Friday, February 12, 2010

To Make A Memory

Oh Look! Up Ahead! My friend Alexis is walking on the Twin Creeks Walking Trail towards me! Isn’t that a coincidence? She had just been on my mind! You see, moments before I left the house to go for a walk on this gloriously warm, Texan winter afternoon, I checked my email and there was a message from her:

“Do you want to go for a walk today?”

Well, now, isn’t that nice! It is the first time since I’ve met Alexis that she has asked me to go DO something with her; a sure sign that our relationship has progressed beyond acquaintance to bonafide friendship! No doubt, it has taken a while for this unconventional, beer swigging, sailor mouthed Jersey girl to make friends in Texas, but at long last, I have written proof that I have successfully done so!

It’s amazing how something so simple as an invitation to go for a walk can restore balance to one’s life, isn’t it? But it has! Alexis’s invitation has suddenly made me feel something I haven’t truly felt since I moved to Texas: a sense of belonging. After all, a person never really feels at home in a new environment until she has made some friends to get in trouble with.

Terrifically excited to be extended the hand of friendship, I immediately open my address book and locate Alexis’s number. Of course, I’d love to go for a walk! Any excuse to get away from my children. But before I place the call, I take a few minutes to get ready. I pull on my walking shoes, zip up my pink hoodie, grab a healthy bottle of water from the fridge, pour in a packet of Propel’s twelve cancer causing agents for flavor and then return to the phone. Of course, due to the toll years of drinking has taken on my short term memory, by the time I returned to the phone, I forgot why the phone book was opened. Consequently, after I curse out my children for leaving the address book out again, I slide on my sunglasses, plug my IPOD headphones into my head, tune in as Paul Rodgers from Bad Company sings about how much he feels like making love to me, and promptly walk out the door. Ten minutes later, as I veer off a side street to pick up the Twin Creeks hiking trail, it finally dawns on me that the reason why I am receiving no replies to my idle chit chat is because Alexis is not walking next to me. Which is a shame, really. I had so been looking forward to our walk this afternoon: It seemed like the perfect opportunity to start creating some memories. After all, isn’t that what friendship is all about? Making memories together? But how can Alexis and I possibly begin to create memories together if we are not, in fact, together?

Well, sit down in a comfortable chair and grab yourself a beer. Let me tell you exactly what it takes: To Make A Memory.

When I moved to Texas last spring, I had no desire to make new friends. I had left behind anyone I ever cared to know up North and was not the least bit interested in meeting people I didn’t care to know down South. Instead, I spent all my time on my back patio, drinking beer and churning out a damn near prolific volume of nonsensical, yet no less meaningful, tales of my exploits. Soon enough, summer arrived, which I happily spent up North, visiting friends and drinking all their beer, until it was time to drive back to Texas. September found me depressed and lonely, as the permanency of my location became acutely clear. Still, I did what I always do when I wish to avoid reality: I cracked a beer, pulled up a chair on my back patio and began to write again.

Until one day, in late September, I had an epiphany! Two significant, near simultaneous events occurred that caused me to suddenly and unequivocally conclude that I need friends! The first event that happened was I ran out of things to write about. After all, I spent all my time behind a computer so nothing ever happened to me. Second, and much more significant, I ran out of beer. Sure, I could have driven to the store and bought more, but my husband is a Government Employee! How long could he continue to finance my beer supply before a foreclosure sign appeared on the front lawn?! It was time for me accept that I couldn’t go it alone anymore. Clearly, I needed friends. Preferably, with stocked refrigerators.

Moments later, I took a long, hard look at myself in the bathroom mirror. My God. Just look at me. How selfish I’d become! I mean, what right did I have to keep myself all to myself? After all, what joy can a prized jewel bring to others if it is kept under constant lock and key? And so, I put on my cowboy hat and boots, grab the lasso from the bedroom, and walk out my front door, out into the world, to rustle me up a posse.

I purposefully stride down my front walkway until I reach the sidewalk. Then I stop. Do I turn left or do I turn right? I mean, where exactly does an unconventional, beer swigging, sailor mouthed, Jersey girl go to meet friends in the conventional, sober, verbally puritanical South? Church?! Puh-leeze. And because I have a strict policy against volunteerism, that rules out all school and community venues. I can’t make friends at work since my natural born tendency to freeload precludes employment, and I certainly don’t want friends better looking than me, so there goes the gym. Defeated, I return to the house, climb over several piles of dirty laundry, pour Diet Coke into a paper cup since every last glass in the house is dirty and piled high in the kitchen sink, shove several months worth of unsorted paper work off the couch onto the floor and plop down. With no beer and nothing to write, there was simply nothing to do around here. I need some friends, but where to find them?

Then I remembered! Last week, as I peered through the dining room blinds to spy on my neighbors, I watched a woman who I hadn’t met, but who I recognized as a neighbor, drop something off in my mailbox. Stealthily, I watch from my strategic position behind the blinds until my neighbor returns to her house and shuts the front door behind her. Then I bolt out my door to the mailbox! What is it?!


Oh. How pathetic. It’s an invitation begging for me to go out with her. Naturally, I dismiss the invitation for it’s sheer desperation. But that was before I ran out of beer! I lean off the sofa and desperately sift through the pile of paperwork. Where the hell is that invitation? Oh! Here it is!

“Dear Neighbor. Please join everyone at Julio’s for a ‘Get To Know Your Neighbor’ dinner!” And what’s this? The dinner is tonight?!

A few hours later, properly showered and shaved, I knock on the front door of my neighbor, Julio. A half hour past that I show up at Julio’s Restaurant where the woman not-named-Julio and a dozen others are gathered in the bar area, waiting for the table to be called.

“Hello! I’m Cynthia. How ya doin'?” I smile my bestest smile as I elbow my way through the women to the bar. Now back in the heyday of my twenties, I never had to wait long for a bartender to serve me. No matter how large the crowd, it seemed that all I had to do was belly up and before I knew it, I was handed a drink; more often than not, free of charge. But I’m not twenty anymore. I’m forty and ‘heyday’ has taken on a whole new meaning.

“Hey!” I eventually holler at the bartender after I watch him serve every possible patron in the establishment, including the 75 year old, drunken letch next to me. “Any day now!”

“Would you like something to drink?” the bartender finally acknowledges me after I collapse on the bar from the exhaustive wait.

“Whatyagot’ntap?” I mumble, since I collapsed face down.

“Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, Sam Adams Winter Fest and Stella Artois,” he replies. Wait. Stella? Did he say STELLA? ON TAP?! Oh, I dasn’t. The last time I drank Stella on tap, I fell out of a car. It was during the winter of ‘07, about 2AM. After consuming an outrageous volume of delicious Stella on tap for the very first time at a local bar, a good friend from my old neighborhood and her husband discovered me babbling to myself in a corner and saw fit to drive me home. A bit embarrassed, and despite my slurred speech and bobbing head, I did my best to pretend I was not intoxicated. That was right before I lost all motor function as I stepped out of the car onto my driveway.

“Oh My God! Frank!” I hear the echo of my friend Lisa exclaim to her husband. “She fell out of the car!”

“So?”

“So get out the car and HELP HER!”

“Why should I get out the car?! It’s cold! YOU help her!” For several minutes, I lay immobile under the front tires of the car, listening to the domestic dispute intensify, praying their frenzy would not result in an angry, reverse peel out. Fortunately, Frank eventually hauled my ass out from underneath the car, dragged me to my front door, and in true Animal House fashion, rang the bell and took off running. Ahhh. You just don’t find friends like that every day. Therefore, I knew if I wanted to make a good impression this evening, I shouldn’t order a Stella.

“Absofuckinglutely! Give me a Stella!” I beam happily at the bartender. Let’s face it. When have I ever given a shit about making a good impression?

“Would you like the 12 ounce or the 22 ounce?” the bartender inquires.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I bat my forty year old eyes, hoping I still have what it takes to score a free drink. “The 22 ounce! Unless, of course, you have something larger,” I add seductively.

After I pay the $32 bill for a yard of beer, I join the group of impeccably dressed women. I am happy to see that apart from my black leggings and pink CAPE COD sweatshirt, I am dressed just like everybody else. See that? I blend right in. Well, except for the three foot tall glass of beer in my hand. That kind of stands out. Especially since I am the only woman in the group holding one.

Attending a ‘Meet Your New Neighbor’s’ soiree is like entering an intensive round of speed dating, whereby a group of singles looking to make a match are paired up and allotted five minutes to ask each other questions to determine whether they should ever speak to each other again. In traditional round robin speed dating, at the end of five minutes, the Event Host rings a bell, all ‘dates’ come to a halt and the participants move on to a new ‘date.’ Participants are then asked to indicate on a match card who they are interested in seeing again. Of course, in this case, the participants are newly transplanted women out looking to make new friends, and there is no Event Host to ring a bell. Not that it mattered. I never made it past thirty seconds before my ‘date’ called off the interview. Not that there was an actual bell, mind you. But I could hear the bell toll anyway.

“So, where are you from?”

“Fucking Jersey.” DING!

“I’m not sure I like our new Pediatrician. Have you found a good Pediatrician?”

“Good God, no. Hell, I haven’t even bothered to find a bad one!” DING!

“So what does your husband do?” Always a sticky question, my husband doesn’t like me to broadcast his occupation, I order another yard of beer to buy time to think.

“He’s a floral arranger,” I finally answer after I take a foot long swig. DING!

“I’m a Republican. What are you?”

“Totally turned off by people who define themselves by political party.” DING!

“So, I didn’t know what to do when the toilet started to overflow! My husband wasn’t home to help, he was out of town, he’s always out of town, he said it would be different when we moved here, we could make a fresh start, I won’t go into details. But he’s never home, he’s gone at least two days a month, can you imagine how hard it is to raise children with a husband who travels so much? My mother said I should never have married him, but she’s just bitter that we moved from Lubbock to Dallas; it’s like a four hour drive, you know! Can you image being that far away from family? So I just broke down when I saw the toilet overflowing! The kids were hysterical, I was bawling, what was I to do?! I packed up my family and drove through the night back to Lubbock. And can you believe it? My husband blames me for the water damage! So, what do you think? Do you think I’m to blame?”

“Wow,” I comment before I ask the only question I would ask all night. “Lubbock, Texas is an actual place??” DING!!!

“Do you run?”

“Only when the cops are chasing me.” DING!

“Have you found a good butcher?”

“Of course I have! What are you, fucking blind? Just look at my hair!” DING!

“So tell me about yourself!”

“Well, I am a forty year old Irish housewife who has failed to live up to her potential, has no appreciable skill set to reenter the work force and is so desperate for human interaction that I chose to come here rather than check my fucking email all night in the hopes that The GAP will inform me of its latest sale. My body is shot, my face is fucking collapsing, and half the time, the only thing that prevents me from committing a familial homicide/suicide is this here beer in my hand! Cheers!” DING!!

Until finally, I met a woman I could relate to.

“I miss my old neighborhood,” the woman confesses. “The women there were just so crazy! Once a month, a group of us would get together for Wine Tasting Night! One night, we went through 9 bottles!”

“Oh my God! I know exactly what you mean! One night, a group of us went through 9 bottles too!” Finally, a kindred spirit!

“Really?! There were 43 women in my group! How many women were there in yours?”

“Uh...let’s see. That night? Five.” DING!!!

Needless to say, 15 feet of beer and nine minutes later, I had blown through the entire pool of potential friends. Relatively certain that my name would not be checked off on anybody’s match sheet, I quickly toss back the remaining two feet of Stella in my glass and leave.

As I drove home in the car that I had absolutely no fucking business operating, it occurred to me. I’m too old for this shit. At my age, trying to make new friends is like returning to the dating scene after 20 years of marriage. Who the hell has the energy to start the courting process over? Frankly, I’m too old, too seasoned, too damn lazy to put in the effort that a new relationship requires. I simply don’t have it in me to nod politely as some dingbat housewife regales me with wonderful stories of children I don’t give a shit about. I’m not interested in listening to someone rehash their war stories, and I sure as hell am not interested in rehashing mine! I’m too old for courtship: that wasteful, length of time people spend getting to know each other by pretending to be a much better people than they actually are before revealing their true, awful natures. Clearly, what I need is an Instamatic Friend: you know, one of those easy models that doesn’t require any upkeep, dispenses beer when I want it to and doesn’t ask a bunch of fucking stupid questions.

I park my car into my driveway, at least I think this is my driveway, step out the door and lose all motor function.

Besides, with age comes wisdom. Today, the qualities I want in a partner are much different then the ones I sought in my younger years. Like if I found myself dating again because my husband suddenly died in a freak car accident and an incompetent police search failed to turn up the wire clippers I used to tamper with the brakes, I wouldn’t ask a future prospect meaningless questions about his values and outlook on life. I would simply ask, “Can you beat me at air hockey?” “Do you cook?” and “How big is your bank account?” Likewise, I’m not looking for a friend with a sympathetic ear and a warm heart! Today, the qualities I look for in a friend are much simpler and they certainly don’t include where she is from, the state of her children’s health or where she buys her pork chops!

“No! Just follow my voice! I’m over here!” I holler back to my husband who, at last, locates me and drags me out from underneath the car I parked in my neighbor’s driveway.

The following morning, while I nursed a significant hangover, I realized that I had a major problem. Obviously, if I was to ever find friends, I needed to take a much more proactive role in the matter. Last night was like being at a job fair! All I achieved was wasting my time interviewing for positions I had no interest in taking. And why the hell should I be the interviewee anyway?! I’m the one who knows the pertinent questions to ask! After all, who knows better than me what qualities I’m looking for in a friend! Clearly, I should be the one conducting the interviews!

An hour later, I trip over all the shit in my garage, haul out my kid’s old lemonade stand, and cover up the hand drawings of lemons with pictures of magazine cut out, beer bottles. Then I drag the remodeled stand around to my front yard and set up shop. Neatly, I stack the large pile of mimeographed applications I had run off earlier next to the box of small pencils I stole from Pirates Cove Miniature Golf Course this summer, and pull up a chair behind my newly created desk. At last! I am prepared to receive applicants.

Oops! I almost forgot! I sprint back to the garage, grab a large mallet, return to the front yard and pound the sign that reads, “Now Hiring for Position of Friend” into my lawn. Then I immediately run into the house, turn off the sprinkler system and return with a towel. Who knew a wooden sign could break through an underground PVC sprinkler pipe? After I dry off the stand and run off another set of applications, I sit down behind the booth. Now I am prepared to receive applicants! As I wait, I review the Application Form:

NOW HIRING FOR THE POSITION OF FRIEND

1. Do you drink beer? YES ___ NO ___. If you checked YES, skip to question #3.

2. Do you at least drink wine? Or hard liquor? YES___ NO ____. If you checked NO, please put your pencil down and leave immediately.

3. Are you now, or have you ever been, a ranking member of a Community Pool Board, the PTA, Cub Scouts, the Catholic Church, or any other organization that would indicate you are not someone with whom I should associate? YES___ NO___. If you checked YES, please put down your pencil and leave immediately.

4. Do you swear? YES___ NO ____. If no, why not? ________________________.
If your answer was anything other than, “Because I once received jail time for perjury,” please put down your pencil and leave immediately. On second thought, don’t. Please proceed to the next question.

5. Do you care if I swear? YES___ NO___.

6. Please read the following and choose the answer that best finishes the following sentence: I always choose to do the right thing…

a. Because God will smote me if I do otherwise.
b. Because I enjoy casting judgmental dispersions on those who do the wrong thing.
c. Because it feels good to do the right thing!
c. Quite by accident, and only when it is to my self serving benefit.

7. Do you think your children are (a) joys to be treasured, or (b) God’s way of punishing you for having late night, drunken sex? If you circled A, please put down your pencil and leave immediately UNLESS you chose ‘A’ because the XANAX you took to help you cope with your children has just taken effect.

#8. Do you keep beer stocked in your fridge? YES____ NO _____.

#9. Is it beer that I like? YES____. NO_____.

#10. Do you have any problem whatsoever with people who stop by your house at any given hour without notice to drink that beer ? YES____NO____. For free? YES____NO___.

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any applicants. You see, Twin Creeks is a Squidville-like planned community with a very restrictive Homeowner’s Association Covenant. Consequently, just moments after I sat down, a white car bearing the name Twin Creeks Homeowner’s Association pulled up in front of my house and a short, stout man wearing a Mickey Mouse security outfit jumped out, swiftly dismantled my beer stand and slapped me with $2,476 worth of fines for Illegal Signage, Unauthorized Solicitation, Watering the Lawn During a Drought and Covering up Pictures of Lemons with Pictures of Beer Bottles on a Tuesday. Clearly, Deputy Dawg never would have made it past question three.

In the end, I had no choice but to make friends the old fashioned way. Door to door. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy. More than once I looked down the barrel of a shotgun before I was chased off a lawn by a rifle toting, man in a white undershirt who bellowed, “I‘ll kill ya, ya damn Yankee!” Still, after much perseverance, my efforts paid off and I found an open door.

“Who the hell are you!?” a surprised woman sporting a ponytail and a bag of groceries hollers when she discovers me rifling through her refrigerator.

“I’m Cynthia. I’m from New Jersey,” I reply. “Do you have a bottle opener? None of your fucking beer has twist off caps.”

“How did you get in here?!”

“You left your fucking door open,” I explain to Alexis as I crack open the beer with the bottle opener I found in her kitchen drawer. See that? In the end, I finally found a friend who possess the qualities I desire! And I skipped the courtship phase entirely!

Well…maybe that’s not exactly how I met Alexis, but you know what? It’s pretty damn close.

The truth is, it’s easy to meet new people when you move to a new area, but it is a whole different kettle of fish to find a friend; someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to drink, swear and be your awful, self around. This is particularly challenging when you happen to be an unconventional, beer guzzling, sailor mouthed Jersey girl out to make friends in the deep south. Without doubt, the time I have spent over the past several months searching for that comfort level has been laborious, awkward, lonely, oftentimes painful, but unfortunately, necessary. For no matter how much we wish it were otherwise, there are no ready made, Instamatic Friends on the shelf in aisle three. Friendships take time, their bond neither to be rushed nor forced, but woven tight by singular strands of shared mutual experiences: an unexpected gesture of kindness in a time of need, a ride home from the local bar, a late night game of pool, and if you’re really lucky, a lively debate over who is to blame while you await arraignment. It is the memories we create together that bind us together, and creating memories doesn’t happen overnight. In the end, all a 40 year old, recently transplanted woman can do is meet a like mind, or at least a tolerant one, and start the process of making memories all over again.

And what better place to start making memories with my new friend Alexis than on a walk along Twin Creeks Hiking Trail! Well, it would be, if she was here.

Still, as I walk along the path that I have come to know so well, I smile up at the sun, suddenly filled with optimism and energy, as if a heavy load I didn’t even realize I shouldered had just been lifted. It’s amazing how a simple invitation to go for walk can lift one’s spirit! How making a new friend can lift one’s spirits! For where would any of us be without friends to lift out spirits? Pretty fucking down in the dumps, I say! And life is too short to spend it down in the dumps! It’s stinky down there! That is why one must try to make friends, no matter how painful the process may be. After all, friends make our spirits soar. And I have a friend!

All at once, I feel fleet of foot, like the world is my oyster, that my future is bright, that anything is possible! I happily break into a slow jog, uplifted by Michael Buble’s joyously hopeful song, 'I Just Haven’t Met You Yet.’

I Might Have To Wait,
I'll Never Give Up,
I Guess It's Half Timing
And The Other Half's Luck.


I pick up the pace. Hey! I feel wonderful! You know what? I feel like exercising again! Isn’t that something? Maybe I’ll even start my diet tomorrow! After I finish the yummy chocolate cake that’s been on my mind all day! And you know what else I feel like doing? I feel like writing again! And just at that second, an even more amazing thing happened. I felt like me again!

Of course, being me is not always easy. It seems that whenever I am me, the most unlikely, and often unfortunate, events occur. But not today! Today, I belong here in Texas and nothing can take that away from me!

Happily, I bound into the air, land on bended knee and point at a nearby squirrel, inviting him to sing along with the triumphant, crescendo of music and lyrics!

...And I promise you kid, I’ll give so much more than I get!

I point up at a bird in the tree, inviting him to join in as well!

THAN I GET!

Take it away, I point at Mr. Chipmunk!

THAN I GET!

Now You! Angry Texan Wild Boar with sharp tusks!

THAN I GET!!!! (trumpets blast!)
AND SOMEDAY I KNOW THAT IT'LL ALL TURN OUT...

I hope like hell as I run like hell to escape the humungous wild boar charging after me in hot pursuit. Holy shit! What the hell is with the sheer volume of enormously pissed off pigs in this state?!

…AND I’LL WORK TO WORK IT OUT…

Jesus Christ! I’m out of shape! I’m panting! This swine sure is swift!

I THOUGHT I THOUGHT OF EVERY POSSIBILITY

Well, who the fuck could have foreseen a wild boar attack?! I quickly bolt behind a large tree and pretend that I’m invisible. My plan works. The bully boar continues down the trail trolling for a new, hapless victim to chase. Okay, so maybe I’ll never get used to the roving gangs of mad biker pigs that terrorize Texan communities. But still, I belong in Texas! I hold out my arms, fan my hands and kick alternating legs in Rockette fashion as I pick up the second verse and dance down the trail.

Wherever You Are
Whenever It's Right
You’ll Come Out Of Nowhere And Into My Life.


Oh look! Up ahead! It’s my friend, Alexis, walking towards me! To the beat of the music, I pick up my stride, eager to reach my new friend. She is walking at pace as well, her yellow lab, Whatshisname, leading the way. Though I can’t see her eyes behind her large sunglasses, the large smile of recognition that lights up her face lets me know that she sees me. Damn, it’s nice to recognize and be recognized when you’re out and about! Still, I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I forgot to phone her back earlier. Then again, she hadn’t waited around for my call either! See that? We’re two of a kind. But how fortuitous that I should meet Alexis on the walking trail today, after all! At last, we can finally begin the process of creating memories!

“Hey ASSHOLE!” I bark loudly, in a pseudo angry tone, as soon as I am within barking distance. For a split second, Alexis’s smile fades a little: clearly my warm, New Jersey greeting is unexpected. What can I say? NOBODY swears down here in Texas. Oh, well. She’ll get used to it. See that? She already has. In a flash, her smile returns, broader than ever as her ponytail swings back and forth with her every, happy stride.

I then hold out my arms in an exaggerated, ‘What the FUCK?’ motion as I menacingly stare her down and march up to her. Alexis comes to a stop. Playing along, she loses her smile completely.

“Just what the FUCK are you doing here!?” I blast in my most aggressive, best New Jersey, Fuggedaboutit voice. We stand nose to nose, sunglass covered eye to sunglass covered eye. I do my best to keep a straight face as Alexis slowly slides her sunglasses down her nose.

Fifteen minutes later, I veer back off the trail onto my street, walking at a brisk pace. But I don’t stop when I reach my house. Instead, I pass right on by and turn the corner onto Alexis’s street. This time, I can’t keep the smile off my face. I knock on her front door, giddy with anticipation. I just can’t wait until she answers. After a moments pause, I knock on her door again and wait. After all, I’m certain that Alexis is at home. And the reason I know that is because the person I just met on the walking trail was, in fact, not Alexis. Go ahead. Take a minute to think about that.

“Hey Asshole! Get me a beer,” I demand as I follow Alexis to the kitchen after she lets me in. Sure, Alexis and I together may not have created a memory today, but as the voice of the imposter Alexis echoes, “That is not nice! Is that how you greet your friends?!” around in my head, I pull a comfortable stool up to the kitchen center island, happily take a swig of Shiner Bock, sit down, and begin to create a memory for both of us.

“You’re never going to believe what just fucking happened to me today!” I begin.

1 comment:

Damian Ross said...

Now the world finally knows that you're cold, hard, cynical, insecure and sarcastic exterior is wrapped around a..well cold, hard, cynical, insecure and sarcastic interior.

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