Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Recessed no longer.

Six years and a few weeks ago, my life took an abrupt change in direction; it wasn't one of those gentle "right lane ends" signs that not so much tells you to move over as urge you, it was more of a head-on collision with twisting metal, smoking engines and leaking gas. And like all gruesome collisions worth their salt, I've suffered from a slight case of amnesia; some things dance across my mind with such vivid detail that it could have happened this morning.

Other details take a bit more coaxing to reveal themselves. And when they do, it's not unlike those creepy flashers that haunted my school in sixth grade: you know there's something weird going on with the dude, but until that beige overcoat flaps open, you don't know exactly what.

Such is the case with my memory lately. Events that I think are completely random and probably unreal in their existence suddenly begin to fall into their places; missing puzzle pieces to the ongoing mystery of Andy.

One such puzzle piece fell into place recently.

My mom has always been terrified to display her important china and linens; the china is usually stored safely away under our sink in a cocoon of newspaper, and the linen precisely folded in a cupboard over our hamper, waiting for the holiday season to make its yearly appearances.

Which explains why our undersized table is covered with a dingy tablecloth, stained napkins and various breakfast wares. I'm sitting with my back to the window, the fall sun struggling with the ever-present Pacific Northwest clouds to provide something, anything uplifiting to the day. It's looking to be a losing battle.

A pearly-white bowl, crafted by machines from across the world, sits before me, filled with Cracklin' Oat Bran and non-fat milk. Mom is busy in the kitchen, every movement she makes is accompanied by a sound: a couple shuffles left, water pours; a floor tile squeaks and the refrigerator door opens.

My sister sits to my right, her head low over her cereal, eyes engaged on the cereal box she holds just past the bowl, unaware that her life, her existence, is about to take a grinding, uncomfortable detour. A warm anxiety has consumed me, my insides wring and twist with every passing moment, detesting its knowledge of what I need to tell her.

"Hey Anna, you remember that I went to the doctor last month?"
"Yes," she replied nonchalantly, keeping her eyes locked onto the cereal box.
"Well, it was an MRI--kind of like an XRAY but better," my voice quaked a little, despite my efforts to keep it steady. She heart it too, because she shifter her eyes to me. "Well, they were scanning my head, trying to figure out why I can't hear out of my left ear...and they found something, a tumor, on my brain stem." I reached out, my right hand clasping her forearm. "But don't worry, I'll be okay." My voice broke, a flood of emotion clamped down on my insides, forcing my teeth to gnash and jaws to strain. My chin dropped to my chest, every particle of energy devoted to remaining strong, urging the fear out my heart for the time being.

A deep breath, a long slow inhale of air rushes through my nose. My eyes close, my resolve steels. My head raises on its own, and my eyelids follow suit. They find my sister, her face covered in her hands, shoulders heaving with emotion. They find my mother, a few feet away, her expression a frightening mask of emotion; sadness and anger and unknowing gripping her conscience.

I’m on my knees; her head is on my shoulder, her arms wrapped around my neck, her tears and mucous darken my t-shirt.

Monday, November 21, 2005


At the beckoning of the (very) insistent Ms. Jeanne, a fellow writer in advertising Limbo and all around beautiful person (not that I’m beautiful or anything, just her), I would like to recount an evening not too far removed from this evening—three weeks ago, in fact. If you’ve been adamantly reading my last few posts (and really, how could you not?), you’d have noticed a handful of references to a certain event, a certain, shall we say, Skareoke?

It all started out innocently enough, a simple dreadful Monday made slightly bearable by the fact that every employee’s calendar had a two-and-a-half hour of time blocked out at the end of the day. Yes. The company Halloween party was set to begin at 3:00. Now, being the ever-punctual, always ready professional that I am, I decided to have a few vodka-crans (well, just one, really—-the “cran” portion of the drink was really only mixed in for a very literal dash of color) before the evening’s (afternoon’s, rather) festivities. Understand that at this point in the day, I’m severely buzzed and my cheeks have taken on a healthy hue roughly the same shade of the cranberry juice currently chaperoning its partner in crime through my liver.

And then we hear it, quietly at first, a slight rumble of idle chatter and occasional laughter, then growing into a great cacophony of clinking glasses, loud talking and—the piece de resistance—anemic musical notes and off-camber rhythms that can only mean one thing: Skareoke was upon us. My fellow “early adopters” and I made our way into the main lobby where we were met with a 10” stage, two microphones, and an enormous soundboard with matching speakers.

I’ll be honest; I’m not much into the karaoke. I’ve taken a trip down tone-deaf lane a few times before, always with a group, and always irrevocably, unquestionably drunk. At 3:30 on Halloween afternoon, I was already at batting .500: a warm buzz was coercing what was once my good judgment into searching for someone, anyone, to take the stage with me. And that someone was Scott.

An account exec for one of our large clients, I found Scott over by the song books. Karaoke is a funny beast; it’s like an aural car accident—-people are disgusted by what they see, some are amused, and all are just the slightest bit curious. They'll casually meander over to the large binders housing countless songs sheathed under grimy, decade-old plastic and take a peek. They flip through the book, taking care not to actually touch anything but the corners of the pages, and scan the listings. Sometimes they’ll laugh, other times they’ll break into spontaneous chorus of a familiar song, but rarely do they ever take the next step: writing it down on the song ticket.

When I saw Scott, I had a good feeling; I was absolutely positive I would be able to get him to sing—-it was not a question of if, but when. I walk over, put my arm over his shoulder, and ask good-naturdly what he was planning on singing. Scott laughed and said he didn’t know—-a common defense mechanism that automatically clicks into place when a large, slurring man puts his arm over your shoulders and asks you to sing something. Needless to say, I was ready. I started flipping through the book, randomly pointing out songs that would be neither funny nor entertaining to sing, but rather incredibly difficult and not at all fun to listen to. This is key, because that is the exact opposite of the song I currently had playing on repeat in my head; I knew that once I “stumbled” upon that song, it would be so easy compared to the other songs I’d been wantonly suggesting that there was no way he’d refuse.

“Hey! Destiny’s Child! ‘My body’s so booty-liscious!’ Uh!”
“Ooh…John Denver! ‘Sunshine on my shoul-DERS!’”
“Heeeere we go: Janet Jackson, man, ‘Nasty boy!’”
“My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…”

And then, just as he was about to call me a cab and pretend he had to be anywhere but underneath my warm, somewhat noxious armpit, I found what I was looking for:

“Alright, fine…oh…what about, uh, ‘Friends in Low Places’? Easy enough, right?”
Outwardly relieved, Scott graciously agrees. He tells me the song number as I put it to paper, our journey now a signed contract of public humiliation. And as Scott went to give our ticket to our beloved DJ, I promptly filled my vacant cup with more punch.

Finally, our time had come. Mr. DJ called into the now beer-soaked mics for Scott and myself to take the diminutive stage. Scott situated himself behind the mic closest to the prompter (we only had one—a rather small one at that), leading me to believe he would be taking the lead during the song. After all, he was a good seven inches closer than I was and could see about 3% more clearly. Plus, the guy sings in a band, for God’s sakes! Of course he wants the lead…HE’S IN A BAND!

And then the intro chords start up, followed closely by the first lyrics. Struggling to hear my cue, I jumped into the first verse. Unfortunately, the verse didn’t follow—-I was about a half-measure early. Let’s try it again. “Blame it all on m’roots / I showed up in boots…”

Booyah, baby. Boo-freakin’-yah. So far so good. Nailed the first verse and absolutely nailed the chorus:

“Oooooooooooooooooh…I’ve got friends in loooow places, where the WHISKEY flows and the beer chases my blues away…and I’ll be okay….”

And then…the spoken part. Yes, you read correctly. The spoken part. I’ve never come across this part. Given, I’m usually belting out the chorus at tables as I’ve lost the ability to stand, but still, I’ve never heard this spoken part before. And the best part, my good buddy, my accomplice, my friggin’ wingman in this fight against acoustic decency, leaves me for his beer. And I stumble, hard, through each and every word that comes up. And because Sir Garth was so generous in his song writing (I have no earthly idea if he actually wrote the thing, but the fact that he sings it is proof enough) to not add any background music, I have no idea when it’s going to let up.

Eventually though, I found my feet in the song once more:

“…low places, where the WHISKEY flooooows and the beer chases...”

And then there’s a quick little solo in there; a rousing electric guitar that inspired me to do a “I’m'a ridin’ a gallopin’ horse” dance.

We finished to resounding cheers and the “encore” chants can still be heard ringing round lobby. But alas, I was done.

For an hour.

And then I did it all over again. And again. Although to different songs, none well done, especially “Crawling,” by Linkin Park.

My head still hurts from that one.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Meat Heads

I know I said I would do a little somethin' somethin' on Skareoke, but I don't have that much time, since there are pics to be resized and stories to unfold. And that's just too much to handle at this point in time.

But I'm not going to let you leave this blog empty-handed.

As such, I give to you this, the mother of all clicks.

Have fun.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Liquid Regret Remixed

It was a tough week in the realm of fermented goodness; Monday saw a company Halloween party with vodka crans, mai tais and Scary-oke (not my invention, so you can't blame me for the name), while Thursday evening brought the annual Rosey Awards with virtually unlimited (and, for the most part, undeniably free) gin and tonics, whiskey rocks, whiskey ups, gin and tonics, and whiskey rocks.

(More on Skary-oke later.)

If you question SockMama about yours truly in a drunken stupor, she'll be the first person to tell you that I'm not regretful; I have my drinks, have my fun, pay for it the next day, and then move on with my life -- I don't look back and feel bad for the relative idiot I probably made of myself.

Until Friday around noon.

That's when clarity set in.

Flashes from the long evening, began setting up shop in my mind. There was me with a friend, chatting amiably. Things are still clear. We're having fun. Forward a half hour. Vision's blurry. I'm talking with someone from a local agency called FourStories, an accountant. She refers me to Jim. Nice guy. One of the few people in the room taller than me. Now, along with my vision, my mind is blurry. I find an incredible art director from Borders, Perrin and Norrander, the agency responsible for Columbia Sportswear goodness. I can't for the life of me remember our conversation, save for one sickeningly clear moment: He looks me in the eye and -- in an unwavering moment of seriousness severely contrasting my innebriated delirium -- says, "Yes. I remember you." Now I'm left to guess what the hell that meant; was he saying that as a comliment? Doubtful, given the relative evil eye I'm recalling; all I can remember is his face.

And that's just one moment. I can remember three more equally random, but unnervingly clear situations in which there's a chance that I'm making a complete ass of myself, drunkenly slurring my words and trying to gain contacts for future employment, not frighten them away.

I'm embarrased. Ashamed. My reflection in every surface a reminder that I'm unprofesisonal; a dissappointment to myself and all that I want to acheive in my career as a creative copywriter.