The Towering Inferno; or, 2 Hours And 45 Minutes Of Sheer Terror. Plus, Therapy.

My last post was about the time my parents took me to the drive-in (which was full of random cars) to see Death Race 2000, which ultimately led to my irrational fear of drive-in movie theaters, parking lots, car dealerships and junkyards.

Much therapy followed, during which my therapist or "special talking friend", reminded me that Death Race 2000 had only been a movie, and she attempted to persuade me that Frankenstein, "Machine -Gun" Joe Viterbo, Matilda the Hun, "Calamity" Jane Kelly and Nero the Hero did not actually exist, nor did their gas-powered death traps of terror. Nobody was going to gun for me in the Kroger parking lot as I crossed with my mother.  Aha, that's where she was wrong, and since she hadn't seen Death Race 2000 I once again familiarized Ms. Louise with the point system and reminded her that I was worth 70 points and my mom was worth 10 points more than my dad, so who wouldn't want to run us down? Hello? And this bone of contention was what ultimately led to the end of my therapy our friendship.

Ms. Louise gently broke up with me during a fine summer morning, as we were strolling through the park and eating chocolate ice cream.

Here is my rendition of the event:

That following year, when I was 8, my parents made a bold decision that they believed to be in my best interest.

The took me to a dark, crowded movie theater to see The Towering Inferno. My parents excitedly told me that it was a movie about a building that had 138 floors and was 1,800 feet high. But they left a few key elements out:

So, yeah. The movie started out fairly benignly, with the architect of the building, Paul Newman, at a party on the 135th floor, for the "Glass Tower."  I had candy, popcorn, soda and onscreen everyone was dressed in glamorous eveningwear for the festive gala. This was NOTHING like Death Race 2000. And then, up on the screen, Paul got angry. Really angry. It appeared that his specifications for the wiring of the building had not been followed and, as a result, a small fire had broken out on the 81st floor. That's below the 135th floor, and the stupid PR director refused to evacuate the building, since the fire department had been called. I started feeling a little knot grow in my tummy and glanced nervously at my mom. She was riveted by the movie. My dad was asleep, snoring.

Pfft. There's nothing to worry about, silly, I told myself calmly. The fire department will show up and save the day, just like they did that time I'd locked myself in my Aunt Kathleen's bathroom when I was 4. A cute fireman had climbed up his ladder, come in through the window and saved me. I sat up a little straighter, wondering if the fireman who had saved me would be in this movie, because I was 8 and didn't understand that there were "real firemen" and "Hollywood firemen" and when you're 8, anything is possible. Especially when you're 8-years-old and worried about killer bees, waking up blind and deaf, going retarded or being picked off by a man who wears a black leather bondage hood and drives a car with spikes coming out of the hood.

So, where were we? Oh, yes, the entire 81st floor had caught fire, trapping all of the guests on the 135th floor. The fire chief, Steve McQueen, forced the idiotic PR director to evacuate all 300 guests. Finally, someone in this movie was showing an appropriate response! The first 30 guests were sent to safety via the elevator, and the others were lined up calmly, waiting their turn for the second elevator. Just the way a movie should end, I thought happily. I heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that everybody would get out alive. I started to gather up my coat and food wrappers, but then my mother whispered, "What are you doing? There's still another 2 hours left." 2 more hours??? That's right. This movie was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

Just then, the second elevator that I thought had carried  more people to safety, opened up ON THE 81ST FLOOR!!! Aaaagggghhhhhh!!! Somebody was on fire! He was screaming, begging to be killed!!! OH MY GOD WHAT WERE MY PARENTS THINKING!!!!

It was to be the longest 2 hours of my life.

Very quickly, the action became non-stop, with people catching on fire, jumping out of windows and jumping out of windows while on fire. I distinctly recall crying and hiding my face, whimpering to be taken home. My mother patted my back a few times and let me hide my face in her arm, probably out of a sense of guilt. Why would she feel guilty? BECAUSE WE F*CKING STAYED, THAT'S WHY!!!

Oh no! There's a deaf woman with two children living on the 87th floor! The mother is taken to safety by a fireman, while the fire inspector takes the children a different direction. WTF????!!!  The number one rule of being a kid is NEVER ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE SEPARATED FROM YOUR MOTHER!!!!!  Because if you do, this will happen:

You end up trapped in a burning building with a childless woman who strongly resembles Faye Dunaway and knows nothing about keeping kids safe, as your caretaker. Really, she could care less whether you live or die, she's just watching you because her boyfriend, the architect, asked her to. So from here on out, you're basically on your own. Pay attention.

So, of course the deaf mother makes it out alive and the kids end up trapped in the building. Of course. At that point I began hyperventilating and checking all the exits to make certain the paths were clear.  CRASH! POW! WHOOOSH! My attention was once again drawn to the Screen of Terror. Now, Naval helicopters had landed on the building, in an attempt to lift some souls to safety. Thank God. But, what...I....OH MY GOD!!! Two women rushed the helicoptor and it ended up flying off with them HANGING ON FOR THEIR VERY LIVES! Then the helicopter crashed and now the entire roof is on fire. In the distance, two more people-on-fire jumped to their deaths.

By this time, I'm pretty sure my body had gone into shock in order to protect what was left of my delicate psyche. From here on out, I was basically a zombie.

The Naval helicopter decided to attach a breeches buoy going between the Crystal Tower and an adjacent building. This is what a breeches buoy looks like:

Only this one had fire all around it, and people were rushing towards it, causing all of them to fall to their deaths.

Lesson learned? Wait your turn.

So, with the breeches buoy, they were able to rescue all of the female guests, so I knew my mom would be safe in a similar situation. I'm guessing they rescued the women because of their childbearing ability. Then, THEN Faye Dunaway and the kids get into an elevator (which you are not supposed to use during a fire) and descend to the lobby. But in between the top floor and the lobby, the elevator falls off of it's track!!!

I mentally checked off one more thing that could snuff out my life. Elevators.

But Faye and the kids survived, because a helicoptor came by and rescued them just in the nick of time.

But this movie had to end sometime, right? It ended with the fire chief deciding that they should puncture the  million-gallon water tanks that are on top of the building. Everybody is told to tie themselves down, or the water will carry them away. Some people decide not to and are swept out of the windows by the water. I wanted to know, why didn't the people who tied themselves down DROWN??? 

Finally, the fire is put out by the water tanks. I'm pretty sure the movie ended with Steve McQueen lighting a cigarette and having a good laugh with Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway.

From that night on, I refused to enter any building that was over 2 stories tall, and I would not, under any circumstances, enter an elevator. Why? Because I might come out into a fire!

So there.

Death Race 2000 Through The Eyes Of A Child. Again. Because I just LOVE this post. And it will help you understand why I am the way I am. Or not. Whatever.

Okay, so by now most of you have read this, so you know about my pervasive quest to always be prepared in case of an emergency. Having grown up with severe anxiety and ADHD, it's important to me, the author that you, the reader, realize that to a child with disabling anxiety, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Seriously.

Killer bees? Check.

Suddenly going blind? Check.

Mysteriously waking up deaf one morning? Check.

The Bermuda Triangle and all that it entails? Check.

Spontaneous combustion? Check.

Tornadoes? Check. (Do you have any idea how scary tornadoes are when you live in a trailer court??? REALLY F*CKING SCARY!!! Remind me to tell you about that one time when I was 9).

You might think that this pattern of obsessive rumination would decrease with age, wisdom and maturity, but no. It actually gets worse. You see, I may have been more vulnerable and helpless as a child, but now that I am an adult I now comprehend the full magnitude of the dangers that await me and my children! Molesters, lurkers, rapers (here, I use a term coined by my bloggie friend Becky of Steammeupkid), stalkers, excessively large amounts of water, bullies, choking, carnies, fire, Pomeranian dogs, rogue circus clowns...the list is endless. And I'M responsible for keeping my kids safe from ALL of the bad people and things, ALONG with keeping myself safe.

As a child I counted on my parents to keep me safe from harm, but I.....wait. Scratch that. I counted on myself to keep me safe from harm. My parents were just my safety net in case I needed backup help in staying safe from killer bees, blindness, tornadoes, fire or hijackings. And really, in a hijacking? My mother would be of no use whatsoever.

Ever heard of a B movie called Death Race 2000? Yes? No? Really? Because I have! Wanna know why I've heard of it? Oh, because my parents took me to see it in the drive-in in 1975 when I was 8!

Here's how I picture that conversation:

Dad: "What say we take the kid and head on over to the drive-in thee-ay-tor. Ronnie at work says there's a good picture showing."

Little Me: (playing with Barbie): "Yay! The drive-in! Can I wear my jammies?"

Mom (cutting up bananas for the jello/banana/fruit cocktail salad): "Oh yeah? What's it called?"

Dad (yawns and scratches his ass with a back scratcher shaped like a monkey's paw): "Wellup, Ronnie says it's got cars and racing and that David Carradine guy is in it. That guy what played Rocky too. Whatsisname...Sylves-tor Stallone. You like them, right?"

Little Me: "I wanna go, I wanna go!! (gets up and air punches in front of parents, reminding them that she loved Rocky.)

Mom (flips breaded salmon patties frying in Crisco and pours iced tea in Tupperware glasses): "Well, it sounds good but what's that death part about?"

Dad (raises left ass cheek to fart): "Waaayyll, I don't rightly know. I guess we'll find out now won't we?"

Little Me: "YAAAAYYYY!!!"

Basically, it was a movie set in the year 2000, and all of society has broken down. For entertainment, the President puts on this thing every year called a death race. Four drivers and their navigators drive across the country, scoring points for killing innocent pedestrians.

Here's a quote from the movie:

"As the cars roar into Pennsylvania, the cradle of liberty, it seems apparent that our citizens are staying off the streets, which may make scoring particularly difficult, even with this year's rule changes. To recap those revisions: women are still worth 10 points more than men in all age brackets, but teenagers now rack up 40 points, and toddlers under 12 now rate a big 70 points. The big score: anyone, any sex, over 75 years old has been upped to 100 points."

Did you see that part about children under 12?

So did I. It's kind of hard to miss when you yourself are a child who is under 12 (70 points).  I had grandparents (100x4), several of my cousins were teenagers (6x40) and I had no idea how much my dad was worth but I knew my mom was worth 10 points more.

Awesome. Now I not only had to worry about myself, but add to that my:
1. Mother= Father+10pts
2. Father=?
3. Grandpa Charlie=100pts
4. Grandma Josephine=100pts
5. Grandpa Bud=100pts
6. Grandma Evelyn=100pts
7. Various and assorted teenaged cousins (females are worth 10 points more than men, remember)=???
8. Me=70pts

And here we were, watching this terrifying monstrosity of a movie.....IN A F*CKING DRIVE-IN MOVIE THEATER!!!!

Were my parents insane? We had to get out, and NOW!

Me: "Mom! Dad! We have to get out of here now!! The cars are gonna kill us!"

Mom: "What the hell??? I thought I told you to go to sleep back there! Were you watching this? Now lay down!"
Dad (lifts right ass cheek to fart): "Do what your mother tells you."

Me (getting more and more panicky): "But this movie is REAL! We have to get away, I know a way out! I saw a hole in the fence when I went to the bathroom earlier. Dad, if you gun it, I think we can bust through before anyone tries to kill us. Hurry!"

Dad: "Now hold your horses young lady. We paid for a double feature and we are staying until this movie is over. Do I make myself clear?"

Me (muttering under breath): "...easy for him to say. He's not worth hardly anything! I'm worth 70 points and mom's worth 10 points more than him..."

Dad (glaring): "What are you mumbling back there? Do you have something to say? If so, then just spit it out!"

Mom (sighing): "You two...."

Me (terrified beyond all rationality, screaming): "YOU'RE JUST JEALOUS! I'M WORTH MORE POINTS THAN YOU AND SO IS MOMMY! YOU HATE US AND WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!!"
At first, there was only silence. Then came the sound of gravel crunching under tires as we slowly drove away into the night. The crisis was averted.

This time......

Obsessive Personality? What Do You Mean By That? Is That Bad? How Bad? Can I Fix It? Barring That, Can I Prevent It? What Do You Mean I Can't Prevent It And My Son May Have It Too? How Bad? Can I Prevent It?

My son tends to obsess about certain things, including but not limited to: whether it's McDonald's night or not, how much he hates school (even though he gets straight A's), playing Mario Kart, wanting his pet hamster Mimi to be in her hamster ball (No Zach, she pees and poops with reckless abandon), Legos, creating complex miniature golf courses from Tinker Toys in my parents living room, wearing his Spiderman/Viper costume everywhere, magnets, stacking objects, making sure he has a washcloth over his face at bathtime so not one drop of water gets on his face, practicing walking on crutches in case he breaks a leg, knowing the definition of every word he hears, reading billboards out loud in the car, making sure he has two packs of poptarts for breakfast every morning plus an extra pack "just in case", tearing down and reconstructing his marble run, making sure everything he he eats has been warmed in the microwave including granola bars and applesauce, climbing to the top of our doorways using only his feet and hands, spies, knights, dinosaurs and insects.

He is also the sweetest, kindest, most loving, thoughtful, sensitive, bright, funny and generous little boy you will ever meet.

At first, Zach's obsessions appeared quirky, and who doesn't love a bit of quirk? Then, after the 47th Friday night in a row that he had asked if it was McDonald's night 16 times in 27 minutes, the quirk began to wear off. Seriously. By the time he screamed for 13 minutes in sheer terror when a drop of water landed on his cheek during bath time, I had definitely had enough.

Two days ago it hit me. He got it from ME.

Growing up, I never saw myself as obsessed. Until I wrote this post, I never even realized I'm obsessive. To an annoying degree at times. Seriously, I had no idea. I always have seen myself as, "determined", "strong-willed", "single-minded", "tenacious" or "driven". Obsessing was what was going to keep me safe from the Killer Bees, even if I was blind and deaf. And obsessing has seen me through many difficult times. I never give up, I will fight for what's important with my dying breath and I can be unswerving in digging up the truth from my kids and the sex-offender clients I used to treat. 

Being obsessive got me into and through graduate school, because there was NO WAY I was going to be stuck with nothing but a B.A. in Sociology. It provided for me and my kids when I was married to an addicted spouse who was usually unemployed. I got TWO jobs and sold ebay on the side because there was NO WAY I was going to lose my house and not provide for my children. It kept me focused when I was going through foreclosure and provided me with the ability to be so completely determined over a two year period that last summer Citi modified my loan. At 5%. For 30 years.

It helped me be the best therapist I could be, and I got more confessions out of sex-offenders than you would ever believe. I think they confessed just so I would leave them alone. I wouldn't let up until they told me every last thing they had done, thought about doing and planned on doing in the future. They could see the relentlessness in my eyes, and I think it freaked them out. I once made an adult sex-offender who had done 15 years of prison time cry in front of his parole officer. He cried and he admitted that his victim had been telling the truth. Prison couldn't break him, other therapists couldn't break him and his parole officer couldn't break him. But me and my obsessive personality, we broke him. It was a beautiful thing.

No, it wasn't a beautiful thing. It was simply what I expected.

My obsessive personality has also caused me a lot of heartbreak. It caused me to miss out on the fantastic, beautiful and joyous miracle that was the first 6 weeks of my daughter's life. Because I was too busy trying to figure out why she was crying and what I could do about it and when it would stop and how would I prevent it next time. And I can never get that back. I'm writing a journal for her, love letters to her, actually. I started it when she was 6 weeks old. I have almost no memories of her first 6 weeks, and the memories I do have are negative and painful. They involve crying (her and me), fear, frustration, anger, depression and hopelessness. But thanks to the miracle of Paxil, it got better. So much better.

My obsessive personality is a blessing and a curse. It allows me to see possibilities everywhere, and I can problem solve the sh*t out of anything. I can also get so caught up in the whys, hows, whens and whats that I become completely miserable, and annoying to the people who love me.

So. What to do, what to do? I know what I won't do. I'm going to stop getting angry at Zach for doing something that he truly can't help. Sure, I'll still get annoyed, but at least I can stop telling myself he's able to help it, anymore than I could when I was 7. Or 32. Or 43. I'm going to stop asking him to just trust me, dammit!  Because no matter how much he wants to stop asking, questioning, wondering and bothering, he just can't. Not yet.

So if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch my son play Mario Kart 7 times in a row. Right after I watch him build "a very complicated bridge" out of the Wii balance board, two halves of a case that contained giant building blocks, and a stepstool.

Go Make My Bed, Child.

Last night I swear it was about 2 degrees outside and I had to trudge through the snow with about 8 bags of garbage, so I could put them behind the garage for pickup. So about an hour later I'm cooking dinner, Zach's in the living room building something with the Jenga blocks and Julia is upstairs watching T.V. All of a sudden, I realized I hadn't made my bed that morning and it needed to be done before I could go to bed that night.

That's right. I don't have time to make my bed in the morning, so I make it every night before I get in it. That way the sheets are nice and tight, and the blanket edges match up with the sheet and comforter edges, and the wrinkles are all smoothed out and....STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!!! I didn't ASK to be born this way, you know.

I thought about asking my daughter to make it for me, but then, ugh!, all the whining and complaining from her would totally kill the buzz I was enjoying from the glass of wine I was having. Hmm, what to do, what to do. I gave pause, allowed the problem at hand a considerable amount of thought, considered the pros and cons from every angle and....HA! FOOLED YOU! I totally did it right off. No thoughts whatsoever.

Here's what I did:

Me: "Julia! Come here!"

Julia: "What do you want?! I was watching The Nanny!"

Me: "Ok, well, I just realized I threw away a really important receipt in the garbage and I don't know which bag it went into."

Julia: "And.....?"

(I stare intently at the chicken I'm sautéing)

Me: "Yeah, well as you can see, I'm kinda busy cooking your DINNER. So I need you to go outside and bring in all the bags of garbage from behind the garage."

Julia: "Are you SERIOUS???"

(at times like this it's best not to make eye contact)

Me: "Um, yeah. So anyway, I need you to bring the garbage in the house so you can go through the bags and find my receipt."

Julia: "....." (horrified expression)

Me: "It's from T.J. Maxx, and..."

Julia (shrieking): "ARE YOU SERIOUS????"

(don't snort, that'll give it away)

Me: "Um, listen missy, I-you-"

Julia (getting suspicious): "Mom? Why are your eyes watering?"


Julia: "OH!!! OHHH!! YOU! I'M GONNA...."

Then she hit me.

No, not like that. She smacked me on the arm like she would do to a friend at school who did this. But we are not friends. Maybe we will be one day. When she has lived a little. But for now, I had to reassert my position as the Alpha, and PRONTO.

I had to go all Mom on her.

So then I was all like, "JULIA! JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING???? I am your MOTHER!!"

She immediately got all serious and was like, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to, it's just that you...."

Me: "Well, I guess we can put it behind us. But don't you EVER hit me again. Got it?"

Julia: "Yeah, I get it. Hey, so why'd you call me downstairs then anyway?"

Me: "Um, I want you to make my bed. The way I like it. You know, with the sheets all pulled tight and the blankets and the comf..."

Julia: "Yeah, yeah, I know. The blankets and the comforter have to match up, and I need to fluff the pillows and be sure to pull the fitted sheet tight so there aren't any wrinkles. Why didn't you just say that in the first place?"

Me: "Well, number one, this was much more fun and number two, making my bed doesn't sound so bad compared to digging through frozen garbage, does it?"

Julia: "....."


The Coolest Song and Accompanying Video In The Whole Wide World. I Say So.

This girl totally...Rocks. It. Out. Loud.


You Mean Helen Keller Just WOKE UP LIKE THAT? Holy Crap! I Need To Prepare!

My family will tell you that I have a tendency toward the dramatic. Oh, and they may tell you that I have somewhat of a vivid imagination. And sometimes I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. Plus I tend to worry that anything I have read, seen or heard about will happen to me, which leads to my obsessive need to be prepared for any disaster that may come my way. Like that time I was 11 and my mom let me stay up late to watch a 1978 movie called "The Swarm", starring Michael Caine and Henry Fonda. It was about killer bees coming to America from South America. 

Killer bees end up coming up to Texas, and their stingers were poisonous, they would sting you until you were dead then they would keep stinging you and they might climb in your mouth and sting your throat too. You could roll up your car windows, they'd get in through the vents. What about a beekeeper suit, you ask? HA! Mere child's play for the killer bees, they would tear through the netting, sting you until you were unrecognizable and then they'd go after the children. I was riveted.

Then a man's voice came on and told me that killer bees were real and that they were expected to arrive in America by the year 2000, by way of Africa. I did the math and promptly realized I was going to die when I was 33.
I immediately told my mother I would not be attending Sky Ranch Day Camp that year just in case some of the killer bees decided to come over early, and I let her know I would be dropping out of grade school so that I could go backpacking in Europe. I had a lifetime of experiences to fit into my short time on this earth and I needed to get my passport PRONTO. My mom thought I was being funny and sent me to bed. I sobbed into my pillow for a good 45 minutes, thinking about my last minutes on Earth and wondering if I would die bravely. Would there be underground shelters by then, to protect us from this murderous swarm? If not, the President needed to be alerted and something needed to be done! I ended up wandering out to the kitchen, where my mom was reading a lusty novel and eating popcorn.

Mom: "What in the sam hell are you doing up? You should have been asleep hours ago! Now get your ass in bed!"

Me (trembling lower lip): "I...I...I'M GONNA DIE!!!! WAAHHHH!!!!"

Mom (now thoroughly alarmed): "WHAT??? What on Earth are you talking about??"

Me: "The killer bees are coming!!! They're gonna sting us all to death!! YOU'RE GONNA DIE TOO!!! WAAAHHHHHHH!!!!"

Mom (finally sets down smutty novel and gives child a hug): "Oh honey...."

Now, at this moment, I fully expected my mother to say something along the lines of, "Oh honey, that was just made up, killer bees aren't real! And of course I'm not going to die and neither are you! We're gonna live FOREVER!"

Well, what I got was this:

Mom: "Oh don't be silly, those bees aren't going to get to us for a long time, I don't even know how long it's gonna be..."

Me: "26 years."

Mom (slightly taken aback): "Okaay...Well, honey, we're all gonna die you know. I mean, you didn't expect me to live forever, did you? And of course your gonna die someday, but probably not when you're 33. Probably. I mean, either one of us could get hit by a car and die tomorrow. Now get your butt back to bed. Oh. And you don't need to tell your father I let you stay up late."

So now you know. I was stricken with an obsessive need to prepare for the worst eventuality because as a child I became painfully aware that my mother wasn't going to stand between me and disaster.

 To my way of thinking, my mother displayed an Appalling Willingness To Accept Reality. I decided that somebody needed to steer this ship and that somebody would have to be me.

Around the same time, I read a book about Helen Keller, and I was aghast. Apparently Helen had been born a healthy child who could see, hear and run fast without bumping into things. Then one terrible year she got sick with something called Scarlet Fever. One day she was just fine and the next day she was deaf, blind and couldn't talk. SHE JUST WOKE UP THAT WAY!!!

The prospect of losing every important sense I owned was beyond horrifying. Because how can you talk if you don't know what words sound like? And you can't know what words sounded like if you can't hear. And you can't learn sign language if you can't see. 

And forget learning Braille because you can't read. To somebody with an obsessive personality and a desire to know WHY? and HOW? and WHEN? this was like a Gordian Knot, only this Gordian Knot was constructed out of disabilities instead of rope. Disabilities that would forever keep me from listening to Shaun Cassidy, reading The Bobbsey Twins Mysteries and watching Scooby-Doo. I. Was. Terrified.

Plus, I was certain my mom would just be like, "Oh for pity's sake! Will you please stop whining about your lack of eyesight and hearing? It's not like you're not going to live forever, you know."

Now, I know Helen Keller is an inspiration, a woman who overcame every hurdle to become the stuff legends are made of. But when you're a 8-year-old, obsessive, hypochondriacal and highly imaginative drama queen THIS SHIT IS F*CKING SCARY!

I realized that if I was going to beat this thing, I would have to do it alone.

I made a plan. It looked something like this:

1. Learn sign language. PRONTO
2. Learn Braille. PRONTO
3. Learn to use one of those tap-tappy canes that all the blind people had in the '70's. PRONTO
4. Start watching Scooby-Doo with my eyes closed, so I would have all of the episodes memorized when I went blind. PRONTO

The following Monday, I checked out our school's only copy of Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet. Granted, it was just the alphabet, so it would take forever for me to ask Kristine if she wanted to SOP (our code for Spy On People), but it was a start. I checked it out for an entire month, and I made Kristine use our valuable lunchtime recess (45 minutes!) to learn sign language with me. Because if I was going to have to use it when I went deaf, somebody needed to know what I was saying.

Then, during my weekly visit to the public library with my mom, I checked out Modern Methods of Teaching Braille. Because that's all our library had and I had to learn Braille PRONTO!!!

Finally, one Saturday I decided it was time to achieve my final two goals. Learning to use the tappy-cane and watching Scooby-Doo with my eyes shut. I found my mother's umbrella and decided it would do for a tappy-cane because back in the 1970's everyone's umbrella was long. They didn't have the short little umbrellas you see nowadays. Which is a good thing because I would've been screwed otherwise. I didn't trust myself not to peek during Scooby-Doo, so I found a red bandanna and blindfolded myself.

And that's why my mother found me in the living room of our trailer early one Saturday morning in 1975, blindfolded and tapping around with her umbrella.

About The Time I Got A New Best Friend. And She's MINE! ALL MINE! SO F*CK OFF!!!

OK, so when I was in 3rd grade, my bestie, Christy, moved away. Because apparently having Mrs. Murphy as a teacher for the rest of the year wasn't enough on it's own to make me want to drink drain cleaner.

Not that Christy was the most awesomest of friends. I mean, for starters, she was fairly stupid, in that she couldn't do simple math in her head, and she didn't believe me that time I told her that "island" had an "s" in it.  She went and asked, you guessed it, Mrs. Murphy, who of course shamed Christy in front of the whole class for not knowing this essential bit of knowledge. I tried to talk Christy out of going to Mrs. Murphy. I told Christy that I was right because I was much smarter than her. To prove this, I showed her that I knew what 8+4 was without counting on my fingers.

She was not convinced.

Mrs. Murphy used to go around the classroom with flashcards and whenever it was Christy's turn to add 8+4 I used to just cringe, because besides hating on foul-mouthed 8-year-olds, Mrs. Murphy also hated on stupid people. A lot. This was during my "I totally believe I'm psychic" phase, so I used to think "12! The answer is 12!!!" in Christy's direction, but apparently Christy was also too cognitively impaired to receive my flashes of mental telepathy. Mrs. Murphy would just stand there, towering over Christy with that freaking flash card until Christy would cry. Then Mrs. Murphy would smile and move on.


Oh, by the way, I was recently informed that Mrs. Murphy is STILL ALIVE!!!!   So now there's that looming over my head.

Thanks Claudia.

In all fairness to Christy, she never was the same after she fell headfirst off the monkey bars that day in the trailer court park. Christy was hanging upside-down by her knees and she was all like, "Look at me! Look at ME!" And then all of a sudden, her knees must have given out because she fell about 10 feet and totally head-butted the ground with the top of her head, which couldn't have been good. I think she may have sustained a concussion because as we were all walking her home, supporting her generous frame with our frail bodies, she began rambling nonsense. Something about flying monkeys and tater tots. Then when I handed her one of her flip-flops that had fallen off during her tumble, she threw it at me.

Plus, once I told Christy that Purina Cat Chow tasted just like La Choy chow mein noodles and then I told her to eat some and she did and then she threw up. And I wasn't lying. I used to eat Kitty Kat's cat chow all the time, and it did taste like La Choy chow mein noodles. My issue was that just because I told Christy  to eat cat food, she did. Christy had no critical thinking processes, none at all, and the head injury couldn't have helped. She also ate rock salt because I told her to. In case you're wondering if eating all of these not-for-human consumption foods may have caused Christy's issues, let me remind you that I also ate all of these things and I'm JUST FINE.

So, there I was, stuck in Mrs. Murphy's 3rd grade classroom with no best friend. Alone. Forlorn. Abject. Desolate. Bereft. I know these words because every time Mrs. Murphy thought I displayed what she called "attitude", I had to stay in from recess and read the dictionary. According to my spelling grades, I displayed "attitude" on a regular basis.

Then came the day Mrs. Tucker, the school secretary, called through the intercom and asked me to come to her desk. I couldn't imagine what I had done. Recently.

As I approached Mrs. Tucker's desk, there stood a girl about my age, with straight brown hair, freckles and buck teeth. Her name was Kristine and she was to become my BEST FRIEND EVER!! She, however, did not know this yet.

Mrs. Tucker explained to me that Kristine had just moved into the trailer court in which I resided, and would I mind very much showing Kristine around, explaining the school rules to her and being her recess buddy?

I felt like the angels were singing to me. They were singing a song called "Your old best friend's name was Christy and this girl's name is Kristine, which sounds extremely similar but not exactly the same. Maybe  Christy was killed in a horrible fiery car crash and this girl is a reincarnation of her, only one that can do math in her head."

Color me obsessed.

Unfortunately for me, I came down with a horrible case of the poopsies that night, along with throwing up, so I had to miss 3 days of school. All I could think about, between bouts of vomiting, was "But...but who is helping Kristine? Did she get to the bus stop ok? Who did she sit with at lunch? I wonder if she knows the rule about only using four squares of toilet paper if you pee but if you poop you can use six?"

So on the 4th day, I trudged up to the bus stop, depressed about going back to school, but also excited about my new best friend!!!

Then I saw that 9-year-old bitch, Anna Smith*. She was walking arm in arm with MY BEST FRIEND NAMED KRISTINE AND THEY WERE GIGGLING!!!"


So, like any obsessed, desperate for friendship, possibly but probably not psychic, emotionally traumatized and lonely 8-year-old girl who really HAD just lost her best friend, I moved in for the kill. NOBODY was gonna steal my best friend away from me. Especially that bitch Anna Wilson.

Me: "Hey, Anna!"

They both turned.

Anna (all innocent-like): "Yes? Oh, hi! Have you met my new friend, Kristine? Kristine, this is-"

Me (through clenched teeth): "SHUT UP ANNA! And she's not your  friend, she's MINE!!! She's my BEST FRIEND actually! MRS. TUCKER SAID SO!!!"

Anna (smirking): "Oh, um...well, we're already bus buddies, isn't that right, Kristine?"

Kristine looked from me to Anna, then back again, wide-eyed. I knew she was trying to figure out which side she should take, as well as factoring in how bad it might be to piss off someone obviously as crazed and dehydrated as me.

Just then, the proverbial sun broke through the clouds. Kristine smiled at me and skipped over. Over to MY SIDE! SHE PICKED ME!! And there's no take-backs from that, just so you know.

Kristine linked her arm through mine and we were off. I flipped that bitch Anna the bird as we walked past her.

Kristine and I were bus buddies, lunch buddies, recess buddies, spying on people smoking pot in the trailer court buddies, playing truth-or-dare in the park at night buddies and catching Renee and Tommy trying to do it in the bushes behind old Mrs. Willet's trailer buddies.

And that's how I got my best friend.