Guess Where I’m Tattooed?

When I was newly 19 I got my first tattoo. I was so scared before hand I puked. Not because of the pain, but the ramifications of it: would I be disowned? I’m fairly certain my father would either disown me or at least saw off a limb. 
 
I went with a good friend and we got–wait for it–matching tattoos. Yup. On our lower backs. Little did I know that in about 3 years Wedding Crashers would make the term ‘tramp stamp’ and ‘bulls eye’ pop culture references and every chick with one was thereby cheaper than those without. Well, after the first one I was hooked. Each year of college I would go to the same shitty tattoo place in the village (how cliche) and get a new little doodle, because that’s what they were: doodles. By my senior year in college I was getting discounts. 
 
The last one I got in college was on my ribs…it was an oval shape with lots of swirls–kind of like an ornate easter egg. I vowed to my friends my parents would never know about this, because it would just be too much. never ever. 
 
How does that old adage go? Never say what??
 
After I graduated there was a little bit of a party we held at my parents home…good friends, their parents, uncles, aunts–and lots of champagne. Like, maybe–too much champagne. At one point I recall walking through the kitchen to and my oldest friend was teaching my father how to take a tequila shot, and my one of my uncles (who shall remain nameless…) was taking flaming shots. 
 
The party was in full swing and somehow I found myself in a private little circle with Ryan and Esme, my two oldest friends, and my parents. I was giddy with champagne, and each of us were laughing and happy; i was so filled with love and laughter that I figured now was as good a time as any to reveal my latest piece of art work. I prefaced it by saying: Mom, Dad: in front of my two oldest friends who I know you love and that love you, I want to show you this: and preceded to lift my shirt up and show them. I thought Ese and Ry would have my back, but, as they were on either side of me, and my parents were directly in front of me, Ry and Es, looked at each other and as if they were opposing magnets, sprung off in different directions, leaving me with my two catholic parents. My mom looked at me in disgust and my dad just smirked and shook his head and walked away. 
 
Word to the wise: never divulge to your religious parents new tattoos, because your best friends will run and hide. 

Thumbs Up? Nope. Thumbs down.

A rite of passage in every teenage suburban life occurs when they take receive their drivers license. Mandatory classes after school with a science teacher that had difficulty pronouncing his r’s, so when he’d say ‘rules of the road’ it would come out ‘wools of the woad’. Hours spent driving with an instructor with a penchant for Dunkin’ Donuts, and would make you, the student, drive to Dunks and wait while he’d buy two (TWO!) crullers and coffee. The smell of a Medium Regular and the cruller were enough to drive off the road.  Let’s not forget the actual driving test. 
 
Ah, the drivers test. The closest DMV to my hometown was about 25 minutes away. Staties (Masshole speak for state troopers) administered the vehicular exam. Joy. As if having a burly and probably miserable Statie next to me wasn’t enough stress, let’s add Adrienne in the back seat. 
No matter what anyone says, staties give everyone fucking heart attacks. Sure, they’re there to serve and protect–blah blah blah; yet there is a distinct odor of condescension surrounding their being. From the moment we got in the car, my knees were shaking so terribly I could hardly feel the pedals. Everything was going fine, (well, as fine as can be expected considering a man that seemed to think dressing up like an SS officer 365 days of the year was sitting to my right and my mother was in the back seat trying her best to not say anything…which for Adrienne is like, the biggest challenge of all time…) 
I was passing the test when the statie asked me to complete one more task of backing up in a straight line. I was focusing on accomplishing the task at hand, when the nazi exclaimed: stop the car, miss. What? What did I do? Nothing. Ma’am: (to my mother in back) you were coaching your daughter. This test is ended, you have failed. What?! I cried—I didn’t even see her! I was only giving her a thumbs up! my midwestern mother whimpered. No matter. All her pleading made the evil man’s resolve strengthen. 
My mother cried the whole way home while I just stared out the window. I was consoling her! Don’t worry, mom. It’s ok. No really, I’m fine. Know when you’re so angry you can’t cry? Yeah. 

Who should I be angrier with? My mother trying to give me a stupid thumbs up or the fact that I exclaimed to everyone at school why I was going to be late. Just kidding! I failed because of Midwestern enthusiasm!
3 weeks later I got my license. In Lynn. The cop asked me to take a drive around the block. And that time, my father went with me. 
Listen up, kiddos: going in for a driver’s license? Superglue your parents’ hands to their goddamn pants.
 

Forbidden Fruit: The Tale of the Stolen Mike and Ike

I never went through a stealing phase in high school; I was too fucking scared of my mother.  

 

When I was 6 years old, I was at the mall with my mom and we were at a candy cart manned by someone; not like now, where you stick a quarter or however much money in and the candy comes out, but someone who was paid to man the cart and dole out the scoops of candy by weight. My mother was speaking to the candy cart woman person and I was…oh, you know, just eyeing the goods, surveying the inventory, when I spotted something I couldn’t take my eyes off: Mike and Ikes. Weighing the pros and cons to how badly I needed the red one, I decided to take my chances and go for it. I stuck my little midget hand in to the plastic case, and grabbed my red Mike an Ike: the forbidden fruit. As soon as my hand left the case, however, I knew I was donzo because it made a plastic clanking noise and my mother craned her neck from the other side of the cart where she was talking to the vender and said: MARGARET. COME HERE. I obediently did as I was told and stood next to my mother. OPEN YOUR MOUTH she instructed. What was I to do? If I opened my mouth I was caught, if I didn’t, I was caught. So I just shook my head no, I wasn’t gonna open my mouth. Look fear in the face, I say. Well my mom wasn’t having anything to do with my nonsense, so she forced my mouth open as you would a creaky old bulkhead door after being sealed shut from a long winter and hooked out the half chewed candy I had illegally taken and growled to the vender: HOW MUCH DO I OWE YOU FOR THIS.

 

I could see fear in the candy cart lady’s eyes, too…and she said oh, don’t worry about it. My mother persisted and they settled on a coin amount of some kind. 

 

On the way home I felt so much shame I sat in the way back of the car and hung my head. I knew I was done for because my mom was going to tell my father, then the whole family would know of my illicit behavior, and a pox would be put on my head for life: THEIF. I saw it all play out, even with the tacky black and white striped jail outfits with those awful pill box hats I saw in the cartoons. That night, I avoided my family entirely, too fearful of their judgement. 

From that point on, I did not steal a single thing, even as peers around me began to have sticky fingers with Wet ‘n’ Wild because I knew Adrienne would find out and have more steam emit from her head than a Turkish bath house. My lessoned was definitely learned early on in life. Just goes to show you what a Catholic mom and some amazing guilt can do to the psyche of a young girl. 

 

Three Strikes for Skiing

Growing up in the North East region of this country it’s practically mandatory that at one time in your life you learn to ski and participate in ski trips up north. I was part of this statistic, and have more or less been scarred in doing so.  
 
Skiing is one of New England’s joys–a rite of passage for all in the region. I was not immune to this hazing; I learned how to make a pizza pie down the bunny slope just like every other white person in the region. (I mean, it’s true.) On three separate occasions I have loathed this downward trending sport due to injury and worry. 
 
When I was 9, my family went up to Mt. Cranmore with friends of ours for a weekend; Yay! Group activities! The first full day of skiing, I was going down a slope with my father  and his friend, who happened to be over 6 feet tall and about 220-250 lbs. Half way down the slope, I didn’t know where my father was, so I did a nice neat little stop to look back at the trail to know his whereabouts. As I was curtly slicing the snow to a halt, my father’s friend Ed came barreling into me and literally skied over me. I didn’t know what the fuck had happened, all I kept on asking myself once I was embedded into the snow like an M&M in a cookie is if I could feel my heart beating; my rationale was simple: if I could feel my heart beating than I must still be alive.  I stayed on the ground skies already strewn down the slope, spread eagle with my head facing down hill, wide eyed looking at the sky. Ed came running back up to me asking if I was alright–could I move? Margaret–can you hear me? Ye-yes. I can hear you. I’m fine…I’m fine! And up I popped on to the hill. I didn’t want to embarrass my father and cause a scene (too fucking late there, Margaret). My father asked me simple questions: can yah move yah neck? yes. can yah move yah legs and ahms? yes. Yo-wah fine. Let’s get goin’! And on we went with our day. Skiing got its first strike against me that day. 
 
The next day, my father and I were gliding down a sweet little trail hugging the outside of the mountain; on the right hand side were rocks and trees, on the left a drop off descending I’d guess about 10-15 feet. So there we were skiing along, and my father, being the kind man he is, was always checking on me, looking back to see that I was alright. (I had, after all been skied over the day before). One such time, I was looking back at me and skied off the trail. As in, one instant I saw him, the next, *poof* he was gone. Just like that, I witness my father plummet to his death. DAAAAD! DAAAAAD! I yell. Mah-grett? Can yah he-yah me? YES DAD! I CAN HEAR YOU! A Boston accent had never sounded so wonderful. Mah-grett, I’m ah-rite…and just like that, a man that was behind us saw the whole thing and extended his pole and he scaled the monstrous cliff back to safety. I was so shaken up I began to cry–holy shit my father almost just was killed because he was trying to make sure I was ok. If that’s not guilt, I don’t know what is. Skiing now had two strikes against in my book. 
 
A few years later (I must have been 14 or 15 at this point) my father and I decided to spend a Saturday up at Gunstock in New Hampshire. Being a seasoned veteran of skiing my this point, I was confident, loved going through little forest trails and going over small jumps. As far as I was concerned, I was practically ready for the Winter Olympics. Everything was going swimmingly–my dad and I were laughing, enjoying the day, skiing, you know, the idyllic winter scene. On a perfect trail, I decided to veer off on to a small forest glade trail for a few moments; there was always a way to get back on to the original trail. So I ducked into the trees, gliding along, listening to nature–all that bullshit when I decided it was time to hop back on the trail. as I was about to take a left back on the trail, when right in front of me was a tree that wasn’t going to let me go. This was the kind of moment that you see in cartoons, when the nemesis realizes, eyes bugged out of their skull, that the plans they had will not really be working out, since pretty soon, they’re gonna be dead. (Think Wyle E. Coyte). A moment later, I was hanging upside down in that tree wondering what the fuck had just happened. It’s not a coincidence that I have had that thought more than once whilst skiing. Fortunately, there was someone behind me that witnessed me impaling myself into the low branches of the tree, because I remember having someone shout at me: CAN YOU OPEN YOUR EYES! CAN YOU HEAR ME! HOW MANY FINGERS AM I HOLDING UP!! CAN YOU MOVE YOUR NECK! The kind stranger helped disentangle me, asked me a couple of more questions, when I heard my dad farther down the trail yell MAH-GRETT! WHAT’S TAKIN’ YAH SO LONG! Oh, no big deal, dad, almost just died while you’re crying out impatiently for me to get down the fucking hill. Totally fine, my neck was almost snapped, but don’t worry, we’ll go get lunch. Jesus. 
 
Skiing: that was strike three, you asshole. 

1212

I’ve always had a knack for remembering phone numbers…I suppose it began in kindergarten when Mrs. Geany taught us to memorize the local police phone number: 631.1212. (pre 911). I filed it away in my brain in the ‘important things I should probably remember’ folder, knowing it could come in handy. 
 
A couple days later having just moved into a new house, I wanted to a) meet my neighbors and b) make a few bucks. I went straight to work creating works of art (crayon on construction paper, naturally) and as I was headed out the door, I shouted to my mother:  MOM! I’ll be back…gonna go meet neighbors! 
 
Off I went knocking on doors and ringing bells. I can’t imagine what people were thinking when they opened their door, looked out, saw nothing, then looked down to find me. Hi! I said. I’m Margaret. I just moved to 12 Locust Street with my mom Adrienne, my father Colin and my sister Hannah. Wanna buy a work of art? Despite their confused expressions, I pushed forward, explaining my desire to know the neighborhood hence why I was going door to door introducing myself. My neighbors must have thought I had a mental disorder. That, or wondering if they should call DSS on my parents. 
 
No house went unsolicited–I got ’em all.  Content with the .26 cents I had made and impressed with my keen business acumen, I trekked home. 
 
Upon entering our new house, I shrieked to my mom:  I’m home! I met our neighbors! (silence…) Mom?? (more silence) MOOOOOMMM. Silence. Crickets. Beginning to panic, I began checking closets, running up and down the stairs but she was no where to be found. I felt trapped, abandoned, scared. What was I going to do without my mother?! 
 
Suddenly, the numbers 631-1212 magically appeared in my vision and knew what had to be done. Call the cops. Yup. How could I not? I’d never been home alone before, and for all anyone knew, my mother was dead.  
 
Hello, Marblehead Police, how can I help you? Hi…um, I’m home alone–I don’t know where my mom is…I think she left. Ok. We’ll send someone right over–where do you live? I told the operator everything and waited out in the drive way, nervously pacing when I saw the police officer come around the corner. He started asking me questions when, not 60 seconds later, my mom’s gold Ford Sable came screaming around the corner. Almost levitating out of the car before it was parked, she started screaming and crying probably wondering what the fuck a cop was doing in front of her house with her kid.
 
Turns out my mother didn’t hear my little pipsqueak voice as I left the house. After calling for me, threatening time-outs she frantically got in her car to try and find me. 
 
What did I do when I was a kid? Not much. Just called the cops on my mom. 

Standard Procedure

          In September of 2005, the first September we were no longer in school, Ryan and I drove across the country, only about two days after Hurricane Katrina. We were skeptical to even drive (what with gas prices threatening to tip over $3 a gallon…) but alas, Ry needed to begin his new job/life in Arizona, and my life was in a holding pattern. So we went. 
 
         Ry’s car was a Honda civic, and a stick at that. I feigned confidence, saying sure, I felt confident driving; in reality, I was scared shitless and had only driven a stick on the Neck: a place in my hometown with no stop signs or lights, just a continuous track. Think Mario Kart. But with mansions. 
 
        We departed mid-September on a Monday morning at 5am; at 10am driving through Bristol, CT, our conversation became as mundane as this: Ry: a friend of mine on my floor lived in Bristol. Me: Oh. Our topics were losing steam. By 1pm we had just finished our first third of Pennsylvania; have you ever driven through that fucking state? It lasts forever, and has the worst road kill of any highway anywhere. 
 
Ryan was fried and we pulled into a BBQ place and he resolutely said I’m not driving anymore. I’ve never gone past second in a stick shift, and now this prick expects me to reverse, then MERGE on to the I-80? I managed to get us on the highway, thank jesus, each moment almost needing to breathe into a paper bag. The poor kid was trying to take a nap in shotgun all the while my face and neck are breaking out into hives and I’d proclaim at the top of my lungs: I’M GOING INTO FIFTH! ok, fine Margaret he’d say, clearly annoyed at the fact that the thought of napping was now a distant memory. 
 
Ah, the open road…so many mystical cities, so many wonders…like, DeBuque.  
 
     The first morning waking up in Indiana, we discovered that our free spot to sleep in Chicago was no longer an option. Fine. It’s cool! Whatever…but like, where the eff were we going to stay that night?? At a rest stop on the border of Illinois, we pulled out a map, trying to figure out our next move, when Ryan exclaimed as he looked at the state of Wisconsin: Adrienne Tack from Fond Du Lac! And there was Wisconsin all bright and shiny, a beacon of hope shaped like a mitten, inviting us up for the evening. It should be noted that my mother was born and raised in Fond Du Lac Wisconsin and her maiden name was Tack, hence the crazy ass nick name. A few phone calls later, we were headed to my Aunt Jen and Uncle Jeff’s house in Milwaukee for the night. 
 
     They warmly welcomed us and we spent a wonderful evening laughing and chatting with my Fargo accented relatives. I slept in my cousin Laura’s room whom we would be driving to the next night at Drake in Iowa. Oh Laura. She still had a Britney Spears poster on the wall circa Hit Me Baby One More Time. Ry slept in my cousin Phil’s room with  the primary colors as wall paper with a crucifix staring him down as he closed his eyes. 
 
      The next morning I woke up and spent some time with my Uncle Jeff in the kitchen–uncle/niece time, if you will. He was asking me about New York City and my time there; I said I think everyone should live there at least once to experience it, and toughen up a bit. Uncle Jeff raised that midwestern forehead of his and said, You Knoo? I think Sex and the City really liberalized our Laura. I just about snarfed my coffee. 
 
      When it was time for us to depart, we were learning the easiest way to Drake, where we were to be staying that evening with Phil and Laura. Uncle Jeff was giving us land marks to guide our way there when he said, And aftrrr that, it’s a straaet shat frum DaBuque. Ry and I looked at each other, then back at him; Uncle Jeff said: Yah knoo, DaBuque! He said it as if it contained the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and the Rocky Mountains all in one city. Uncle Jeff: I love you. Those words will be sound bites I’ll use until I die. 
 
     In the middle of Iowa (and corn) we drove past a huge boulder with spray paint on it that said: 9/11: We ain’t scared….seconds later Ryan shouted OF WHAT. I had to laugh. The person who wrote it probably hadn’t even been to New York; but hopefully by now they have. 
 
When we were at Drake, my cousin Phil was bar tending at the local watering hole for students; I met all of his friends while Ryan was sitting alone at the end of the bar enjoying the free popcorn the bar doled out. He was happier than a pig in shit; his two favorite food groups are bacon and popcorn, so he sat there with a beer and popcorn all night. The next morning we were getting directions to the one Starbucks in the area, and when we missed the exit, neither of us spoke to each other for the next 4 hours.
 
We lasted all the way through the Salt Flats in Utah (in the dark, I might add…no one would have noticed us crash and die) and at times, 110 mph seemed like only 20. I met a woman named Wanda who was a cashier at a Nebraska rest stop that had a lifetime of memories on her face; her skin was like worn leather with blue eyeliner. 
 
This country is full of ironies; liberalism and fear, beauty and ugliness, accents and corn…lots of corn. The magnificence of the Rockies is the same to me as the beauty of China Town in San Francisco; all a part of this huge vast collective country. 
 
I’m lucky to have had that experience; I managed to survive with Ry in one car across thousands of miles, and I gained a deeper more profound appreciation for the space America. And I can drive stick now. 

Heart Attack Cat

My father is known amongst family and friends as a cat whisperer. Growing up we had a cat named Sammy, and it’s safe to say this feline worshiped the ground my father walked on. In the early mornings before I’d get up for school, or even on weekends, I’d hear my father talking to someone about his plans for the day: So I think I’m gonna go run some errahnds; go to the dump and drop ah couple ah barrels ah leaves off then swing by the bank and the hahhd way-yah sto-wah. Brow furrowed, I’d think to myself: who the fuck is he talking to? I know my mother is still asleep, my sister’s not home…then who? Oh my god, he’s talking to the cat. 
 
I would sneak down stairs to see it first hand: My father would be looking down at Sammy and she’d be looking up at him, purring, almost nodding along. Sammy was in love with my father; he was her man. 
 
As the years wore on, Sammy became increasingly frail and was not able to jump on to the couch should she want to cozy up; she even lost a fang. Her health became so poor my father finally took her to the vet and was informed she potentially has a heart murmur. Would you like to give Sammy an MRI to be certain? 
 
In the privacy of his own home, only 20 minutes later, my father exclaimed: AN M-AHHH-I? Fo-wah a CAT?! You gottah be pullin’ my leg. M-ahh-i fowah a cat. Can you believe it? But Dad! My sister and I would plead: You love her, and she loves you!  She’s at risk of having a heart attack! My father, still in shock, mumbling under his breath about the cost of an m-ahh-i. It was almost as if he was channeling Joe Pesci in Home Alone. Sam then got the nick name Heart attack cat.
 
In a last ditch effort to make Sam the cat feel more at ease about seeing the after life soon, my father decided to give her Fancy Feast; his version of Make A Wish for felines.  A day turned into a week which turned into a month, and before everyone’s eyes, Sammy had all but made a full recovery. She was jumping on the couch again, going in and out of the house–hell: she even had a little wiggle in her hips again. This fierce feline was in it to win it again and she wanted everyone to know. Wouldjah believe it Mah-grett?! All because ah Fancy Feast! my father would exclaim. 
 
Eventually time won the battle, and Sam the cat passed on. In front of the dryer. Due to my father’s early morning routine, he was the first one up and found her. I was sleeping at home that night, and he figured he’d better get rid of the body so I wouldn’t see her and freak out. He was protecting me from being sad. What does he do? He decides to stick her in a trash bag and stuff her in the barrel outside. The cat that worshiped the ground he walked on. He woke my mother up to tell her to tell me, and just like that, he was off to work. 
 
Later that afternoon, my mom broke the news to me: Sammy had died. I don’t think she was prepared for my reaction, as we had a very tumultuous relationship, Sam and I. I hated her and she hated me and that was all there was to it. As soon as I heard the words Sammy and died, I began sobbing. The two of us figured out what to do with her remains, and went to the barrel to take her out. I was wailing so loudly my mother told me to be quiet, because she was nervous about the neighbors hearing my sobs. After a conversation with my dad: Should we cremate her? CREE-MATE A CAT?! YOU GOTTAH BE KIDDIN ME! my father said over the phone. So, my mother and I began the task of figuring out what do with poor Sammy. We took turns laughing and sobbing, and at the end of the day realized her remains were perfectly suited to lie under a bird bath. Rest In Peace Sammy, and know that Dad still loves you. 

Up at Bat

Bernie and Annie are dear friends of mine. Among many other things, they are avid environmentalists and lovers of organic food before organic was even a word that was trendy. When they are not at their home in Marblehead, they travel to the middle of Maine to be in their home away from home. aka: in the middle of nature with no humans.

On one such occasion, they asked me to go to their Marblehead home and water their plants. (for most, watering plants is not too big of a deal, as there are usually only 3 or 4 tops.) They have 3 floors, and on each floor there are about 6 different things to water. On the third floor, I was almost finished watering the plants when i heard a rattling of sorts within the house, but I attributed it to the wind rattling the windows outside.

As I was walking to the stairs to descend down to the second floor, I noticed a still yet breathing black leathery being on the third stair: a bat.

I froze in place, mid stride and slowly reached into my pocket to call bernie and annie. when bernie picked up, his voice was so cheery and happy to hear from me I almost wanted to punch him. In a very calm and monotonous tone I explained that there was a bat on the stairs and that I would not move from the place i was in until they figured out a way to remove the bat without my involvement.  Bernie began mirthfully giggling and was explaining the situation to Annie, his more methodical and organized better half. (I say this with love; anytime he wants to show me something on the computer, he stares at it like a young boy at an aquarium then willfully resigns to the fact that Annie will be the one that gets him onto the right page and yells for her; she’s normally at least a floor up: ANNNNNIIIEEEEEE).

Annie gets on the phone and speaks in her calming former doctor voice asking me where exactly it is. I tell her and also reiterate the fact that I’m not moving until they (up in Maine) find a way for someone to remove the bat. Bernie gets back on the phone and I can hear Annie explaining to Bernie that I was serious and to not laugh. I could still hear a faint glimmer of a chuckle in his voice when he began inquiring about the bat itself. I told him it wasn’t moving to which he achingly responded: the poor bat! oh my god! I calmly and flatly replied: fuck the bat this isn’t in my contract.

They hung up the phone, made a couple of phone calls and within 10 minutes Tracy came to save my life. She was my knight in shining armor. That was one of the longest 10 minutes of my life waiting for Tracy to come take the bat out of the house. What if it decided to fly around? What if it had rabies? Did the bat liked the way I smelled? (If so, I was a goner.) 

To this day Bernie, Annie and I will remember with sarcastic fondness how serious I was that evening. I wonder sometimes how it is that we’re actually friends. The pair of them have such a deep connection to the natural world around them, while I find comfort in hearing traffic patterns of the city and have been camping once when I was 6. It was in the back porch of my parents house. 
I can’t say for sure whether or not that particular bat is still living haunting other humans: but it did a great job that night scaring the shit out of me. 

Hell Night

Monday afternoon my friend Joe calls me and asks if I’d like to join him for Hell night at this satanic restaurant.
 
I have heard of Hell Night before; it’s a Boston urban legend; only the strong survive and those that attend have to be a little bit touched in order to actively want to participate.
 
Sure I said. Why not. I’ll go. WHY NOT? because it’s INSANE to go to Hell Night. That’s why. I should have said no right off the bat. But I didn’t. I mean, who the hell willingly participates in dishes that are known around the GLOBE as the hottest dishes on the planet? I met Joe and Kris and they laid it out for me what would happen. Joe explained that the menu has different options much like a normal restaurant, but on the right hand side are small bombs that indicate the spiciness of the dish. 1 bomb is extremely mild, and even those that enjoy spicy foods only dare to go to a 7 bombed dish. 10 bombs is basically the hottest fucking thing that has ever existed and that no one in their sane mind would voluntarily eat. (in fact, they have a waiver that you sign before it gets delivered to your table.)
 
We entered the restaurant and I immediately noticed two things: The first being that the wait staff all had bandana scarves tied around their faces from the nose down and the second thing I noticed was that there was hard core punk music blaring from the speakers. If the literal interpretation of what hell was escaped me before, it didn’t now. 
 
I was becoming educated on how we would order the meal and what to expect within my body the next day. (it was like a run through from the doctor at the gynecologist before the actual exam. *shudder*)
 
I put my faith into Joey’s decision making for the menu and let my taste buds do the talking from there on out.  
 
The first order was a Russian roulette; it’s exACTly what you think it is. There is a meat ball for each person at the table (4) and one of the meatballs has the Trinidad Scorpion pepper mixed in with the meat. Fortunately none of us got it.
 
Next was corn smothered in a chipotle mayo with peppers sliced on the corn; It doesn’t seem bad, then all of the sudden the pang of hotness spreads from the center of your lips back through your mouth down your throat and hollows out your stomach cavity. Imagine the explosion scene at the end of Blown Away. and that was just the corn. 
 
On to the chicken wings, which was a 7 on the scale of hotness. the wings are a 3 alarm fire. the wings are the type of anger you have for your ex boyfriends. it begins softly, then engulfs you faster than the flames of Blown Away; it’s more like being drenched in gasoline then having a match thrown inside your mouth and neck. Joey, Kris, Mike and I all did our fair share of eating ice cubes and licking corn bread. 
 
Then the table behind us got up to leave. We noticed he ordered the Trinidad Scorpion Pepper sauce with out the pasta. He said he ordered it to see if any of his co-workers wanted to try it at the office. Next thing I know, he’s opening the take out container and offering me  a bite. Feeling brave, I took a pea sized bite and experienced the #10 bomb. The hottest dish served on the planet was snaking its way through my body. This experience can only truly be described as euphorically evil. Pain that level can only be described as a 60’s cartoon drug sketch. I woke up at 5am the next morning to chug ginger ale and soy milk. 
 
I can check that experience of my list, and i’m 2 pounds lighter because of it, but for the love of baby jesus, I would glue those couple of pounds back on me if I could.  I fought the Trinidad Scorpion, and guess what, it kicked the shit out of me. 

212

 At 15, I fell in love. the kind of love where you don’t know if you want to laugh or cry, sing or throw punches, create or destroy. This feeling was powerful and potent. The difference between my love and most was that I fell in love with 8 million people, not one. I fell in love with New York. 

 
My first time visiting new york was with my parents; we did the cliche sight seeing activities, went to the popular delis. the last day of our stay, i knew, much like I can assume a heroin addict does, that i’d be back for more. 
 
Upon my acceptance to Fordham University, my mother urged for me to take self defense classes. i defiantly declined her wish; deep down i knew if there was someone/thing that wanted to kick the shit out of me, I’m 5’1” for fuck’s sake, it wouldn’t be difficult even if I was taught how to properly throw a punch. 
 
I arrived at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University on August 26th, 2001. There were the orientations, the adjustment of living with a shit load of other 18 year olds all in one place, and showers in which you needed flip flops. Two days after being dropped off, some of us on the second floor of North headed into the city in search of fake id’s. This is what is deemed a bonding experience. About 15 yards into our walk up Fordham Road (which is two say, like, two feet from campus) we noticed a man jerking off into a fence. In broad daylight. If I didn’t realize I was in New York before, I can assure you, I knew at that moment I wasn’t in quaint little Marblehead any longer. Like, he was just going at it, and an NYPD cruiser was parked not 20 feet from the dude. We laughed, blushed and continued on our trek in search of something that would make us seem older. Little did we know, 14 days from then we’d be more jaded than we could have ever hoped for. 
 
The morning of September 11th, 2001, I was running late to my sociology class–so I didn’t bother taking a shower, I’d take one later. I got dressed and darted down my dorm hall, only to realize that each room was open, and I could hear audible sobs. I heard a very loud boisterous jersey girl screaming WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE, FUCKING TOWEL HEADS! YOU CANT ATTACK THIS CITY! again, i was stunned and dazed, and realized upon entering a neighbors room, that the World Trade Center tower was attacked by a plane. 
 
Still in disbelief, I rushed to my class, but realized people were walking around in a fog, as if they were headless chickens. Of course, classes were suspended, and students and professors alike huddled around televisions, and we could hear sirens all over. 
 
Some ROTC kids walked down to Ground Zero (about 16 miles) while we all tried to contact our families. about 3 or 4 hours after the planes hit the towers, i was able to reach my house. my mother answered and heard my voice and instantly started wailing my baby my baby! that was the only time i got choked up that day. I couldn’t really cry when there was so much devastation surrounding me; I felt I didn’t have the right. 
 
That day lasted forever. It was that day that cemented my true unfaltering love and faithfulness to New York City. The following 4 years i dedicated my life, attention and time to my love. I felt being in New York was my destiny.
 
The time I spent in the City became the most formative years of my life. I learned about the human spirit. I discovered true work ethic. I honed the fine skill of flirtation. I learned the difference between local and express. I (along with my friends) befriended happy hour. I embraced the city, with all it’s color, desperation and luxury–I had internships with some amazing companies, met some wonderful people and not so wonderful people. I learned to take cat naps on the subway, to avoid patches of sidewalk with bird shit on them. I worked for one day in a deli. in heels. i heard different languages every day. i wrote papers. i slammed my hand on the hood of a taxi cab and yelled at the driver. i saw the dali lama in central park. i kissed strangers. i was a nanny. i witnessed complete sadness and complete beauty. i learned the difference between cheap wine and good wine. i fell asleep in a bed facing the empire state building. i saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees. i saw priceless works of art for ten cents. i have stood in central park and felt summer breezes shift into autumn winds. i understood how to appreciate my hometown and the smell of the ocean. I split hummus sandwiches with Bonnie cause we were broke. I then stole bread to fill our stomachs, only to have the bread bounced out of my hand by Bonnie’s excitement at seeing a purse. I snuck into Tompkins Square park with some TV guys I worked with to smoke a joint with beers and watch the sun rise. the thrill of getting ready for a night out was better than going out itself. i got bit in the ass by a pit bull. i walked home in the wee hours of the morning to smell the fresh bread being delivered in the Bronx. everything i experienced became part of my dna. i became part of new york, and it became part of me. 
 
New York. The thrill of everything it represents doesn’t even compare to the feeling you have when you’re in the actual city. Stop. Go. Walk. Laugh. Breathe. Drink. Gasp. Listen. Yell. Silence. Light. Dark. Hope. Desperation. Wealth. Poverty.Fear. Hope. Hate. Love.
 
Who I am now is different from what I was ten years ago. The thing that will remain the same is the ache I have in my heart for New York; that’s the thing about first loves; they never go away. They remain in your heart forever as an ember silently burning. Today, I’m a New Yorker. We all are.