i'm ignoring the first four days of my trip, either because they were hell (mom circling logan 45039teen times with 4 dogs in the car because the leftover ralph's sugar free lemon loaf in my checked suitcase alerted the drug-sniffing hounds or something) or were heaven/boring (and nobody's business). but labor day is all about the hopkinton state fair, and the fair, for me, is all about the derby.
last year i got to the fair early enough to see me some prize winning goats and eat myself sick with kettle corn, cotton candy, cotton corn, etc. this year, i cut it close and just got there in time to meet up with eilene and bill and watch cars go boom. eilene and bill have been married for longer than i've been alive, which is why eilene can hassle bill about giving her the right change from her apple crisp even though he had to go up and down a million bleacher steps to get it, all without killing her in return. i've known them forever, and along with my own parents, they're a truly inspiring model of successful marriage, except, unlike my own parents, they smoke, ride motorcycles, and have matching tattoos. my parents just have matching shorts, but i think, more likely, my dad is just accidentally wearing my mom's clothes.
eilene and bill live in nh near where i live, and they've bailed me out so many times in the past it's ridiculous-- like when eilene came at midnight to help me find a bat who had tried to grab my hair and give me face aids while i was sitting in my living room watching "shaun of the dead," or when bill kept me in gasoline when i had to run the generator the winter an ice storm took the electricity out and i had to go outside every 5 hours to fill 'er up or become a manatee-cicle. it's one thing to spend time alone in the middle of nowhere, it's another to do it knowing that somebody will notice if you've been mia for a few days and come find you in the woods were you tripped on a root, broke your leg, and have had to fight off the circling fishercats with a stick and your one long fingernail. or, more importantly, if somebody will get you a ticket to watch cars go boom.
i'm more interested in the boom than the rules, but from what i can figure, there are 3 heats, each of which produces 4 cars which will go on to the finals. then, while the finals cars are trying to heal thyselves in order to ride again and take the prize, there's a winner-take-all 4 cylinder round that has just one winner. no hitting the driver's door, and if your car is done, there's a plywood stick outside the driver's window that s/he has to break off to indicate that s/he is out and please stop driving into my car. before and after rounds there's a water truck that comes out to water the dirt (a mud zamboni (tm), if you will) so the ground'll be mushy and slow down the cars. before the fun starts, a small child does an adorable/cringeworthy rendition of the star spangled banner. during the fun, an announcer details all the action that nobody can hear over the sound of the engines. "refs" stand on the sidelines with green and red flags in case they have to stop the action to get a driver out of a car so he doesn't, say, explode. drivers have to keep moving and hitting other cars. whatever, boom.
the problem is that you can't really go boom and also survive your heat, and you can't win big money if you don't get to the finals, so there are always a few cars who use the following strategy-- drive across the field over and over, driver's side out, love tap the other cars on your team, and bore the shit out of the audience. and get yelled at by myself, eilene, and bill. bill even walked down in between heats to hassle one such driver, and he can do that, not just because his cause is true, but because he's a former marine who probably knows more than a dozen ways to kill a man. one of the many reasons it's good to have bill on your side. that and the apple crisp.
so this year was way slower than last year due to many love tapping teams, but the 4 cylinder round was better than last year due to three exploding cars instead of just one, and the 4 cylinder rounds are always better because there's only one round, one winner, and nothing to lose. unlike last year, the hopkinton volunteer fire dept got the fires out quick/figured out how to use those tricky extinguishers, but it still smelled pretty bad, and while i didn't want to say anything, especially at such a joyous event while sitting next to a veteran with a novelty "terrorist hunting permit" on the back of his pick-up, the smell was pretty 9/11-y.
anyone who lived in new york during that period'll know what i'm talking about; for a week plus, most of the city smelled like ozone, smoked meat, burning rubber, and straight poison. it got into all of your clothes, into your hair, into your food...i remember seeing one of the dudes from blonde redhead biking down 2nd avenue with a mask on and thinking, perfect, now your music is not the only thing about you that is obsolete. resistance was futile. better just to deal with it and move on, be it with your life or with your enjoyment of cars going boom.
so yeah, it was fun, altho not as exciting as the year previous, and later that week i got to see eilene and bill's new house, which was pretty fuckin' sweet.
above is an arty shot of eilene's collection of figurines. it's right next to the giant tv, across from her oil paintings of her native american ancestors. who, i can assure you, were not captured on canvas tormenting white people (we like our version of the truth! we're wall drug!).
then i saw bill's bike in their new garage, which is also sweet-- the bike because it's wide like a lay-z-boy, the garage cuz it's got a fridge and a baseball card collection (go sox!). he's ridden that thing up and down mount washington during weirs beach bike week, so seriously, if you still had the slightest notion of messing, really, don't.
i spent a day in boston to see my sister and her giant puppies; my brother-in-law, he of the mystery toilet and the impending racism, decided to get 2 giant schnauzer puppies to replace his own giant schnauzer who died earlier this year (rip ronsko the dog, but, please keep in mind that ronsko's pedigree left him so inbred that he was riddled with seizures that weren't just distressing to him and everyone around him, but also rendered his bowels in capable of producing solid waste, and eventually traumatized him so much that he ended up blind, which is when aaron decided he had to put ronsko down. so, it's sad, but the dog's in a better place, and my sister's in a place that she knows won't be covered in projectile, seizure-induced diarrhea).
i heard about this puppy decision from my parents, and i had the following questions; don't these dog grow to be 80 lbs each? aren't becca and aaron living with you right now? doesn't becca already have her own dog, and don't you have 2 of your own dogs, thus bringing the in-house dog count to 5? doesn't everyone in that house have a full-time job? in other words, isn't this a really bad idea? here's the thing tho-- nobody in my family listens to a fucking word i say unless i misspeak or make an off-handed sarcastic comment that falls off the humor radar. so if i say something like, can any of us really afford a wedding planner?, everyone looks around quizzically, wondering if they just heard a cellphone ring. but if i say something like, what's that liver disease that i always think is a rash, or, sure, you should totally stick that fork into the toaster, only pussies unplug, my family doesn't just hear me, they descend.
so my dog concerns fell into the ether, and sure enough, aaron spent 3 weeks training his shetland ponies before he had to move off to indiana to start work, moving temporarily into a condo that doesn't allow dogs. so. i'm not saying i told them so, because nobody'd listen, anyway, but let's just say this: if you want medical advice, or a discussion about chaucer, or a full report on the quality of public mental health care in massachusetts, ask the MDs that make up my family. if you want practical advice from someone who doesn't live on planet bullshit, ask the mouth-breather with the bfa. you'll be glad you did.
oh, the family unit also went to celebrate baby sarah's first day of kindergarten-- baby sarah's mom is the daughter of the woman who introduced my mother to my father. plus, baby sarah's name is fuckin killer, and there was gonna be pizza, so i was on board.
and i like baby sarah, really-- she's the most articulate, verbal little kid i've ever met, and she has great shoes, and her name is just the best. but the party was for her and her friends also starting kindergarten, which meant a room full of little kids, which is kind of my idea of hell. i used to worry that i was turning into a mean grown-up-- into the enemy that years of watching nickelodeon had warned me about ages ago-- but then i remembered that i have *always* hated other kids, even when, or especially when i was a little kid myself. kids are mean, they don't hold back, they're violent, they tease, and when you're a 5 year old with the neuroses of a 50 year old woody allen, you'd rather just watch tv, walk around the playground alone, or hang out with your parents' friends who humor you when you want to sing them the entire score from annie.
my sister didn't realize how much i hate kids-- she had some fantasy about me moving in with her and aaron one day for a few months to help with my newborn niece/nephew-to-be-- but she also didn't realize that getting two gigantor puppies was a bad idea, so it's not her fault for being completely oblivious. i just looked around the room at that party at the parents of these kids, and they all looked tired, and bored, and covered in what their children had just eaten. plus, kids grow to be even bigger than 80 lbs and the risk of projectile diarrhea is the least of your problems. not that anyone'll listen.
i spent the last part of my trip in ny-- first in the city for one of my mini-trips where i just stuff my face, get a haircut, and hit h&m, and then up to hudson for my friends' sarah and andy's wedding. the second year of hockey, i decided to join up with the captain of the previous season's champions instead of joining my high school friends' new team (they had just moved to carrol gardens to live in a large apartment with 5 girls total, had never played hockey, and chose their team positions out of a hat). their team and my team became hockey siblings of sorts, so it was no surprise when my captain and their goalie spent an entire evening flirting with each other at the bar after the games and emailed me for each other's info. and of course, that captain was andy, and that goalie was sarah, and six years later, they got married at an applebarn (altho it should be noted that our teams merged/got married a couple of years earlier, and that there was no family or cake to witness the event and celebrate).
so the whole ny leg of my trip was kind of a whirlwind, from picking up my friend cristie (yes, she of berkeley-- that's some good attention-paying!) next to the sturbridge tolls (and i mean next to the tolls, just right off the pike in the kind of creepy parking area where divorced parents stop to let their kids run from mom's car to dad's during weekend visitation or gay dudes go to park their cars head or trunk first to signal the dude of their choice to go into the thicket and sodomize/get sodomized) to only going to and being disappointed by the soho h&m to dining with lola in chinatown before getting back in dad's luxury suv to drive north.
and just like my last trip to the city, i spent the whole time wishing i could move back-- again i went to better burger, and this time i realized how much i miss the tacky, ott gayness of chelsea, the stores that sell rainbow pink triangle cock ring windbreaker sets and the bars like the gym and rawhide that practically require a clean hiv test along with an id in order to get past the (insanely cut) bouncer. and en route to dinner, i realized how much i miss the stench of chinatown sidewalks, all coated in a thick slime of dried octopus dust, bubble tea, and puke. and how much i love walking around in chinatown because, instead of just feeling like an outsider, i actually am one, surrounded by people i don't look like, speaking languages i couldn't begin to understand, written in characters that are words to them and ugly tattoos to me.
the closest equivalent in la is driving past the jolibee, part of a filipino fast food chain, that advertises "crispy chickenjoy" and "juicy yumburger" and is rumored to not offer a single dish that doesn't somehow contain pork. i don't know what it smells like because i never roll my window down, and besides, i'm past it three seconds later, driving by another nondescript block of low buildings with bars on the windows. it's even more boring than queens. which is not something i ever thought i'd say.
and i can't say too much about the wedding, because i'm not going to review my friends' nuptials, but it was one of the few times i've heard that two people i know getting married and not had a second of wondering who i'd get to keep as a friend after the divorce. sarah and andy are so perfect together, and not in a gross romantic way, but in a practical, they-are-good-for-each-other-and-function-as-a-couple-and-just-make-sense way. in a lot of ways, the wedding was a lot like the parties at that brooklyn apartment, except that apartment-- a first floor and basement-- wasn't as nice as the barn (in fact, it was gross-- my nickname for it was watership down, not just because it had chambers underground, but because water literally came down off the pipes and the concrete basement floor was covered in hraka). but it did have all the same people dancing badly to all the same songs. except in nicer clothes, and wit the aforementioned family and cake.
so i guess it was a nice trip overall, but also bittersweet, because it's just a sampler of all the stuff i love that i'm now far away from. and i don't love these things in a gross sentimental way, because the derby wasn't as fun, and my family acknowledges me as they would a fart, and my friends are all moving out of the city and getting married and generally not in the place they were back when we were young and has the stamina to play hockey and go to bars and live in shithole apartments. back when i had the energy to hustle a living in the city and run a hockey league that was financially a wash but introduced me to many amazing people, and introduced many other amazing people to each other. sarah and andy's is the sixth hockey wedding that i know of. i'm pretty sure they'll keep playing in the league, but most people get married and then move away. blah blah, you deal with it, you move on, but it still sucks.
i love going home, but i hate it. i know so many happily married people with their matching tattoos and short pants and team shirts, but the idea of being married myself seems absurd and totally unappealing. and i miss new york, but i miss it most not when surrounded by happy queens, or lucky cats and custard buns, or even old friends, but when i read that firefighters had died in a fire in the deutsch bank building. the times said it was eerie, the funnel of smoke rising from downtown, the firetrucks barreling south, the familiar acrid smell that filled the air...that's when i wondered how i could be anywhere else. i know it makes about as much sense as "juicy yumburger," but it's the truth. so that's my trip in a nutshell-- wanting to be there for the people you care about during the important milestones, the good and the bad. because moving away doesn't mean you no longer care. in my case, at least, i care more than ever.