Category Archives: Botheration

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Mostly brick exterior with attached oversized 2 car garage with
My mom officially sold her house. I spent all weekend helping her pack and move. The movers are there right now. The new family moves in on Friday. I am heartbroken.

Packing up the house where you spent 2/3 of your life – birth through grad school – is always rough. But packing up that house, the house where your dad died, on Father’s Day is torture. It makes me feel like I’ve lost him all over again.

Most of my friends have already been through this – hell, some of those homes have been bull-dozed – and I’m anticipating some friends sharing their stories and telling me to basically get over it. But, you know, I need a little fucking time.

I hope none of my friends ever have to move back home to take care of their parents, but doing so really helped me to appreciate where I grew up with adult eyes. Taking care of him in the place where he took care of me felt like completing the circle. They say you can never go back home again, but you can. And when you leave again, it hurts twice as much.

I thought I would have time to come by one last time for a visit. But Justin works Monday and Tuesday, I have plans with my friends on Wednesday, and the lady has her final walk-through on Thursday. We were halfway to my mom’s new house before I realized I may have just driven away from there for the last time, forever. I called Liz, sobbing. She’s probably the one friend I have who knew how hard that was for me. Hell, she’s the only friend of mine who saw my dad when he had no legs.

I’m going to find a way to go there one more time. I have to. Even if it’s me just sobbing alone in the basement, without Justin there to hold on to. Even if we have to leave Niki’s house before everyone actually walks to the Gardens. Even if we have to sneak over Thursday night when I’m already so busy and sleep-deprived.

My whole life, I’ve always noticed when the clock hit 9:08. I know that it just stood out to me because it was so familiar, but it really felt like it happened so much for a reason. After my dad died, any time I saw 9:08 on the clock, I would whisper hello to him or just tell him that I miss him. It’s our little moment, at least a couple times a week. (I asked my shrink if this was weird and he said, “Do you freak out if you miss it? No? Then I think it’s really sweet.”) Anyway, I think for a little while it’s just going to make me sad.

I could write forever about that house – my house. But if I start to list all reasons I love this house, all the memories I have, all the time I spent there, all of my landmark moments, the fact that I have known our neighbors for 32 years and they’re like my family, the fact that my friends basically lived here, too … I would go on forever. And maybe I will, someday.

But for now, I’m practically paralyzed with sadness. I can’t even eat. I just sit and stare into space and sigh. It was so much easier when I could feel this way sitting on that back patio, surrounded by trees and smoking cigarettes, knowing an old friend would probably drop by at any moment, with my dad listening to the radio on the porch directly above me.

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Filed under Botheration, Favorite Stories, Sam I Am

Just Listen To The Music Of The Traffic In The City

Washington Avenue Historic District
Last week, there was a school shooting two doors down from my building that made national news. (These days “school shooting” is synonymous with “mass shooting” but only two people were shot and they’re both still alive.) News vans have been parked outside of my front door all week. Even though it was a personal dispute that could have happened anywhere (a mentally-ill student shot a financial aid officer), the dialogue in the city immediately turned to downtown safety.

Oh and then. Then! A week later the former Governor of Missouri got robbed a couple blocks from my neighborhood. (This was a silly story because (a) a panhandler was asking for gas money and everybody knows it’s never “gas money”, (b) the Governor whipped out his money-clip, like who isn’t going to grab that and run, and (c) he was walking down a 2-block stretch that I never walk down even with Justin because it’s just parking garages and alleyways and creepily empty.)

Anyway, conversations about downtown safety infuriate me because these conversations are usually sparked by people in the county who have no idea what they are talking about. Hell, I knew nothing about downtown until I moved here. People come here for games or the occasional festival and then leave, and unless they work downtown, county people just imagine it as this desolate concrete wasteland full of boarded up windows, homeless people and gunfire.

They aren’t completely to blame for this, though. Justin has been living here for about 8 years and said it was a completely different world back then – he barely felt safe walking to his car. But thanks to redevelopment grants, the addition of cool places like City Garden and the City Museum, and the first grocery store in forever, Downtown’s population increased by almost 3,000% in the last 10 years. It’s an awesome street now.

My street is almost always in the news for bad reasons. It’s a shame because Washington Avenue has such a rich history, a vibrant community, and it’s absolutely stunning. In fact, it was voted one of the Top 10 Streets in the country.

Usually it’s in the news because Washington Avenue is where everyone parties on the weekend, and during the summer the crowds and noise are totally out of control. It used to be known as the nightclub district, but there were tons of shootings when the clubs got out at 1:30 or 3am, and eventually they shut down the problem clubs. However, there are still shootings, robberies, and other violent crimes. Hell, someone got murdered over a bag of Cheetos a few months ago.

Directly north of Washington is Delmar, a street so notorious for its divisiveness that the BBC made a documentary about it. (I don’t live in the rich white neighborhood that the documentary covers, though – that would be the Central West End.) Delmar marks the entrance to North City, which is where St. Louis earns the statistics that make it the most dangerous city in the county. There’s at least one murder a week. Contrary to popular belief, North City is much more dangerous than East St. Louis. So the juxtaposition of (mostly) wealthy loft dwellers to North City residents is a little jarring, and they typically don’t mesh well.

South of Washington is Locust. Up until a few months ago, Locust was in the news because of a homeless shelter run by an infamous televangelist named Larry Rice. Larry Rice allows people to loiter on his sidewalks. This usually bled over to the park across the street between Locust and Washington–a park which no one went to because it was full of sleeping homeless people and smelled like urine. The sidewalks surrounding his shelter were always packed with people.

I walk past this shelter every day and witnessed the crowds firsthand. They circled around the entire block of the building and even the sidewalk in front of the school across the street. This was a problem not because they were homeless but because Larry Rice does not allow drunk or high people inside of his building, and he doesn’t let people come and go during the night. If you’re in, you’re in. So the people who were outside waiting for food were the people who did not want to follow his rules. These people liked to yell lewd things at women (including me in my running pants), urinate on the street, do drugs and more.

Eventually, I started seeing more and more women out there. And then I started seeing strollers. This is when the city shut down the sidewalks AND put a fence around the park for “construction”. (You’ll recognize that reporter as the guy who got that infamous Todd Akin quote.) In fact, the sidewalks are still fenced off.

Back when all the nightclub shootings were happening, Erin T. asked me  to write about what it’s like to be a Washington Avenue resident. Honestly, I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I’m far enough away from the main stretch of bars that the noise doesn’t bother me. The most noise I usually get is when a wedding reception lets out at 11 (drunk bridesmaids are THE WORST) or if a band is playing at the City Museum.

Sure, it’s noisy. It’s dangerous at night. There are break-ins in my parking lot. There are muggings near me. People try to break into my building. I get asked for “gas money” every day. Dudes like to rev their engines in my alley at 2am and it echoes off all of the buildings. There’s one asshole who has a train horn instead of a car horn. I hate that guy. And when I’m visiting my mom or my friends in my hometown, I miss it. I miss running around in the middle of the night, feeling 100% safe. I miss the crickets and back porches and trees.

But I LOVE walking to work. I love walking to the grocery store and the general store and bars and restaurants and games and concerts and festivals and the MetroLink. It’s the closest I’ve felt to living in London since I was there – every errand feels like a little journey because I have to walk to get there. I love seeing so many familiar faces on such busy sidewalks. I love the diversity and the noise and the action. I love my building full of riff-raff artists; it leads to something hilarious and weird every day. I live in the same building as a pig, for pete’s sake. In my front yard? THE WIENERMOBILE. (Okay, once.) And my backyard? My backyard is one of the most incredible, insane, weirdly beautiful buildings in the entire country.

I’m a huge advocate for living downtown, but I’m not a total idiot about it. I stay on populated streets. I don’t walk alone at night unless it’s busy and full of people. I stay away from empty, shadowy blocks during the day. If an inebriated/mentally-ill person is screaming in the middle of the sidewalk (at least once a month), I cross the street or I wait until he’s distracted. I tell panhandlers that I have no cash on me, and I’m usually telling the truth. I carry mace in my hand when I walk to the Y at 5 in the morning. I also learn my lessons:

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 4.14.28 PM

I’ve been trying to make an effort to get more involved, too. I plan on volunteering at shelters once the wedding hoopla is over (just not Larry Rice’s shelter). My next-door neighbor runs Town Hall Meetings and they are my new favorite thing. (It is truly a Parks & Rec episode brought to life.) Here’s me at 14:20 rambling about downtown safety with my hand in front of my face:

.

I plan on living down here for as long as I can. In St. Louis speak, that means until my kids are old enough to go to school. The biggest problem that downtown or any other part of the city has is that the schools are heartbreakingly awful. So unless you can afford Catholic School, you move to the county when the oldest turns 5. That’s just how it is. But who knows? We’re currently having an election for a new mayor for the first time since 2001, and both the current mayor and his opponent are making schools a central issue. So maybe it will continue to get better, and maybe I can stay here a little longer. I hope so. Downtown West is the best.

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Filed under Almost Famous, Botheration

A vs. An

I had to correct someone about this today, so I thought I would explain a grammar rule that people instinctively follow when they’re talking but don’t follow in writing. So here we go:

People think that “a” goes before words that start with a consonant, while “an” goes before words that begin with a vowel.

But actually, “a” goes before words that begin with a consonant sound, while “an” is used for vowel sounds.

A lollipop (“la”)
An LCD screen (“el”)

A needle (“nee”)
An NPR station (“en”)

A universal remote (“yoo”)
An umbrella (“uh”)

This entry is primarily so I can link people to it when they ask me, but I hope you got something out of this. If you didn’t, then here is a picture of me and my newest neighbor, a baby pig named Gertrude Swine:

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The Ramonas

Ramona isn’t their real name, but it’s close enough. We’ll go with Ramona.

Ramona 1 and I have known each other since the first grade. We were inseparable up until our mid-twenties, with that telepathic connection that you have with one, maybe two friends in a lifetime. However, Ramona doesn’t say “hi” when you call her, doesn’t ask you how you are. Ramona likes shortcuts, favors and fun without responsibility. While I’m far from perfect and she’s seen me at my absolute worst, her faults either became worse or less tolerable to me, to the point where I told her I no longer wanted to be her friend. We made a slight reconnect when my dad died, but that’s about it.

Ramona 2 lived down the street from me. From 7th – 12th grade and even part of college, I spent a few hours after school every day at her parents’ huge house. We could even see each others’ houses through the woods, so we could call each other at midnight if a light was on, or sneak over after our parents fell asleep. She was the complete opposite of me, but proximity made us close friends. Ramona 2 has like 1,000 Facebook friends. Ramona 2 is in a dance crew and goes to clubs every night. Ramona 2 is a bundle of hormones, energy and love, which works both for and against her.

The Ramonas both had blond hair, black cars, black cats, the same first name and last names that began with the same letter. The Ramonas have both struggled with major addictions, shaky employment, bad men, weird parents, bad tattoos and more. The Ramonas are both moms – one Ramona has a daughter, the other a son. Their kids are the same age. Both Ramonas are currently living with their parents. The Ramonas are trouble. In fact, for years I called them “The Scandalous Ramonas”.

The Ramonas are a huge part of my life. They were there for some of my biggest mistakes and struggles, my huge milestones, my first boyfriends, and more. They saw me every day, and we spent hours doing absolutely nothing in that adolescent way that somehow still feels productive. The Ramonas would sit on my back porch and chainsmoke half a pack with me in one sitting. Ramona 1 and I would analyze our entire day, Ramona 2 would invite boys over.

The Ramonas and I haven’t spoken for years. The Ramonas don’t know what I went through when I took care of my dad, weren’t there when I got my new job, and have never met Justin. The Ramonas don’t know what I’m like when I have my sleep disorder under control. The Ramonas probably don’t know that I can be a very rational, responsible, caring person. The Ramonas don’t know what it’s like to have a career, though they know what it’s like to have a kid so we’re probably even. The Ramonas stay out til 2 on a Monday. The Ramonas say “yes” to the wrong things and “no” to themselves. The Ramonas taught me what not to do.

Two weeks ago, the Ramonas both came back into my life. The Ramonas hung out with each other for a few days. Each Ramona claims the other Ramona is still on drugs. Each Ramona claims the other Ramona is a bad parent. Each Ramona claims they are okay. I still haven’t seen either of them; the Ramonas like to make plans and then not show up.

The Ramonas make me sad. The Ramonas make me simultanously nostalgic and relieved that my youth is over. The Ramonas make me want to hug my mother and apologize for things.  The Ramonas make me exhausted. Just thinking about the Ramonas is enough to make me too tired to write in this blog for weeks. The Ramonas make me want a cigarette, or two, or twenty. The Ramonas break my heart.

The Ramonas make me wonder how I turned out the way I did. The Ramonas make me proud of myself. The Ramonas make me grateful for all of you, especially those of you I know. Thank you for not being a Ramona.

UPDATE: The Ramonas are currently on a road trip to see Primus.

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Help Me Gyro; You’re My Only Hope

I forgot to mention that Justin’s latest film project, which he hopes will play on the video wall at CityGarden, is shot entirely with a Lomokino so each 30-second scene takes like an hour to film. So when we do hang out, it’s usually me napping or reading in the shade while he does this:


I actually love it because it gets me out of the house to explore new parts of downtown, or stare at a giant full moon that I can’t see from inside my loft. I’m really only using this topic as an excuse to use that gif, because it’s so Justin it’s scary. (iwdrm)

I don’t mean to brag, but this week I started doing some free-weights moves that I’ve been doing off and on since high school, and I was in more pain after one day than after an entire week of P90X. I suppose the moral of the story is, stick with what works. And boy, do 15 lb. dumbells work. I’m still in pain 3 days later!

I’m finally back to running 5 miles a day, but just barely. I need a break or two. Chauncey sleeps in bed with us now, so I get pretty wheezy if I don’t have my inhaler. I would just kick him out again, but this is how Justin and Chauncey sleep:


It’s too precious to break up, right? I usually sleep on one shoulder and Chauncey sleeps on the other. Though Justin has confessed that sometimes he’ll lean over in a daze and either pet my hair or kiss Chauncey because he doesn’t know who’s who.

It’s Gyro Truck Day, which means Stephie is a happy lady. Justin is on Spring Break; he’s going to walk up here so we can eat gyros on the gazebo and feed pita bread to the koi fish. AND tomorrow we’re eating Lent pizza covered with clams with Miss Sarah Paradise. This will be my first clam experience. I love my life!

Finally, never get accused of a crime in Tennessee–did you know they will lock you up with absolutely no proof and dumb hick juries will vote you guilty because “it just feels like he did it”? And then when you file a motion for a new trial, the judge will write his decision like a week in advance and forget to change the date, so you know he made his mind up before he even pretended to listen? That’s what happened to someone I care about this week. He’s been in hell for over 2 years with no end in sight, all because someone wanted to do meth in front of her kids instead of paying him rent. Shame on you, Judge W____. (Will someone please tell me if I can add his name without getting charged for anything in Tennessee? Because with their logic and collective fourth-grade education, I feel like I could get the death penalty.)

However, get accused of whatever you want in Florida, because apparently people who murder toddlers or shoot an unarmed kid that was getting candy for his brother will go free. I’m so pissed about everything right now (except gyro day) (and my family).

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Cheer Up, Sleepy Stephie

This month, I am tired. I’m tired of everyone bitching 24/7 on the Internet, I’m tired of politics, I’m tired of drama that people invent because they’re bored, I’m tired of negative people, I’m tired of angry/sad memories that haunt me unless I’m running, I’m tired of road rage even though I see so little of it these days, I’m tired of everything revolving around food and booze, and I’m tired of a couple people whose interest in me is borderline creepy. And obviously, I’m tired because I have a sleeping disorder.

Also, March is the last month I think I have to relax before the wedding planning gears back up and I really need to focus on getting in shape. These days, aside from P90X, walking to work, and a few 5-mile runs, I spend most of my time lounging around the house. (This sentence is making me laugh a lot. Remember when my only exercise was walking to school while chain-smoking and eating Doritos for breakfast?) I’m not going out much, either–my friends are either too crazy, too busy, too pregnant, or too exhausted like me. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately: A Song of Ice and Fire and Downton Abbey.

If I ever picked a good time to start using a Kindle, this is it–each book in A Song of Ice and Fire is at least 1000 pages. I just started the third book, and it’s about 1200 pages long. The most recent is so long that they split up the paperback into 2 parts in the UK. So thanks, Kindle Fire, for saving me from crampy hands and bad circulation. Also, I found that by reversing the display to white text on a black background, the Kindle doesn’t mess up my sleep cycle anymore. Good thing, since I have roughly 4000 more pages (or 80,000 locations) to read.

A Song of Ice and Fire is the series that HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on. It doesn’t seem like something I’d be into, but the tv series was intriguing and when your female doctor and lawyer friends start gushing about fantasy books, you pay attention. I am insanely addicted to these. In fact, writing about these is making me want to wander away from my computer to read some more.

Why do I love them? For one thing, the books play out like a TV series–each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, so you jump from city to city and scene to scene. With so many characters literally sprawled across the world, it helps you keep track of everyone. The characters are all great, but my favorites are tomboy/badass Ayra, little person with big brains Tyrion and bastard Jon. Giving each of the Stark kids a direwolf was a nice touch (I love that Jon got his own special wolf, and Ghost is clearly the coolest out of all the direwolves); I’m interested to see if their dreams about wolves lead anywhere. Also: dragons are schuper schweet!

I’m much more interested in reading these days than watching TV, but I’ll be so sad if I fly through these books. So lately I’ve been throwing episodes of Downton Abbey into the mix. My co-workers are totally obsessed with this show. My boss has basically dedicated his Facebook page to it. So I figured I’d give it a shot; I’m about halfway through. It’s lovely and I love Mr. Bates. If you’re not drinking the Kool-Aid yet, give it a shot.

Speaking of great TV dramas, Vulture has this whole Greatest TV Drama bracket going on right now, and while I should protest it simply because Six Feet Under was knocked out by The Sopranos, I’m still in it to root for Buffy. My buddy Davy had the tough choice of choosing between My So-Called Life and The Wire, and I think he made the right call.

Because I’m boring right now, I’ll tell you what Justin’s up to lately: Police Academy. That’s right, Justin and his best friend are taking a citizen’s class at the Police Academy, where he gets to tour the 911 call center and juvy and do ride alongs and hopefully Citizen’s Arrest some folks. My brother and I are especially delighted by this because we were obsessed with the Police Academy movies when we were little. My personal favorite was Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.

He is also very, very sad about Peyton Manning. :(  Hell, even I cried during that press conference yesterday. Hoosiers have the biggest hearts in the world. When their hearts break, mine does, too.

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Filed under Botheration, Pop Goes The Culture

Pardon The Hyperventilation

So that creepy X-ray of my skull? It’s going to cost me $400, ON TOP of my $2,000 surgery. Let’s not forget that I’m spending almost $600 on my cousin’s SECOND wedding (with NINE bridesmaids).  And I still haven’t made it to the Y and people still keep making me go to mandatory meals where I have to eat total shit and Justin makes me go car shopping with him every day AND I’ve been working 12 hour days all week AND I THOUGHT TODAY WAS FRIDAY AND IT’S NOT SON OF A BITCH.

I’m just going through serious endorphin withdrawal and feeling some major anger toward someone that I haven’t been mad at in years and I’m too tired for this shit and clearly I’m sort of having a nervous breakdown right now is all. You know I mean business when words are in italics.

I will end this happily with pictures of our anniversary getaway, where we drank Ed Hardy wine (only until it stopped being funny, then I switched to Toad Hollow) and ate brie and watched The Other Sister on VHS and sat in a jacuzzi and slept in the clouds and ate breakfast served by a British lady in a dining room then went on a breezy morning walk in a neighborhood full of gorgeous mansions. THIS WEEK SUCKS I MISS LAST WEEK YOU GUYS

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