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01 September 2009

I've Seen Fire, Rain, Dead Kennedys, and (Perhaps) the End of a Friendship


It's been a few days since returning from my Cape Cod reverie. Two weeks of swimming in the Atlantic, lying in the sun, and watching hordes of twitty CT and NY families filling Falmouth's Main Street with their inane chatter and mispronunciation of things like "Eastham" has left me reeling as I step back into the (currently) fire-consumed, desert circus we call Los Angeles.

The trip there and back was like crossing the River Styx, with Eunice Shriver and Ted Kennedy acting as my own personal Charon (sorry, I've been watching "Clash of the Gods" on the History Channel lately and just eat that mythology shit up). Oh, and let's not forget my Dionysian revel at our family reunion during my first night on the Cape.

Exhibit A:
Here I am with my two uncles, well on my way to enjoying, and then completely forgetting, the festivities to follow. I do remember singing along to Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" 7 or 8 times. Old Kenny was a favorite of my grandfather's, and believe it or not, the t-shirt my uncle Sean is wearing is a kind of tribute to my grandmother, who passed away in February. Grandma had a running joke with her kids when they started acting smart with her.

Grandma: Hey Sean...Have I shown you my ring?
(Cue Grandma displaying her ring...see t-shirt)

Considering that that was Day 1 on the Cape, and generally speaking I am fantastic with beginnings, muddle through middles, and barely make it through endings, the trip just took me further and further into my own little seaside world. I might as well have been adrift on a homemade raft, watching my life on the West Coast getting smaller and smaller on the horizon, until I couldn't tell if I was seeing land or the flickering shadows and spots of my own vision.

My entire immediate family was around for the first week, and I tried to ignore how different it all felt, how much older everyone was, and I have to admit a certain level of success.

Exhibit B:
I did manage to spend some one on one time with nearly all of my siblings, except my brother Matthew (he just kept trying to get me drunk), and it was probably the first time I really had the chance to spend time with my youngest sister, Molly, pictured (after a fashion) here.

Molly has a sneaky sense of humor, somewhat questionable taste in movies, and she talks to the television with the same tone of disbelief and impatience I reserve for Taylor...and I think she's the tits.

The second week of my trip was spent split between spending time with my mom, her sister, my Aunt Amy, and her son, my cousin Brandon. Contemplative conversations on the beach, raucous games of Scattergories, and walking to the dock at 2am to pee in the ocean pepper my memories, while a lion's share of hard liquor acts as a tenderizing marinade for them. It was something of a chronological mishmash-I alternately felt 28, 50, 18, and 12 (without the middle-parted hair, unibrow, and additional 40 pounds, thank God).

I started to come back to some semblance of normal thought and life towards the end of that second week, as I prepared to make the trek to Newport, Rhode Island to attend my friend Cheryl's wedding. I've known Cheryl since we were 9, and seeing a girl I gave the chicken pox to in the 5th grade get hitched was going to be the perfect cherry atop the nostalgia sundae my time away from California was turning into. I took my mother's car on Friday, stopping in Providence to drop my sister off at her apartment. Before taking her there, however, we stopped at a nearby gas station so that I could fill up before the last leg of my journey to Newport, when...

Exhibit C:

Oh yes. A shredded tire. Well, it could have been worse. We had a spare, and a jack, so all we needed to do was...realize that my mother's car had no lug wrench and stand outside of her Jeep Liberty in the rain being refused help by every passerby we approach and trying to figure out how to join AAA on an iPhone.

But not before I spend 20 minutes jacking up the car without realizing I have no way of actually removing or attaching tires:

Exhibit D:

I want to point out that just prior to this shot we had been harassed for change by a braless junkie-type who clearly did not have a lug wrench (sometimes pictures need to be worth 1,030 words).

When all was said and done, I was left with an amused AAA employee, a shredded right hand, two bags of wedding gifts, and my sister's dog on top of me after knocking me to the ground when we arrived at her house...at 9:00pm. Did I mention that the wedding started at 6:30?

I probably should have changed then and there, jumped in the car, and made it for the final hour or two of the reception. But I'm nothing if not an excellent quitter and endless source of disappointment for myself and others. Frankly, it was such an abrupt awakening from the-oh please, screw the excuses. I let it fall apart. The end was drawing near, and I couldn't just let it happen. I panicked in the water, flailed wildly, and just couldn't bring myself to do the right thing. There it is: beginning somewhere, middling in-between here and there, and ending nowhere, soaking wet, exhausted, and throwing in the towel. Where EXACLY did I end up, you ask? Here:

Exhibit E:
A ruined, foolish gypsy witch, fawning over Scrabble tiles like they were tarot cards.

The sad thing is how comforting it was to face adversity, to nurture it into becoming a problem, to help it blossom into catastrophe, and let it sweep everything else away. Those tense moments with my parents, hearing my sister talk about feeling left out all her life, knowing I didn't try to spend time with my brother, my mother talking about her mother, going to Cheryl's wedding alone after not seeing or talking to her for months, feeling so distant from her life and yet about to share in this event that we both used to daydream about and scoff at, and missing, just missing and hating all of the life and the everyday-it gathered in me, and I had to do something with it. And away it went. I let it all eek out of me, right there in the 7-11 parking lot on Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island. Just like the air in that piece of shit tire that my father kept telling me looked so bald and flimsy and "you better stop to get some air in it on your way".

And I don't know why I like messy endings so much. I've learned that part of it is family-Stewarts love to go out with a bang. They also love to come in with a bang. They also love those huge ass summer box fans blowing hot air at them inches from their faces at night, but that's neither here nor there.

The other part of it is my personal need to obliterate discomfort. I treat emotional challenges like an ugly homemade vase in my living room. Ignoring it never works, and quickly turns into disdain, then disgust, and finally I just smash the hell out of it because I'm so embarrassed by it that I want to erase all evidence of its existence.

But I suppose, little by little, things to have a way of changing. I've collected my pictures of the flat tire and my fruity ass pretending to know how to operate a jack into a lengthy apology letter of sorts, due to be shipped east along with some lovely Pier 1 glassware boxed and wrapped in tasteful, albeit rain-dappled, white wrapping paper. But you know how it goes-I'll be spending months looking for all of those tiny stray bits of ceramic tucked behind chair legs and under area rugs. Somebody pass me the Superglue...