Tag Archives: New Jersey

Easy to Remember Instructions for Clueless Guys

This post is filled with triggering stuff about sexual assault.

Okay, so there’s this guy. He’s about my age, from my home town, and in 1984, the summer before I started high school, he was up in my bedroom while we goofed around listening to Pink Floyd and wondering what to do. The upshot here is that our long friendship collapsed in a sexual assault and after he left to walk home, I was left wondering what the hell had just happened.

I took a very long shower. I told nobody about it, but that fall, some part of me asked the guidance counselor if I could join the women’s group therapy meeting. She didn’t ask me why, just said yes, and there I was, holding my uniform skirt to my knees and listening to the awful things in the lives of my peers, wondering why I was there. Repression is a strange thing. I’d blocked out most of what had occurred in my bed the summer before, but close friends asked if everything was okay. I’d picked a high school (I was in the parochial system, not in public school) that most of my friends hadn’t selected, so it was up to me to make new pals and to keep in touch with my besties from eighth grade. As with other people my age in the mid-80s, the phone was my constant companion. I had a cord that stretched down the hall, and luxuriously enough, I had my own number and a phone in my own room (thank you, elder sisters, for paving the way for me).

The story of what happened to me (as opposed to the reality of what happened to me) warped inside my mind, as objects will when submitted to extreme pressure and stress. I told people I’d lost my virginity willingly, I used food to cover up my fear and anguish, and believed that adding another 20 or 30 pounds would limit my appeal to other people. Instead many boys figured I’d be the easy play, so I became more choosy about which after school clubs I should participate in, and which friends would be safe. (Read: Not many men made the cut.) Read More…

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My Relationship to Ducks

mallard duck taking offThe reward for staring into the back of a pew for an hour every Sunday morning was a brief respite at the neighborhood duck pond. Catholic Mass probably would have been more torturous for my toddler self if the powers that be hadn’t left Latin behind, but as it was, all of the sermons and readings sounded muffled or mumbled. My strategy was to sit on my hands and wait for my two activities to arrive: passing the collection basket and shaking the hands of the people around me. Then I got to go and spread my love and all, as ordered by our pastor.

But really, I just wanted to feed the ducks.

Current proscriptions about sharing food with wild animals what they are, in the mid-1970s nobody balked at me showing up weekly with stale scraps of bread bundled in the plastic wrap of the loaf packaging. Read More…

How I Knew I Was a Klutz, Part 2

catholic school skirtsPerhaps Danny McGuinness had x-ray eyes, I’m not sure. But in one or two snaps of my right bra strap, he discovered the weakest link in the connection. Which, now that I think of it, was kind of the entire brassiere, because it was a fairly flimsy wad of cloth. In an instant the device was in ruins, and it collapsed underneath my dress, while I detected a note of relief from it. After being produced at the training bra factory, it probably expected to grace the shoulders of someone like Carolyn Westermann, not Maroon the Goon, and here I couldn’t even handle it for one week.  Read More…

How I Knew I Was a Klutz, Part 1

training braEighth grade, 1984. Enough of spring had popped through the soil that the scent of daffodils trickled up to the third floor of the Princeton primary school, which was set right up against busy Nassau Street. As the building was nearly 200 years old, we relied on cross-breezes for air conditioning, which, given that each classroom had windows on only one side of the room and given that New Jersey air does not come pre-conditioned, meant that we were all overheating on a regular basis at some point after April 6. Our core temperatures, however, to a great degree reflected our disparate uniform code: boys could wear thin polo shirts once winter was over, but the girls’ dresses were heavy and scratchy, not much of an improvement over their woolen vests and kilts.

It meant that the female students of St. Paul’s were subjected to more unworldy temperatures than their male counterparts. I would put dollars to whatever that this was an additional measure against girls wearing makeup, which they weren’t allowed to do anyway, but which they kept trying. It’s hard to sneak contraband onto one’s face, especially when it quickly melts off from one’s over extended, personal heat index. Read More…

Because they’re not really bald

 

eagle's plume

eagle's plume

 

My sister was holed up in her bedroom, recovering from back surgery, and the rest of us were hanging out in the kitchen, playing Apples to Apples while a turkey soup coalesced on the stove. The word to match was “smooth.” Those unfamiliar with the game should know that it works by one player, the judge, putting down an adjective card, and the other players looking at their hands of noun cards, with the goal finding a card the judge will think is the closest match. The winner gets the adjective card, and the next player is the judge for the next hand. One winds up aiming for what they think the judge will pick, not what they themselves would match up. Obvious playcating, like putting up “Canadians,” for the adjective, “brave,” when Susanne is the judge, won’t fare one very well. The game lends itself toward advocating for your noun card so the judge at least can see your logic. Conversations can get a little odd with all the lobbying, but apparently, this is a selling point for the game.

Okay, so the card was “smooth.” I had bubkus in my hand, and couldn’t decide between the following:

The 1970s

Republicans

Mardi Gras

David Hasselhoff

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

I thought and thought and thought, and I had nothing, so I slapped down the Mardi Gras card just to get rid of it. A number of seconds later everyone else had put down their card, and then the conversation went like this:

Jamie (my 13-year old niece, who was the judge this turn): Um, bald eagle? They’re not smooth.

Michael (my best buddy): Sure they are.

Susanne (my honey): Well, they’re not really bald.

Michael: They’re smooth, really.

Jamie: Uh…

Michael (in defense of his position): They have plumes. They’re smooth.

At this point, the table erupted in laughter. “Plumes” became the Pee-Wee Hermanesque word of the weekend, with my nieces trying to get Michael to say the word every 20 minutes or so. He even recorded the word on Jamie’s cell phone.

Honestly, a 13-year old with a cell phone is like an old lady with a Cadillac DeVille — you just wonder when you’ll hear the acceleration and crash in the background. But for now, she has constant access to “plume.”

Susanne, Michael, and I headed down to DC a few days later, and I cajoled them into pulling off the Turnpike at the Bordentown exit so that we could go to one of my best-loved restaurants on the planet, Mastori’s. This establishment has grown since my parents and I ate there in the 80s, and now features 5 large separate eating rooms.

 

Mastori's restaurant front door

Mastori's restaurant front door

Now then, for people from New Jersey, diners are a fact of life, and from the day a child can read, we verse ourselves in how to interpret and understand one of the most difficult texts in US culture, the diner menu. I am not kidding — there must be 300 choices of things one could order, everything from the boring and standard chicken tenders, to the nearly high-class dishes like veal scallopini, and absolutely everything in between.

For example, Mastori’s menu looks like this:

 

Easy to choose menu

Easy to choose menu

Exacerbating the sheer number of choices is the 7-point font, the daily specials list, and the menu items the server only tells you about in person. It is literally mind-numbing.

Somehow, some way, we figured out what to order. It was a blur, actually. I tried to find a way to get Michael to say “plume,” but he was having none of it, being rather plumed out. Mastori’s failed us a little, with slow service not common to the establishment. Perhaps they’ve grown too big to remember where all of the tables are. Out on the terrace, we did seem to be in another ZIP code.

But then again, there’s nothing like a pizzaburger to make me feel like I’m back in my home state.

Where the buffalo roam

Okay, 310 mere miles later and no bison have been spotted. I was nervous this morning because the moving company had not informed us of when the truck was supposed to arrive today, and after making about 47 phone calls, I still was not any closer to having an ETA. One little threat to call their home office and the Better Business Bureau, however, generated a lot of phone traffic, and it just so happened that right then the truck driver and crew descended upon us and quickly began moving all of our personal possessions out on the sidewalk. 250 boxes, 5500 pounds of belongings, one light cleaning and two showers later we were in the car, heading…

Heading pretty much nowhere. From home to just past Baltimore took an hour and a quarter, one last “screw you” from the traffic in the DC metropolitan area. As if we hadn’t heard the whispers from the city enough, like the disembodied voice in the Amityville Horror: G-E-T  O-U-T.

 

Baltimore stovepipe somehow represents so much about the city

Baltimore stovepipe somehow represents so much about the city

 

 

iPod plugged in, cell phone in reach, tons of toll money, full tank of $4 gas, and we were ready for the sluggish traffic. Things cleared up in Delaware, after rush hour. We made a pit stop in New Jersey at Mastori’s Restaurant, this fabulous diner/restaurant in Bordentown that was a favorite of my parents’. Susanne ordered Baby Back ribs wholly unlike anything seen at Chili’s, and I ordered veal vantellani with cremini mushrooms. We ate our enormous piles of meat slowly, letting the realization that WE HAVE MOVED sink in. Our things are somewhere, with a dour guy from Seattle named Cliff, who is currently headed to Missouri. Too bad the boxes of our stuff can’t manage their own blog of their trip.

Best thing about New Jersey, other than the delightful cheese and cinnamon breads at the diner, was this:

 

Gas pump in Bordentown

Gas pump in Bordentown

Eat that, Washington. We actually got a better price, $3.43, for paying in cash. And that’s for full service, folks. 

We breezed through the Turnpike, dealing with more crazy drivers, though in somewhat less frequency than say, on Bladensburg Road in Northeast. My personal favorite was a driver who was weaving up 95 with plates that read “Relax.” Somehow being told to relax in fact elicited quite the opposite for me.

We’re here at my sister’s house now, a couple of drinks in us (yes, after we got out of the car), and waiting for the hot tub to get up to temperature. And then tomorrow is a new day. Our first day not living in DC.

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