Nowhere To Go But Up

What with all the year-end compilations, best ofs, and tributes scattered about the web on this, the last day of 2015, I thought I’d put a twist on things, and for your reading pleasure, share what was probably the low point of my year. If you have a weak stomach, I implore you to look away now, for those of you who choose to soldier on, don’t judge.

My husband’s mother passed away in July. Losing a parent is never easy, but they were very close, and the preceding weeks had been incredibly stressful. She died on a Wednesday, was buried on Friday, and our first day back to work was the following Monday.

My commute to the office is pretty easy, no more than 20 minutes on an average day, and I set out on this bright summer morning, feeling pretty good given the circumstances. As I drove though, I started to feel a little shaky. I hadn’t eaten much over the weekend, was fairly run down, and thought maybe some breakfast to settle my stomach wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After a brief McDonald’s drive-through detour I was back on the road. After a few bites of a Sausage McMuffin it became clear that food wasn’t helping. I put the rest of the sandwich back in the bag, and continued onto the freeway. I really didn’t feel well, began to sweat, and tried to will the queasiness away in a futile mind over matter exercise. At once the entire construct of my digestive system rose up in fierce opposition to my attempts to stomp it into submission. I could almost hear the chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing as the contents of my gastrointestinal tract overturned horse carts, furniture, and cannons, and rushed onward wielding torches, demanding to be liberated from the restrictive confines of my body.

My brain, in a race to counteract this massive internal revolution was racing to find a solution to the impending and unstoppable upheaval while driving at 65 miles per hour in rush hour traffic. The McDonald’s bag! I grabbed it, and smartly threw up into it, without a second to spare. Crisis averted. I’ve always been a graceful puker. Ask my friends about Wiederholt’s Supper Club. But I didn’t count on the aftershock. No worries, right into the bag. It’s all good, I figured I’d make it into the office, splash some water on my face, and carry on.

One thing I didn’t consider was the structural integrity of a McDonald’s bag. You don’t need to be a physicist to realize that the thin paper construction of said bag is not sturdy enough to withstand a sudden influx of heavy moisture, but my mind wasn’t focused on the mechanics of the situation. Next thing I knew the contents, still on their radical journey for freedom, broke through the bottom of the bag, and were deposited all over my leg.

At this point the scene shifted into a Kafkaesque nightmare that should have been musically overlaid with Adagio in Strings. Covered in puke, with only one or two meager napkins available to mitigate the damage, I began to retch violently, and pulled off onto an exit, threw open the door, leaned over, and began to vomit somewhat outside the car, while circling around the ramp like a carnival ride from hell until I got to the point where I could come to a complete stop and properly weigh my options.

Cars were lined up behind me, and it didn’t take long for me to deem the situation a Grade A Cluster Fuck. Continuing on to work was out of the question, finding a gas station would only prolong the agony, so I decided to return home. I got back on the freeway, in the opposite direction, and for good measure christened the westbound onramp as well, my head feeling like it was being whirled around at zero gravity. Battered and spent, I pushed the button to call home. Thank God for Bluetooth in the new mini-van I was driving, purchased not more than two months ago. So much for that new car smell.

My 12-year-old son, Cameron, answered. I explained to him in a tone that commanded blind obedience, that I needed him to meet me in the driveway with a roll of dry paper towels, a roll of wet paper towels, a young priest and an old priest, a rag, garbage bags, Febreze, carpet cleaner, and whatever kitchen, all-purpose, or bathroom cleaner he could round up. Thankfully he didn’t question it, and when I mercifully arrived at home, Cameron, Justin, and Alex were all waiting outside with puzzled looks on their faces. Once they saw the horror that had transpired, they quickly backed off, and didn’t ask questions.

While my dog howled at the door, super excited at her great fortune because I came back home, I set out to clean up what probably should have been handled by a team of professionals who disinfect murder scenes, occasionally loudly demanding more wet paper towels. When finished, I turned the garden hose on myself, threw my clothes in the washer, took a decontamination shower, and fell into bed, texting my very patient boss that I was probably just going to call it a day.

I woke up a few hours later, battle-scarred, but ok, a victim of stress and exhaustion that had manifested into one wild ride. And that, my friends, is not how I want to remember 2015, which was otherwise a fairly good year.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz 2015

 

Raging Dull

By all reasonable accounts I should be on Cloud Nine* today. The Kansas City Royals, my lifelong team, bereft of a championship for 30 years, won the World Series on Sunday. All I have to do is think of Eric Hosmer’s mad dash home to tie Game 5 in the ninth inning, and I get a huge smile on my face or start to tear up. Instant happiness. Last night I went to see Jim Gaffigan in concert with my husband, oldest son, and BFF. We had a great time. He was fantastic. Quote from one of our favorite bits, “Is this worth it?”

But someone today served me up a full-on slice of rage with a side of loathing and an indignation chaser. Literally everything is pissing me off. Granted, even when I’m even-keeled I don’t easily suffer fools, but that’s not usually something that turns my day upside down.

Alex had some questions about the show this morning. “What did he talk about?”

Me: “Hot Pockets.”

Alex (eyeroll): “Did he talk about airline food?”

Me: “No.”

Alex: “Good. Because that is getting REALLY old.”

Eight years old, going on…me. I think that sort of sums up what’s wrong with me today. I don’t have any patience for anyone who is rehashing the same old shit. What set me off started before I’d even left my house this morning – a fairly innocuous comment on a post about the Gaffigan show my friend tagged us in on Facebook.

“…looks like youre hanging out with a bunch of Weiners!”

Har.

For the record, my name is Jennifer Weiner. Pronounced “WINE-er.” When I write I use my maiden name for my byline so I’m not confused with the relatively prolific author of the same name. Jennifer Weiner has done rather well for herself, so it wouldn’t be terrible, but no need to create undue confusion. Receptionists at medical offices often ask me if I’m her. Note to Jennifer’s publisher – receptionists at medical offices must be very into “chick lit.” I sense a marketing opportunity. You’re welcome for that free bit of insight about a key demographic. I read Jennifer Weiner’s first book, Good in Bed, a title for which I suffered a fair amount of grief. It was okay, and that’s not a knock against her, but it’s a genre that’s just not really my thing.

I digress. The “weener/weiner” comment is just so ridiculously unfunny. I mean, could you pick any lower hanging fruit than making an obvious joke out of someone’s name? It’s not my name. I wasn’t born with it. My kids get mocked for it constantly. My oldest son, now a sophomore in high school, used to be terribly bothered by it. A baseball pitcher, he intentionally hit a kid once as a 12-year-old when he heard the kid call him “weener” before a game. When I found out why he hit the kid I wasn’t even mad. I was impressed with his control and situational awareness. He’d cleanly retired the first two batters, then plunked the kid with precision on the first pitch with two outs. Now he embraces the taunts, lets his friends call him “penis,” which has taken away all the power of the chirp. You can do that as a 15-year-old who lifts weights and is unafraid of anyone. It’s a little different for younger kids who haven’t developed any coping mechanisms.

I don’t know this person. She’s probably perfectly nice, but her comment annoyed the hell out of me. Not because I was offended, but because of how fucking immature and stupid and preposterously unclever it was. If it were a good joke, I probably wouldn’t have cared. I respect a well-timed and funny insult at my expense. But I have no tolerance for the trite and cliché. I later replied to her comment with a single word. “Hilarious.” She “liked” it. That angered me even more. Because that remark was dripping with sarcasm. And it went completely unrecognized.

The check-out lines at Target over my lunch hour were long. And things went from bad to worse because when it was my turn, the slow cashier handling my lane was replaced by the chatty cashier. I always purposely avoid this woman’s lane. She’s worked there for eons, and she insists on commenting on every item you purchase. I plastered a smile on my face, and prepared for her shtick. As she slid the pizza crusts, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese across the scanner, I assumed the crash position, bracing for impact.

“Makin’ some pizzas?”

Oh. My. God. Are you some kind of fucking psychic? How the amazing Kreskin did you know that? No. Way. That was. FAN-Tastic. Seriously, chills.

“You know, there’s a recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust. I haven’t tried it, but I need to. I need to stay away from the carbs. The cauliflower is low-carb. I’m supposed to be on a low-carb diet, but everything is made outta carbs! I’m a diabetic. My sugars are just way out of control. Crazy high. I see you got that 25% off apparel coupon on Cartwheel. Lady in line earlier didn’t know about it and I told her all about it. She didn’t have the app and went over to customer service and set it up. I used mine the other day.”

This is a test, God. Right?

Mercifully that exchange ended. In the parking lot a cute two-year-old boy was not being controlled by his mother, and slowly walked right in front of my car as I was trying to leave. Move out of my goddamn motherfuckin way, you little bastard. (My God I’m watching too much Veep. I have Selina Meyer mouth.) Before going back to the office, I decided I needed a little pick-me-up, so I stopped at Starbucks for some iced tea. Ran straight into a brick wall of upselling purgatory. 

Barista: “So are you having anything for lunch? A hot sandwich? Fruit parfait?”

Me: “No, just tea.”

Barista: “That comes sweetened, but we can make it unsweetened by special request.” 

Me: (Special request? That sounds overly complicated. Do I have to fill out a goddamn form or something? We’ll leave the sugar out of your tea, but only after you complete Schedule 2530-IT in triplicate.) “Unsweetened, please.”

Barista: “For only 50 cents more you can upgrade your Grande to a Venti.” At this point she’s waving cups at me.

Me: “Fine.” (If that will end this transaction. Please.)

Barista: “Anything else for you? We have fresh gingerbread cookies out of the oven!”

Me: “No thanks, I’m good.”

Barista: “Do you like music? We have the new Andrea Bocelli CD.”

Me: “That’s ok.” (I haven’t listened to a CD since 2006. Do they still make CD players? You don’t grind the coffee with a mortar and pestle, why are you selling CDs?)

Probably I should not be allowed around anyone for the rest of the day, for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. Unfortunately I have a meeting tonight, and I have to deal with my own children, which is always interesting. Thank goodness it was dark when I drove home at 5:00 in traffic. That’s always a mood booster.

Sarcasm.

*What is Cloud Nine anyway? What right does Cloud Nine have to be so damned haughty? I bet it just kissed ass all the time, and probably backstabbed the hell out of Clouds Five and Seven to attain its exalted position. Cloud Six is all, “That was my idea, bitch. Thanks for sharing the credit.”

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

Helping The Community

Certain social media sites are so lame with their overreaching analytics. A suggestion popped up on my feed last week, noting I had checked in at the Indiana State Line on December 26, 2014. I did. Mostly just to let interested friends and family members know of our progress as we traveled home from Pennsylvania on a Christmas road trip. Facebook wants me to “Help the Community by Writing a Review.”

A review of my trip to (it was more like over) the Indiana State Line? Seriously. I noticed there are no current reviews of the Indiana State Line, and actually only 6 other people have even checked in. What would that review even look like? I wonder…

Rhoda T.

Sad to say that the Indiana State Line just doesn’t measure up to the other State Lines in the area. The trees were way less scenic than in Pennsylvania. The roads barely felt paved.

Zena H.
♥♥♥
Ended up here because the queue at the Michigan State Line was ridiculously long. Indiana has the same rating yet there was no queue. We were sceptical at first but it was not bad. Pleasant overpasses. Signage there when needed but not overwhelming. You pay about 10 dollars more in tolls for Ohio, so this was overall a decent place with pleasant experience.

Vincent L.
♥♥♥♥♥
If you have a predilection for Midwestern State Lines like me, look no further than the Indiana State Line. I come here weekly on business and only really ever stay on the Interstate – comprised of a fine gray Valero asphalt, sometimes topped with a delicate dusting of snowfall, four lanes for just the right amount of comoditá (comfort). So wonderful! There’s nothing quite like rolling into the Petro in Richmond after you’ve finished your amazing crossing. I haven’t been stopped yet, but the speed limit will be the death of me.

My only gripe would be that it is an expensive State Line. Current tolls are over $12.

Kalee J.
♥♥
Where do I begin? Shall I start with the bumper to bumper traffic because of a trooper pulling over a pick-up on the side of the road? Or maybe the painfully awkward billboards advertising Tom Raper RV? Um, hello? Trigger warnings please. There are a lot of people that that could effect them very much seeing that. There is no craft or thought put into this State Line. Extremely mediocre for the prices, they don’t even have a median, just a slab of cement so youd be better off going to the gross county line a few miles away.

My main issue here is that they’re sign out front is extremely misleading. It led my party to believe that Indiana was the “Crossroads of America,” which was the main reason we decided to go here in the first place. Turns out when we got into Indiana there were no other American states at all, just Indiana. Not what we expected. UMMMMM… try again.

The manager at the visitor center was extremely rude and uncooperative when we raised our concern. It was clearly a miscommunication on both of our parts. The advertisement/sign was so unclear, but we could have asked more questions to clarify. However, she wasn’t about to budge on the toll. Until we made it perfectly clear that we weren’t about to pay for something we didn’t sign up for, at which point she gave us some coupons for free coffee. Atta girl. She didn’t want us getting ratchet up in her state. And believe me, we were on the verge. Her sarcastic and condesending mannerisms were completely off-putting.

PLEASE SAVE YOURSELF FROM THIS DEVASTATING ATROCITY.

Kevin L.

so disappointed as a resident of evansville. two bad state lines on both sides, and i dont know which is worse, kentucky or indiana. at least indiana has good gas stations but theyre not very close to the interstate! thats THE ONLY good thing about indiana.. is the gas stations… lets move on from there…

the scenery was some of the worst I have ever seen… the place was DIRTY…I.E. your first clue… you dont want to know whats going on back off the road. the litter, roadkill, piled up snow, fencing… all dirty …

went for a “road trip” i suppose… they give you this idea that its some kind of destination.. oh my god, one look and we all turned around.. and went back.. didn’t even want to be in the state.. raining the whole time … wow.. this was beyond BAD…

a friend got the map which was DROWNING in red stateness, couldn’t even finish looking at it.

and the whole time all we wanted was to look around, and we couldn’t even see anything until we were almost done and ready to leave… the visibility was INCREDIBLY bad…

NEVER go here. save your time and money.

it’s awful, there’s no good state lines to go to around evansville 😦 if someone can prove me wrong, please do. but in the mean time, someone needs to save evansville from bad trips.

Jessalyn R.
♥♥♥♥♥
My boyfriend took me here for my birthday, and I was very impressed. I rode in the passenger side, and it was soooo good! I got to see the viaduct and the welcome signs! Their “visitor information center” is wonderful as well!

Ada K.
♥♥♥♥♥
This place was recommended to me by 2 of my friends from Baltimore, where we are from.

I haven’t been to Indiana in awhile, so it was nice to have a place that was given the thumbs up in advance, as well as all of the wonderful reviews on social media.

I have now been twice to the Indiana State Line, and each time was fantastic. The first trip, for a Black Crowes concert. Perfection! The second trip, to see a specialist in Indianapolis for my strabismus. Awesome! My husband drove both times as I couldn’t resist seeing everything again. It wasn’t too crowded, so you could probably end up driving in at 7pm on a Saturday night with no problem, but we always check the GPS just in case. We will be back!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

NapDads

Channeling fashion bloggers, some snarky genius on Instagram started a new account called @FashionDads. Do yourself a favor and check it out. The write-ups are satire, but I think the photos are real. Because other than JLo, no one other than dads show that much leg. Or wear that much denim. Or mustard. Or Hawaiian print.

The only thing I hate about the whole thing is that I didn’t think of it myself.

While giving full credit to the mind behind FashionDads, and to my brother-in-law for starting the trend of sniping these photos, I can’t resist a borrowing the idea for a little fun with some personal photos. These would more accurately fall into the category of NapDads. Sorry Dad. Mom says you guys are spending our inheritance anyway so it won’t matter if I’m written out of the will.

Baby

Rosie

Leopard

Hat

Passed

Sitting

Car

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2015

 

 

 

 

There Will Be Blood

Sometimes after picking kids up from three locations after school, helping with homework, making dinner, dealing with your freshman’s stupid mother effing mousetrap car project, and trying to figure out why a microwave that was working fine a minute ago just up and died, you pretty much end up phoning the rest of the night in.

Cameron: “Mom, if you type in the coordinates 52.376552 and 5.198393 on Google Earth it shows a guy dragging a body into the lake.”
Me: “Okay.”
Cameron: “Mom, seriously, look at this.”
Me (glancing at an aerial view of a deck and a splotch while cutting up strawberries): “Yeah, I don’t see anything at all.”
Cameron: “Really, it’s there. Look! I’ll zoom in. You can see the blood trail.”
Blood Trail?Me (yeah, sure, that might be a body): “Gross.”
Cameron: “I know!”
Justin: “I wanna see the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No, you can’t.”
Justin: “Why did Mom get to?”
Cameron: “Duh, she’s an adult.”
Justin: “Show me!”
Cameron: “Fine, but don’t blame me when you have nightmares.”
Justin: “Where is it?”
Cameron: “Right there, see all that blood by her head where he’s dragging her into the lake.”
Justin: “Yeah.”
Alex: “I didn’t get to see! Let me see!!!”
Cameron: “You can’t, you’re too young.”
Alex: “Well ha ha, I saw anyway.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex: “Yes I did, I saw the blood trail.”
Cameron: “No you didn’t.”
Alex (crying): “Yes, I did!!! Mom! MOM!!! Cameron, let me see it!!!”
Cameron: “NO!”
Alex (turning violent): “Cameron!!!! It’s no fair, LET ME SEE IT!!!”
Cameron (evading a lunge): “NO!”
Alex (jumping on Cameron): “Yes!!”
Cameron throws Alex to the ground, Alex starts wailing.
Me: “OH MY GOD, CAMERON!!! JUST LET HIM SEE THE DAMN BLOOD TRAIL!!!”

Would moms of girls ever make that demand?

Update: Upon further review, the Google Earth photo of a body being dragged into a lake is an urban legend. It’s apparently a very wet black lab whose trail of water makes a wooden dock look red. Don’t try telling Cameron this, however. He’s 100% behind the dead body theory.

For Mature Audiences Only

I attended a First Reconciliation workshop at church the other night with Alex, my seven-year-old. As we were getting out of the car, he said to me very seriously, “When I grow up I do NOT want to be a priest. Because of, you know, the terrible things they have to do.”

What terrible things are you referring to, I asked with an equal amount of curiosity and trepidation.

“Mom, duh. They have to go to people’s homes and get rid of dolls that have the devil in them.”

Duh.

Someone’s brothers have been filling his head with the plot of the horror movie of the moment, Annabelle. That’s just awesome. So now he’s afraid of big dolls, and evidently thinks parish priests are routinely making midnight house calls when Cabbage Patch Kids are crying tears of blood. Thanks, guys.

As many of you know, I have four boys. They are in ninth, sixth, third, and second grades. That gap from oldest to youngest is profound. When David, my oldest, was in second grade he was nearly pure as the driven snow. Sneaking in part of an episode of The Simpsons was the most risqué thing he saw on TV. He didn’t come home after school to the lax supervision of older siblings. His parents were a constant presence. There was always an adult with him at the playground.

To say that I’ve given up on parenting my youngest would not be correct, but as opportunities arise, I have definitely outsourced some of the work. And though I have never been a helicopter parent, my willingness to allow Alex more freedom to roam has increased tenfold because there is no one younger I have to worry about following him around. So he spends more time out of my sight than his older brothers did. And he spends more time with his older brothers, which David did not do, because he didn’t have any.

And therein lies the problem. Whereas I was reluctant to allow David to watch PG-13 movies until he was sufficiently “old” enough to handle them, Alex has watched them since he can remember. Because his brothers were. What am I going to do, put on Sesame Street for Alex, risking a loud and violent uprising from the boys who don’t want to watch baby shows, or just say screw it, and let him watch The Dark Knight along with them? Wait, he’s sitting still and being quiet intently watching a bus being riddled with machine gun fire? Decision made.

So in addition to their idiot brothers showing them things like “Squidward’s Suicide” videos on YouTube, Alex and Justin are included in topics of conversation that the others never heard about until they were at least in double digits. Most of this information comes from their oracle, Cameron, my second oldest, a middle schooler, always ready to impart to his young charges completely unfiltered and sensationalized gossip that David, a self-proclaimed authority on everything, enjoys exaggerating and sharing with him. So stories and facts that are already only marginally true, are riddled with hearsay and inaccuracies by the time they make their way down to Alex.

So my apologies to any of Alex or Justin’s classmates and friends who have heard about any of the following: farting, Family Guy, high school students who smoke weed, penile cancer, the eraser challenge, steroids, bad teachers, exorcism, Michelle Obama’s school lunch changes, terrorism, Slenderman, compound open leg fractures, The League, hangovers, hemorrhoids, homosexuality, heroin overdoses, testicle injuries, youth sports association politics, doing sex, machetes, Eminem, serial killers, Adrian Peterson, e-cigarettes, new swear words, new uses for old swear words, or the truth about the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa. There may be more.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Gas Pains

Know what I hate? Pumping gas. Know why? This.

Pay here or pay inside?
PAY HERE
Push credit or debit.
CREDIT
Enter your zip code.
55317
Do you want to use your rewards card at the pump?
NO
Do you want a car wash today?
NO
Authorizing…..
Approved.
Would you like a receipt?
NO
Select grade.
87
Lift handle and begin fueling.

You know what I would like to do? I would like to pump my gas. It’s 11 goddamn degrees out and I would like to get out of the wind and get back into my car. That’s it. That’s what I want to do.

A Cold War spy going through code phrases to gain entry to a safe house in Prague had fewer hoops to jump though.

“Have you seen the symphony?”
“The cat rides at midnight.”
Access granted.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Act Now, Think Later

A note to my children. I appreciate your need to ask questions, even to respectfully question authority . I encourage it. I love your inquisitiveness and curiosity. Don’t ever lose that. Critical thinking is vitally important, and I want to raise children who are independent and in-depth thinkers who scrutinize sources of information, and wonder why things are done the way they are.

That said, you still need to consider context. Allow me to offer an example. When your mother tells you, with a sense of urgency in her voice, to “go get a plunger” that is a time for action, not questions. It should be a reflex. When you hear the word plunger, you jump into action. Plunger. Action. Plunger! ACTION! PLUNGER! IT’S FUCKING GO TIME!!!

Because unless someone is telling you to retrieve a plunger from a burning building, the consequences of NOT getting a plunger will always be worse than getting a plunger. ALWAYS.

Once the crisis is resolved, there will be a debrief. THAT is the time to ask, “Why?”

So, if you must know why, here is the answer. Partially eaten celery sticks WILL clog a toilet.

And as long as we’re asking questions. WHO took the plunger out of the bathroom in the first place? I’m not even going to bother asking about the celery.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Leftover Arguments

8:00 in the morning. One kid wants pancakes for breakfast (leftover from yesterday when I was trying to be nice), the other wants leftover macaroni and cheese. Right fucking now. A heated argument over whether or not it’s gross to put fresh raspberries on pancakes. Another about whose turn it is to let the dog out. And yet one more to determine what TV show to watch. Then…the crime of the century. Justin ate Alex’s chips and cheese. The ones that sat out over night, getting stale, the cheese hardening into a rubberlike substance that only non-ionizing microwave radiation can regenerate as an edible substance.

“HE ATE MY LEFTOVER CHIPS AND CHEESE!!!!!!!”

Histrionics ensue. Demands of restitution. Accusations of targeted thievery with malice aforethought. A third party gets involved, telling both of them to quiet down, stepping on them and on someone’s stomach as the aggrieved parties wrestle on the floor. Godzilla on a much smaller scale. More crying, this time in pain.

The kid who already ate a pancake drenched in syrup and raspberries assembles a mountain of tortilla chips and covers it with an avalanche of shredded cheese. These will surely go largely uneaten since he had zero interest in them until his brother sniped them. Now they chirp each other for no reason other than to establish the upper hand going into the next fight.

“You’re stupid.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not. You are. You don’t even know math.”
“That’s because I don’t like to add.”
“Well, you should.”
“You don’t know anything about football.”
“I don’t care. I don’t like football.”
“Well, you should.”

Four. More. Days.

UPDATE: Next fight has already broken out. Over a softcover Scholastic book called Mice on Ice. Who is the rightful owner? I can’t even be the arbiter because I bought it, and several other books for them for Christmas, and I can’t recall who got that particular book. A book that no one has touched for the past three months. Now more valuable than a first edition Mark Twain, all because someone else wants it.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014

Five People You’ll Meet In A Small Town Bar

DentI spent this weekend at my friend’s lovely lake home (or “cabin” as weekend houses are quaintly called in these parts) in northern Minnesota. For her birthday we had the opportunity to go bar hopping in some nearby small towns. I grew up in a small town in Kansas, so I was not surprised that really the only difference between a bar in rural Minnesota and in rural Kansas is the latitude. Certain elements of the clientele might vary from New England to Florida to Idaho, but I’d venture that in any local watering hole, you’re going to mix and mingle with the following type of folks.

Freedom. Freedom is the townie who probably hooked you up with illegal liquor when you were in high school 25 years ago. Back then he had a pimped out Firebird with a Pioneer stereo system, but now no one knows what he drives because they’ve never seen him anywhere but on his barstool for ten years. Freedom’s wardrobe consists of t-shirts adorned with airbrushed designs of stars, stripes, and bald eagles. He is the epitome of “Murica.” He hasn’t been sober since the Reagan administration, and spends his time wandering around from table to table trying to engage in conversation. His eyes are permanently glassy, bloodshot, and half-open. When Freedom finally manages to slide his wallet back into the pocket of his Wranglers after five minutes of many unsuccessful attempts, the whole bar cheers his effort.

Divorcée. She’s a cougar on the prowl. Recently liberated and enjoying her new lifestyle, Divorcée is down to…flirt. She’s wearing low-rise dark denim with blinged out back pockets, a studded belt, and she teeters on pseudo Jimmy Choo heels. Her new boobs are pushed up high so they spill out of the top of her tight sparkly t-shirt. Big tan, big make-up, big nails, big hair. Everything about her screams high maintenance, yet the local bachelors, all of whom are wearing at least one article of blaze orange or camo clothing, flock to her while she holds court, falling all over themselves to buy her another Cosmo.

Glee. Playing Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls as a high school senior was the apex of Glee’s life, and he’s been trying to recapture the moment ever since. Once every few months the old ball and chain lets him out of diaper duty, and he gathers up his co-workers from the real estate office for happy hour on karaoke night. Everyone checks their phone or goes to the bathroom when he starts belting out show tunes and big band standards that no one under the age of 50 has ever heard. Then he sits down and smugly waits his turn while intoxicated frat boys home for summer break sing an off key rendition of Margaritaville clearly inferior to anything Glee is capable of.

Dancer. Dancer was probably once very pretty, but she’s been rode hard and put away wet. Her weathered skin makes her look like she could be anywhere between the age of 20 and 50. She’s wearing an ill-fitting short skirt, and that roses and barbed wire neck tattoo is dangerously close to her face. A month or two of clean living might add some meat on her bones and make her hair look less like a troll doll, but that just isn’t in the cards right now. Tonight she’s high or drunk or both, and is spending the evening grinding on any and every guy on the dance floor or at the bar. If she doesn’t hurry up and go home with someone, she’s going to get her face rearranged by a jealous girlfriend. 

Rudegirl. Rudegirl is the 40-something who is part of the group from the big city that actually doesn’t get out much unless it involves neighbors and a bonfire, but a milestone birthday or reunion is being celebrated, and this bunch thinks they’re pretty awesome, especially after several rounds of brightly colored shots of alcohol. Rudegirl knows the downtown club scene is way out of her league, so she’s ready to party like a rock star in the sticks where she can lord her purported sophistication over everyone for one night before she has to return to her kids, husband, and laundry back in the cookie cutter suburbs.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2014