Monthly Archives: June 2008

True Colors

Father’s Day

by

The Underblawg

Mimi thought our dad was pretty good. He wasn’t home much, but Mom said that was because he was an important man, and people everywhere wanted to know what he thought about things. “He misses you when he’s away,” she told us. “That’s why he always brings you presents.” One time, he brought us bright green T-shirts with drawings of dancing toucans on the front. “They’re from Caracas,” he said.

One Saturday, Mimi skipped into my bedroom. “Daddy’s here today,” she said smiling.

“I know.”

“Daddy loves me better than you because he calls me ‘Sweetie.’”

“I’m a boy. You’re not supposed to call boys ‘Sweetie.’”

“Mamma calls you Sweetie.”

“That’s because she’s a girl.”

“You’re stupid,” she said, and ran out. I followed.

She ran to the living room door and stopped. He sat in the rocking chair, watching sports in his pajamas.

She took my hand, turned around, and pulled me down the hall. Mom was still asleep, her stomach rising and falling in gentle waves.

“Mamma,” she whispered.

Mamma didn’t move.

Mimi reached forward and, using her thumb, lifted an eyelid. The eye quivered for an instant, then stopped and fixed its gaze on her. “What is it? What’s the matter?” she mumbled.

“I want to be with Daddy today,” Mimi said softly.

Mom rolled to the side, the smell of sleep billowing about her. “What do you mean?”

“What’s Daddy doing today?”

“I don’t think that he’s doing anything exciting, Honey,” she said. “He’s tired.”

“Will he take me to the park?”

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?”

“I don’t want to. I’m scared.”

Mom collapsed onto her back and let out a long sigh. Then she propped herself up. “Ok,” she said, reaching for her robe. “I’ll go and see.”

When she came back, she sat beside us and stroked Mimi’s hair. “Your father doesn’t really want to do too much today, Honey, but he does have to go and pay the cable bill. You can go with him if you want.”

“Okay.”

I went back to my room while Mom helped Mimi into the purple dress with the white flowers. When she was ready, Mimi pulled me back to the living room. He was still in his pajamas. “I’m ready Daddy,” she said.

He turned away from the screen and looked at her as though he had been startled. “Mamma said that we can go with you to pay the bill.”

“Oh. Okay.” A loud cheer burst from the television. “Let’s just watch a little of the game first.”

We went to the love seat and sat down in a sunbeam. I tried to watch the T.V., but soon got bored. Mimi sat next to me with her eyes closed and I knew that she was occupying herself with the game we played when we had to behave, which was to watch the blaze of red and yellow streaks across the orange background of our eyelids. I closed my eyes too. When Dad came back from getting dressed, he tapped me on the shoulder. “You guys ready?” he asked.

The sun glared off the BMW. I got in the front, while he lifted Mimi into the car seat behind me. He strapped her in and shut the door, leaving us alone, squashed by the heat. The leather seared the backs of my legs.

He started the engine, rolled down his window, and turned on the radio. Through the static, a man was talking loudly about Potamkin Chevrolet.

As we turned onto the side road that ran next to the park, Mimi gasped. The green field on our side of the car undulated with the unsteady gaits of turkey vultures. Huge, black, birds with pink, leathery heads, their wings outstretched like dark, feathery phantoms.

“Daddy!” she squealed. “Look! Look at the birds!”

“Yes,” he said. “Very nice.”

“Stop Daddy! Stop! I want to see them!”

“I have to mail this, Sweetie,” he proclaimed over the blare of the radio. “We’ll see it on the way back.”

She twisted in the seat, craning her neck to get a better view. The macabre flock disappeared around a corner.

When we got to the place, he leaned out and dropped an envelope into a mailbox.

“Well, hey there!”

It was Mr. Fisher.

Dad thrust his palm out the open window and Mr. Fisher grabbed it, his gold bracelet gleaming furiously in the sun. Dad reached over and silenced the radio.

“How ya been?”

“Great. Busy, but I’ve been meaning to have you over. I’ve just bought a compact disc player. Amazing sound.”

“I’ve heard that,” said Mr. Fisher with interest. “Works with lasers doesn’t it? Amazing. I’d love to give it a listen some time.”

“Absolutely. Some weekend when I’m in town you should come over. We’ll have some beers and watch a game.”

Behind me, Mimi was getting fidgety. It was hot. The sweat on the backs of my legs was causing them to stick to the seat uncomfortably. The sharp edges of the seat, where the leather had cracked, felt like daggers.

“Sounds good. I’ll bring the beer. How about that first half? Sutton should have had that catch in the end zone. Kosar puts it just where it needs to be, but his receivers don’t seal the deal. Why the hell can’t Johnson recruit any receivers? It’s like they all have fish in their arms.”

I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes. I watched the red and yellow sparkles.

“I’m not worried. Nobody looks as good as the ‘Canes this year, and it’s only going to get better. They say this kid Testaverde’s got some kind of arm.”

“Well, he’d better. Johnson’s not gonna screw around. He knows we’ll boot his ass if he doesn’t produce.”

I opened my eyes when the car started to move. Dad turned the radio back on. The folks at Braman Honda must be crazy to offer these kinds of deals.

We turned down the park road but, when we got to the field, the birds were gone. Where before there had been an entire herd of vultures parading about, now there was just an empty space peppered with dandelions.

Mimi started to cry. Dad looked at her in the rear view mirror. “What’s the matter? What’s wrong?”

“They’re gone,” she sobbed. “The birds. Those big birds are all gone!”

“What birds, Sweetie?” he asked.

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Summer Love’s Event

Check out a few videos we shot at the June 19th event. We have fancier, professional video coming from the fabulous Brian Belefant, but here’s all the Flip Camera’s memory could hold. Videos of all the storytellers coming soon. We’ll announce them when it’s out. Enjoy!

At the intermission, we asked an audience member to come up and tell a story completely spontaneously. How Jordi managed to make us all laugh and then cry in six minutes is remarkable. Proves that we all have amazing stories.

Kiala Kazebee, Portland blogger and film critic goes to the zoo.

Actor and writer, Eric Reid tells the story about being thirteen at the movie theater with a GIRL.

More videos and a podcast coming soon!

Check out Back Fence PDX’s Twitter feed — @backfencepdx.

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Summer Love!

What a great event last night! The crowd was fabulous and the storytellers were funny and a few made us cry. The swimsuits and the models were delicious. Check back in a few hours for a few videos from the evening.

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Summer Love is Here!

Tonight’s the night for Back Fence PDX at Tour de Crepes. All the info is just to the right of this post. We are so excited. Picking up the stage at 3, sound guy, Brian, gets there at 6, as do our SWIMSUIT MODELS.

Did I mention we’re having SWIMSUIT MODELS?

Storytellers get there around 7 for Xanax and vodka wine and beer.

And then you. You arrive at 7:30. Or a few minutes before if you want a crepe or a libation.

The evening will be warm and we’ll open up the barn doors to take advantage of the Summer night air.

Join us!

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Summer Love is Almost Here

It’s almost here! Thursday, June 19th. 7:30pm. Tour de Crepes. The info is right next to this post.

Invite your friends!

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Summer Love Featuring Teresa Difalco

BY TERESA DIFALCO

My summers peaked in 1984 and I might have, too, because everything happened to me that year. It was iconic, like Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love. My best friends were Beth and Gina and the three of us were spoiled with leisure, bored like heiresses, channeling Jacy Barrow from The Last Picture Show only not small-town, Texas, but Oregon and the small town’s name was La Grande – “The Big” (how ironic). It was a middle of nowhere town, three hours from an airport, but still the only place in the world if you were there and had just turned 16.

We got our licenses that summer and all had cars. We had our braces off plus, finally, tits. We got our first taste of power over boys. Our parents worked so our days were unchecked and we had time coming out of the walls.

We had insane metabolisms. We ate everything whenever we wanted and still wore way-short shorts and tiny tank tops because we could. We had tans. We had the world by its so-called balls; we didn’t know it, though, we were just living. We feigned ennui.

We had our first jobs, too, so we had money. I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken, it was my first W-4, my first interview. I wore a ruffly Gunne Sax skirt and brought a handful of resumes that emphasized both my high GPA (3.9) and typing skills (60wpm) and Connie, the manager, hired me on the spot. I worked the front register, mostly, and made biscuits.

Gina worked at Taco Time and Taco Time was where the action was. If you were under 20 and breaking up or hooking up in the summer you did it at Taco Time. It sat at one end of the cruise loop so the parking lot was full of drama. And also the manager was young and pretty and fought with her boyfriend, but also screwed him a lot and told us everything, so there was that.

The minimum wage was $3.35 and at 40 hours, give or take, I had $100 after taxes each week. We had our first checking accounts at Pioneer Bank, and our own checks and we wrote them out like crazy. We were loaded.

Our shifts never started before 4, which gave us all day to drink wine coolers and tan. We slept in late, figured out who was driving, found someone to buy. We only drank California Coolers – peach if they had it — we were snobs. They came in 2-liter bottles like soda and were 99 cents each and we got big cups of ice at Oak Street Mobil to pour them in. Oak Street because Eric Slater worked there and that was the summer I loved Eric (unrequited). And also because they made scary little foods that we ate with abandon. Their specialty was something called “finger steaks,” which tasted like battered grease balls and salt and came with a tangy pink sauce. We took our fizzy wine and bad food to Riverside Park, spread big blankets out on the grass and soaked up the sun with our teenage buzz, and the days felt like weeks.

Oh yeah. It was good.

Beth didn’t have a “real” job like us but instead small chores her parents had her do for money – feed the dogs, clean the hot tub, vacuum. Her parents were never home but we lied and said they were and stayed over all the time.

Gina and I got off work late, sometimes midnight, but everyone had late curfews or else parents out of town, so at midnight I changed from brown polyester into practically nothing and we cruised. Cruising meant we drove back and forth on Adams Avenue, from Taco Time to Safeway, over and over, seeing who was in whose car, hanging out windows and sun roofs, etc.

Getting alcohol was never a problem, just a line item – an errand, like running to the bank. Usually Gina could find someone at work to buy, but sometimes we stood outside of Albertson’s – it was outrageously bold. We lurked by the doors, and when someone looked cool enough we asked them, “Hey, will you buy for us?” We must have had uncanny intuition because they always did; no one ever turned us down, not once. And one night my friend Scott and I drove to the Cimarron apartments and just knocked on a door. The guy who answered got in my car, we drove to the store, he bought us a half case of Bud Light cans and we drove him back home. We gave him a twenty, he gave us the change. Now, of course, I’d know to tip.

We played Night Ranger every single day, over and over again: Sister Christian, Four in the Morning, Sentimental Street. We felt tragic. We hadn’t had our hearts broken yet but we fantasized it. We listened to “Purple Rain” too, and Journey, and imagined all the different boys who’d do it, break our hearts. I’d like to say I had my first sex that summer, but I didn’t. I had first inklings, though.

And then it ended, of course, just like that. Eric left Oak Street for college, Beth drifted away, and my first big love happened that fall. Kelly. Shiny black pickup, cute smile.

That was fall, though. Falls are whole different stories.

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Summer Love: Featuring Recovering Straight Girl

BY RECOVERING STRAIGHT GIRL

The summer of 1970—I traveled with my mother visiting the homes of assorted relatives—spending a little time here and a little time there. Some people do this while on holiday, for pleasure or perhaps adventure, but we had little choice. In some ways we were homeless—like two tramps making their way around the country carrying with us what little we had.

In the summer of 1970—I was a toddler—and my mother was 21-years-old.

My father—he was serving a Tour of Duty in Vietnam.

Three summers earlier, my father and his friends decided to take a car for a “joy ride”. A joy ride is a nice way of saying that he committed Grand Theft Auto. When he appeared before the judge he was given a choice—either go to jail or join the military.

The following summer, my parents, newly married and living on an Air Force Base decided to have a baby. After all, my father would be deployed overseas and his future was uncertain—not to mention that it only cost $20.00 to have a baby at the military hospital. We were a family, that first summer of my life, but soon after he was gone to fight in a war that he didn’t believe in, and my mother and I were alone.

I remember that summer not from my own recollection, but from the memories of photographs and stories that have been told to me through the last nearly four decades. I imagine what that summer must have been like for my mother and me—the tumultuous era, the devastating uncertainty, and the comfort and support of the family who loved us.

My mother’s warm and loving smile; her blond hair, not exactly the platinum bouffanty-bob that it was in photos where her belly was big with me and not exactly the long stringy hippy-hair she sported when I was a bit older. She, like so many people, was changing and becoming someone other than she used to be in a world that no longer resembled what she once knew—not exactly a metamorphosis but something pushed into change and rebellion by forces that no one could see.

We visited my maternal grandparents in Chicago. My grandfather, a large and boisterous man who chain smoked Winston’s would do what he could to make his only grandchild laugh; instead he would scare the hell out of me with his attempts. My Nana’s yellow-owl cookie jar was filled with what my grandparents called “treatie-boos”—and when we left their air-conditioned Illinois apartment, I imagine my mother’s relief that she was no longer forced to live with her father’s alcoholism.

My paternal grandparents lived in Pittsburgh. My grandfather, a short bald Italian man with a huge nose, would lovingly care for me—his smile would light up his face and he smelled of the auto shop where he worked mixed with the scent of pipe tobacco. After raising three sons—I was a sweet reward for him, and every day he would make my breakfast, come home to see me at lunch, and feed me dinner at the bright orange linoleum and silver kitchen table promptly at five o’clock.

My Aunt Kathi crocheted a pink bunting two months before I was born. She was so certain that I was a little girl; she ignored warnings that her efforts may be in vain. Her husband, my Uncle Joe would steal me from my crib while I napped and hold me instead.

In Washington D.C. my radical feminist Aunt Carol and my Long-Haired Hippy Uncle Tom took my mother and me to march in an anti-war protest on the capitol. My uncle missed the draft by two numbers and hated the fact that my father was forced to be where he was. Evenings were filled with Bob Dylan’s voice and the scent of marijuana in the air. When I became ill with a high fever, my uncle calmly drove us to a nearby hospital in rush hour traffic. He never let his worry and panic show through his stoic hippie self.

The Summer of 1970—the strength of my mother’s love surrounding and protecting me from the pain that possibly lurked in the future. She wondered and waited for bad news while cherishing and sharing me with others who loved me just as much. Everywhere we went I was reminded who I was and it was a basis that carried me through to adulthood.

That summer, more than any other summer of my life—I learned about being loved.

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