Firsts. (period stories)

My friend sent me this link today and it inspired me to share my own embarrassing period story. You’re welcome.

I’d also like to preface this story by saying that I grew up in the greater Los Angeles area.

It was freshman year… (ish?). One of my best friend’s dads was a composer for movie soundtracks…and so was invited to the Writer’s Guild Awards. He decided to take his daughter (and my best friend) Tatiana as his date who asked me and my other bestie Britt to go as her dates… (eeeee!) We would get to stay at the Beverly Hilton, attend a black-tie event, and spend the day “getting ready” which means, tanning by the pool, getting our hair done and over-doing each other’s make-up to look like Slovenian street hookers. Basically every 13-year-old girl’s dream date. And we go to stay in our own hotel room! Everyone jump up and down and squeal!!!!!!!!

(Aside: “getting ready” is a strange and luxurious custom of young girls… a sacred right. Now when I ‘get ready’ for a night out or even a walk to the grocery store  it’s 5 minutes of hiding from our puppy and toddler, frantically look for a clean shirt, while abrasively applying mascara. B.C. (before child) it was going over to some other girls house at like 5pm and hanging out in her room drinking stolen vodka and trying on 80 different outfits while we text all the different dudes we met last week so we can ‘figure out what we are doing tonight’ . Each of us would try to be the drunkest one so we wouldn’t have to drive… Frightened? Amazed I’m still alive? Me too.)

So after 3 weeks of shopping at Charlotte Russe and Claire’s with our babysitting money… we arrive at the Beverly Hilton, check-in and proceed to do what every girl does in a hotel room: order grilled cheese sandwiches and paint our nails. After getting in a fight as to who gets to sleep alone (two beds and 3 girls) We got ready and went down to the pool in  complementary white robes. We go for a swim and are laying out on the lounge chairs drinking virgin daiquiris… thumbing through magazines trying to find “our hairstyle” for the night. I think I settled on a picture of Kate Winslet…

We are walking back to the room to “start getting ready” and my two friends walking behind me start laughing hysterically and saying “oh my god, oh my god” in the way only 13-year-olds can. I had a huge pinkish-red stain blooming on the back of my nice white pool-robe. I panicked and dived into the elevator. The rest of the night is foggy. I remember calling my mom who told me to buy a tampon at the hotel lobby store – which was mortifying – I think I made my friends go buy some while I sobbed in the bathroom wondering who saw my period stain and what they would possibly think….!!!!!

( Dear 13-year-old Molly,

They probably just thought you got your first period and felt really bad for you.

Love, 30-year-old Molly

P.S. it gets better honey.)

The hairstylist ended up over-curling my hair that night so I looked like Shirley Temple or that really annoying one from the Dixie Chics. All I remember about the actual event was eating like 6 buttered rolls before the salad got there. But I did get to sleep alone because my friends were afraid of getting bled on…a plus.

It was this event and  few others around this time that I started to realize that I wasn’t like other girls, I didn’t quite fit the mold.. I mean who WANTS their hair to look like Kate Winslets?

Cheers!

I’d like to invite everyone who reads this to share their own “embarrassing period story”. It feels really great to say f-it, I’ve bled on things, and I live to tell the tail.

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Mall Thoughts.

You know how some days are harder than others, but you still feel like a complete dick for complaining?
We go to the mall. I have to distract him with a cheese stick while I strap him against his will into a stroller so I can return a dress and buy instead, a practical pair of pants. On a whim I stroll us through the Urban Outfitters. I immediately want to scream “fish out of water!!!” But instead I pretend I’m shopping for my ‘younger sister.’ I take in the vacant stares of the nice 17-year-Olds folding pairs of cut-offs and think:
Two years ago I had a collection of native American print inspiried crop tops just like the rest of you… now you look at me with ’embarrassed for you’ face as I apologize and peel off the granola bar bits that my toddler flung at your stacks of $80 ‘refurbished vintage flannel ‘  from 1997. Guess what? I probably gave that flannel to  goodwill in 2001.
… now if you’ll excuse me I’ll go push my demon spawn around the excrutiatingly curated displays of muted jewel-tone ironic forest animal sweaters at Anthropologie where my  leather flats and “art teacher” blouse  and I feel right at home… *le sigh*
someone needs a pretzel….

Dog Thoughts.

There is a nice large hill that comes up against my mom’s neighborhood. Its a California hill. So it looks like an old pile of dirt  that someone left there after digging out room for the swimming pool. The vegetation is low and sparse. We like to take the dogs up there off leash, let them trot along side us or just rummage around in the sage. The soil is a slippery pile of off-white angular limestone pieces with little orange stripes that you could snap with two fingers. It sounds like you’re trying to climb up a mountain of broken ceramic plates.

Our dog is a small mutt, slick with short brown and black hair and a curly tail. He loves to run fast. The other, my mom’s dog,  a medium sized blue-Merle Aussie with no tail so when he “wags” his rear-end wiggles so hard he looses the footing on his back legs.

They just sit next to each other silently staring out with a low warm wind shuffling the bunch grass.  One fluffy, one thin. The hill falling away below them to a tidy suburb. Only rarely broken up by large rectangular playing fields, pink stucco shopping malls, grey snaking highways. Earlier I found my son’s plush Tiger half buried in the empty planter in the side yard. Upon excavation I found what I believe to be a pork bone buried next to it. Is this a message in the only language available to a pug/terrier?  A comment on extinction? A threat? How did he know to bury the bones? They must know that we bury our dead.

Everything the same. Everything different.

Humans need each other. We are sitting on the kitchen counter in her ‘grown-up’ house. It’s sometime between 3 and 5 am and she is one of my best friends. We live too far away from each other. We talk for hours and hours stopping only laugh hysterically (but silently) while we shove straws down the butt crack of our sleeping friend on the couch – a real couch that has a matching love seat in a living room that has a color scheme and coasters. We are back from a short night out on the town where-in we quickly became weary of the loud music and long bathroom line.
Who are we? we say…
When did we become so OLD?
I think the use of coasters has a lot to do with it.
We keep talking, whispering in the kitchen long after every one in the house has passed out – draped across couches and carpets. Because really when we are together we are still fifteen. Eating cold pizza and mixing sprite with vodka – just one more… a little one. Everything bears down on us; children, credit scores, sick family members, car payments, in-laws… but just for these few hours, while the real world has turned it’s head, we can time travel; that is power of old friendships.

Never, say Never

“Run from whats comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” @mav_mav

Deep in Steinbeck country, the gentle click-clacking of the diesel engine riding on the hot wind coming in through the windows, we re-apply chapstick for the 80th time. If you sweat, you barely feel it before it’s wicked off your skin by the parched air. The dog is panting like he just ran a marathon. We grumble past silos, and orchards, and thick patches of livestock ranches in mile-long bubbles of manure smell. Like Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown.

We stop for gas and ice-cream, we hose down the dog, poor thing.

Most girls wouldn’t swoon at the idea of vacationing in a two-tone, 15 foot, 1986 Chevy Beuville van, with a dog. But, we’ve established here, that I am quite left of center.

It looks like home, bright yellow furry hills as far as the eye can see; crippled gray oak trees shading rectangular cows mud brown or paten-leather black, with their heads dipped to the earth in the humming munching meditation of grazing. When I die I want to come back as one of these cows. Grazing all day, lying in the shade, ‘mooing’ to show affection or displeasure.

Great long wire fences delineating god-knows-what spread into yellow nothing, meeting the baby-blue dome bright and searing.

We are heading to Sonoma, for wedding, well it’s more of a party, because they already got married and had their honeymoon in a cab-over-camper on a road trip through “God’s Country” – for lack of greater detail.  But as much as they didn’t want a wedding, they knew better than to commit the mortal sin of denying the O’Neills’ a good party.

So here we are traveling from all corners in cars, vans, trains and airplanes, to take over their street for a two-day block party.

Rob has met my whole family already (see posts dating in July), but this will be his official debut as my “boyfriend” at an O’Neill family event,  and it will end in a naked hot-tub party with the groom chanting his name.  Yeah, I’d say it went well.

It’s the kind of hot that makes your skin sting in the sunlight. We nurse our pre-party hangovers with the delicacy  of war veterans behind sunglasses. We snack on doughnuts as Rob makes huevos rancheros, and a heard of family arrives to “help set up”. There is a lot of idle chatter, popping open tables and chairs, moving cars, standing around, filling coolers. Neighbors coming in and out. A certain adolescent cousin eats the frosting off of two doughnuts from the box, discarding the bare carcases, with kid-sized bite marks, on the kitchen table.

The bride holds court on the couch with her swollen foot aloft and iced, due to a classic unfortunate unloading-the-ice-block accident. We promise to make sure she doesn’t get parked next to the old people and left for dead at the party. (She is in a wheelchair on the dance floor at one point.)

Later,

The sun goes down, the flowers are placed on the checkered table cloths, the neighbor’s band sets up on a trailer pulled by a Subaru. And the infamous “Margarator” begins its constant churning. The taco cart man goes into “the zone” chopping and grilling and scooping and warming tortillas like a man on fire ( he is now an unofficial member of the family after seeing us through two summer weddings); he winks at the circling contingent of dogs and flicks them a couple of pieces of gristle with his greasy spatula.  It’s really all about the tomatillo salsa.

We awake nestled cozily on a camping pad on the ply wood floor of the van, the merciful sky is overcast for the time being. The dog licking our aching heads. I scuttle down the street in my sweatshirt and PJs to use a real toilet, and find other sleepers lazily opening the doors of their vans and lifting the tarps over their truck beds. A silent wave, a squinty smile.

Crow is a gamey and oily S.O.B. But I’ve eaten it almost everyday this summer. Love – ugh! I sound like Carrie Bradshaw –  makes one do things that may seem contrary to one’s normal behavior. In fact, the brain of a person in love is most chemically similar to a person on the brink of institution-worthy insanity. I’ve always harshly judged girls who move in with their boyfriends within a year of knowing them let alone within weeks, and with their boyfriend’s parents! Girls that “miss” their boyfriends while they are at work, and organize their lives around having the same days off. I’ve said that I’d never move back to Seattle “it’s too cold.” I’d never date anyone who went to Burning Man, I’d never want to move in with a guy that I hadn’t dated for more than 2 years, I’d never marry someone I hadn’t known for more than 5 years…

I have miles and miles of things I vowed I’d never do,  I am crossing off almost every single one, and I will probably break all my own rules by the time I die, and I don’t know why I’m so surprised, I mean, I love breaking rules.

But when it comes to “Love”, I have always been a real cynic. I scoffed every time my mom said “If it’s meant to be, it will happen…” and “when you know, you know!”… and the ever annoying “It will happen to you! He’s out there, I just know it!”  It’s a wonder that my eyes didn’t  come loose, they rolled around so much.  I mean, I’ve never had a real successful date in my life. I’ve always just hung around with the same guy until it got awkward NOT to call them my boyfriend. Like a true Barraza, I assume the worst with a lighthearted cynicism, while secretly wishing for the happy ending.

We tell each other our most shameful secrets over steaming bowls of Pho in a neon tinted mid-century strip mall restaurant. The kind where the menus are on display  between the turquoise poly ester cloth and the slab of scratched glass on the table top. The ringing spicy broth excising all demons via the back of our necks. It’s so delicious, but so painful to eat. Like catholics, we are contrite and accepting of it’s  equal parts pain and pleasure.

It’s our three-month anniversary, and I magically have the day off. Rob makes banana bread french toast –  and YES he made the bread the night before from scratch – with eggs over easy and sausages, serving it to me on my favorite plate. We take the dog to the Arboretum, admiring the first of the trees turning. We lie on grass in what may be some of the last lingering sun, tossing a stick to the dog. We are waiting to be approved for move-in by our new roommate.  She wants to meet the dog and iron some things out over a beer. We drool over the kitchen, and the deck, dreaming of parties we could throw, and people who would come visit us.

What we end up admiring most about the arboretum, is the amazing spider webs that stretch across impossible distances. the perfect swirls spun just-so, in a pocket of slanting light, the silky strings glowing. The spider sits contemplating his work, his plump body riding the delicate sail in the breeze.

It’s the strongest substance in the world, Rob says.

Incredible. 

Whats weird, is they can never see their work, for us, it would be like painting a mural on a football field and never being able to step back, get above it, and see the finished product. They just follow the program in their head. 

With no idea of what the finished web looks like, they just have to trust their instincts, programmed a million years ago by nature. All they can see is whats right in front of them, the next step, the next design element, the next decision to be made. Until, they get to the center, then sit swinging in the breeze and wait for lunch to fly by, hoping against hope that the branch they chose doesn’t snap, and if it does, what the next most reliable branch?

So we sign a lease this week.  I take my best instincts, my most honed decision-making skills, move forward on the best possible course I can think of, hoping that the branch I chose doesn’t break; circling the center, building a structure I hope will last a long time and keep me safe. So far, so good.

the birds will tell us.

Here’s a hint: if you can see a glacier from where you’re swimming…. don’t.

The water of Baker Lake is the kind of cold that makes you involuntarily gasp like an old woman in a Victorian period piece… and I am “taking a bath” in it; meaning: I am huffing and squealing and rubbing myself down as fast as I can with bio-degradable soap, behind my ears, armpits and hair,  like someone has a gun to my head.  The up-side is that once you exit the frigid pool, the post-thunderstorm drizzle now feels like a summer breeze, comparatively. We wrap up in fire-warmed towels, sip gritty coffee, and eat bacon right off the cast-iron pan with our fingers.

Absolutely everything is soaking wet, from all the sleeping bags to the potato chips. We were hit in the middle of the night with a crippling thunderstorm having just enough time to throw a tarp over our hammock but not enough time to cover the firewood, our back packs, or the stove. At 11 AM the outlook is bleak. The rain continues to drill down without the slightest breath in between. My Eagle Scout and I are tucked deep in the belly of a canvas hammock and swaddled in a tarp. He insists that it has to let up soon. So we stay hibernating.

How will we know when the storm passes?

The birds will tell us.  He says. They will start singing again when the rain stops. 

And with the intensity of a child waiting for sounds of Reindeer on the roof, I strain to hear chirps or whistles… something. But after an hour of false positives, we resign our dignity and brave the elements.

On the way home the next day. We make a U-turn at the first sign for a Brewery, deep on highway 20, a two-lane road passing through endless sheep and rolling green farms.  We pull squealing into a dirt parking lot, the sign for Birdsview Brewing Co. is an illustration of a soaring eagle carrying in his talon’s two pints of beer. On tap is the perfectly named “Sweet Brown Molly” right next to the “Ditzy Blonde.”  The smell of treated wood and boiling mash fill the funky round building.  Of course today, is perfectly hot and sunny we choose to enjoy our cheese sandwich and pints outside on a picnic table savoring the return to civilization. Eagle Scout promises that next time we camp we will remember to bring the tent. I vow to remind him about it. We grab a growler of “Sweet Brown Molly” and “Amber” to-go and I poke around the 9-barrel system asking questions before we politely thank the lady and leave. The old men go back to their game of dominos, the daughter of the owner goes back to stirring the boiler with a canoe paddle.

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Late summer, and a string of warm nights bring out  the craziest outfits. The ghostly thighs of north-westerners grace the sidewalks and benches of Seattle with a alarming lack of apology. Patios are discovered, nay, summoned out of thin air.

I discover “Teriyaki” in it’s true form, a mostly to-go deli consisting of  a shoe-box counter, with a small dark haired person behind it, writing down your order, punching it in the broken register, and asking if you’d like to make that a combo? If you do, your chicken/beef ‘spicy’ with brown rice will come with a watery salad, a soda, and a golden crisp egg roll bursting with delicious grease. Then the counter person will yell blindly at a curtain behind them, calling out your order with a shrill confidence. You see the chef’s feet furiously shuffling between wok and grill. The egg rolls are often kept in a warmer on the front counter next to a pyramid of mini to-go sauce cups gleaming a lovely unnatural orange. You can smell he gooey plum smell of the teriyaki sauce rising up through the styrofoam box and plastic bag. These little teriyaki joints may be the last earth-destroying hold outs against popular movement towards paper and compostable containers. But there are no hairy women in Teva’s with pamphlets banging on the windows demanding them to stop strangling ducks. It’s an understanding, like letting babies buy cigarettes in the Philippines, styrofoam and plastic bags, must be part of the culture of Teriyaki. There is something about a lava-hot breast of chicken swimming in sweet sauce over a bed of sticky rice that begs for a plate made to survive a nuclear holocaust.  Teriyaki to-go joints are specific to the North West. Everyone has “their place” and most good places make their own sauce, their recipes shrouded in mystery.

In a public amphitheater in a little wooded park, over-ripe actors belt out shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The air gets cool between the trees, the sun sliding up the reddish trunks, sprawled on a fleece blanket that we keep in the car for little excursions like this, we slurp our Teriyaki dinner and watch outdoor community theatre like a couple of old people.

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In a little cabin at the mouth of MeadowDale creek Ranger Doug lives with his two daughters, ages 10 and 13. They were both born here, in this house. He is a taught man in his late fifties, comfortable in his khaki uniform. Happy to tell stories. MeadowDale is a little known park, with a well groomed trail winding down through the firs and maples from the neighborhood above. Every year, Doug and some volunteers count the salmon that return by hand, and hatch new eggs in the cool green pools between the weirs that he built himself. He buys the fertilized salmon eggs from the tribe across the water. He feels bad asking people to leave after sunset, because he knows how beautiful it is. I usually let them linger a little and enjoy it, He rocks back and forth in his well-worn boots, but if they stay too late, it can get dark up there on the trail. He looks out and smiles at the sunset. How about that?

There is a manicured lawn, and a covered picnic area at the bottom of the gulch, that he is proud to rent out for $47 dollars a day. To get to the beach you cross over the creek mouth and under the railroad tracks, on a board walk. The creek empties out onto a sunny spit of sand shaped like a kidney bean egg-white and soft. Large logs lay like bleached whale bones making natural benches; perfect for reading or eating a sandwich. You look out over the sound, with Widbey Island off to the North West and a perfect panorama of the Olympics. The sun bears down on the little beach, where families in large hats let their kids play in the warm water where the creek meets the sound.  Cruisers, and barges sail silently past, the distant howl of the ferry horn keeps you from sleeping too soundly.

Watch the sun disappear like bright orange water in a drain, the geese claim the creek mouth for the night, and Ranger Doug tell us to come back during a low tide sometime. You can walk all the way to Picnic Point from here. 

We pack up our little blanket and towels. Ranger Doug is stopped by a couple on the beach, and he happily obliges them as camera man, easily maneuvering the little digital camera, directing the couple to move closer. He has clearly done this before.

Fresh Dungeeees.

Running down the driveway to the big house with a bottle of beer and a mason jar, through warm rain that steams up off the asphalt as soon as it hits. Purple flashes stain the groaning slate clouds, and I am hoping he isn’t still holding the hedger. Father and son have taken cover on the back porch beneath the modern greek stucco pillars. We stand looking out over the sound, gracing the seats of the ornate outdoor furniture with our torn shorts and grubby gloves. We sip the beer and watch the electric purple veins strike like long vengeful fingernails the wooded islands across the water.

He kisses my damp shoulder, calls me beautiful, and says thanks for the beer. We sit for a while until it clears, watching the ferry boats and cruise ships drift  by;  watching the water steam up off the warm grass and pavement; the sun slicing through again.

This weekend we are headed across the water to places with exotic, and mysterious names; distant watery towns tucked into trees, hanging above docks, curled in on the down of soft pastures. We take the car ferry from Seattle. The weather has cleared and the sun cooks Seattle’s sensitive belly. The locals are all but naked in anticipation of the summer weather. 80 degrees with only a 20 percent chance of rain, to me, it feels like October.  A wave of salt and cedar slough off the looming coasts of small and little-known islands, soaked in exhaust and algea. I try to tamp my excitement, he points to shadow-green strips of land with roofs and decks poking out and says “Indianola, Kingston, Suquamish, Manitou, Vashon, Bainbridge….”   I butcher the old and poetic names with niaeve humor.. “Succotash, Indiana, Manatee…” These are not the familiar Spanish arrangements of my upbringing, but an older and unnatural tounge. I can’t keep strait which are Islands, and which are peninsulas. I wonder about the cold-boned and broad faced people from here. The trickling families, who stays and who leaves, how they get old and petrified with salt and rain like boney logs on the rocky shore.

Once off the ferry and out of town the roads become thin strips of pavement between walls of endless trees. Everything is cut out of the forest with the smallest possible footprint; the trees loom, as if glowering over the gas stations, corner stores, two lane highways, and bright little farm houses tucked apologetically in damp meadows.

His grandparents live in a little wooden house, on a clear-cut patch of grass at the edge of a cliff. “That over there, is Miller Bay…” Grandpa says, ” There is Suquamish, these guys here are getting busted for crabbing without a license… look at them… yeah… busted.” He points down at a little yellowing boat, ensconced in buoys, being approached by a police boat with it’s sirens on. The red muddy tide curls along the shore.

“The crabbin’ been good this year,” He says, “I’m getting some salmon this week… ’bout fifty pounds… gonna smoke it.” This leads to a debate between merits of Sock-eye versus King Salmon (subcategories I only know from menus) settling on the merits of the King, it having more fat, therefore better for smoking. This is all sounding like a foreign language to me, a girl from a patterned stucco suburb of Los Angeles. We fished once a year, at a penny-sized man-made pond  called “Trout-Dale”. The thin dead trout would then live in our freezer in plastic bags until mom threw them out.

Grandpa is buying the salmon from someone “in the tribe“, who has the right to fish the coveted breed. The tribe is a presence around here, a frontage road running along side the highway, a sub culture. There is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ with a oval of impasse, relationships of convenience. They  mention “the Rez” in the same way that I would mention  “Van Nuys” or “Riverside.”

We wrap up our visit with cups of tea and sugar-free cookies. More driving through trees, across bridges, through towns, more naming of  beaches – thin and pebbly. The town of Indianola is absurdly charming. There is a stop sign, and a little red building called the Country Mart. Out front – like he was painted in by Norman Rockwell – a little toe-head boy shares an ice-cream cone with a curly-haired dog. We pick up a 12 pack of Rainer (that’s Washington-Speak for Pabst-Blue-Ribbon) and walk down to the dock, where teenage girls lean against the wooden railings talking to thin boys with fishing rods.

We are picked up by a shirt-less crew of Rob’s good friends, in a little speed boat and I work quickly to impress them with my wit, trying hard not to seem too “Californian.” I  hide my squeamishness when they pull up glittering cages of brown spidery Dungeness Crabs, clinging in panic, snapping their prehistoric claws with indignant rage. They seem so benign in the big glass aquariums at Pavillions, I can’t fathom how we are going to eat these things, they look like dinosaurs. We zip around to a few different buoys drinking beer, pulling up baskets of angry crabs.  The sun lighting us up, burning up the corners of our eyes, and drying yesterday’s storm.

In the  grassy yard of a little house, just up the road from the dock, we set up the BBQ and the crabs are boiled on the grass in an old beer keg with the top cut off, the screaming yellow foam brings a few curious neighbors, who ask about “our pull.” They eye me warily, they ask me where I’m from, and with proud grins, inform me with sweeping arms, that I am lucky to be here. I agree as I slice vegetables on a picnic table, help a little girl spell everyone’s name with a crayon, and take shots of  whiskey. I watch and learn how to crack crab on a pile of newspapers.  Finally the sun sets around 9:30, the fire-pit is lit, and we drunkenly eat crab salad and grilled vegetables. Someone turns on “The Talking Heads” which spawns a sing-a-long. The kids fall asleep in the master bedroom, and I am the only one with a sweater on, as it has fallen below 70 degrees now. The air, the still and shore-clean air holds the sweatness of the grass, and the fresh crab, and the crackling fire-pit. I want to bottle this smell and keep it on a shelf, and whenever I am feeling lonely or sad, I could just open the little bottle and sniff the cap, go back in time to an unfamiliar homeyness I felt, right then.

Rob’s Crab Ceviche/ Salad:

Ingredients: 

15 Fresh Dungeness Crab boiled in an old beer keg

1 head of crunchy purple lettuce

1 head of Garlic

1 jalapeno

1 thai pepper

1 purple onion

2-3 heads of fresh uncooked corn

1 can black beans

limes, lemons, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and hot-sauce to taste

Directions: Crack crab on sheets of Newspaper; chop all vegetables; put everything in the same bowl. Enjoy with beer, and friends, on tortilla chips or with a fork.