagine the shit we might hit with it since no one was exactly sober. I had no idea when we left the cove what it would take to get us back on terra firma.

We headed to the marina but it was so dark I was having a really hard time identifying where it was (I’d also had so much wine I had mono-vision). I figured Tom probably knew where he was going so I didn’t concern myself with the navigational details.

Until we hit the sand. Apparently we were not yet at the marina but were actually in very shallow water off a beach. Trust me, in the dark everything looked the same.

I don’t think we had the required amount of lights on the boat though. I say that because a boat roared past us and yelled, “Get some lights on!” in a very hostile tone (some boaters are so “by the book”). Tom and Amy hadn’t had the pontoon very long and we were still working out a few kinks.

Tom steered the boat away from the beach and we headed out to deeper water. The boat sputtered and died shortly after that.

We tried to get the marina on the phone so they could send someone out to tow us in (Tom had their number on speed dial because this actually wasn’t our first snafu). No one answered even though we called them repeatedly.

The men in our group busied themselves with some boat motor diagnostics while I threw on a life jacket and prepared to make another cabernet deposit in the lake. I jumped overboard and quickly realized that I don’t like being in deep water when it’s dark. I thought of the giant mutant carp that were always swimming around by the marina and wondered if any of them liked to swim out to the middle of the lake.

When it was time to get back in the boat I found out the ladder was broken and it is nearly impossible to haul your ass into a pontoon boat without one, especially when your blood alcohol level is probably twice the legal limit. Luckily Dave and the guy Susie was dating plucked me out of the water. I tried to stay out of everyone’s way after that.

We were lucky Jim was on board because he has a boat of his own and knows his way around a motor. He was able to determine that when we hit the sand, the gas line became disconnected and the boat died because gas was leaking everywhere.

Unfortunately, Jim was also smoking a cigarette when he discovered the problem and we’re lucky we didn’t end up on the front page of the Des Moines Register’s Metro section with the headline: Forty-something’s blow up boat, and selves on lake. I had a sudden mental image of the boat morphing into a giant Roman candle that shot drunken adults out of the center of its fire-cracker inferno. Any accompanying article would probably also mention that alcohol was thought to be a factor.

Jim got rid of the cigarette and hooked the gas line back up. We managed to make our way back to the marina on fumes.

I still had a great time. It’s true I never drank anything stronger than iced tea on the boat for the rest of the summer. And I got so many mosquito bites that night that my legs were covered in calamine lotion and band-aids for a week. And we owed the babysitter a bunch of money because we were so late getting home.

But I still love boating and I still love being on the water. I can’t help it. I’m an Aquarius, you know.

We had a little fire

  • November 20, 2008

When Matthew was 14 months old we were getting ready to go somewhere and I wanted him to let me put on his shoes. He had other ideas and decided to make “putting on our shoes” a battle. A battle I would win. Surely a toddler was no match for mommy and if I wanted those shoes to go on, they were going on. I wriggled one foot in and was working on the next when, BAM! Matthew, who had been sitting between my legs while we wrestled with the shoes, stood up fast and since I had been looking down, his head clocked me right in the eye. I managed to get to the bathroom to remove my contact lens and by the time I got it out, the lump over my eye was the size of a grape. Over the next day it swelled shut completely. Matthew: 1 Mommy: 0.

A couple days later my eye was still swollen shut and had started turning deep shades of blue and purple. I was forced to wear my glasses so I could see. I decided Matthew and I would stay home that day. I was tired of getting all the “honey I hope you feel safe in your home glances” and it was really hot out anyway. It was mid September and we hadn’t had any rain in a long time. Our grass was dead and we lived in a neighborhood where there weren’t a lot of sprinkler systems. Pretty much everyone on our street had let his or her yard go dormant so we didn’t really look all that ghetto. There were huge spider webs covering all the shrubs and bushes and I remember wishing it would get colder so I could stop sweating all the time.

It was cool in the basement so Matthew and I hung out and played down there until it was time to have lunch. We came upstairs and as I glanced out the window at my front yard, (using my ONE GOOD EYE), I noticed something very odd. You know how, when you’re camping and roasting marshmallows and you look away for one second and your marshmallow catches fire and bursts into flames and you have to pull all the burnt black shit off so you can at least eat the gooey marshmallow inside? Well some kind of burnt black shit was covering my entire yard. As were numerous policemen, firemen, and random Mid American Energy employees. The fire truck was parked at the curb and a police car was in my driveway.


It seriously took me a while to process what had happened. Actually, I couldn’t process because I simply didn’t have enough information to figure out what the hell was going on. Which is probably why I slung Matthew onto my hip, unlocked the front door, and marched out onto the sidewalk screaming “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”

Everyone turned to stare. I had not showered. My hair was a mess and was probably up in one of those butterfly clips I am so fond of. I was in a ratty t-shirt and shorts and was barefoot. I think I had a bra on (God I hope I did, I can’t remember), and I had that big whopper of a black eye. I was screaming like SUPER BITCH at the top of my lungs while holding a squirming toddler. I was a lit cigarette and an ankle tattoo away from White Trash Housewife.

No one moved or spoke. Clearly they did not know what to do with me and had not expected me to come charging out of the house. Apparently they had banged on my front door repeatedly but since we were in the basement, I didn’t hear them.

The transformer that was mounted on a big light pole close to the house had EXPLODED (didn’t hear that either), showering our dormant yard with an array of sparks which caused the dead grass to combust pretty much immediately.

So while I was downstairs in the basement with Matthew playing “show mommy where your nose is” the fire was spreading from corner to corner of the front yard. A passing jogger grabbed our garden house and started spraying the flames that were threatening to start the house and fence on fire. When the firemen arrived they doused everything and were now conferring with the Mid American Energy people (and giving them a good “talking to” about their shitty transformers, I hope).

I managed to calm down after a while and pretty soon everyone left. A MidAmerican Energy employee gave me a business card, which was good because I figured Dave and I would have some things we might need to discuss with them, like the replacement of our two trees that were now burned to a crisp. I went inside to call Dave because he was just not going to believe the shit that happens while he is at work.

For weeks afterward we would run into random people in our neighborhood that would ask asinine questions like, “hey did you guys do that on purpose?” Yes, yes we did. We chose to voluntarily torch our grass. Next spring we’re planning on letting the back yard go fallow so we can plant poppies in the front yard and grow our own opium.

What, are we suburban sharecroppers now? We lived in the city limits of Urbandale where I’m pretty sure they discouraged and prohibited this kind of tomfoolery.

Anyway, MidAmerican paid to have our lawn aerated and they replaced our two trees so no hard feelings there. And when the grass grew back the following spring? You’d never know we’d had a little fire.

My Funky Toenail, The Sequel

  • November 16, 2008

Many of you, and I mean the three people not counting my husband who read this blog, are probably curious about my funky toenail and whether or not I ever got it taken care of (please see archives for Part I – My Funky Toenail). That was four years ago and luckily I was able to have it successfully treated without growing a third eyeball.

I consulted the yellow pages and made an appointment with a Podiatrist. I didn’t know what to expect but sandal season was fast approaching and I was damned if I was going to keep painting over my mess of a toenail pretending it looked like the others. It looked like shit and it was really scary by now. I held little hope that this would end well.

The Podiatrist took one look at it and confirmed what I already knew. I had the fungus. He told me that he almost never prescribed medication to clear it up because he really didn’t feel comfortable with the side effects. I felt defeated. Certainly that meant I would have to go through life with this shitty toe because if a TOE DOCTOR can’t help you, you are kind of screwed. However, he must have sensed how vain I am because he threw me a lifeline. He very calmly said he could just TAKE THE TOENAIL OFF. Hmmm… what?! He explained that a very effective remedy was to remove the toenail and then apply an anti-fungal for 10 days, after which the new toenail would grow in and voila, pedicure city! And just for the record? Yes I am still regularly getting pedicures because I figure what are the odds that it will happen again? Actually they’re probably pretty high and yet I DON’T CARE.

The podiatrist put a small tourniquet on my toe, shot me up with some Novocain, and popped that sucker right off. He forgot to mention how much blood it would produce. I couldn’t even look at it but I was glad to finally be rid of that crumbly yellow toenail.

He gave me a prescription for the antifungal and told me what to do with it. I went home and spent the rest of the day with my foot up wishing I could construct a fence to keep the toddler and the pre-schooler from using my leg as a jungle gym. Kids, mama does not have a TOENAIL there anymore. Back off!

Dave felt so sorry for me he actually went to the store on his lunch hour and bought me some new books and other stuff I can’t remember. But strangely, no wine. If the removal of a toenail were to happen today it would require not only copious amounts of alcohol but also possibly a Vicodin or two leftover from when I did something bad to my back. And yes everyone, I lied when I said I didn’t have them anymore. What, am I Walgreen’s? My point is that we must not have been drinking as much back then as we are now. Our current consumption is directly proportionate to how old our children are and at 9 and 6 it’s positively Betty Ford-y around here.

Luckily a couple of days later we were over at dad and Debby’s and my McGyver step-mom gave me an empty pill bottle (because she saves EVERYTHING) to tape over my toe to act as a barrier from the children. Even though I looked totally ridiculous I gratefully accepted her cock-a-mamie solution because anything was better than having my toe stepped on repeatedly.

*******And dad, it is apropos of NOTHING to inquire about my toenail and “whether or not it has started growing back in yet” in the middle of Easter dinner. I could not hear anything over the din of forks clattering on the table as everyone turned to stare. P.S. Dad – If you’re going to start the story you’re going to have to finish it after everyone is done eating.

Anyway, I kept using the antifungal cream and slowly the toenail grew in. Sometimes I forget which toe it was. And I like to think I’m kind of like the toenail fungus ambassador because I have a couple of friends who have the fungus and I very enthusiastically point them in the direction of Dr. Wonderful. Because when sandal season truly arrived? I was looking fine.

My Funky Toenail, Part I

  • November 7, 2008

“I think there’s something wrong with my toenail,” I whisper to Dave. I’m sitting on the couch 17 months pregnant contemplating my horrendous lack of pedicure ( which is second only to my overgrown bikini area that resulted in Dave pointing and shouting “oh my God!” when I was walking around in my maternity underwear).

“Why do you think there’s something wrong with your toenail?” he asks.

“Because both the OB/GYN and my regular doctor say I have the fungus, you know the one where in that commercial that I can’t ever watch now those little monster guys pry up the toenail and jump in?” (Whisper) “I have that.”

Between the bitchiness, the bikini line, and now fungus, I would not hold it against my husband if he CUT AND RAN right now. The fact that he didn’t is either a testament to his love and loyalty or his laziness. Either way, I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve him.

“So what are you going to do”, he asks.

“Well, apparently I have to wait until this kid finally decides to come out and I’m done breastfeeding. The drug I’ll have to take to get rid of it has some pretty bad side effects like growing a third eyeball or something. But I really wanted to get a pedicure so that my 9 other beautiful toes can distract the medical staff from the horror going on down in cooterland.”

“Then just go get a pedicure, for God’s sake. You know they’ve seen it all”, Dave says.

“Yes, but this time I will be bringing some of the “seen it all” with me because it’s actually on MY TOE.”

“Do you really care what they think at the nail place? You know they don’t speak English anyway.”

“No (yes) I don’t care. And besides, if they don’t speak English they can RIDICULE me the whole time I’m there and I won’t even know if they’re talking smack about me.”

“I’m sure they won’t even notice.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m just going to go get it over with.”

I sail (waddle) in to Top Nails as if I haven’t a care in the world. I decide to get the whole shebang and notify the 9-year-old girl behind the counter that I’d like a manicure and pedicure. A voice at the back of the salon starts screaming, “pick color, pick color! She truly must have bionic ears because I can’t even believe she heard me from way back there. I pick out a dark color I will later decide I hate and sit down to wait my turn.

The only fat Asian woman I have ever seen (although in my pregnant glory I am still fatter) motions me over to her station and begins making small talk. Even though I am often guilty of total verbal diarrhea, this woman speaks more in the first five minutes than I have ever heard any of the employees speak ALL TOGETHER in the year I have been coming here.

Her: “So, how much weight you gain?”
Me: “What????”
Her: “What your husband do”
Me: “What????”
Her: “You want me to keep pinky finger long to pick booger???”
Me: (Thinking) where the eff are the Candid Camera people because
Her: “He, he, yeah I wonder who will do your pedicure – I saw your feet when you came in.”
Me: Looking around for cameras, wondering if anyone else will notice the hell I’m in and come replace this psycho broad with a normal employee. Bring on the 9-year-old girl, she can do my feet.
Her: “All done. Oops. Looks like everyone is busy. I do your feet now.”
Me: “Of course.”

Maybe she won’t say anything about my toe, maybe she won’t say anything about my toe, maybe she won’t say anything about my toe…..

Her: “Ooooooh, you got that fungus don’t you.”
Me: (Whimpering) “Yes.”
Her: “Yeah, we see all the time.”
Me: (LIGHTBULB) “Really? You see this all time huh? Then it’s quite possible I now know where I got it!”

She finished, I paid, and then I made as dignified an exit as I could while 17 months pregnant wearing flimsy (probably pre-used) nail salon flip-flops.

I’m not sure but I think there might have been some cackling going on when I left and that’s something that sounds the same now matter what your native tongue.

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