The South of Jersey
Latest profile saga update 5/14/2012 (I made a promise to myself and all three of my faithful readers to change my profile every so often. This is the umpteenth version of it in the 3 or 4 months that I've been writing. My last profile was kind of bland, mostly because I kind of stuck to the truth and didn't divulge too much info about myself. I'm still not too keen on divulging excess amounts of personal info, so I've decided to lie. I'm not going to tell little white lies or fibs, I'm going to tell extravagant, malodorous lies with obvious fantasy value for myself.)
I was born just 32 years ago in a small town outside Vienna (Austria, not Virginia). My parents were industrial spies. They stole corporate secrets and sold them to the highest bidders. Sadly, my father Karlheinz, was caught in the act of pilfering the highly confidential pastry recipe for one of Austria's largest strudel concerns. The company denied any foul play, but my father was never seen again. There are stories, some say urban legends, some say fabrications, of a special batch of strudel which never saw the light of day, but was incinerated by the quality control gestapo at the Austrian Strudel Syndicate. My dear father Karlheinz may well have been in that strudel, and to this day, it's not easy for me to eat strudel. I need to have a large glass of ice cold milk and be really hungry before I'll eat it.
My mother, Brunhilda, was understandably distraught over my father's disappearance. After pining for him for several years, she could wait no longer. She uprooted my sister Lottie and me, taking us to the new world (which was actually not all that new anymore). We ended up in two room apartment in Bayonne, NJ.
Once I reached my teenage years, I decided that I should start trying to earn some money to help with the household expenses. I traveled across the river to New York City and found work in movies and television production. I worked whenever I could fit it in with my studies, part time as a "key grip" and some of the time as a "best boy". I made some decent money and Mom sure appreciated the help. To this day, I have no idea what those jobs were, no one does.
Show biz was a decent place to make a few dollars, and it afforded me the chance to meet my first wife. Her birth name was Brenda Kovalcheski. For reasons of confidentiality and to satisfy the terms of my prenup, I'll refrain from divulging her stage name. We met on the set of one of her bigger flops, a romantic comedy with absolutely no redeeming qualities.
She apparently felt that slumming around by dating a stagehand might give her life the taste of excitement which was missing. It seems the prescription medications she was swallowing , snorting and otherwise ingesting were not doing the trick. I was a nice diversion for her and I'll admit that it was a decent way of getting out of Bayonne.
We married in a small civil ceremony in the South of France. My mother, embittered by the tragic loss of her husband, refused to recognize our relationship and did not attend. My sister, who weighed nearly 350 pounds at the time of the wedding, was not invited. My bride was concerned that the paparazzi would end up capturing my "cow of a sister" as we exchanged our vows and splash it all over the tabloids. As it happened, my wife's career was too far gone for the tabloids to care, despite her best efforts at baiting them to do so. She was convinced that if we made the wedding low-key enough and remote enough, the cameras would be there. Brenda even went as far as staging a wild night of partying complete with a very public fight and even more public make-up session the week before in three of Paris' more trendy nightspots.
When it was finally time to walk down the aisle in the vineyard, she kept glancing to the side and surrounding countryside for the cameras. When none were spotted, I was certain she would call off the whole thing. Luckily her publicist had hired a helicopter and photographer for just such a situation. When the tell-tale chopping of air came over the trees to the east, her face lit up like a bride on her wedding day. She quickly slid back into character and tried her best to look furious that her beautiful, special day had been ruined by her own fame.
We honeymooned in French Polynesia. Apparently helicopter rental fees were beginning to outweigh the money she was generating for her publicist, so we had relative peace and quiet. Without the specter of helicopter-born photographers, Brenda soon became convinced that two chunky couples from the Midwest were in fact cleverly disguised paparazzi, using the para-sail to get a bird's eye view of our bliss. One night, well-buzzed with horse tranquilizers and Screaming Yellow Monkey Fart shots, Brenda staggered over to their table and confronted them. The situation was made much worse when it became obvious that they had absolutely no idea who she was. One thing led to another and by the next morning, we were flying back to L.A.
Somehow, in her warped logic, the entire episode had become my fault. She bemoaned her poor strategic choice of marrying a stagehand, wishing aloud that she had snatched up Ryan Seacrest or a lip-stick lesbian instead of someone as bland as me. After a week in La La Land with nothing in the tabloids, Brenda was beyond despondent. Being kicked out of a 4 star resort is bad enough, but not having it show up in the Enquirer was too much for her to take. Her personal assistant sent me a text message giving me the bad news that our marriage was being dissolved due to irreconcilable differences.
Sunburned and bewildered, I moved out of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel as quickly as I could, as I knew that my credit card would soon be worthless. I pawned my garish wedding ring and started trying to find a new direction for my life.
Having been to Bora Bora and France while alienating my loving family in the process, Bayonne was less of an option than ever. Besides, I was ready to live my life on my own terms.
I knocked around southern California for a few years, doing odd jobs and trying to find myself. As it happens, there is no shortage of people in that region who cannot seem to find themselves either. Eventually I found myself on a bus back East. When we had a pee stop outside Harrisburg PA, I decided that swinging into Bayonne unannounced might be a little dramatic as far as my mother and sister were concerned. I grabbed my bag off of the bus and stuck out my thumb, changing course slightly for Philadelphia.
I found a place to live outside of Philly in nearby Manayunk. The place is interesting and took me back to my Alpine roots. Not because of any overtly Austrian culture, but because the entire town in either uphill or downhill. The only level sidewalk is a 7 foot stretch in front of a plumbing supply store. Homeless people often fight for the exact spot, not wishing to have to prop themselves against objects all night to keep from rolling in their sleep.
I found work in Philadelphia, running a small gourmet cheese shop. Business was good. The owner didn't tell me, but I quickly figured out that cheese wasn't the only product. It turns out the entire place was a front for a high end prostitution business. The number of men in dark glasses with diplomatic tags on their cars was a dead giveaway. The fact that we were in a high priced real estate location and only sold a few wedges of smoked gouda each week was also a bit of a tip off.
My brief marriage to a lunatic B grade movie starlet served me well, and the ladies all took a liking to me. I was like a brother to many of the girls and they knew if things got dicey, they could count on me to wield a mean girolle cheese knife to protect them from clients who were trying to get rough. In truth, the girolle knife is used to make Swiss cheese into decorative forms, but these VIP's didn't know any better.
One of the workers was a girl who I'll refer to as Penny, but her real name was Glenda Ayers Roberson from Baltimore. Glenda, I mean Penny, really took a shine to me. When she heard my tale of love and loss, I could see her heart melting. If I could have known sooner how handy my sob-story would be, I would've made one up years earlier.
I fell for Penny. Her cocoa colored skin and auburn weave reminded me of the nothing in particular, but when I drink cocoa now or see unnaturally colored weaves, it reminds me of her. I became increasingly troubled by her turning tricks with politicians and high powered lawyers. It was bad enough that she was prostituting herself, but that clientele was simply nauseating.
She explained to me that she had to work to support her habit. She was not addicted to crack or heroin, it was something much worse. She was an Eagles fan.
For those of you who aren't aware, being an Eagles fan can drive people to do things they wouldn't normally do. The habit is filled with moments of utter despair balanced with occasional sporadic highs.
The true addict is unable to watch the Eagles (or The Birds as users like to call them) on television unless they're playing an away game. When home, the Eagles addict will spend several days in a binge of green and shame. Penny would often disappear for the days surrounding home games against division rivals. She'd come wandering into the cheese shop sometime the following Tuesday, her voice hoarse, her knees skinned, her eyes blood shot with stains of green paint under her nails.
Typically she would have dealt with alcohol, fried food and dope fueled orgy of tailgating, only to then subject herself to poor clock management by Andy Reid and a porous defense. After watching yet another critical loss, she would repair to the nearest Winnebago to lick her wounds and resume the death spiral of addiction and denial. The hard cold truth, is that no amount of keg beer or pot brownies could soothe the pain within her.
Week after week, she would tell herself that she was done with the "men in green". That she would be better off without them. She'd even throw away a jersey if she got carried away enough. I thought that she was finally making a real effort to get herself clean. She'd thrown away her Trotter jersey and the week before, then burned her McNabb jersey on a gas grill at a tailgate the following week. There was no trace of green body paint anywhere on her ample bosom. Looking back, I should have realized that getting rid of jerseys was important symbolically, but not if the players were no longer on the team.
I knew the Giants game was coming up, and that one was always bad news for her. I decided that I'd take her away from Philly, up to Bayonne that weekend to meet my mother and sister. I knew it was a crazy idea, since I hadn't seen either one of them in so long, but I had to get Penny out of Philadelphia before she was tempted by the glow of the stadium lights and the lure of public urination.
The morning of the game, we hopped in my car early and started driving north. I'd been careful to avoid talking about anything football related during the week. She looked more beautiful than ever that morning, the sun streaming in across South Jersey and the river to play on the unnatural hues of her weave and the luscious fullness of her painted lips. She'd dressed conservatively and I hoped Mom and Lottie wouldn't be able to guess that she was a prostitute, or worse yet, an addict. I tuned my car radio to the Easy Listening station and hoped for no songs about football.
We found our way across the bridge. There are no tolls to get into Jersey, they only charge you to get out of that state. We got on the Turnpike and chatted about little things. Penny told me a funny story about an assemblyman who liked to dress up in a diaper and have her powder his bottom. My revulsion at the thought of a fifty-something power broker with Fresh Scent Baby Powder on his ass was tempered by the knowledge that I was trying to save the woman I loved from the addiction which was slowly killing her. She seemed to be in good spirits and oblivious to the fact that it was game day.
I'd done a little computer sleuthing and knew my mother's current address. She was still in Bayonne, but had moved to the more-snazzy / less-horrible part of town. I hoped my sister would be there too. I knew that there would be some awkward moments, but hoped that the presence of a family outsider would smooth over some of the hurt and resentment.
We pulled up in front of the house. Despite an increasing undercurrent of bad vibes, I went ahead and got out of the car. I circled around the car and opened Penny's door for her. Together, we walked up the sidewalk to the front steps. I felt like I knew what it was like to walk from your cell to the gas chamber, only guys in prison don't have a beautiful prostitute on their arm, and they'll suffer much less than I was about to.
My sister Lottie answered the door. She'd lost quite a bit of weight since I'd seen her last. For a split second, I knew she didn't recognize me. Then the flash of recognition hit and for another split second she was overjoyed to see me. That instant passed and her face clouded over in a lethal mixture of pain and resentment.
"David" she said, a statement of the obvious. Just my name. It wasn't just my name though, it was "David" instead of "Dave"or better yet, my childhood nickname "Dunkel" for my dark locks of curly hair. All my life, my formal name had never been used unless there was bad news or I was in trouble. In this day's case, it could very well have been both. I think the last time I had been called David was when I told my mother and sister of my upcoming marriage to Brenda. The time before that may well have been when I was told of my father's disappearance from his caper at the strudel syndicate.
My mind raced back to that horrible day and for a moment I wondered if Lottie was about to give me some bad news about my dear mother. Just then, I saw my mother's face appear over Lottie's shoulder to see who was at the door. For a moment, I thought might have been her ghost, but it was just her pale, Austrian complexion and the way the light hit her.
My mother had not changed much in the time I'd been gone, but she seemed frailer than I remembered her. She was shuffling around the place in a dingy housecoat and slippers which looked like roadkill. In her defense, it was fairly early on a Sunday morning, and she was not expecting company of any sort, let alone her long lost son and a cocoa-colored prostitute with hair the color of scorched tomatoes.
My mother, ever the picture of decorum, gave me a big hug and fussed over Penny, who she referred to as "zee bee-oo-ti-vul schwartz-a". As the morning went on, Mom and Lottie both dropped the the first part and just called her "schwartz-a". Penny was blissfully ignorant of the term,and seemed genuinely pleased that she had earned a nickname from my family so quickly. I was silently grateful that Penny was from Baltimore and was not exactly worldly - diapering politicians for money notwithstanding.
Mom and Lottie set out a fairly nice little spread for us all, considering our lack of advance notice. There were soft pretzels, lunch meats with rolls and a decent variety of beverages to choose from. I caught them up on the twists and turns my life had taken. Mom pretended to be saddened to hear of my marriage dissolving, but I could see a twinkle of joy in her eyes. Lottie didn't bother to pretend to be upset, calling Brenda a "filthy skank" who wasn't worth the price of the horse tranquilizers it would take to overdose her. After trashing Brenda, Lottie turned her head and spat right on the floor at the memory of her. I was amazed! I couldn't believe my clean-freak mother would allow such a vulgar disrespect for deep pile shag carpet, and I was more than a little awestruck by just how hard-boiled my sister had become. I stole a glance at Penny and she seemed unimpressed by it. I guess when you talc the tush of a power broker for big money, it takes more than a little indoor expectoration to get your attention.
My mother suddenly sprang to her feet. "Look at zee time Lottie! Here I yam sittin around in mine jammies! Vee got to get changed into our Zunday clothes, und quick!"
Lottie nodded her head in agreement and the two of them excused themselves and hustled back toward the bedrooms. I turned to Penny with a look on my face that said "Family huh?! Whatcha gonna do?"
Penny smiled and shrugged her shoulders. She knew my history and what my mother had been through. She said that she thought they were sweet and that she doubted that there was anything about my family which she could ever be offended by. I felt a warmth toward her just then. A beautiful glow of having found someone who wouldn't judge. Someone who loved me for me and would accept my family, warts and all. I let my mind drift into fantasy for a minute. My mother, sister and I reunited, with the lovely, exotic Penny on my arm. We'd build a new life for ourselves, Penny would be free of kinky corporate attorneys and foot fetishists. She'd be able to finally move past her addiction and resume her studies in animal husbandry. Maybe she'd get her degree and we could find a nice place to settle down. Just as my revelry was about to help Penny and me pick out china patterns and paint the nursery, my mother and sister emerged from the bedroom, and reality crashed down around us like a house of cards.
My mother and sister were dressed from head to toe in the blue, red and gray of the New York football Giants. Mom wore an Eli Manning jersey and Dottie was bedecked in a Mathias Kewanuka jersey. Dottie had even gone so far as to smear two slashes of black shoe polish under her eyes. In her hand she clutched still more Giants garb.
"It's almost kick-off time, Dunkel" she said as she threw two more jerseys at me. "You two get those jerseys on so we can enjoy the game. It's the fuckin' asshole Eagles today - we're gonna crush 'em!" she howled as she gave Mom a high five.
Apparently my mom and sister had no idea where Manayunk, Pennsylvania was. Like many people in the New York metropolitan area, they didn't concern themselves with places they couldn't pronounce. They had likely assumed that with a name like Manayunk, it was up in the Poconos somewhere.
I looked across at Penny, and her face was turning a shade of red which made her curly locks look like a color which actually occurs in nature. I'm not religious, but I crossed myself anyway.
Penny Was clenching and unclenching her fists, and I think she may have been trying to control her breathing to some degree. Though Lottie had lost weight, she still had 100 pounds on Penny. The eye-black and jersey didn't make her look any less massive. She and my mother were staring at us trying to figure out what the problem was. A little light bulb seemed to go off in my mother's head first.
"Lottie! Who is dem Shteelers playing today in der AFC?"
Lottie shrugged her shoulders and made a face which accurately reflected how little she cared about AFC match-ups. She stepped over and picked up the two jerseys from the floor at my feet. I was thankful that she hadn't thrown them to "zee Schwartz-a". I pictured Penny recoiling like a vampire in a holy water shower, hissing and cursing.
My family's lack of geographical savvy was worse than I thought, they had clearly pictured Manayunk as some little hamlet outside of Pittsburgh.
The jersey crisis narrowly averted, I knew that staying to watch the game was out of the question. I wracked my brain to try to find some quasi-legitimate reason to get the hell out of there.
(I try to produce 3 or 4 posts every week - but sometimes I get busy with working to pay the bills and college tuition. I'll add on to this idiotic profile story when and if I feel like it - but more than likely I'll just shit-can the whole profile and try to write something a bit more clever)