Friday, December 30, 2005

J to the Bivvo and Conan, bff

So no shit, there I was, eating my 4-piece chicken mcnugget happy meal, when I hear a familiar voice. I look over to my left to see CONAN O'BRIEN.

He looks at me at the same time I look at him. I'm startled as I recognize him. I turn back to my "meal" and smile, deciding that I could only dig a terrible, awkward hole if I try to say something, and it would only draw others' attention, and the man is only trying to get his cholesterol to the all-american threateningly high standard levels. So I sat there, went on reading my book, eating my crappy meal. A few minutes later, a man came up to him.

"Mr. O'Brien, I really enjoy your show, and I just wanted to thank you."

"Oh thanks a lot." I then watched in amazement as he turned the man's sincere, but necessarily awkward praise into a short, pleasant conversation. The man is from Framingham, Conan grew up in Brookline, home seeing his family for the holidays. God Bless and good bye. Very gracious, very pleasant.

A woman comes up. "It must be annoying to have people coming up to you all the time."

"Well, I knew what I was signing up for when I started out," says Conan, prepared once more to deflect all nervous chattering and direct it into a sweet, short conversation.

I watched in awe as he handled four or five people, quietly, always happily, never seeming to weary of the pattern, always sure to ask for a name, a town, make the asker feel important. It was impressive, but it had to be tiring.

I was done with my meal and couldn't concentrate on Agatha Christie anymore. I folded myself up and got myself out of my booth. I thought I'd say something, too, but decided against it. I thought of how I hate getting recognized when I'M home, and I'm just talking about High School people, not even complete strangers who know even less about me and assume much.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Addendum, for the sake of honesty

I think most of my Sitting Ducks scenarios have less to do with spontaneous violence and more to do with my sense of crime and punishment. When I had that particular thought, I was thinking of this morning, when I got to the baby's house to find her utterly ruined... All of my hard nannying work flushed down the toilet. She was a mass of tantrums and power games, and the day was not made any better by her mother's early homecoming. Baby Mama stayed but couldn't let me go, as she was on call for the afternoon. Result: wailing, uncontrollable Pea. Awesome.

I felt that this was my just punishment for two crimes:

1. Thinking I actually deserved a Christmas break in the first place.

2. Sleeping in Davis Square last night.

Don't ask me how they connect to my horrific day with Pea, because the many strands of logic are likely to entangle and strangle me. And then you'd never get to hear about me going on interviews (eventually) and getting a new, fantastic, soul-warming, career-starting job (never).

When, oh when, will I believe in my heart of hearts that I've been punished enough?

Although, having said such a dramatic thing, I have to inform you that the Big U was nigh gentlemanly last night. No moment stood out as a particularly terrifying scene. In fact, there were a few nice ones. Imagine your favorite JoBiv, newly showered, cuddled in his flannel robe and her own pj pants and a big fleece blanket, foretelling the plot twist on a particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or imagine it's 3am, Jo and U swivel in their weird sleepy water ballet, trying to find a comfortable position for continued snoozing. His hand somehow glides over my hair, sweeping it back and resting softly at the base of my scalp. I kiss the soft skin on the inside of his forearm. So sleepy.

Displacement. (No really, the PLANES make me crazy.)

All air travel freaks me out, not just space travel. I realized this, too late, on Friday evening as I boarded some Boeing or other and strapped myself into my seat. The whole experience of flying... it seems like a strange way to get anywhere. I tried to analyze my discomfort, and I think I located it on my return trip while I sat in BWI's Roy Rogers.

First off, it's always ALWAYS creepy when I'm inside a space that's completely sealed. Just the thought that I couldn't crack a window is enough to make my throat clamp. It's not just the planes themselves - that's creepy in its own way, especially if you're leaning against the window and can feel the sides of the plane shuddering - but airports are also completely sealed. Breezes, weather, oxygen... all suspended outside of your bubble. It makes me feel like I'm some unwitting mouse in a vast experiment. Honestly, did you ever notice that airports have no temperature to speak of? They're not cold, they're not warm, yet they're not comfortable. Ever. It's because there are no operable windows, in my opinion. THEY think they know what you want. THEY set the thermostat. THEY don't know that they've forgotten this subtle detail; air.

Granted, I have a lot of "Sitting Ducks" style paranoia* around the holidays, but can you imagine poison gas in an airport bathroom? You're sitting there, trying to float over the seat to avoid some other kind of health hazard, and this insidious yellow mist seeps under the door. If you could crack a window, you could be saved! Oh yes! But this is an airport. They'd rather keep the death on the inside.

Another creepy thing, I think, is that I imagine the gas getting sucked away into some other space that exists for these kinds of occasions. That doesn't make me feel secure, it makes me feel like a lab mouse. It really does.

I also worry about airport security, and it worries me more that airport security has never noticed how much I worry about airport security. I must look completely incapable of crime, because they completely disregard my flushed cheeks, darting eyes, stammering statements, sweaty boarding pass... Really, shouldn't they be giving me a harder time? Instead, I'm sure they say, "Oh god, this girl looks nervous. I'll just make it short and sweet and get her through. Don't want her peein' on my good shoes." Do I not look suspicious?? If I were my fellow passengers, I'd want them to give me a hard time, dammit!

Ugh. I'm not flying again for a good long time. But then, if things work out, I'm not going home for a good long time, either.

*Other "Sitting Ducks" scenarios in JoBiv's head:

1. Mind control through cell phones. Some day a nefarious mad scientist will orchestrate a mass-calling of all cell phones at the same time. We, silly cell phone users, answer simultaneously, thinking we recognize the number. A hypnotizing voice instructs us to walk toward yonder bridge and throw ourselves off. Lemmings. Plop. plop. plop.

2. Toilet paper poisoning. No really, I thought of this the other day. I was thinking of the baby's tylenol suppositories and how quickly her body absorbs the medicine. How easy would it be to plant trace amounts of arsenic in your toilet paper? Every time you wipe your ass, you could be poisoning yourself! Eventually, you'd either build up immunity, or DIE with your ass hanging out! What could be worse? I ask you...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Post of Revelations

Friday: Former best friend thinks another friend is going to hell because he is gay. (Didn't call her to get together. Can't imagine sitting across from her while she idly sips coffee.

Saturday: No matter how heartbroken I am for my oldest brother Tom (his gf of 7 years dumped him), I still can't talk to him for more than five minutes straight without wanting to kick his ass. (Sidenote -- I AM in love with his dog, Maxine.)

Sunday: I will not fit into my family as long as I stay sober.

Monday: Dan doesn't stick around when I'm home for one reason; He feels no need to impress me.

Tuesday: I only like my father before noon (before he starts drinking), but this is the time when he doesn't seem to like me.

NOT a revelation: I need to get back to Brookline, and fast...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

But if I cry now, maybe I won't cry on the plane

Norah and I went to see The Family Stone tonight at the Chestnut Hill Theater. We were feeling antisocial. I don't know, really, what Norah's excuse was, but mine was pre-homecoming anxiety.

Which made this movie a poooor choice indeed. Ms. Norah dropped me off outside of my lovely apartment, and as we said Merry Christmas I was teetering a bit. She said, "You really hate going home that much?"

It's funny, when I actually choose to tell people anything about my family, I just choose a parent. "It's really hard because my mom..." "It's really hard because my dad..." It's silly to say anything because it's all hard. Norah suggested I scream at people before they're drunk. I didn't bother telling her that there doesn't seem to BE a 'before.'

I was just thinking about my teenagerhood in that house. I think it was last night... OH, this is what it was. I go to this salon on Boylston - very expensive, but I finally get good haircuts - and they offer a massage before the shampoo. I always decline. I don't like massages; they hurt, and they remind me of my senior year. I went to physical therapy for my back for a few months before I gave up. The pain and shame were excruciating.

Thinking about that made me remember the really bad days, when my mom would just drive me home and tuck me into bed and call the high school for me. I was absent about once a week for three months. I remembered lying on my back, staring at the ceiling, letting the tears slide into my ears and tickle there. I remembered the long hot baths, trying to soak out all the demons. I remembered my mother knocking frantically to make sure I was still breathing in there, remembered imagining all the things she imagined. When I go home now that bedroom, the bathroom, a certain chair in the living room... they're all demons. If the house were empty for Christmas, I wouldn't be alone.

That sounded a little dramatic and cliche, and I apologize. It's silly to even say that I'm anxious about going home; everyone knows this about me, right? Old news. I guess I'm just perplexed that I can't seem to do anything to help it. I've seen my parents more often, voluntarily. I spent a good weekened with my brother Dan. I'm trying to keep up. I guess I'm trying to keep ahead. It doesn't lessen this panic. My throat will not dilate.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dusting off the resume

That's IT. I need to start looking.

Things that pissed me off today:

1. Was asked to come early. I thought it was for a reason. Apparently, that reason was so Baby Daddy's normal morning could go a lil more smoothly. I, insomniac Jo, had to interrupt my very fragile sleep schedule because Baby Daddy can't change a morning diaper without falling apart. Not okay.

2. While attempting to catch up on some much-needed-because-interrupted sleep, BD came out to say, "Wow, Pea's dead to the world, eh?" I said, "Yeah, hope she'll hang in there another 20 minutes or so." BD: "Right. Okay." Walks to end of hallway. Slams office door. Wakes Pea.


4. He then PICKS HER UP!!

5. He then puts her in MY much-harrassed arms, where she deservedly bawls her eyes out for five minutes...

6. At the end of the day, Baby Mama calls to let BD know she'll be a lil late. This does not, nor should it, affect my departure at 5:30. I deliver the message. 5:30 comes around. BD: "I guess you should go, Johanna. I think I'll be alright." Umm... that's why my shoes are on and my purse is on my shoulder.

7. BD continues after noting my barely restrained teeth-gritting, "Thanks so much for putting up with us this week... so I'll see you early tomorrow? Is that okay?"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Two items of great importance:

1. Rodney's Book Store had a whole buttload of Lisbeth Zwerger books! I bought them all! I couldn't stop myself! Can you hear my maniacal laughter?

2. Gutter lives! Once in a while I'll check into Friendster and look for people who've disappeared from the face o' the earth, and LO! There was Gutter! Excitement, adventure, discussions in Italian! (Good Italian on his side, broken or worse on mine...)

I'm hereby limiting myself to three exclamations points per post from this day forward. EVEN if I'm quite excited.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I just might hate my cell phone, too

Annoying voice: You have 1 saved messages. First message.

Mom's voice: Hi Joey, I hope you're doing well. We haven't heard from you in a while. I'm just calling to ask when your flight is. I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for the 29th, but I can change it if you'll already be gone then. Okay, Lovey, call me back. And let me know. Love you! Bye.

Annoying voice: To delete this message, press...

JoBiv: 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Monday, December 12, 2005

The All American Family

"So you had a good visit with your brother?" asked Baby Daddy.
"Yeah, it was really good to see him," said I.
"That's great that you're close," said Baby Daddy.
"Well, it's taken a lot of work..."
"We didn't always get along. We hated each other in junior high and high school."
"But now you're close?" asked/said Baby Daddy.
"Yes, close enough."
"That's great. You're closest with Smacks?"
"Umm... I guess I am, at the moment. Sometimes I feel I'm closer with Cripps," I said, wondering if he had a point coming.
"Wow, that's great. You have this big house with a big yard and a big family and everyone loves each other... The All American Family."
I let out a strangled giggle and changed the subject.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I hate people, I love people, I hate people


First of all, goodgreatgrand news: Dan actually came to Boston! He drove in on Friday (poor lad) and just left this morning. We had a lovely time running around in the slush and snow and generally hanging out. He restrung Lucretia and tuned her for me, and we didn't break out in tears or a screaming match. And he made several people swoon with his dashing good looks and alarming charisma. (I do try to warn people. They are still astounded.) It was a lovely visit overall.

It's funny, last night Dan ended up sleeping on my bedroom floor, and it reminded me of last Christmas, or Easter, or whenever it was that I came home and my brothers sat on the floor while I slumped on the couch, and we all talked about every little thing that was hurting our family. I cried, the boys cried, and when we fell asleep we were curled close to each other, none of us wanting to acknowledge the distance we have to keep from each other. Having Dan close this weekend was great; I got a chance to get used to our humor together, to remember our similar mannerisms, to get sick of him in a loving, sisterly way... It was just nice.

Contrasting with that lovefest, I feel like I'm losing my grip on my friends. I've been so crazy lately -- busy with extra baby hours, hating my extra baby hours, two choirs, dealing with family, etc. -- and I've felt like none of it is worth talking about. For the most part, I hate talking about my life (thus the sad dearth of blog entries). Now people are getting testy with me, and I don't know what to do. I don't actually have the emotional energy to fix whatever it is I've broken. Lately (er... the past many months), I find that I'm just hiding, as though some storm has to pass me over before I can attempt anything.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Brothers in crisis: well, it runs in the family.

This Friday, Tom's girlfriend of 5+ years (mythical Tom, the eldest), the one for whom he found a real job and started an engagement ring savings account, dumped him. She has been seeing someone else for a while now. He finally found out about it. They weren't living together, but she was the reason he was still in Cleveland. She was the bridge between Tom and me. I'm heartbroken for him... he became human in her presence. For all the things I dislike about him, most are forgiven for his sweetness with the women he dates. He opened something to her that he never allows his family to see. I'm devastated for him.

And I'm devastated at the thought that he and I will have to approach each other unaided. At Christmas, holidays, birthdays... Sara was my comrade. Lois, Cripp's wife, is good for some moral support, but Sara was the one who slaved in the kitchen with me, who let me vent about my father, who shared a good eye-roll here and there as my family spun out of control. I already have a Christmas gift for her. I haven't gotten a single thing, haven't even imagined gifts for anyone else.

That same Friday night, Smacks called 911 on his ex's brother-in-law, who had taken 20 Percocet and found a gun to finish the job.

Is life really like this? Is this all we get? I don't always like my brothers, but they don't deserve these things. I get these pangs for them... I want to burn all the hurdles in their lives. I want to clear a path for them. They're trying so hard.

I think of my life, how I'm mostly ashamed of it. I have nothing to tell them when they call me, just the barest updates about my job. I think of all the shit they deal with, and how I'm just another pile for them to plow through. I know that the things that happened to them this weekend have nothing to do with me. I also know that as much as I love them and want things for them, I do not make my brothers' lives easier. How can I be so fierce toward the people who hurt them and leave myself out? I can't. And, as I may have made obvious by now, I don't.

I talked to Smacks yesterday, briefly, about his experience talking a gun out of a man's hands. He didn't want to tell me much last night, and I didn't blame him. He says we'll talk next weekend when he's here. I called Le Victoir tonight to say that I'd gotten my mother's email about Tom and Sara. Smacks picked up. He was distracted. I suddenly realized that I'd called for selfish reasons. I wanted details, I wanted reassurance, I wanted sudden functionality of my family. I hated myself so much right then. Smacks said he was about to call Tom. I asked him to pass on the message that I'm thinking about him. I got the hell off the phone before I broke into tears of self-loathing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Pogo Pea

I woke Pea from her 2.5 hour nap today just by opening her door. She shot right up, her round pea head swaying a little in surprise. She used to cry and whine and cuddle. Today she decided to show off her mad baby skillz instead.

Skill number 1: Impersonation
Pea looked at me, bleary-eyed, smiled, and pointed past me to the clock on the wall. She made a clucking noise in steady rhythm. Dok dok dok dok... that's the sound of the clock! Clever girl.

Skill number 2: Evasive maneuvers
I reached for her, saying, "Did you have a good rest? Did you have any dreams?" ... All the usual stuff I blather to her when she gets up. She stood up as though she wanted me to pick her up, then gave me a sly smile and ran to the far corner of her crib, laughing her diapered ass off. When I laughed at her she turned to give her most charming smile, then ran to the other corner of the crib, chuckling the whole way.

Skill number 3: The human pinball
Pea found herself enjoying the bounciness of her crib. She held on to the side and pushed her body downward, not quite jumping, but getting a good lil bounce. She giggled like mad. She ran around her mattress with big man-on-the-moon steps, chuckling, shrieking, giggling, falling, rolling, bouncing... She hit her head against the bumpers on purpose, laughing uncontrollably.

Skill number 4: Composure
I finally caught my own breath long enough to say, "C'mon Pea, it's time for a bottle." She looked up at me, looked like she was going to try her Evasive Maneuvers again, thought better of it, and launched herself into my arms, cuddling into my shoulder.

"Nana," she said.

(We think she means Johanna.)