Warning: some adult topics, foul language, and potential blasphemy used by some of the people in tonight's post.
Politics here in Trenton are kind of tumultuous these days, and I would like to have gone to the city council meeting tonight, except I am saddled with a cold I can't quite shake, one that's keeping me coughing all night so that I cannot sleep. Right now, I probably don't need the extra excitement.
But I wonder what will happen tonight, if anything? I wonder how people can have so many different opinions? How can I agree with some people on this issue, but have totally opposing views on a different issue? Politics are complicated, and often divisive, and because of that, it's nice to retreat back into a good human interest story, because personal stories, too, are often complicated and divisive, but have the benefit of leaving you with a sense of smug superiority, because at least this time the complicated messiness didn't happen to you. In this time of political unrest, it was a small gift from above to read the story last week about the Birthday Party Gone Bad at Baldassari's, in which party attendees fought over who would take home the leftover chicken and birthday cake, which resulted in ELEVEN arrests. Eleven arrests! Over chicken and birthday cake! Awesome stuff!
I'm glad I can still chuckle about the Baldassari Birthday Brawl, when I have, too, celebrated a birthday this weekend with my family (my official date of birth is today, and I am 39, which is just ridiculous), that fell well outside the boundaries of what polite society would deem proper or normal. No one fought over the leftovers, and alas, no one got arrested; and maybe I should have some shame, or pride, or something, but I don't. Everyone in my family sees me walking around with the friggin' camera around my neck at every single event, and they all know I keep a blog. Some family members claim they are too busy to read my blog. Tsk tsk. The guilty parties in my story only have themselves to blame.
Some quick background:
My parents are Mike and Maggie
My sisters are Karen and Jenny
Karen is dating Bryan (name changed)
Jenny is married to Rich
Karen's birthday is December 10th, mine is the 11th; we tend to get together to celebrate each year.
My sisters and I were brought up Catholic, but my sister, Jenny became a Baptist when she got married.
Boyfriend Bryan was raised by Jehovah Witnesses, but says he's not a practicing member.
We all assembled at Jenny and Rich's house in the early afternoon on Saturday, and Karen and I opened our gifts. Most notably, I got a dozen Harry and David pears and 6 dozen cookies from my mother; a pair of comfy Ugg slippers/shoes from my sisters, and a lovely jewel-encrusted turtle from my sister Karen. Aaron took approximately 50 photos of the tree and his grandmother and Karen and Bryan. We then ordered pizza; the men went to pick it up, and they returned back with five pizzas and quite a few six-packs of beer.
My mother, Karen, Jenny, Bryan and I went to the dining room to eat our pizza, and even though I was having an enjoyable conversation with my niece, Megan, I noticed, peripherally, Boyfriend Bryan brought up politics, something I thought we all were taught not to do at a function like a birthday party, but Bryan does all the time, with abandon. Politically, for the record, I agree with him, and my sister Jenny doesn't. Nonetheless, I firmly believe he is out of line for coming into my sister's house and broadcasting his political views when he knows (for a fact) the owners of the house do not agree with him. I continued to chat with Megan, but in the background I heard "Clinton this," and "Clinton that," erupting from various bodies around me (which drives me up a friggin' wall, because they were talking about Bill, not even Hillary, who is at least part of current events; we are nearly SEVEN friggin' years away from the Clinton Days), and then, entirely without warning, Jenny and Bryan disagreed loudly about the details of an adulterous affair that two of their friends are having.
"YOU ARE LYING" my sister Jenny bellowed. And I believe her, because she's got her feet on the ground and a firm grasp of reality, and is not one prone to bellowing without good reason.
Bryan hollered back, "I SWEAR ON YOUR BAPTIST GOD THAT I'M NOT LYING."
Everyone fell silent. Jenny left the room. Megan left the room. Karen left the room (but came back a minute or so later).
I was surprised that Bryan lived through the night after that.
Without skipping a beat, my mother said, "So, Bryan, I understand your mother is an artist. What type of art does she do?"
Now, a quick aside, my mother is an artist, and she says she's too busy to read my blog. So she may never know that I have written this, but I personally found it shocking that she asked Bryan about his mother's art, since my mother is singularly focused on her own artistic endeavors.
At this time, Karen came back into the room, and sat down.
Bryan said his mother works in oils.
My mother replied, dismissively, "Oh. I used to do oil. Oil is easy."
My mother has since mentioned that we "misconstrued" what she said, but I am not the only one who heard it; she said, "Oil is easy," a short, memorable sentence, uttered clearly, and directly, and was understood by everyone in the room. Karen and I tried to intervene, tried to do some damage control, but my mother brushed off these attempts.
Bryan look somewhat confounded, but handled the "oil is easy" comment well, and he forged on. "Oh. Okay. What type of art do you do, Maggie?"
And completely void of any emotion, my mother said, "I started out in oil, but moved on to watercolor. I am fascinated with watercolor."
I decided to find a child to hang out with, because it's far less uncomfortable listening to kids than it is to witness the awkward conversation of adults. As I was leaving the room, Bryan took my seat, which was closer to my mother's seat, and I heard him say, "Now Maggie, I heard you were going to write a letter to my boss? You aren't going to do that are you?" And he asked it completely without venom, completely non-confrontationally, with pure innocent curiosity. I really truly envy that ability; I don't think I would have been able to ask the question without it steeped in sarcasm or acid.
Another quick aside: It was completely wrong that my whole family knew that Bryan received a hefty bonus last month from his employer. He works for a public utility, and my mother, who now lives in Maryland, felt strongly that the hefty bonus should have been applied so that New Jersey residents would have lower utility bills. I don't disagree with her opinion; but I also know that if Glen came home with a bonus that hefty, even if he worked for a public utility, I'd be pretty freakin' happy. My mother said when she found out about Bryan's bonus, that she was going to write a letter to the utility to suggest the money should be used to lower costs for ratepayers.
Hence Bryan's question, "Now, Maggie, I heard you were going to write a letter to my boss..."
I heard my mother say, "No," as I went upstairs to admire the Millenium Falcon and USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) my ambitious nephews had constructed out of Legos.
A short time later, the fun continued in the living room, where we all settled for some chill-out time. I drifted in and out of the adult conversation, which may have been for the best. I heard from the couch near the staircase, Bryan, who is 35 I think, talk about how he tried Viagra. "Now, don't get me wrong, I don't NEED it, but I wanted to see what it would do." I looked up, and was distressed to see that he was speaking with my father, who luckily, is deaf in the ear closest to Bryan, but unfortunately, Bryan has very good delivery, and, in this instance, stood up in front of my father, and added a visual dimension to his story.
"That shit gets you HARD, Mike. REALLY hard." This is when he stood up, and pretended to be holding a piece of sheetrock in front of his genitals. "So hard, that I could have [thrust thrust thrust] drilled [thrust] a piece [thrust] of sheetrock [thrust] with [thrust] my [thrust] cock [slam!]!!"
I couldn't even look up, out of embarrassment. Did he really just say that to my father? the father of his girlfriend?
Later, Bryan told Glen and me a joke: "What has two thumbs and loves blow jobs?"
We looked at him, worried.
"THIS GUY!" he said, pointing his thumbs at himself.
The night wound down with Jenny announcing, in earnest, that she would like to enter a triathlon (FYI, I have never written that word before...why would I, as opposed to sports as I am, as is most of my family [save for hockey]; my spellchecker was going crazy, and I finally had to look it up...I thought there was another vowel between the h and the l), once she loses some more weight. She's lost about 25 pounds in the last couple of months and looks great.
Now, I'm all for setting big goals, so I took Jenny's announcement seriously, even though it is kind of astonishing that my baby sister, the one who hates the out-of-doors, would consider a triathlon, of all things, which takes place, for the most part, out-of-doors. My parents and Bryan were not inspired by Jenny's big dream, and instead cracked up...to the point of having tears streaming down their faces. Karen, Glen, Rich, Jenny and I weren't laughing, and Jenny, who was still very pissed about Bryan's "your Baptist God" comment, says to me that it's so nice that at least my husband is supportive. Glen does like to be helpful, and he he soon started outlining the details of Jenny's training regimen, and how hard it would be, but he thinks she could do it, etc...
...and then infers that she'd be entering a Special Olympics triathlon. Everyone started to giggle uncomfortably at that point, and Jenny said to me, "Forget it, I hate him too."
...and Glen adds, as if to get in her good graces again, that he'll be riding in the car alongside her, urging her on, and offering her water, and then oh-so-helpfully adds, "I'll be sure to trip that mongo in front of you, so you'll at least be able to come in second to last place."
Then, we had cake and coffee, and it was decided that Glen and I would take the leftover pizza, and Jenny and Rich would keep the cake. There were no physical confrontations, and no one got arrested, but my 39th birthday party was still a memorable night. I was willing to share the story of my birthday party, first, as a distraction from politics, but also as a reminder it's just a matter of time before your own birthday party goes terribly, terribly awry.