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Archive for July, 2009

My Major Award

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Dreams Do Come True

Dreams Do Come True

You never know when a goal will be accomplished. Normally, if you don’t accomplish it a few years from making it, you give up. But recently, I learned a lesson. Never stop trying, even if the goal was made when you were five. And even if the goal is silly. Recently, I took a trip to Reno with my cousin to satisfy not only my claw machine addiction, but my slot machine jones. I had no idea I would also be fulfilling a lifelong dream.

The day we arrived in Reno, we played some slots at Harrah’s where we were staying, then I headed over to Circus Circus to rescue some badly-sewn, deformed animals made in China from the claw machines (I went alone, my cousin is not a big arcade fan). For those of you not familiar with the Circus Circus casino, on the second level is a carnival midway, complete with ring toss games, pop-a-balloon games and the like, plus circus acts every hour all under a fake big top. Along with many claw machines.

On ten bucks I ended up with ten animals. Not bad odds, considering it was fifty cents a throw. However, this still wasn’t enough to satisfy my needs.

So on Day Two, I returned to Circus Circus. A a small bar adjacent to the entrance to the midway was open. I’d noticed it before, but it was only open on the weekends and I normally travel to Reno during the week. This small bar offered “Party Yards” full of either frozen strawberry daiquiris or lime margaritas. Since I was on vacation and had never bought myself a giant frozen alcoholic beverage, it seemed like a good idea. I ordered a margarita, the reasoning being fake lime flavor is normally less barfy than fake strawberry flavor. I forgot about my body’s natural aversion to tequila.

The bartender took a mix that came in a milk carton and partially filled up a “Party Yard” which is a long plastic glass with a beaker-like bottom and a tall skinny tube on top. Top to bottom it’s about 15 and ½ inches tall (talk about gross misrepresentation in advertising). He added two shots of a slightly amber liquid and one shot of a clear liquid. The bartender had clearly been instructed to turn the bottles away from the customer so the labels could not be read. Because they probably had a skull and crossbones on them, labeled “Cleaning Fluid” and “Poison”. Then he hit the button on this giant ice-crushing gizmo that dumped ice shavings into the “Party Yard”. He stuck a cover on it—complete with a two-foot-long straw stuck through the center—and handed it to me. All for the bargain price of $8.75.

Thrilled with my giant drink, I eagerly took a draw off my margarita. I nearly gagged. It tasted like limeade made with 20 cups of sugar mixed with tequila-flavored battery acid. I took a second draw to determine if it was really that bad. It was. At this point a wise voice in my head said, “Throw this away, Janet.” And as I normally do with the wise voices in my head, I ignored it. Besides, by the fourth sip, the alcohol hit. And as with all rot gut, it hit HARD.

At this point, the claw machines took on a new level of difficulty. I only got four for my allotted five bucks and one of them was a hideous Mr. Burns from the Simpsons. Also at this point—despite my loss of motor skills—I realized that I really liked my margarita. My margarita was my friend. A symbol of letting loose, of a great vacation. Like my own personal billboard that proclaimed “Party on, dudes!” Or more likely, “I have no taste and questionable judgment!”

I wandered by a game of knock-down-the-beach-balls-floating-on-a-cushion-of-air-with-a-beanbag. I won a stuffed bear on one throw and missed with the second. This plus my less-than-stellar achievements on the claw machines told me it was time to go. I worked my way back to the entrance. The last midway game I passed had giant prizes meaning the odds of winning were nearly impossible. But I had my Party Yard and playing one of these impossible games seemed like a great idea (kind of like the initial Party Yard idea).

The game consisted of a table filled with upright Coke bottles with a single red Coke bottle in the center. The prizes were giant stuffed bears, huge stuffed sharks and little foot-long stuffed flowers. I assumed the smaller prizes corresponded to the clear Coke bottles and the big stuffed animals went with the red Coke bottle in the middle. Object of the game was to throw a small, three-inch wooden ring over the top of the bottle. Ten rings for a dollar or twenty-five for two bucks. Since throwing around some wooden rings sounded like fun, I went for twenty-five rings. I’ve played this game at least once a year since I was five and have never won a damn thing. But fueled by the Party Yard, I decided I’d just have fun throwing the rings around. Reality at this point was rather fuzzy, anyway, and my vision wasn’t so great. But what did it matter? Throw the rings!

I threw the first ring and it landed on top of a clear Coke bottle. I blinked. The ring was still there. The girl running the game said, “I’ve never seen anyone do that before.” She removed the ring and I kept aiming for the red Coke bottle in the center. I missed the remaining 24 throws. I finished and waited for her to hand me the stupid stuffed flower. She indicated the giant stuffed animals hanging above us and asked, “Which one do you want?” I looked at her, stunned. “Are you sh**ing me?” (Thanks to the Party Yard, I’d lost my Swearing-In-Public-Filter.) She said no and gestured towards these GIANT stuffed animals.

Now extremely stunned, I happily chose a giant blue shark. Tip to tail, it’s nine feet long. Luckily it’s in the shape of a comma so it only stands five feet tall. Still, the thing is GARGANTUAN. And I had to carry it—along with my Party Yard and other stuffed animals—back to Harrah’s, which was three casinos plus two blocks away.

Giddy with victory, I hoisted the shark over my shoulder and began my trek back to my room. I caused quite a scene. Probably because I was giggling madly during the entire journey and told anyone who made eye contact with me “Hey, I may not be winning on the machines, but I won me a giant stuffed shark!” People were VERY amused (and not just by my use of bad English). That walk back to my hotel was some of the most fun I’ve had in years. Even the homeless drunks in the gutters greeted me with happy cheer.

When I finally arrived at Harrah’s, a security guard stopped me halfway to the elevators. With a serious expression he said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but we don’t allow sharks in here.” Then he burst out laughing. The rest of the night, I was the Shark Lady. Even without the shark.

What was even funnier was trying to fit the damn thing into my cousin’s Prius for the journey home.

The only bad thing about my fun evening was the hangover that hit at two o’clock in the morning and lasted for the following 48 hours. The Party Yard giveth (giant stuffed sharks), the Party Yard taketh away (umpteen brain cells). Of course it could have been the two beers and Cosmopolitan that followed. Whatever, I suffered almost as much as after the infamous Chippendale’s Night of Debauchery from 2005. You’d think by now, I’d have figured out how to avoid a hangover. Apparently not. At least now I have a new tool in my arsenal to fight hangovers: no more Party Yards.

Still, as I gaze at the gargantuan stuffed shark that now dominates my living room, I giggle. Not only is the thing hugely ridiculous, winning it was a great lesson for me. If I want something, all I have to do is try. If I keep trying, eventually I will succeed. I just never know when it will happen.

I also learned another very important lesson: stop making goals about acquiring things that don’t fit in the house. Sorry full-size replica of Robby the Robot, you just got taken off the list.

©2009, Janet Periat

Death: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

Been thinking a lot about death lately. Probably because about five hundred million famous people died recently. Billy Mays the infomercial guy and that singer dude, what’s-his-name. Michael something. Plus Farrah. And in my circle, someone died that I hated but who was revered by many. All of which has left me with some conflicting emotions. Our current culture doesn’t exactly promote healthy feelings towards death. Neither does my family. Especially when the dead person was Satan to some and God to others. Like MJ and this person I knew.

If you had a healthy relationship with the deceased, you go through a grieving process and then eventually heal. But when an abusive jerk dies, the process is more complicated. Some suddenly revere the abuser and recreate their past with them. Some people won’t let go of their hate, no matter how long the person’s been gone. But most people are torn about their hatred of the dead and don’t know what to do with their feelings.

As for me, when someone who was mean to me dies, I’m happy about it. Very happy. But people get freaked out when I express this. In my experience, most dead people get elevated to some sort of sainthood, even if they were jerks. I don’t get it. If the people were horrible when they were alive, they’re horrible when they’re dead. Death doesn’t erase their evil deeds, nor does it excuse them.

Nor do I understand why I can’t bitch about the dead. “Don’t speak ill of the dead.” Why not? What’s gonna happen? Like they’re gonna crawl out of their graves and return to defend themselves? I’ve been alive for fifty years and I speak ill of the dead daily. None of the people I’ve bitched about have returned. Look, I’ll do it right now. I hated my abusive, sadistic childhood dentist, Dr. Stanton (who also terrorized all my siblings). I was six, he was drilling on a tooth, it hurt, I said so. He told me it didn’t. I started crying. So he latched onto my jaw—digging his fingers painfully into my tender flesh and bone—and put his ugly face about an inch away from mine. With his eyes all bugged out, his teeth clenched and sweat beading on his warty forehead, he growled, “You’re not in pain!” This is a man that deserved to be dead. Like five seconds after he terrorized me. Freakin’ Dr. Mengele, the friendly children’s dentist. So, here I am, incredibly happy that the bastard is dead. The song that comes to mind is from the musical, Scrooge. People are dancing on Dr. Stanton’s coffin singing “Thank you very much, that’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me!” Now I’ll wait and see if his wormy corpse comes lurching through my door with his arms outstretched, repeating his famous line, “Don’t say ‘ow’, say ‘ow now brown cow’. Nope. He’s not there. See? Nothing happened.

Still, with death, it’s not always appropriate to voice one’s opinion and I’m very careful with whom I share my thoughts. And I certainly don’t speak ill of the dead in front of people who loved them. I may be feisty, but I’m not insensitive.

Which is why this week, I’ve pretty much kept my delight to myself. The only danger I can see with all my secret glee is that it speaks to some unresolved issues. I want to let go of my hate for the person (like I obviously need to do with Dr. Nasty Dentist). I want to let go of all my feelings for her. Because I don’t want to end up like my father.

My father has not let go of any grudge, ever. He bitches about dead people like they’re still in the room, tormenting him. Like my aunt whose been dead for five years. Last week, he spewed out his Holy Grail of grudges against his sister, working himself up to the same level of ferocity he always does when telling the story. His eyes turned red, he shook and sweated and spitted and growled. “She was rotten. Rotten! Spoiled brat. Ever since I accidentally shot her when she was five. We told her, time and time again, don’t play in front of the barrel! But no, she wouldn’t listen, so the gun went off and then she told everyone from then on that I shot her!” Okay, this happened in 1931 when Dad was nine and Jacquie was five. He is eighty-seven, she is DEAD. This is a seventy-eight-year-old grudge. Longer than the average lifespan of most people. This is a grudge that started when Herbert Hoover was president. When Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion. When Charlie Chaplin starred in City Lights. When the Empire State Building was built. Before World War Two.

So while I’m thrilled my evil enemies are dead, I don’t want to go overboard. I want to let it all go. What I want to feel for them is nothing. And I don’t ever want to think about them again.

Which brings me to the best thing about death: the reminder that someday I will die. While I’m making every effort to last until I’m 104 (I recently got an expiration date tattooed on me: Best Before: 9/11/2063), I want to pack as much fun and write as many novels as I can before I leave. I don’t want to waste one more moment thinking about the people who were mean to me. I want to embrace life, not death.

So while I’m tempted to go dance on a certain person’s grave, I think about my father and his seventy-eight-year-old grudge. While I might allow myself a quick jig right now, in the future I don’t need to be ranting about dead jerks while I’m piloting my flying car up to the Starbucks hovering over the Bay. I’d rather be enjoying the view.

©2009, Janet Periat

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