5 word challenge – Backstage

Nervous?  Me?  Nope.  Maybe the first time, but not now.  Besides, I'm 3 drinks into a long drinking evening.  Those of us who aren't in the first scene chat idly about whose costume is getting too small and who's sleeping with whom this week.  Back here, in the dressing room, it's no-holds-barred.  Nothing is taboo and besides, no one back here has even one ounce of couth.

We're all whipped.  Putting in a full day in the sun and having practically no rest will do that to you.  It doesn't matter though, we're fueled on goldfish crackers and liquor.  A duel between cast members has broken out with the props but no one bothers to even attempt to stop it.  Everyone has been in this show long enough to know when it's time to get out on stage.  Speaking of which, it's my time.

We try to be quiet as we step up into our "jail" cell.  Almost every time someone trips and almost busts her ass since there's no light back here.  Tonight we all make it safely into the cell and we strike a sexy pose as we wait for our music to cue up.  In case you're interested, we're performing "Cell Block Tango".  It isn't exact but the costumes are similar as are many of the dance steps.


Occasionally, someone in the booth gets a little crazy with the Cheese Whiz.  No wait, gets crazy with the smoke machine.  Tonight is one of those nights.  Not just clouds of smoke, but literal pillows of smoke burp out of that antiquated monster.  We're trying not to cough up a storm; we are on stage after all, but good gravy!  What the hell can the audience see through this cloud?!?!  Only bonus points are that I'm not first out of the cell so it will have cleared by the time it's my turn.

Pop, six, squish, uh uh, Cisero, Lipschitz!  I'm squish. He ran into my knife.  He ran into my knife ten times.  So what if I'm screwing the milkman!  My partner in this dance is also my good friend.  9 times out of 10 that we do this show, we end up laughing so hard that we're shaking.  I've got to keep my composure!  Maybe I shouldn't have had that last drink.  The fabric unrolls (this makes more sense if you watch the video), I wrap a leg around, and call me drunk, or call the floor slippery, but I just damn near busted my ass in front of 300 guests.  Luckily, I recovered quickly, but what starts immediately after my recovery?  Fits of giggles.  Not just me and my partner, but everyone else who was on stage.  Now, do I think the audience noticed it?  Nope.  They don't know what they're looking for.  They love it.  They tell me after shows that I should consider a career on stage because I always look so happy and like I'm having so much fun.  That's ALCOHOL people!  Unfortunately, my stage career never took off and now I'm a paper-pusher with a considerably healthier liver. 

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QotD: Best Road Trip Ever

What was your favorite road-trip of all time? 
Submitted by bodhibound

This was not my favorite road-trip of all time, but it's a decent story and since I've been having a heck of a time with thoughts of my own, I'll take hotrod's advice and answer some of these inane questions of the day.

Back in the day,circa 1985, when I was but a youngin', we had an aunt who lived in Ohio I do believe.  Aunt Anne (not to be confused with Auntie Anne's) was her name and as far as I could tell as a 12 year-old, she was loaded!  If, by chance, you are unfamiliar with relatives in a black person's perspective, every friend of your parents becomes an aunt or uncle no matter if they share blood or not.

Aunt Anne's favorite relative was my mom.  (I think they were actually related in some way, but I digress.)  Since mom was the favorite, AA decided that our whole family would be invited on vacation.  We were going on a cruise!  Until the very last minute, my father debated on whether or not he would go.  He ended up missing it because he had to work.  Kinda sucked for him but I think he was glad to have the house to himself for all that time.

As one of the children, I wasn't privvy to all of the travel arrangements.  All I knew is that we were going on a cruise.  Mom packed us all up and we were ready to go.  We sat around the house anxiously awaiting our departure.  Little did we know that we would not be flying from our closest airport of Pittsburgh International, but we would proceed, all the way to Florida, Miami if I'm not mistaken, in AA's winnebago.  So, there we were, all packed and ready to go and somewhat disappointed that we wouldn't be flying.  Unbeknowst to us, inside the winnebago were two kids about our age that were supposedly related to us.  One girl and one boy.  Shame on me for not being able to remember their names.  Also inside were Butch, of some relation to AA and our driver, and Deeanne, also a relation and not a nice person.

Off we drove into the sunset on our merry way.  At this point, I don't remember the exact route that we took.  I do know that it took forever, or it at least seemed like it.  I'm sure that we had been in that hotbox for at least two days when we stopped for an overnight at a KOA.  It was too hot to sit inside the winnebago and besides that there was nothing to do in there, so that hot and humid evening, we sat outside.  There was a picnic table just outside of our RV and that is where I sat with my mom.  She sat on the tabletop and I sat on the bench as she re-braided my hair.  After much fidgeting on my part and much hair pulling on hers, I was finally done all neat and pretty.  We continued to sit in the same positions chatting. 

On a muggy summer night, there are bound to be mosquitos, and this night was no different.  One ghettofabulous remedy coming right up.  No Off!?  No problem.  Substitute it with rubbing alcohol.  Hey, it works!  Mosquitos don't like it.  It's also probably not that good for your skin.  What it's the worst for is your eyes.  Mom was a little clumsy with her splashing and managed to splash a good handful of rubbing alcohol directly into my eyes.

Have you ever had rubbing alcohol in your eye?  Trust me, it's not fun.  It burns, most likely on a mace level.  You've never seen a 12 year old with 'ups' like I had that night.  I'm certain that I jumped up at least to current day slam dunk levels after which I immediately began rolling around screaming like a scalded dog.  My mom tried to quiet me down as it was late and I was really causing a ruckus but I was having none of that.  After a while, the burning subsided and my vision returned.  I'm pretty sure that I was a little on the bitter side regarding that incident, but that was before the time of me holding grudges.

We pressed on towards Florida the next day.  I distinctly remember going through Georgia, not only because I know now that we HAD to go through Georgia, but because somewhere along the lines, that state was the breaking point.

Mom and Deeann really just didn't like each other.  To this day I don't know why.  What I do know is that everything came to a boil in the middle of our drive.  Everything happened so quickly that I wouldn't be able to retell it properly if I tried.  Best I can tell you is that fists were flying and Deeann was taking the brunt of them.  I know Mom didn't start it, but she sure as hell finished it.  By the time Butch got that monstrosity pulled over, Mom had thoroughly whipped that nasty bitch's ass.  AA was having none of this and at the first available relative's place, Deeanne got left.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!  That'll teach you to mess with my mom.

The remainder of the road trip to Florida was uneventful.  We got there, made our departure, made friends with our favorite waiter who brought us hot chocolate every night (and once spilled it in my brother's lap), visited Nassau and Freeport, and I entered the talent show with my monkey hand puppet named Georgette.  We took second place.  Even at that age, I was convinced that we didn't win first only because I wasn't old enough for the prize of a bottle of champagne.

I've had plenty of road trips, some more pleasant than others, but by far, this one was the most memorable.

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Lost my Vox-jo or Mo-vox, take your pick.

In the beginning of (Vox) time, excitement and wonder flowed around this new bloggersphere.  Postings were well-written and came often.  I think that the honeymoon is over.

For whatever reason, be it my life is kinda boring, writer's block, sheer laziness, I can't bring myself to post very often any more.  I still read a lot of posts, but any quality flowing out of these hands has seemed to dry up.  I thought that this exercise would help me with my writing, but it seems to have done the exact opposite.

How do I get past this road block?  More importantly, how do I figure out what caused it so it doesn't pop up again?

Grrrrr.  That's as good as it gets any more.

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Saturday night on South Beach

Over the weekend, we celebrated two years of dating bliss by going to one of our most favorite restaurants ever, El Rancho Grande.  You must realize the excellence of this place if it will bring us to South Beach on a Saturday night.  We had a pina colada and a mango margarita, followed by the delicious yumminess of queso fundido.  As neither of our hearts had stopped yet, we followed that up with El Plato Mixto for him and Tacos al Pastor for me.  To complete our piggishness, we downed Bananas Foster for dessert.  Damn, that was good.

And now, for the evening's entertainment, brought to you by the local homeless and the Miami Beach PD.

On our walk back to the car from the restaurant, we took in the sights and sounds of South Beach:

  •  A car (very new, very shiny Bentley) containing 4 young-ish African-American males from which the music could be heard from 2 blocks away.  Please boys, be realistic and don't complain that the cops are racist when you get pulled over. 
  • The ever-present stench of stale urine.  Mmmmm, mmmmm! 
  • The rantings of a homeless man attempting to get money from people stopped at the red light at Washington and Lincoln.

Within that last item, that's where the entertainment lies.  Apparently, said homeless man wasn't looking past the car from which he was trying to panhandle.  If he had been, maybe he would have acted differently.  As it were, he was leaning into the window of a truck when from out of nowhere we all hear:

"Get away from that truck, Robert Parker.  I told you I don't want to see you again tonight!"

For only three cars back, in her car, is a Miami Beach police officer.  I suppose she had had a run in with Bobby a little earlier in the evening and had warned him once.  By the way, she didn't yell that, she threw on her loudspeaker just in case Bobby had lost his hearing since the first time she saw him.

Bobby, grudginly, went on his way, as did we.  Entertainment for the evening, over.  If you are in Miami, make sure you check this place out.  The food is spectacular, the service is way above par for Miami, and our check stayed under $60 for all that food.

PS.  If you do come to Miami and you happen to park in the 16th and Washington garage, please don't urinate in there.  There are bathrooms available all over.  Thanks.

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PSA: Don't do crack

Just so you know, this is a sad story and if I manage to tell it right, it may be a tear-jerker.

I would imagine that most people, when growing up, have a favorite relative.  Mine was Uncle Ernie.  Ernie was my mother's brother.  When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, Ernie lived with his family in Ohio, about a 2 and a half hour drive from us.  Back when gas was cheap, that little bit of distance meant nothing and Uncle Ernie and the family would visit regularly.  I guess we were just kindred spirits: both being born under Sagittarius (his birthday was the day after mine) and both with some Madison blood running through us, him more than me, of course. 

Maybe part of it was that UE treated me like an adult.  Always.  Outside of his nickname for me (Sha Na Na), everything else was on an adult level.  It wasn't a 'hey, your uncle from far away is here, come sit down and be nice' type of relationship.  I was always first to the door when UE showed up.  When I was far away from home at Penn State, scared and a little depressed, I didn't call home, I called UE.  He was always my rock.

To be truthful, I never really knew what UE did for a living.  I know that he and his family had a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but at the age I was then, you didn't ask because you really didn't care.  What I do know is that at one point, UE was reaching out to the youth and doing some ministry work.  We had a black and white picture of him hanging on the wall.  He was standing in front of a brick wall full of graffitti with the most serene look on his face.

As close as we were, I never got the full story on how things fell apart.  I did know that he was now living in PA and when I saw hime, something was missing.  Unfortunately, UE had found crack.  Times were tough for him but they only got tougher.  My rock, my hero had been replaced by a crackhead.  That doesn't mean that we didn't still love him and allowing him and his "girlfriend" to move into our home was a testament to the fact.  Did I mention that UE was also a diabetic?  Diabetes and crack do not mix.  Between the drug and the disease, UE withered into a shell of the man that I adored.  He became weak to the point of most days, he would just hang out in his comfy chair and watch TV.  His bones became brittle.  My mother accidentally broke a bone in his hand just by putting her hand down on his.  It was scary.  More than that, it was sad.

UE stayed with us for a while and yes, I think a few things went missing.  We overlooked this as our love for him clouded our vision.  He stayed with us most times and we protected him as best we could.  He came in and out a lot.  We thought our house was crack-free.  We were wrong.  One day my mother came to me with a light brown piece of glass.  She told me it was a crack pipe.  It was the first time I had ever seen one.  It was the last.

At that time, I was working about an hour from home.  On one particular morning, I had forgotten to tell my mother something, so when I got to work, I called home.  UE picked up and I asked to speak to my mom.  We chatted briefly and then hung up.  I cannot put into words the feelings that arose when my mother called me back a few hours later, noticably upset, telling me that UE had died the night before.  I said it couldn't be.  I had just spoken with him this morning.  She had to be wrong.  But she wasn't.  It turned out that it had been my brother that picked up the phone and I mistook for my uncle.  The shock was unimaginable.  Tears started pouring from my eyes before I could even try to stop them.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  I was so sad that my best friend had died.  I was so angry because I knew it was the crack that killed him.  I was still too confused to wrap my head around the fact that I didn't just talk to UE this morning.  I had to leave work.

All people deal with their grief in different ways.  Some of my family (read my brother and myself) drinks.  And that's what I did.  I called my lifelong friend and drinking buddy, who knew UE and was like family to him also and let her know what happened.  We both left work and went to grieve, to try to make sense of things, to comfort each other.

I didn't get to say goodbye to UE, none of us did really, but I know that he wanted to say something to us.  He wanted us to know he was thinking of us.  He wanted us to know that he was okay.  He did.  It doesn't matter who believes what, but he did.  The photo that we kept on the wall of him, that I looked at every day, changed.  The area around UE's head in the photo now had an angelic glow.  It was like someone was holding a bright light right behind his head.  It was amazing and it was comforting.  I knew UE was in a better place without pain and more importantly, without drugs.

Funerals happened (not only UE, but in the span of less than 2 years, him, both of my paternal grandparents and my father), time passed, wounds healed.  I look back with warm smiles on times gone by and I rage on.  I rage on because that's what they would have wanted.  I rage on because I know that they're all looking down on me at this very moment and they're proud of what they see.  I rage on because it's important for people to know what drugs can do to you.  I rage on for my family who has passed and my family who still lives.  I rage on.

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