Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Friday, June 29, 2007

Far Beyond the Pukeweeds

What are "pukeweeds", you may ask. In the language of my family, there are various meanings:

1. The tall weeds one frantically searches out, away from the invading eyes of others, when one needs to puke. For instance, at the county fair, when you've stuffed your imbecilic face with cotton candy and elephant ears and orange Push-Ups and caramel corn and corn-on-the-cob and Lemon Shake-Ups and pig-on-a-stick, and then you ride the gut-jarring Tilt-A-Whirl, you may stagger down the metal ramp afterwards and find yourself in great need of pukeweeds. Those same weeds are used when you're in the middle of a rural area with a full bladder and no hope of enduring the bumpy ride back to town on the gravel road. Thus, pukeweeds can accomodate all bodily waste products, projectile or otherwise. Note to the wise: pukeweeds can contain poison ivy. You can get a face-full of it while honking your guts, or expose your clammy buttcheeks to it if you don't pay close attention.

2. Pukeweeds is also a geographical location, usually included in a phrase such as "out in the pukeweeds" and "way out past the pukeweeds." You'll know these places when you find them. Don't even bother to try your cell phone. Coverage doesn't make it to the pukeweeds.

Why do I bring this up as I'm writing about my wedding? Because my wedding was so far out past the pukeweeds, at my niece's farm, that even Mapquest was of no help. You can't type in a road that is merely nicknamed by the locals as your destination. Special maps had to be designed for our guests and signs were stuck into the mud that said "Wedding. 1 and a half miles this way." We considered spelling it "Weddin'."

Our guests entered an extra special degree of rural isolation, one my mother describes as "Out where the hoot owls screw the chickens." When she is in such a place, and looks out the car window down into a ravine at the weeds and mud and damp shade, she claims there are "snakes down there biggern yer arm." In circumference, not length of course.

My niece and her husband and son live on an expanse of land that is breathtaking. Big rolling hill, sparkling lake-let (pond), a pasture full of dumb, happy cows with hay breath and cheerfully poop-encrusted butts, and 3 giant silver grain bins that look as though they have just landed. In other words, the perfect spot for a wedding.

On Thursday morning, June 21st, the fine people of Terre Haute Tent and Awning came and put up 3 tents for the wedding. One big one for the ceremony and 2 smaller ones for the food. We knew it would be raining and/or Africa-hot and hoped the tents would save us from either scenario. However, Thursday night a storm with ridiculous wind (made more ridiculous on a big tall rolling hill) took down the tents. Knocked them over like 3 tipsy 13-year-old boys sharing one can of beer. My niece Michele ran outside to roll her barbecue grill up to the house so it wouldn't take flight and knock out a picture window. The wind trapped her between the grill and the house. She made it inside without a broken pelvis, which was happy news indeed.

A couple hours later, the tent boys were there to re-do the job.

Meanwhile, back in town, Scott and his brother-in-law Jimi and nephew Patrick were cooking up their own storm. Get this: Since Scott is a chef, (went to one of them fancy Cordon Bleu ((pronounced Bluh)) schools and everything) he insisted on making the food for his own wedding. I thought he was not exactly cooking with all 4 burners from the beginning of this idea, but he said it would be fun. The extremely generous woman who was making our wedding cakes (both of them, the normal one and the kitty litter one) offered up her entire business location and its professional kitchen facilities to Scott and company to use any way they liked. He was overjoyed.

Here is a small piece of the pre-planning that took place:

This past winter, when Scott would come to the midwest to visit me, he would make several gallons of home-made, scrumptious tomato sauce. (He planned to make 2 kinds of lasagna and eggplant parmesan for the wedding.) He would freeze it in Ziploc bags at -20 degrees, then put it in his suitcase and bring it to my freezer. I would, in turn, eventually transport it to my sister's deep freeze in my hometown where it would stay until the cooking started in June. There were 3 such shipments. He made numerous gallon bags of meatless sauce and meat sauce. These were odd looking packages. Frozen cubes of something dark red. As though he was a mule for a black market platelet business.

The night before we flew out of Phoenix to Indiana, he blended bread crumbs and cheese in his Cuisinart to take with him to use as a topping for the eggplant parmesan. He even packed his own aprons. All this is stunning to a woman like me whose idea of cooking is to plop 2 black olives on a frozen cheese pizza and add salt & vinegar chips as a side dish.

The three guys did their culinary magic while I was out express-mailing papers to the attorney for the house closing, and doing girlie wedding things. I stopped by the bakery every once in awhile to see the hubbub, which was punctuated by splatters of tomato sauce and noodle arranging (no, that is not a metaphor about the trio of chefs) and wiping olive-oily hands on freshly stained aprons. Scott's sister, Beth, is about as interested in cooking as I am. She claims to do one percent of the cooking in her house. So I invited her to go with me to my almost favorite place anywhere: Walmart. This is a sacred invitation. Candy normally walks the aisles alone, in a meditative state. Beth was sort of the Candy Wrangler, making sure I kept my wits about me and didn't tarry too long in the oasis of fluorescent lights.

When we got back to the bakery, Beth went behind the counter and started picking up the crumbs from the empty no-bake cookie tray. I squealed on her: "Mary! Beth's behind the counter picking up crumbs like trailer trash!" Mary's response was to bring a long rectangular tupperware the size of a coffin out from the kitchen, flipping open the lid to reveal around 100 of her world famous cookies. The gooiest, sweetest, fudgiest, big-as-cow-pies cookies ever made. It was a moment before we could move. We first had to take in the awesomeness of such a huge quantity of high school bake sale booty. Then we ate until our teeth hurt from the grinding of the sugar. We were desperate for milk. Or pukeweeds.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Did It. I Bit the Dust.

And by doing it, I mean I got married. And by dust, I'm referring to what is now inside my skull where my brain used to reside. Not because of the wedding. Because of the extra day of traveling because OF COURSE AMERICAN AIRLINES CANCELLED OUR FLIGHT HOME. Kind of one last kick in the ass to the new bride and groom, who had already made a pact never to use them again. More about that later.

Candy must tackle the wedding story in small bites. Let us begin with the day before we left for Indiana.

Remember how I said I thought I had sold my house? As it turned out, the house did sell, which meant that in addition to the wedding details, I had much faxing and signing and overnight mailing of power-of-attorney forms and seeking out notary publics, etc. And there were many phone calls (some in airports, some while driving, some while slapping together the final wedding stuff) back and forth with the realtor and the attorney so I could pull that mortgage albatross from around my feeble bridal neck. In lieu of a bouquet I would be able to toss my bothersome house payment into the wind. Or into that special dark abyss of Things I Never Have to Think About Again. Even if I did lose several thousand bucks on the house. It's someone else's poor homely prom date now.

On Wednesday, June 20th, Scott and I marched up the stairs of the Clay County Indiana courthouse to get our marriage license. We were giddy and acting like idiots and then we tried to somewhat compose ourselves so we wouldn't be thrown out for suspected drunkenness. We sat in the County Clerk's office and answered the questions of a polite heavily made-up woman who was typing the answers on her clickety-clack keyboard.

After the usual name/address/blah blah she got to some more pointed questions:

"Scott, have you ever in the past been judged unsound of mind?"

We could not contain ourselves. We howled. Like coyotes. The woman had a bored half-smile on her face that said she had encountered this reaction more times than there are "whatevers" in a junior high lunch hour.

"No," he said.

Very immature tittering continued on our side of the desk.

Next question:

"Are the two of you related any more closely than second cousins?"

That was the end of us and any attempt we were making at composure. And anyhow, without inbreeding, the population of Indiana would have dwindled to that of a bowling league by now.

She ended the question and answer with her final punch:

"Do you know about AIDS and how it is transmitted sexually?"

Her half-smile faded completely when we asked if a demonstration was available.

The strangest question in the bunch was:

"Do you live in the city or the country?"

We have no idea, still, what that was about. Unless it was some arcane legality left on the books from the 1800s. Like the ones that say it's illegal to eat corn on the cob on a Sunday at midnight. Or to wear a top hat while beating your donkey. At least those make sense.

More details tomorrow.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Get Me to the Church on Time

Hear ye, hear ye! This be my last post as an unmarried.

And actually there is no church. We're getting hitched in my niece's back yard. She and her husband have a big honking farm in rural Indiana (where I'm from). Big rolling hills, pond, giant silos, all the accoutrements. Including several happy, lazy hound dogs running about, all of them related, throwing themselves down in the grass like paratroopers and traipsing around on the cool cement of the back porch. Michele, my niece, tells me these guys will be housed down the road at her in-laws, so as not to disturb the wedding.

I do not know how this happened. Not the getting married part. The getting married outside part. I detest the out-of-doors. I go outside to get my mail, and I come back in. That may change here in Phoenix on the days when it isn't astoundingly hot. I may go outside more and stop being a she-mole. But in the unforgiving summer humidity of the Midwest? No. I stay inside. So how did this plan come about? Something about keeping it small and casual.

Our families are emailing, asking what to wear. Worried that we don't really mean it when we say we just don't give a rat's ass. Be comfortable. Sure, we're dressing up. I've got a long purple dress and he has a dark gray Italian suit that makes me want to rip it off him. That jacket will be off him 15 seconds after the vows are finished. But not because of any unladylike behavior on my part. This is 90 degree Indiana muggy we're talking about. The wedding isn't until 6:30 p.m. and we have tents coming for shade, and in case of rain. But it'll still be life-force-emptying sticky at that time of day.

We're down to the wire now. Hurrying to throw together the last minute crap. It seems like all we've been doing for the last 3 months is throwing together enough details to wage a complicated war against an imaginary planet. There was the semester to finish, the packing, the hiring a realtor, the saying goodbye to so many people that I already miss, the job interviews, the packing, the loading, the sweating, the other interviews, the phone calls, the car check-ups, the dentist, the last minute pap smear while I was still on my insurance. NOTHING is as festive as a last minute pap smear. Think of it as a drive-by shooting for the cervix, but with just one big cold slow bullet. Stirrups. Stirrups. Just the word makes me smile.

Oh, and I think I sold my house today, so there's that paperwork and faxing to do. I took a huge beating on it, just to get rid of it. So as not to allow it to join the ranks of the 7 other houses in my neighborhood that have been sitting like prom wallflowers waiting to be noticed.

Totally different subject: Twizzlers. I'm chewing my 25th-ish one of the day. Keeps me from gnashing my teeth during the final 400 details. Excellent for blood sugar.

Let me tell you what it's come to. Scott needed to buy pool chemicals today. He went out to get them. The place had just closed. He came back home to get me so we could go to PetSmart to get Hankie a new toy and some cat food. I am outraged, by the way, at how difficult it is to find a good cat toy in this godforsaken city. I don't want a feathery one that he can chew up and half-swallow and choke on, looking as though he has committed suicide by ramming an entire bald eagle into his mouth. And I don't want the wussy little bells-and-yarn things that would embarrass any cat like they were being forced to wear a dickey. We found a good one at PetSmart, got that and about 30 cans of food, and the cashier had to ring everything up three times. She would ring it all up, put it in the bags, we'd put the bags in our cart, and she'd say "Oh my God. That totally didn't work." and we'd take the bags out and dump them and she'd start again. All the while we are starving, our tempers are twitching like Sylvia Plath at a Dr. Seuss Festival.

Upon final escape, Scott was craving a root beer float so we hit the superb ice cream place, Mary Coyle's, where he ordered the float and I got a scoop of the lusciously disgusting black licorice ice cream that makes my tongue turn as black as the grim reaper's cape. It is very appealing. Ask him. Scott. Not the grim reaper.

We came home, lost track of what we were supposed to do next, got in the pool, paddled around, talked about the next dozen things on our list. And then one of us said "Oh yeah! We'll be married when all this is done!" It keeps us going. That and the tittering knowledge that our wedding cake will be an elaborate "Kitty Litter Cake" complete with melted tootsie rolls to simulate poopage. We got class. Ask anybody.

Tuesday will be our first time to fly together. For almost 2 years it's been one of us going to see the other. This is an adventure in itself. And the oddity will continue when we see our two families together, our worlds colliding layer after layer. There are details I can't help picturing. My parents walking me down the aisle of grass, my dad barely able to walk at all, but still he and my mom are madly in love and coming up on their 66th anniversary.

Scott will be waiting, sweaty and smiling, I'm guessing. Words will come out of our mouths that will seal the deal. I will be more crazy about him than ever.

Then we will eat fake cat feces.

Wish us luck. See you in a week.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Give Me Only Tiny News

I didn't exactly move to Phoenix from a big city. Population: 100,000. During the school year, 140,000. For now I'll skip over the part about how easy it was, back there, to get around in a car compared to facing the warp-speed zigging and zagging highway demons here.

Right now I'm stunned over the local TV newscasts. I watched the 10 p.m. news for the first time a couple nights ago. I was accustomed to big town news, not big city horror. I know that creepy people-are-awful stuff goes on everywhere. But it all feels turned up a notch here. For instance, back in the town of the Big Giant University, there are occasional animal abuse stories, usually several dogs or cats being left behind in a trailer after Jeb and Irene take off for the hills to escape their past due utility bills. Here, the story is more pointed:

According to Arizona Humane Society spokeswoman Kim Noetzel, two 15-year-old boys watched as Beadle coated the puppy in cooking oil and then fed it to the snake.

A 40-year-old man fed a puppy to a red-tailed boa. An oiled puppy.

And the happy stories just kept coming.

5 violent attacks in 5 days in Mesa.

A fight between the parents and the wife of a man who is soon to be "unplugged" medically after a car crash. He was, according to his wife, yelling at her and beating on the inside of the windshield when he lost control of the vehicle. She was trying to jump out to save her own life when they crashed.

The "local" news in Phoenix doesn't feel local to me. Local is when your town is still arguing about the university mascot and whether or not to retire it. It is about wild turkeys showing up to linger on city streets. And the biggest news of the year back home: move-in day for the university students! At the end of August, I could count on the station back home to show 4 full minutes of footage of undergrads and their sweaty parents carrying speakers and playstations and endless armloads of hanging clothes into dorm entrances.

I admit it. I'm not a big city girl. I lived in a pretend big city for a few years. Indianapolis. It's more like a mutated farm town. Big and sprawly and inconvenient. It took half an hour to get anywhere and then I felt as though I still wasn't anywhere. I liked Indianapolis but it still felt too big, too urban, too exhausting. My hometown, population 8,000, soothes me like a pedicure. Soothes. Present tense. When I was growing up there I was blisteringly bored.

There was nothing soothing about being on a farm in the middle of Nowhere's Backyard, no neighbors, no paved roads, no kids. The mysterious "town kids" had the luxury of a Hook's drugstore within biking distance. They could just go there anytime they felt like it and buy things. Comic books and gum and bright plastic jumpropes the color of highway cones. They could go to Burger Chef. They could visit each other, play games, run loose like hoodlums. On the rare occasion that I rode my bike to a friend's house, I had to struggle through the 3-inch-deep gravel with the meager tires of my stingray bike. Then after I got there, I was too tired to ride home and my mom had to come get me in the pick-up. Good times, those.

Even back in the college town, I longed for the very quiet space of the farm where I was raised. No sound but crickets and the occasional horny bullfrog. I've never liked that cricket sound. My sister, on the other hand, has a CD that sounds like a swamp. She can't get enough crickets. For me they're noisy little unnecessary in-breds that need a good beating. Like most of my family.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Elaborate Meals in the Car

Sometimes you have to have real food. On our trip, after hours of over-chowing on Twizzlers and cashews and ice cream and Pepsi and Sprite and bottles of cold Starbucks Frappucino, we needed something normal.

We stopped at Cracker Barrel. I went in and ordered 2 chicken 'n' dumplings dinners, stretched my legs, splashed my face with water, and walked around the gift shop for a minute, taking in the festive dry goods. There was a quilt with roosters all over it, and the fabric tail feathers actually stuck out sassily from the quilt! 3-D rooster quilts! I wanted to put my teeth into one and drag it to the parking lot for a little primal scream.

Back to the car I went, my sitting-too-long limp almost gone. Scott's turn. He went in and fetched our dang good down home dinners, the famous dumplings, accented by side dishes of lumpy mashed potatoes (which I love) and fried okra (love even more). We set up shop in the car, positioning our styrofoam trays accordingly: his on the steering wheel, mine on the open glove compartment. We pulled bottles of water out of the cooler, I handed gravy-covered bites of chicken under the glove compartment door to Hankie's secret lair, and even though we knew we had 2 full days of driving still to go, it was OK.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How the Rest of the Trip Went

After you have closed a cat's tail in a car door, your entire existence focuses sharply on not ever, ever doing that again.

Scott and I became a committed anti-tail-maiming team. Any time we stopped for food or gas or a bathroom or all three, we'd take turns getting out of the car while the other stayed inside with Hankie. When I opened the passenger side door, Scott reached down to the passenger floorboard to gently hold the tail of the sleeping Hankie, because the scheming thing could otherwise slither its way into the door slam again. And that would have been the end of me.

This process was not as easy as it sounds. Every time I left the car, I had been, for 2 or 3 hours, contorted like a gargoyle in order to wedge my feet into a space the size of a Chiclet. I could barely unfold myself enough to stand up, and when I did I grabbed the roof of the car with both hands to keep from collapsing like a startled souffle. Hankie would look up at whomever had his tail in hand, and squint in his sleepy confusion.

Oklahoma. The wind was pushing even my extremely weighed down car all over the highway like an air hockey puck. Semis were swerving like serpents as we passed them.

We had to stop for gas. Scott got out while I did the tail-holding. The sand and grit in the air flew into the car and into my hair and eyes and teeth. When I looked outside, Scott was running as fast as he could into the convenience store. He was getting sandblasted. When he came back to the car, all his flesh had been jackhammered off by the wind. All of it. He was a skeleton. I tried not to let on that he was fleshless, and that his every move should be accompanied by xylophone music, like in cartoons with skeletons, but when he opened his skull mouth and said "Holy sh*t. That wind almost knocked my legs out from under me." I could not stifle a laugh.

My turn came. I had no choice. I'd had a hearty breakfast of Sprite and Twizzlers, heavy on the Sprite. The second I opened the car door, Hankie's tail whipped to the danger zone. Scott pulled it back in. The plastic bag that covered the cat box scooper was sucked out of the car and shot like an angry sperm across the road into a churchyard. Litter was sucked right out of the litterbox in the back seat, bounced off our eyes and then followed the scoop to church. I didn't have time to worry about leaving traces of catshit for the Baptists.

When I got inside, I mumbled to the girl behind the counter that the wind was unbelievable. In full-Okie accent she said "We might git a tornado later on." As though she'd said she might be eating a Cheez-It later on. No big deal. Just a few trailers slamming around overhead. Whoop. What? You pussies never been in a twister before?

The skeleton and I took off, his flesh slowly reforming on his frame the farther away we got from there. "Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain," my ass. Hankie slept on, at my feet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today he is 89. Normally I'd have been with him for the day, but this time I was too far from home. This will be the tougher part of the move to get used to.

But I'm grateful he's still around and will be walking me down the aisle.

(More on the cross country adventure tomorrow.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Scott and Candy's Cross-Country Adventure

If you've read my blog in the past you already know how much I detest flying. Driving/riding in a car is just a different back alleyway of Hell.

Scott, Hankie and I took off from the beautiful flatness of central Illinois on Tuesday, June 5th. We were already a day late leaving town because it took that long to load the truck and then to do that awful last part: picking up all the odds and ends in the house and either tossing them onto the heaping pile of garbage, or finding a nook or cranny for them in the car.

The supply of nooks and crannies dried up fast. For 2 reasons:

1. I refused to trust any of my photos (thousands) or journals (28 years of them) to a moving truck. They had to go in the car with me. These items alone filled my poor Honda Accord to its bulging metal gills.

2. Scott and I fashioned what we considered to be the perfect car-bed for Hankie. We took a big soft suitcase, snipped off the lid with a pair of limb loppers, filled the remaining piece with "blankies for Hankie" and put his smelliest, most cat fur-coated ones on top. (I put the new invention in my house weeks ago so he'd get used to it and then jump with glee into the car when it was time to head for the southwest. I am an enormously naive dumbass.)

When we hit the road around noon on Tuesday, Hankie was in a bed/balcony in the back seat overlooking my head. His litter box was next to his bed, and he had an ideal skybox from which to view the sights. Voila!

The initial 30 minutes were rough. He wanted me to hold him, then he wanted to be back in his suitcase. He wanted me to hold him. Then he wanted to be back in the case. Hold him. Case. The inside of the car was a swirling snowglobe of fur. I swear to you, I just this minute sneezed purely from the sensory memory of it.

Time passed. Hankie settled down. He actually got into the suitcase and went to sleep. Scott and I were thrilled. Our cat-travel-bed prototype had earned its place in pet history. 15 minutes later, my intelligent cat got into his litter box and peed. Scott and I continued our figurative high-fiving and bold self-congratulatory remarks.

Then. The rest stop.

The idea was that we'd take Hankie out on his supremely stylish purple harness and let him sniff the grass in rest areas covering 6 states. He loves to be outside. What a good, wholesome idea to leash him up and share the adventure of the trip with him.

Unless you choose a rest stop that is positioned between the two sides of the highway, with hundreds of semis barreling down the freeway. Since Hankie has developed significant hearing loss in his advanced age (he is 100 in human years), we thought the sounds would go unnoticed. They didn't. He would not eat from his plate or drink from his tiny bowl. He gazed up at me with the most crystal clear expression: "You stupid hag."

It was time to go.

And go we did. I was distraught, believing this to be the big sign that Hankie would drop dead on the trip, like a pioneer, face-down in a smallpox blanket, falling off the back of a Conestoga wagon. I was freaking out. I was a horrible person for putting my ancient cat through this. Perhaps if given the choice he would have opted for a clandestine meeting with the Kevorkian of the cat world, where he could gracefully bow out of this worldly plane and avoid the agonizing car ride.

Scott started the car to cool it off. I hurried to get Hankie into his suitcase, away from the screaming 18-wheelers. I opened the back door of the Honda. I plopped him into the suitcase. I closed the f*cking door on his tail. No, listen: I closed the DOOR on his TAIL. I have no words to describe the horror that shot through me during that split second when I saw his tail sticking out of the closed door. Panic seared through me like fire up a strand of hair. I tried to scream but my vocal cords had tunneled to the core of the earth and woven themselves into a fleshy placemat.

Through the car window, I witnessed a silent-movie version of Hankie's agony. He meowed so fiercely with his mouth so wide open that suddenly the peeled-back face of Mariah Carey faced me, hitting a note high enough to shatter the contact lenses of every myope in Missouri. "Show me" state? I'll show you. I'll show you just how petrifyingly stupid a woman can be.

I opened the door and poured out my apologies, rubbing his wounded tail and checking it for breaks. Hankie looked miserable. Scott's face was a smear of disbelief. Hankie climbed out of the suitcase and skulked down to the shadowy floorboard, next to my feet and curled up like a pill bug. It was the closest thing to escaping the imbeciles he was with.

Make that singular. I was the lone imbecile, sitting in the passenger seat, my forehead against the dashboard, lamenting the awfulness of life, etc. etc. with the drama normally seen only in Russian novels.

We headed down the highway, quietly.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Hankie's First Morning in Phoenix

We made it to Phoenix from Illinois.
The participants:

Scott - Fiance extraordinaire. Did all 24 hours of driving us from my house to his.

Candy - That's me. I detest being in a car for longer than 15 minutes.

Hankie - 19 year old cat. Best creature on 4 legs.

It is hard to believe that our little group spent three entire days in a car. I'll go into some of the grueling highlights a bit later. The main point is, I started my relocated life today. The moving truck arrives Monday, and the wedding is 2 weeks from tomorrow.

When we finally got into Phoenix last night, we were done in. The minute we got out of the car it was as though someone had lifted the copper mold off the Jello salad and blasted it with a blowtorch of fatigue. The whole thing blobbed downward to a puddle of green nothingness, the once-festive bits of carrot languishing like tiny abandoned orange canoes.

Today we mostly tried to believe that we were no longer in a car. The relief was intense. This must be a speck of what it's like to die and to land smack-dab into the middle of the very, very pleasant afterlife you'd been hoping for. You get to stop worrying that there's no such place, and start frolicking in it.