One Awkward Fire Alarm

For today’s reading pleash, which is how you say ‘reading pleasure’ when you feel the need to unnecessarily and obnoxiously abbreviate random words, even though that craze probably went out like ten years ago, I’m going to dip back into the archives and share a tale from the days of yore. More specifically 2009. Or maybe 2010. Not great a record keeping but it’s not important when it happened. It’s just important that it did.

Wow, deep thoughts. Regular Deepak Chopra right here.

So this story, which involves firefighters, popped into my mind recently after chatting with a friend who had an amazing tale about how her husband sett their grill on fire and caused an (understandable) uproar in their building and the fire department was called and now they have the charred remains of their former grill still sitting on the deck, because they don’t want to be spotted carrying it to the dumpsters and have neighbors realize it was THEM who caused the commotion. Classic. She’s also the same friend who locked herself in the bathroom of our college apartment for several hours. Girl gets ALL the best stories!

So I will hijack it and tell one of my own. A few years ago I was living in this semi-gross, third-floor walk up in Hell’s Kitchen with two of my girlfriends. It was bizarrely laid out with a huge kitchen on one end and random rooms blocked off inside - including one tiny bedroom in the middle of the apartment with no windows to the outside world. It was pretty weird but affordable and in a cool location and had lots of exposed brick so it worked for us. The stairs were so narrow and steep I used to joke (hilariously) that I wasn’t at all worried about being robbed or raped or murdered. By the time a criminal hauled himself all the way up the stairs, he’d have no energy left for violence. Dark humor?

One summer night we were all sleeping peacefully when the fire alarm started making a strange beeping noise. It wasn’t a full on beepbeepbeepbeep indicating a fire, or the four beep repeating noise that the manual said would alert to carbon monoxide poisoning but a random yet steady pattern of noise. Beep....pause....pause....pause...beep! And so forth. I was not awakened by the noise, but rather by the sound of my roommates knocking on my door, yelling for me to get up. This would mark the second time in a few short months that I slept through impending disaster. Earlier that year, the toilet in the apartment above us cracked (our ever sensitive super informed us it was all the fault of the fat girl living up there, real nice), and caused our entire bathroom ceiling to collapse. I slept through the entire thing. Granted, my bedroom was the furthest from the bathroom, but apparently for several hours that night my roommates were running around yelling, making phone calls, letting maintenance men in to inspect and just causing a real riot and I slept through the entire thing.

What!

And now, on the night of the alarm, I have to be pulled out of bed. I usually have trouble falling asleep and never thought I was a heavy sleeper, but it seems that when I’m out, I’m out. This does not bode well for my safety or that of my future children. Probably someone will break into my home and kidnap my children and I’ll sleep through it but NO ONE will believe me, because why would you, and I’ll end up in some sort of horrible Madeleine McCann situation or like that sad Baby Lisa whose mom was drunk on Wal Mart wine on her porch and everyone will think I am a murderer when actually I’m just an innocent lady who sleeps too much. Oh, that will be horrible. On the plus side, it’s a pretty sure bet for a Lifetime Movie, so I guess I have that to look forward to?

Annnnyyyywaaaay...now that we’ve taken that detour into Insane Anxiety Town, where I am the mayor and Grand Poobah, let’s just get quickly back on track here. Where were we? Yes. At the very beginning of the story because I am a master storyteller who always sticks to the point.

I’m awakened by my panicked roommates, knocking on the door, worrying over the alarm. One thinks it means carbon monoxide, the other thinks it could mean general poison and me? I just want to go back to bed. For all of my usual unfounded paranoia, when faced with actual life or death situations I remain almost freakishly calm. My roommates were convinced we were going to be poisoned to death. “Let’s just all go back to sleep and see who’s alive in the morning,” was my helpful reply.

I still think it’s a pretty good strategy.

They (rightfully) ignored me and we decided that it was probably nothing, but we ought to call 9-1-1 just to get someone on the line for a quick lil chat, ask them if they could advise on what the beeps meant, and then tuck back into bed. Wa-helll, apparently when you call the fire department and say you have a mysterious beeping, it is their duty to not just sit there and gab with you about fire alarm noises, but to RUSH over and investigate.

“We’re sending someone over!” they said. “Right away.”

“Oh geez,” we replied. “Um, it might not actually be an emergency? I mean, it might be? But tell them to take their time. Please don’t have them use their sirens.”

Five minutes later, what do we hear? Sirens. Followed by the banging footsteps of four large men in full like, Iron Man style protective gear storming up our tiny staircase.. They burst into the apartment, armed with fire extinguishers and axes, and found the three of us clustered underneath the beeping fire alarm, just staring at it, like a bunch of lost goats or something. Also, now is as good a time as any to drop in the detail that it was mid-July and hot as Hades AND we didn’t have air conditioning, so we were wearing as little clothing as humanly possible.

Sweaty firemen, scantily clad damsels in distress and the sultry heat of New York City? Sounds like the start of an award-winning pornographic film, no?

Actually NO. The firefighters seemed not so much aroused as extremely annoyed that they just sprinted up our steep, terrifying staircase for, well, nothing. Because I bet you can guess how this story ends, can’t you?

It’s pretty simple. The beeping? Not a fire. Not carbon monoxide or dioxide or trioxide or any sort of poison. Just an auditory warning that we needed to change the battery.

I don’t know if there is just one word in the English language to sum up the emotion you feel when you realize that you just summoned a troop of heavily armed firefighters to rush to your home and tell you the battery on your smoke alarm is dead and oh, also, you’re in your UNDERPANTS but I feel like mortified might come close? Horrifically embarrassed? Shamed to the point of no return?

Nope, still not adequately portraying how awkward this moment was. I guessssss it was for the best that we called the authorities, better safe than sorry, plus now we have this great story, but none of this would have happened if everyone had just listened to me, gone back to bed, and hoped for the best come morning.

So basically best of luck to future housemates/children: I hope you’re light sleepers. Otherwise you will probably die tragically, while I’m off somewhere snoring away. My bad.

Aaand to illustrate this post, why not share this AMAZING YouTube video which reminds us "there is nothing sexier than a firefighter that knows how to use his hose."

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvnIukwSbt8]

(haha who made this?! Have any of you ever made a YouTube dedication to something you love and if so what and can I please see it?!)

A Series of Awkward Auditions

Ok are we sick of post-Oscars coverage yet? Usually I could spend weeeeeks just devouring party pictures and detailed articles about handbag sequin application but this year I'm already feeling exhausted. Somehow, deserved or not, Sunday's ceremony has spawned endless, lengthy diatribes about misogyny and racism and whether or not it breaks comedy rules to apologize for a joke, even if that "joke" involved calling a 9-year-old (the world's most awesome 9-year-old) a see-you-next-Tuesday. And while yes, we probably do need to be having these conversations, sometimes, internet, maybe we could NOT have conversations and just look at pictures of pretty poofy party princess people? I've resorted to alliteration to attempt to express just how over it I truly am. I might need to stop reading Jezebel.

Well! Now that I've gone on an angry rant about angry rants, allow me to turn the conversation to the joys of the Academy Awards, way back in the days of yore when I was but a sweet young thang, dreaming about the future. In my youth, whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always answered that I wanted to be an Academy Award-Winning Actress. Not just actress. Academy Award-Winning Actress. Those first three words were most important. This was my dream career until I was about ... 16. I didn't do any plays or musicals or acting of any kind, because that was clearly unnecessary. I did, however, read an unhealthy amount of People Magazine. My goal never really had much to do with acting. It was all about fame.

Ohhhh how much I've changed!

I did, however, make a few pathetic attempts to get my foot in the door of that whole acting game. I knew that winning an Oscar was going to take some work. I ain't stupid. In 9th Grade I tried out for our high school's Spring Musical: Oliver! The ! is part of the name, just like that stupid band Fun. that I love/hate. But in this instance I was really excited to tell you about Oliver! so the ! is relevant. (Wasn't that sentence impossible to read? Oh Fun.! I love your catchy medleys but why must you punctuate?) I actually don't remember very much about this audition except that I was too tall to be one of the urchins, too terrible at singing to even be in the chorus and had a hard time keeping up with any of the dance steps.

Needless to say: I did not make the cast.

A pal of mine also did not make the list, so we came up with the genius idea to write our own musical that we could star in. It was a story about...wait for it...two awesome girls who try out for a musical and don't make it so they write their own musical...and star in it. Art drawn from life is always the most meaningful, no? We were in this photography class and we used our dark room time to compose our big musical number, which went like this:

We're writing our very own musical,

we hope you enjoy the show.

So sit back, relax, and take off your hats,

Cuz you're gonna like it we know!

At the third line we'd do this super cool move where we sort of dipped, like we were sitting down in a chair, and then took off our imaginary hats with a flourish.

Aaaaand that was it. The entire musical. AMAZING. Geniuses. We gave up after four lines, despite our obvious talent. A loss for the world of culture, to be sure.

But, after failing in 9th Grade, did I quit? Well, yes, I did just admit I abandoned my original musical project, so I guess I was a quitter in certain areas of life, but I did not quit auditioning. Yet. The following year our school did a production of The Wizard of Oz, everyone's favorite musical production starring midgets. I knew I lacked the talent to be Dorothy, or the Tin Man or either of the Witches or really any character whatsoever BUT I saw a way for me to get up on that stage. I would be a flying monkey! I could achieve stardom and attain the power to fly at the same time, killing the two proverbial birds with one star-making stone.

I imagined myself wearing a cute, fluffy outfit with one of those little fez caps, whizzing through the air on invisible strings, like Mary Martin in Peter Pan. Oh, how the audience would LOVE me! Unfortunately our musical theater suffered from a small budget and, perhaps a too large amount of creative vision, so our director decided that instead of flying from harnesses, our monkeys would skate around on rollerblades and convey flight via death-defying sk8r stunts.

Was I a talented roller blader? Um, no. In fact, I find roller blading terrifying. I don't like that you have to lean backwards to break and can't just put your foot down when you start going too fast. Yes, I am afraid of roller blading. I actually had that listed as one of my five personal facts on my OK Cupid profile. Another was that I don't know how fax machines work. It's really weird how that site never really worked out for me, huh? ANYWAY, I did not let this fear stop me. A friend and I foolishly assumed that no one else would really try out for this dumb role, surely the cool skater dudes were much too busy shopping for Vans and listening to Sublime and such to try out for a school musical. They'd be forced to cast us in these prime roles purely out of desperation!

We were mistaken. When we showed up to auditions that fateful afternoon the auditorium was filled, filled!, with skater boiz. Wall to wall, there they were, with their wallet chains and their wide leg pants and their regulation cool guy blades and there we were with our neon pink roller blades rescued from elementary school. Bonus to being an early developing, oversized child monster: shoes you fit into at age 9 still fit when you're 16!

The audition was simple. Start at the top of the main auditorium aisle, skate down the slight incline and when you reach the bottom, do a trick! Some boys did flips. Some jumped all the way up on to the stage. NONE of them were wearing their wrist guards. Did their mothers not lecture the on the dangers of roller blading? My friend and I contemplated just running for the hills, but we'd come too far to quit. Our names were on the sign up sheet! We would try out for this musical, and we would look great doing it.

We decided to do the audition together. We lined up at the top of the auditorium, skated warily down the aisle, and when we reached the bottom of the incline we did not jump or flip or leap up on the stage. We just slowly turned and skated out of the auditorium, and out of the school and never looked back.

I know this is going to come as a surprise to you but we were not cast as flying monkeys in that or any other musical performance. Probably for the best. If my memory serves, one of the monkey skaters broke his leg on stage on opening night. Ouch. I did help with set design that year which, so at least I got in one solid season of being a Theater Kid.

And thus, my acting dreams ended. I still secretly want to win an Academy Award, but now instead of for acting, it is for the revolutionary and amazing romantic comedy I always pretend I'm going to write. If it is anything like my attempt at musical theater, they will probably have to just cancel the Oscars all together and come up with a whole new award ceremony just for me and my greatness.

I promise I'll thank you all!

muppets of oz

Unfortch I do not have any photos from these special times, so here is a gratuitous stock photo of the Muppets Wizard of Oz which apparently starred the always great Ashanti in the role of Dorothy Gale. HOW have I never seen this production?!

One Awkward Trip Down Memory Lane

So there’s this thing going around the literary world called National Novel Writing Month or, NaNoWriMo. You can read all about it here but basically it’s a program of sorts set up to inspire writers to write more, a lot, every day, for a month. The end goal: 50,000 words. Yowza! They say: “Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.”  This, my friends is just the kick in the pants I’ve been looking for. You know I am prone to falling for distractions, like a magpie, except baited by stylish TV dramas instead of sparkly things. The latest in an endless string of televised obsessions: “Friday Night Lights.” Oh my gosh, y’all, (Tami Taylor voice) I haven’t wept this hard since the first time I saw “My Girl.” But now I have a reason to write! Not a novel, no duh, if it’s not about me who gives a whoop, but here! And maybe elsewhere!  To be more serious about my writing and maybe, just maybe, turn this into a real thing that I do. I am going to write 50,000 words before the end of November and you bitches get to read every. single. word.

I begin today, but I’m facing a new problem. In addition to my endless string of distractions and excuses I’ve just been boring! I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I haven’t fallen or farted or flashed or done anything cool for weeeeeeks. I’m boring! I’m a husk of my former self. I did break out the nude suit for Halloween once again, but at this point that’s pretty much my standard uniform, so no awkwardness ensued. What’s that you said? You want photographic proof? Fine!

Sadly this isn’t Nude Suit Wearing Month (NuSuWeMo) so vainly displaying faux-naked photos of myself does not bring me any closer to my 50,000 word goal. I must persevere. For myself! For my readers. For NaNoWriMo! It’s time to go back, to dig deep into the annals of my wildly humiliating history. To start using the word “annals” correctly, and not laugh every time I see it in print. Lower your expectations, take risks and fly with me! We’re going back, way back, to Elizabethtown, PA in June of 2001 to one of the defining afternoons in a lifetime of insane moments.

Here we go...

---

It was the second day of summer vacation, we’d just finished tenth grade. I’d had my license for just over two months. It only took me three tries to pass the drivers’ test. This, my friends, is what we novelists like to call foreshadowing.

I was friends with these two gals I’ll call Jane and Linda. They were not friends with one another but did have one small (or maybe big, I never saw it!) thing in common: the penis of a boy I’ll call Tim. Tim was a regular rogue-about-town who was bf/gf with Jane while hooking up with Linda on the side. I was hooking up with exactly no one so I had pah-lenty of time and energy to concern myself with the sexploits of my more exciting friends.

Jane found out about Linda - cheating never works, kids! - and in a move ripped right from the “Laguna Beach” playbook, decided to discuss this teen aged  betrayal in person at our local playground. I went along as a neutral third party and also as Linda’s ride. I pushed myself in circles on the merry-go-round while they hashed out their Eskimo sister problems and then gave Linda a ride back to her house.

On my way home, I stopped at a one of the four Turkey Hill mini-marts in my thriving, exciting central Pennsylvania home town to re-fill the gas in my dad’s Isuzu Rodeo, which is what I was driving at the time. I meant to get $15 (back when I was your age that went a pretty long way) but spaced and went over, so had to get $16 because I don’t like when things aren’t right at the dollar. This is not a very important plot point but does give some evidence at how distracted I was in this moment. Just remember this! While pumping I read a very convincing advertisement proclaiming “It’s hot outside! Get yourself an ice-cold Slushie!”

“Don’t mind if I do”, I thought to myself. “Don’t mind if I do.”

Refuelled with $16 of gas and 24-oz of frozen Coca Cola I made my way for home. At this point I will now refer you to the diagram below, which provides a professional artist’s rendering of my childhood home and the scene of the story that is about to enfold:

I grew up on probably the third busiest street in town, across from the local university. We had a big driveway on the side of our house which was notoriously treacherous to turn into due to the placement of a telephone pole smack-dab in the right-side entrance of the drive, Exhibit A on your diagram. I was coming down the road in such a direction that I needed to make a left-hand turn to get into the driveway. A car was coming in the opposite direction, so I had to idle and wait for him to pass. Distracted, as I mentioned earlier, by the intense emotional discussions held that afternoon, I drove the littlest bit too far, forcing myself to turn at a pretty serious angle to get into the driveway without hitting the telephone pole.

I should also mention, at this point, that I was driving one-handed. The Isuzu Rodeo did not yet come standard with cup-holders, so I had to hold my XL frozen beverage in one hand while steering with the other. I chose to use my dominant right hand to hold this cup while steering a moving motor vehicle with my weak left arm. Good decisions abound throughout this story. The oncoming car passed me and I cut hard on the wheel with my left arm, hit the gas and gunned it for the driveway.

I honestly can’t recall how fast I was going at the time, but I’m willing to bet it was a slightly higher speed than one needs to gently turn into their own driveway, and as I pulled in, I realized I’d cut too far and was now about to run over my mother’s gorgeous flower bed, which is Exhibit B on the map. Instead of a) hitting the break or b) hitting the break I decided to c) attempt to reroute myself and get back onto the driveway. A fatal mistake.

Right next to said flower bed is Exhibit C, a low stone wall running along the left side of my driveway. The wall was just the right height and width to fit underneath an Isuzu Rodeo. I heard the grinding sound of metal on stone as the undercarriage of the car tore along the top of the stone wall and panic set in. I attempted to just put the car in reverse and back off the wall the way I came, but oh no, we were stuck. In hysterics I leaped out of the car, onto a bush, spilling my delicious Slushie all down the front of the orange halter top I’d recently purchased from the Alloy catalogue (2 for 1 deal with a neon-pink one shouldered tank top, I was pretty hot shit back in the day) and my family rushed out of the house, where they’d been eating dinner at the kitchen table, an Norman Rockwell moment ruined by an idiot daughter.

The next hours are a blur of shame. We called a tow-truck to come remove the clearly dead car from atop the wall. When he arrived he discovered it was more than a one-man job. Exhibit D on the diagram represents the gas main to our house which was now resting right next to the crashed car. He was nervous he might spark something and cause the car and gas-main to both ignite, blowing up our entire neighborhood and lord, in that moment, I wished he would. Death by gas explosion would have been much more preferable to what came next.

He called on a second tow-truck for assistance and also, due to said risk of explosion, brought in the fire department to be on hand just in case.  As I mentioned earlier, I lived on a very busy street in town a street which was now shut down for one full block in order to accommodate the fleet of emergency vehicles needed to deal with this situation. Parked outside my house were:

Two tow trucks A fire truck Some kind of fire van A police car A small medic van

A crowd gathered across the street. Neighbors and friends called, concerned our house was on fire, or that someone was injured or dead. Oh no, nothing like that. Liz just wrecked the car on our property and now might blow up the house. Nothing major.

I laid in my bed, in the dark, weeping.  Which is actually what I did all weekend watching FNL, but I digress.

After the wreckage was towed, we had to deal with the insurance company. My mom talked to them first and then I got on the line to tell my story. I held it together pretty well until the end...

“I have to ask you,” she said, “had you been drinking?”

“Yeeeeeehhhhhhhssssss” I sputtered, blubbering,  and wracked with guilt. “I had a Slushie!”

Such a guilt-ridden, goodie two-shoes was I that I legitimately thought she was asking if I was holding a cup, not if I’d been boozing.

The car was totalled, in case you’re curious, and I spent the rest of the summer walking a mile up hill both ways! to my job at the local movie theater and putting up with merciless teasing from my friends. I’d like to tell you this was the last time I ever drove a car, but that would be a lie. I drove many more times, resulting in several near death experiences, at least two instances of getting on an exit ramp in the wrong direction and one minor fender bender in college that I never told my mom about.

Hi mom!!

But now I live in a big city with ample public transportation, where my lack of grace is no longer an insurance liability.

The Jane/Linda/Tim love triangle continued for a while before taking a wild turn when I entered the mix, losing my virginity to Tim on the same merri-go-round I sat whilst his two other lovers had their dramatic confrontation. But that is another story for another time.

It is also not true.

(Just 48,185 words to go!)