Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Oh, Randy, I didn't know your dog liked to swim. . ."

"He doesn't."

Last weekend my friend Steph came up from New Rochelle to the big Renss. Steph, my sister, my niece, my mother and I drove up to Lake George for the weekend in the ridiculously beautiful house shown above. No, I do not have a vacation home on the lake. We had the privilege of staying in this A-frame mansion because my cousin, Randy, cleans a rich family's houses and watches their evil dogs for employment. These people have homes all over the Capital Region, and are building another one in Saratoga (big money). Immediately I wondered why they would want so many homes in the Capital Region. Why not branch out and buy a beach bungalow on the ocean somewhere away from the place that only gets 65 days of sunshine a year?

Staying in someone's house whom you've never met is a really odd experience. The place felt more like a hotel that happened to already have food and strange white people's pictures strewn about. Every time I started forgetting that other humans owned this house, another artifact would pop up reminding me that the sanctuary was not mine. I started to slowly fall in love with this family. I admired them for gonig completely organic. I enjoyed their china pattern. They had a plaid couch and a gorgeous fire place. There was only one television in the house, and it was tucked away into a comfy finished basement. The living room was for living and chatting, not loafing. Books were everywhere. Their CD collection contained Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Carole King, and Eric Clapton. They kept a log of house parties and visitors. They had a foosball table. Kayaks were in the garage. So was the booze - which of course I didn't touch out of respect for these wonderful people. . . but I longingly gazed at it. The family also owned two little dogs named Milo and Lucy that fought like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Complete with ear biting.

So, we had arrived midmorning and had lunch. My mother fixed some well-intentioned Sierra Mist drink with vodka in it. Steph and I zoned out and drank and ate while my sister, mother, Randy, and Emma amused themselves with gossip and feeding potato chips to the dogs, respectively. After lunch, Steph and I tried to clandestinely sneak out to the trail leading to the docks, but Emma, my rowdy three-year-old niece, saw us right from the start. So we ran wildly past the house and into the woods to avoid baby-sitting. Sometimes we adults just need to be alone.

Eventually the rest joined us anyway and we all had a grand old time frolicking and poking a dead fish and hating an old man who was putting up his dock. He dropped his sandal and I waded out in the freezing waters to get it. The old coot didn't even mutter a thank-you through his dentures.

Later, we made our way out to the little Village of Lake George to explore. Instead of minigolfing Steph and I opted for Fort William Henry. In some later post I will gush about the experience and my love for historical reenacting, but I just don't think I have the energy right now. It takes a lot out of me.

My cousin Randy is fantastic. He's gay, he's sassy, and he's hilarious. He owns two small dogs, a BMW, and collects teddy bears. There's really nothing better than a dinner in his presence. The restaurant we went to was very kitchy and cool, but I will admit the service was pretty slow. We froze at our table outside. My mother and Randy had ordered a pitcher of soda and, as my family is wont to do, decided that it "didn't taste right" and complained for more. I think the heavens would have to rain fire before my mom would ever drink diet coke. The goodlooking waiter brought another pitcher and. . . no dice. There's really no pleasing my family at a restaurant. I cringe at the tone given to the wait staff and I make sure to make pleading eye contact with a genuine, "Thank you" every time the waiter even comes near the vicinity of our table. This time, however, I learned that cattiness could be wonderful. If only coming from Randy:

"Drink up, everybody, there's plenty of shitty soda to go around."
At the restaurant there was an adorable 16 year old busboy who captured Stephanie's heart. I had overheard that it was his first night cleaning up after yuppies and their children. I understand how she felt. It was one of those instances where you see someone from a distance and you just know that if somehow God willed the two of you to speak, wedding bells would ring. Once he turned legal.

Back at the mansion, we had ice cream cake and sat around the fireplace on various pieces of luxurious furniture.

When Steph and I retreated to the downstairs bedroom we were unpleasantly surprised. We turned down the bed and found that the sheets, pillows, and blankets were covered in dog hair. A perfect weekend foiled. No matter how rich, sophisticated, and literate these people seemed to be, they slept in the same bed with their dirty-assed dogs. Every little ounce of envy melted away.

They were just like everybody else.

Lesson Learned.

Instead of introducing myself with a long, narrative paragraph detailing my likes, dislikes, habits, quirks, and other characteristics, I've provided you all with a simple picture that does a better job than I ever could with words. (Come to think of it, insulting my own writing skills on the first post of a blog probably isn't a good sign, but onward and forward!) You'll be reading and learning enough about me later, anyway, so I'll leave some things for a delicious surprise. Like when you're trolling for sustinence late at night and find a forgotten ice cream sandwich in the door of your freezer.

I figured that the best way to start off my blog is to do what I always do when I meet new people: tell a much too revealing - but amusing - story about myself with hopes of getting said people to like me. And perhaps share a story of their own to make me feel better. Instant friendship.

I've been thinking about this particular story a lot lately since I recently found out that the other party involved is an acquaintance of the funny guy I sit next to at work. I told him about this incident and he became rather unproductive for a good 20 minutes. Here I go. . .

Last summer I decided to try a new open mic at a coffee shop called The Muddy Cup in Albany. It's pretty cozy with wooden tables and chairs, a sectional couch, and every acoustic guitarist in the Capital Region. I went to the open mic on the advice of my friend Carter, who is also the son of Mike Irwin. They were meeting me there, so I felt comfortable arriving by myself - for once. When I got there we exchanged greetings and then I went to go sign up for a performance spot. I was a few minutes early, so of course that meant I was extremely late to get a decent time.

The night was filled with a few great musicians (including an 11 year old song-writer, a 40 yr old female former flower child on keyboard, and the duo that hosts - Half Step something), many mediocre ones, and a whole lot of awful comedians. Now, I admit that I am a bit of a comedy snob BUT these people were painfully awful. Really bad. The kind of comics who get visibly rattled and pissed off at the audience for not laughing at their really badly over-done menstrual period pun. After a while, Mike and Carter left me to the wolves before my time came to get onstage. So I sat at the table alone, waiting for the emcee to mispronounce my name. It was about 10:15 and half a crowd later that I finally had to climb over the tables and couches to the microphone. At this point I was so enraged at the terrible name that these people were giving local comedy, and at the audience for letting half of themselves leave. Very much to my surprise, in front of those 16 people (5 of which were upstairs and out of sight) I did extremely well. The kind of success that you usually only find in a packed club on a Saturday night when everyone's had a few rounds of their liquor of choice. It's hard to explain. I think maybe the crowd was just relieved that I wasn't doing shitty dick or Bush jokes (great imagery, eh?). It seems that my annoyance had given my performance the schock of electricity that I try and very rarely tap into. Maybe I should get angry before every show, hire someone to try and convince me of the cultural value of Hannah Montana and "My Humps" right before I walk out onto the stage. I'll look into it.

I went back and sat down and met two very important people. They struck up a converation with me about how they liked my set and how it was good having a new comedian on the bill. Both were very friendly and, I'll admit, made me feel a lot better about the night. One of them, Alice, later became a very good friend with whom I can discuss this very incident and go to Folk Festivals and shout out that Dar William's song about not being afraid of women. And... Bluegrass Boy, whose name shall be kept private. Earlier in the evening he had done a great rendtion of The Black Crowes' (really Otis Redding's) "Hard to Handle" and a decent Hank Williams song. We three started talking and hit it off pretty well. At the end of the night, Alice went with her friends and BB and I decided to hang out. For some reason first we ended up at Price Chopper and he bought materials to make salad. That should have been my first clue. Then, I followed him (IN MY OWN CAR, YES) to his house. I figured I might as well try to make a friend if I was going to be stuck in Albany all summer. I'd give him a chance and see if I could handle hanging out with a long-haired male on a regular basis.

At his house I parked self-consciously as always and found myself greeted by an annoying little dog (Clue #2). I go sit on the couch and learn that his parents are sleeping 20 ft away (hindsight Clue #3). BB went into his kitchen and "made the salad" while I flipped through the channels and finally decided on a U2 concert that was playing on one of those billion channels some people think they need.

He brought in the salads and I tried to muscle down a cherry tomato (which I hate). Salad to me back then meant a hearty bowl of lettuce smothered in lots and lots of dressing. Defeated, I put the bowl of dry vegetables on the coffee table and attempted to reply to his small talk while watching Bono dance with an African-American woman to "She Moves in Mysterious Ways" rather provocatively for a married man. He inched closer to me and I inch closer as well - closer and closer to my side of the couch. After the song was over I mumbled something about it being "late and umm I should go soon." But he just kept talking, what about I do not remember except,

"Do you want to smoke some grass?" No.

I was as close the the end of the couch as I could be, and he kept getting closer, touching his knees to mine. I wasn't used to these types of situations (not that I am now) and I definitely did not think that he was interested in me in "that" way. I was wearing a baggy t-shirt, longer shorts, and crocs (that I have now since thrown out). And he was skinny.

I was just about to get up when he gently pushed my hair behind my ear in foreplay, smiled slowly and said, "Oh, I didn't check to see if you were wearing any earrings. . ." My jaw dropping with shocked surprise at what just oozed from his vocal chords must have been taken for a green light, because he leaned in and bumped his mouth into mine forcefully. Immediately I pulled away, still lacking a response. As usual, I found a way to dig myself out of this mutual embarassment by being willing to take all the shame. "I'm sorry, I'm just awkward, I can't umm do this, umm yeah, I don't know... I'm...awkward." Very non-commital, didn't hurt his feelings, pretty safe, right? Wrong.

"Yeah, I know, I'm awkward too and thought our awkwardnesses could work together."

There were many things wrong with this picture. 1) He did not do the polite thing and tell me I was not awkward. 2) He was willing to get a move on while his parents were sleeping one wall away. 3) He referred to marijuana as "grass." 4) He used the worst excuse to touch me I've ever heard, and this includes Lifetime Original Movies. and 5) We had met just 2 hours earlier.

I flew to the door, told him that I was not ready for a relationship (which was a complete lie), and that I was sorry about the whole mess. On the ride home, I felt a strange tingling in my stomach and I started sweating. My nose started running and my cheeks felt hot. My hands and feet were trembling with mixed feelings. The Catholic guilt I thought I had thrown away by not getting confirmed was just setting in. Had I really just gone to a strange guy's house late at night? His parents were home, but I didn't know that until I got there. I had managed to procrastinate in the tensest of situations. Just like how I always put off calling doctor's offices and employers; just like I wait until the last second to take a shower before I go out; just like I wait to do things until right before my mother's wrath overboils and spills all over the house. I waited and waited to bail myself out just to see how far things would go. I knew I didn't like him, but I wanted to see if I could handle it; what I would do. Deep down I think I knew what was going to happen, but I put myself out there anyway. It was the first time I actually felt powerful and in charge of my own life. Still, I cranked up the volume on whatever CD I had in the car and tried to drown out the fact that I had just played chicken with possible forced unwanted coitus.

I was so shaken up that I made myself violently ill! While I about to start the car and pull out of the doctor's office parking lot the next day, I received a phone call.

"Hey, it's Bluegrass Boy. Wanna go hiking tomorrow?"

At least I know it wouldn't have been rape.

The moral of this is: don't eat toasted cheese for supper.

Actually, the real moral is: don't trust long-haired bluegrass singers who think you're attractive when you're wearing a t-shirt and fluorescent orange crocs. And don't go home with them in the first three hours you've met.