Monday, September 11, 2017

I Survived a Wedding (barely)

If you read the short story in my previous post, I truly appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed it. If not, you can read it here. :-)

To tell you the truth, I never planned on releasing that story. But with D's friend's wedding fast approaching I needed to give myself a pleasant distraction - and the tale of two girls, a guy, and a dream home seemed to work well. I felt great Friday, when I completed and published it. And Saturday, the day of the wedding, I was still in my story world. 

That morning I started getting nervous about going to L's wedding. The weather was perfect, and so I planned to take a walk down the street, buy a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew, and take my story (and my soda) to the park for a bit. But when I reached the intersection, I called an audible. Burger King.

I'd seen the commercial for the Rodeo King burger and I knew I wanted one. I also knew that D would not take us to BK, because I had mentioned our coupons four times and couldn't convince her. "I have more coupons." she said. I even used my daughter's sudden interest in BK to guilt my wife into taking us. "Pop used to take them every week, and I think she misses it." D understood... but still didn't budge. 

Fuck it, I thought as I stood at the intersection. I'm doing something for myself. And apparently Pop approved of my decision, because on my way to BK I found a golf ball with SpongeBob on it. Two things he loved. 

I got my burger, but I had ordered the full meal - including fries and a drink. I was neither charged for nor given these, and so I went to the store and the park, as planned. I re-read my story, sipped my soda, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.. for about five minutes. 

The wedding was nigh.

Generic product pic because I don't have a smart phone (source)

We were supposed to drive to a hotel (where some of the wedding guests were staying) to pick up a shuttle to the wedding, which was at someone's house. Apparently L was not too clear on what the shuttle would be, or where it would wait for us. As we pulled in, there was a limousine circling the back of the hotel - and leaving. That was for the wedding guests. We didn't know that, and we missed it by about 30 seconds anyway. So we waited in the car. 

I had been listening to Fall Out Boy for the whole ride, so I was surprisingly calm. Watching the limo drive away and hearing D's uncertainty was actually a relief; it bought me time. Maybe we wont be able to get to the wedding. Maybe we'll have to turn back and go home. Wishful thinking, of course.

There was a group of about 8-10 people standing outside the hotel, and two more inside the lobby. Rather than assuming they were part of the wedding party and immediately joining them, we waited for about 15 minutes before getting out of the car. D didn't recognize any of these people; most of them were with the groom. In fact, she didn't know that many people at the wedding - other than her own sister, the bride, and the bride's twin sister (who looks 10 years younger than all of them). There were maybe three or four others she hadn't seen in decades, and in a whirlwind I was introduced to all of them. No time to settle in or survey the landscape. No time to think. 

This is what it's like to have social anxiety - finding comfort in having D's sister Jen (who I don't really like) and her husband Ant around because they're the only people I know besides the bride. Meeting the bride's twin sister and shaking her hand before she decided to pull me in for an awkward one-armed hug. Being spotted by the bride, standing idly by as the besties embrace, then having to quick-decide if I should kiss L on the cheek or just give her a hug (I chose hug only.) Then, congratulating L before quickly realizing she's not married yet, you dumbass. It got slightly better, when I met their chatty college friend Hillary, who lives in California. For a second I had something to say because two of my best friends have moved to California and left me here to die

I still don't know whose house we were at, but their backyard was incredible. (The inside of their house was kinda meh.) There was a large underground pool - which someone was bound to fall into, because the bar was set up nearby. There was a fire pit, and a pond with a circular brick ledge that would be my best friend for most of the night. 

It didn't quite look like this, but close enough (source)

The "dance floor" was a small brick patio area in front of the food tent, and inside the tent hour's devouers  h'our deserves  appetizers were stationed at the front, and buffet lines were set up at the back, with all of the tables in between. Hillary followed us from the pool area to the appetizer bar, where I loaded up on teriyaki meatballs. "I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of eating today." She said to us. I agreed. You're planning to constantly shovel food in your mouth to avoid talking to people you've never met, too? Hooray for anxiety eating!

D and I stood by the pond with Jen and Ant. I began frequently checking my watch, when I realized that a) there's five incredibly long hours to go, and b) I've got teriyaki sauce on my shirt sleeve. That didn't take long. Jen and Ant were holding blue drinks, and Ant wanted another one. He offered to get D one, and before I knew what was happening I had somehow been convinced to tag along.

I do not drink. I do not order drinks. I don't even know if it's an open bar. But there I was, standing in line with Ant, talking about football, without any clue why I was there.

He orders two drinks. The bartender serves 'em up. He takes them both. I offer to take one off his hands. "No dude, I think you gotta get one for your wife.", dude. You were getting one for my wife, remember?

Apparently I had not heard Jen ask for another drink. No one told me I had to order a damn thing. And it didn't help that Ant mentioned slipping the bartender a $20. Do I have to pay for this, or not? I don't have any money.

I looked so lost that the bartender (a female, thankfully) said to me. "You don't have to apologize for drinking." I mumbled something about not being prepared, sheepishly took my wife's drink, and snuck the fuck out of there. When I got back to my family I was even more enraged -- D already had a drink in her hand. What the fuck did I just do that for?

Night ruined. And it's only 5:30!

When I discussed this with D she tried to calm me down. "It's no big deal, don't worry." I tried to let it go, for her. I didn't want to ruin her night. 

The ceremony started soon after. There were white chairs lined up on one side of the pool, and the wedding party took the place on the opposite side. D wanted me to save two seats for Jen and Ant, but we couldn't grab their attention in time. I put my drink on one, but Hillary claimed the other. Didn't bother me one bit. To hell with Jen and Ant.

Both the vows and the toast/speeches later in the evening were lovely and emotional. It was pretty obvious that the groom is a great guy - generous, adventurous, and beloved by those who know him well. I had met him twice before, years ago, and he seemed shy. In fact, I had forgotten what he looked like and probably would not have recognized him if he wasn't, you know, the groom.

When I wasn't eating or checking my watch or obsessing over awkward social situations, I was observing. As with any wedding, the bride was far too busy for chit-chat, and I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone else. Not even my in-laws. 

Here's another reason why I dread attending such social events - the odds are far too great that there will be attractive women in attendance. Early on I had noticed a short, dark-haired woman who was very tan and fit (I would have assumed she was the one from California) I nicknamed her 'Designer Shades' because she wore these dark sunglasses and looked all fashionable. But she wasn't my type. Too over the top. I need at least a whiff of approachability.

There was an abundance of tall blondes there; it seemed like everyone was at least 5' 8", heels or not (which made Designer Shades appear even shorter) but out of the dozen or so decent looking women, one stood out: Red Pony Tail. I have no idea who she was, or who she was there for... but she was the sort of woman that appears more attractive every time you see her. I'm a sucker for redheads, especially slender redheads with long, toned legs.

An hour later I was intentionally avoiding her, for two reasons. The simplest to explain is that she was there with her husband, who was not particularly attractive or built (though I'm not exactly the best judge of dudes) but he was tall. Like 6' 4" at least. And he was all over her because duh. The second reason is because I've become so used to wallowing in my own self-pity that seeing someone (or something) that is so obviously out of my reach reminds me that I failed at life and compounds my depression (I call this The Taryn Principle.)

This led me to sulk even more than I already was. I wanted to do nothing but sit on the ledge of that pond and stare at the ground, looking around only to track where Red Pony Tail was so that I knew where not to look. Unfortunately she seemed to be right behind my wife for most of the night. Get your pretty face and perfect body away from me. I'm trying not to hate myself over here.
It was unseasonably cool all day, but it got even colder at night - and D was not at all prepared. She wore a sleeveless dress and no jacket. I decided against wearing a jacket, but I had a long sleeved dress shirt and didn't mind being cold. Of course, Ant came prepared. He wore a jacket and offered it to Jen, but she wasn't cold. And so he offered it to D.

Meanwhile, Red Pony Tail and Tall Guy were cuddling by the fire pit. He had his arms all the way around her waist and she leaned back into him like I see in my dreams.

#relationshipgoals (source)

I stared into the crackling embers as the intro of that Fall Out Boy song echoed in my head:

Until your breathing stops, stops, stops... until your breathing stops, stops, stops... forever.

Whatever husband points I had earned by actually attending this affair had been obliterated. You are not a man. You're a lemon. A clunker. You're an old, beat up POS that barely runs and is way more trouble than it's worth. You belong in a scrap yard. You're nothing. You're garbage. Seagulls wouldn't even bother to shit on you.

This is not the first time I've seen an attractive woman and realized I could never be her man, but damn. My wife was wearing another man's jacket. I was already having panic attacks about coming to the wedding, and then when the DJ announced that he wanted all the happily married couples out on the dance floor I had another panic attack. What is happening? Am I going to have to dance? Oh shit, I can't dance. I can't even order a drink!

I tried to read D's mind, while catching a glimpse of Tall Guy dutifully leading Red Pony Tail out onto the dance floor (because duh.) Are we doing this? Do you want to? Do I have to? We did not move or speak - until the bride made a beeline for D and said "Come on, happily married couples. Let's go!" said 'happily'? Can we be dismissed on a technicality? "Not until I hear the song first." D replied. Yes! That's why I married you.

It ended up being some old 50's dirge which is meant to show how long every couple has been married. Anyone married five years or less gets dismissed first, then ten, then twenty, and so on until the oldest couple is left alone and gets a round of applause. We would have been out there for thirty seconds, tops. Wasn't worth it.

D stood by the fire for at least an hour, while i was going back and forth between the pond ledge and the fire pit. Didn't want to leave my wife, but didn't want to get burned by the hot red things, either. At about 9:30pm coffee and desserts were served (no wedding cake, but there were lots of delicious cupcakes and cookies.)

The shuttle was scheduled to arrive at 10pm, and return at 10:30pm for the last trip out. I knew D wanted to spend a little more time with the bride, so we stayed.They talked and danced for a minute and I gave her another hug (and a cheek kiss this time.) The DJ was packing up his stuff, but once the wedding was over he actually played a good song D and I couldn't figure out if it was Paramore or not because it was a really good rock/pop-punk song, and I stopped listening to them because they stopped sounding like that.

I finally saw the groom, and congratulated him. Even though I'd only met him twice before I gave him a hug because why not, everyone's toasted at this point anyway. He said "we should do game nights" or something and I agreed. Because I wouldn't mind doing that I knew we never would. (D told me later that she knew he was drunk when he said that.) 

At about 10:20pm we said goodbye to the bride and groom. But the awkwardness was not over for me. D wanted to say goodbye to the bride's twin sister, who she hadn't seen in forever (apparently she lives in Kansas). Recalling my awkward encounter, I stood by the pool and did not follow D. Nope, no more. I am done.

And so, finally, we left. But on our way out we noticed a lemonade table. Hadn't seen that on our way in, and I was thirsty. So I took a plastic cup, filled it with some yellow sugar water, and took it with me to the front of the house, where we stood waiting for the shuttle. I finished my cup and put it down on a ledge. Immediately, some guy in front of me said (without turning to face me) "Is there a trash can anywhere?"

At this point I ran out of fucks to give. I replied (while facing my wife) "I wasn't gonna leave it there. I put it down for a second so I could put my hands in my pockets because I'm cold." Half of your crew are drunk off their ass, and you're worried about whether or not I'm going to pick up that cup? 

Ugh. I am so glad that's over. I really don't want to think about any of it ever again. Not even Red Pony Tail.

Okay...maybe Red Pony Tail.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Short Story

In an attempt to live up to this blog's name, I've been tinkering with writing a short story based on a scene I've teased in a previous blog entry. I thought I'd share what I have so far. Comments/critiques are most welcome. Enjoy...

Mom sits across the kitchen counter from me, chewing a bite of the spinach and tomato omelet I made.

I place my palms on the marble granite counter top. "What should I do?"

"Do you love her?"

"Of course I love her."

"Then sell the house." She says, with a mouth full of food.

I glance over Mom's shoulder at the open dining room, where we have game nights and Thanksgiving dinners. I peek out the window, onto the deck that leads to an expansive backyard - and the garden where I grew that tomato.

"This house? My dream home, that I built. Just...sell it?"

"If you're serious about her."

"Why does it have to be me, though?" I sip from my coffee mug. "I asked her to move in with me, and she said 'no'. Then she reflexively asked me to move in with her – on her way out of the country – and I’m the one that’s not serious?”

Mom finishes her omelet. I reach for her plate, but she waves me away and washes it in the sink.

“I don’t know about you, Josh.” Mom says, meticulously scrubbing away all traces of her food. “You keep saying you want to settle down, get married, give me some grandkids—“

“It’s always about you, isn’t it, Ma?” I nudge her.

“No, it’s not about me.” She grabs my plate and washes it. “It’s about your fear of commitment.”

“I don’t fear commitment. I welcome commitment. I’ve wanted to settle down—"

Mom turns to me. "Is that why you broke up with Katie?"

“Katie? What does she have to do with this?”

"You tell me."

I consider that as I finish my coffee. "Katie and I weren't built to last. I could sense it. That didn't make it any easier, but at least I got to write the ending."

"And were you satisfied with that ending?"

"Yes. Definitely. Of course."

"Then why don't you want to sell the house?"

I'm not the kind of person who gives up on dreams. Call me stubborn, but if you tell me I can't do something, or can't have something, it only makes me want it more. I didn't become a best-selling author by giving up. I didn't build my dream home by backing down. And I didn't win the heart of the most beautiful and funny and intelligent girl I could imagine by being a coward.

"I didn't build this house to sell it. I built it to live in it."

"—with Katie."

"Yeah, well... now I want to live in it with Erin."

I enter the living room, where we have Super Bowl parties and Netflix nights. Mom is seated on the sofa, across from the leather recliner she bought me as a housewarming gift.

"Do you think Jason or Jared would want to live here?"

Mom laughs. "They can't afford this place. Jason just got laid off, and Jared's still in college."

"I could rent it to them. Cheap. I don't care about the money, I just don't want to lose my house to some stranger."

“You can’t always have everything you want, Josh.” Mom says to me. “Sometimes you have to make a choice.”


The wheels of my rolling bag bump-bump against the tile floor of the airport terminal. Bump-bump. Bump-bump.

"I can't." I say into the phone. "I'm going hiking with Josh on Saturday."

I don't hear the bump-bump anymore. All I hear is Carrie's audible gasp. “Are you serious?” She shrieks.

“Re-lax. It’ll be fine.”

“Okay. None of my business, sister. ”

She’s not going to let me off that easily. I can tell. “What?”

“Nothing! I’m not saying another word.”

I don't have time for this. I'm already running late. “Just say it.” I grunt, heaving my bag onto the baggage carousel.

“I thought you were over him.”

“I am.” I say to Carrie. “We’re just friends.”

“You just got through telling me how hard it was to squeeze me, your lifelong bestie, into your ca-ray-zee schedule... and you somehow managed to make time for him?”

Crap. She got me. How do I explain this so that it sounds innocent?

“I…want to see the house one more time.” Oh, that won’t do. She’s gonna need a better explanation. “He might sell it.”

“Yeah, so what---wait. The house he built when you guys were together?”


“Didn’t you move in with him for a while?”

“Uh-huh. Until he dumped me.”

“And you have fond memories of that place?”

Note to self: don’t discuss complicated ex-boyfriend drama while attempting to catch a flight.

“Yes and no.” I approach the security checkpoint. “I gotta put you down." I tell Carrie. “Hold on.”

“Ugh, fine. Wait, why would …”

I drop my phone into the bucket. The TSA agent waves his wand across my body, and then waves me through. I’m reunited with my phone.

“Why would what?”

“Why would he sell his house, if he just built it like two years ago?”

“Erin asked him to move to L.A. with her.”

Boarding for my flight has started, and I’m not even at the gate yet. I unzip my carry-on bag and find my ticket. 

“He’s moving to L.A.?”

“I don’t know! That’s what he wanted to talk to me about.”

Carrie cackles. “So, okay, recap: your ex-boyfriend’s celebrity girlfriend—“

“—sort-of celebrity”

“Sort-of celebrity girlfriend asked him to move in with her, in Los Angeles. And he hasn’t said yes yet?”

Huh. Come to think of it, that does sound peculiar. “I really can’t talk about this right now, Care. I gotta catch my flight.”

“And he called you to talk about it?”

I’m so going to miss my flight.

“Holy cat, he’s still in love with you.”

I wish I had time to tell her just how ridiculous that sounds. “What? No way!”

“Uh, yes way! And I’ll bet your butt that he tells you exactly that, when you see him.”

“He will not.” I scoff as I power-walk to the gate. “Have you seen Erin? She’s frickin’ gorgeous.”

“Oh, and you’re not? Pssh. You’re way prettier than her.”

“Care, I love you for saying that, but you’re wrong. And I gotta go.”

“I’m right, and you know it.”

I approach the gate and present my ticket. “We’ll talk about it when I get there, kay?” I say to Carrie.

I take a deep breath and slowly step onto the plane, relaxing my shoulders.

“What are you going to tell him?”

And just like that, relaxing time is over. “What do you mean?” I lower my voice, as I scan the plane for an available window seat.

“When he tells you that the reason he hasn’t already decided to move to La-La land is because he’s still in love with you and he wants you back.”

I freeze at the thought – and a well-dressed older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair yields his seat. I crane my neck, balancing the phone so I can jam my carry-on into the overhead compartment. Then I squeeze by the gentleman and take the window seat.

If he says that –and he won’t. But if he does, I’ll tell him that he should just move in with Erin because I am over him. Period. Full stop.”

“That’s my girl!”

“I really gotta go. I’m on the plane, and we’re about to take off. See you in a few hours.”

“Yay! See you soon. Love ya, Kay!”

“Love you, Care. Bye!”

I hate lying to my friends. And the worst part is…I don’t know which one I’m lying to.

The airport escalator stairs carry my aching feet down to the street level, where I'm greeted by a large sign that reads "My muse." I can't help but smile.

"Hey, beautiful." Josh drops the sign as I stagger to him. He wraps his long, lean arms around my waist and kisses me. Then he dutifully takes my suitcase in one hand and slings my messenger bag over his shoulder. "How was your flight?"

"Long." I sigh. "I tried to get some sleep, but the guy sitting next to me was typing incessantly on his laptop for practically the entire flight. It was like he was writing a novel or something." I shoot Josh a look. He's already a step or two ahead, so I pick up the sign - and my pace. 

"Writers." He smirks. "Sorry he kept you awake." 

I pull my unwashed hair into a loose pony tail. "It's fine. I wouldn't have been able to sleep much anyway."

From the moment I woke up this morning, to the moment the plane landed in LAX I've felt anxious. Today's the day. 

Josh tosses my bags in the trunk of his car. I rifle through my purse for a breath mint. This is not how I wanted to present myself. He looks so handsome in his rolled-up dress shirt and chinos, and I'm wearing wrinkled gym clothes, minimal makeup, and flip-flops.

But he still called me beautiful.

"You want to grab a bite?" Josh asks me as we pull out of the parking garage.

"Nah, I'm not hungry." I tell him.

"Did you eat anything today?"


"There's a protein bar in the--"

"I'm not hungry!" I snap at him.

"Okay, fine. I'll just take you home."

Silence fills the car. I consider breaking it with an apology, or turning on the radio. But I can't delay this any longer. I have to know.

"How's Katie?" I ask Josh, as cheerfully as I can manage.

"She's good. We went hiking up Mohawk Hill yesterday."

Yesterday. I was in Amsterdam, fretting over the future of our relationship, and he was hiking with her. Sometimes I wish he would just lie to me.

"She's got a new boyfriend."

Okay, that's weird. I've been on her Instagram a lot more than I care to admit. She hasn't posted any boyfriend pics. 

"Really? Good for her."

I know I shouldn't be jealous. So what if they're still friends? But that girl haunts me. I know how much she meant to him. I've seen the highlights on social media. And yes, he broke up with her. For me. But... he never really let her go. And I wonder if he ever will.

"So... do you want to talk about it now, or when we get home?" That sounds a tad presumptuous. "To my house."

"Let's wait." Josh says. "This isn't the right setting for such a significant conversation."

"Fine." I sigh. I've waited this long, what's another 90 minutes? "Have it your way." He always does.

More awkward silence. He doesn't want to discuss his decision in the car, and I can't think of anything else. And so I just stare out the window at the night sky, thinking. Why must he keep me in suspense?

I could move in with him, in his place. I could have said 'yes' when he asked. But it didn't feel right to me. That house was theirs. They designed and built it together. And when I'm there, I feel it. The ghost of their relationship. I need him to leave that behind. I need to know how much I mean to him.

"Can't you just tell me now? I think I've waited long enough."

He considers this for a moment.  "Okay...but are you sure you want to spoil the surprise?"

"What surprise?"

He doesn't respond.

I can't tell if I'm supposed to be excited or irritated. I go with the latter. "What surprise?"

"I was going to wait until we got to your house, walk you in the door, and ask you where I can put my stuff."

"Really? You're saying yes?"

"Yes, Erin. I'm saying yes."

I'm so excited, and relieved. I want to throw my arms around him and kiss the crap out of him... but he's driving. Damn my impatience.

"What about your house in Anaheim? Are you gonna sell it?"

"No, I'm gonna let my brothers live there. For a fair rent, of course."

Of course. He can't give it up. Not completely. He broke up with Katie, but they stayed friends even after she moved to Denver. He wants to live with me, but he needed two weeks to decide. And he just saw her yesterday.

I'm starting to wonder if she even has a boyfriend.

I'm starting to wonder if I do.


Saturday, September 2, 2017


I didn't want to do this. Really, you have to believe me. I wanted to just ignore it and do something else. So I did. I kept myself busy with sports card projects and yard work and blogs...and job applications. I really, really wanted to find another job before school started.

 And then I saw this:

Growing Transportation Company in Linden, NJ search of a highly skilled ENGLISH-RUSSIAN bilingual Full-Time Office Clerk.
Job Requirements
• General office experience;
• Strong organizational skills;
• Ability to follow directions and complete tasks as requested;
• Excellent communication skills;
• Knowledge of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel);
• Comfortable working in a busy environment and able to multi-task

I can do all of those things. And, unlike 95% of the jobs I'm qualified for, I can actually get to Linden. I can even edit that first sentence to read "in search of" or "searching for"

But... that other thing. The thing behind the shaded box. I cannot do that. 

I would understand if they needed a Spanish-speaker (one good thing about my current job is that the lawyers did not require me to be bilingual.) But no. They need someone who speaks Russian.

If I knew how to Photoshop I'd create a meme of God and Jesus looking down from heaven laughing at me. Jesus would say "How else can we mess with him?" and God would say "Watch this." But I cannot Photoshop, so instead you get Evgeni Malkin (at least he tries to speak English.)

The only person I know who speaks any Russian is my (wife's) niece. And guess what? I'm spending the day with the in-laws today. Yay life! But even if she wanted to tutor me, I know she wont be able to teach me passable Russian in one day. 

Meanwhile, I've been trying to quit caffeinated beverages and find time to play with my girls and do sports card things and read blogs - but the girls have been out of control lately, and the wife has me all stressed out over our bleak budget - which I'm trying so hard to address but Я не говорю по-русски. week I have to go to a wedding for D's bff - which I thought I had wormed my way out of because D's mom had wanted to go but was not invited. I offered to stay home and watch the girls because my mother-in-law has known L a lot longer and should go and L would definitely be okay with that...but in a moment of weakness I must have decided not to shirk my spousal duties and told D I'd go. I have to go.

My life is a giant stress ball right now. I definitely needed a release. And so, for no other reason than to temporarily distract me from all of this bullshit...I gave in.

I listened to Taryn Southern's new single. 

This isn't one of those running commentary posts, where I embed the video and share my initial thoughts in real-time. Cause y'all dont care, amirite?

I'll say this though - the video already has well over 620,000 views - which is waaay more than her regular stuff. Of the last 30 or so videos she posted nearly all of them have a view count between 8k-30k. Only one had 100,000 views - and that was posted 11 months ago. 600k in a week is probably a personal record. So that's cool.

Anyway, "Break Free" is the first single off her upcoming album I Am A.I. - which is apparently groundbreaking in that it is the first LP to be entirely composed and produced with artificial intelligence. Hooray for human irrelevance!

I decided to avoid reading all of the hype and praise doubtlessly lavished upon her through Instagram and Facebook comments, and listen to the song on Spotify. Added bonus: not distracted by her hotness.

 I'd love to hear your thoughts on this track. It's only 3 minutes long, so give it a spin.

Hope you all have a great weekend!