Uptown Rantz

Don't Wanna Be No Uptown Fool

I Should’ve Bought the Damn Popcorn

“No, thank you,” I said to the little Cub Scout without even really looking at him. He was skinny with bony knees, messy hair and was probably in the second grade. He asked me if I wanted to buy some flavored popcorn and said the money goes to the Cub Scouts. I almost didn’t go into Kowalski’s when I saw him outside the entrance.

I walked inside and then turned around to watch him. He was earth tone from head-to-toe in the khaki uniform with knee-length shorts and green socks. I’ve seen kids his age doing much cooler things like skateboarding, playing soccer, and maybe this Cub Scout spends his other weekends doing those things too for all I know. But today he was awkwardly trying to sell popcorn and getting rejected over and over again. He would approach someone and they would wave him off before he even finished a sentence. Just like I did.

My Sunday was waking up at around 12:30PM, creeping around on Facebook and then watching the sole season of Saved By The Bell – The College Years, on Hulu. I didn’t even shower, let alone put on a clean shirt before driving the two blocks to Kowalski’s to buy some ice cream that I didn’t even really want. I couldn’t even manage to walk the two blocks on a sunny afternoon.

And this kid, on a Sunday afternoon, put on his Cub Scout uniform, had his parents drive him to Kowalski’s where he set up the table with fold-out legs and a home-made sign. He displayed the various bags of flavored popcorn and managed to approach adult strangers and ask them to spend money on something they really didn’t want. At that age, I could barely talk to adults that I knew, and rejection of any sort reduced me to tears.

I got home, sat down on my couch in my dirty t-shirt. The pint of Blue Bell sat on the kitchen counter in its paper bag. I felt bad about not buying the popcorn. I know the feelings of alone and helplessness, and they have nearly destroyed me at times in the past. I thought that kid likely felt helpless and alone, and maybe I was making too much out of it . . . over-thinking it. Either way, I shot up from my chair with my first burst of energy all day. I ran out the door and didn’t even bother to shut it behind me. I had $15.00 cash in my hand and was ready to buy as much popcorn as that would allow. I slowed down as I approached the parking lot. He wasn’t there. He had packed up and left.


Goin’ Home

I’m taking a weekend trip back to Minneapolis over Halloween weekend. Kristine has to work, so I’ll be solo, which is how I preferred anyway. I’ll stop by Cheney’s studio in Loring Park and drink Corona and eat pasta. I’ll stop by Parker’s duplex in Linden Hills and drink Heineken and hear about the escorts he’s been fucking.

I want to walk around Uptown and feel something, maybe even a longing for the neighborhood I called home for seven years, and the dirty, cold winters spent drinking pints and eating pizza slices at Green Mill. Some of those pint-nights were black-out carelessness and others were attempts at smothering an attack of depression stemming from feeling powerless over my life and wanting someone to come home to.

It was the days of thinking I would never make it out of the copywriter boredom of Thomson Reuters. It was that very boredom and frustration that led to the birth of this blog. It’s important to walk through memories now-and-then, even the bad ones…especially the bad ones. If for no other reason than to remind myself that I went through all of that and I’m still here.

Cheney and Shoegaze

“When did you know you wanted to make Kristine your fiancé?” Cheney whispered while staring down at her Corona bottle, her voice barely audible above the hum of the central air conditioning in my North Austin townhome and Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque shooting from the stereo speakers…shoegazer music straight outta Scotland.

“It’s so cool you still listen to CD’s,” she grabbed the jewel case and used it as a makeshift beer coaster. The condensation from the bottle quickly created a water ring on it. We were sitting on the living room floor, waiting for the 101-degree sun to set so we could sit on the patio.

I leaned back on my elbows. “One day…I woke-up and Kristine was putting on her morning makeup in the bathroom…leaning over the sink into the mirror, naked from the waist up. Her iPhone was propped-up on the counter and she was listening to a podcast interview of Deathcab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard. I loved Deathcab long before I met her, and she loved Deathcab long before she met me. That’s the second I knew I would marry her.”

“Oh,” Cheney replied, not looking up from the Corona, jewel case or water ring. She was visiting from Minneapolis on a one-way ticket and staying at my place. Kristine isn’t moving in until after the wedding, so Cheney was enjoying the spare bedroom and having the swimming pool to herself during the day when other tenants are at work.

“But what made Kristine different than Jessica or your other girlfriends?” She tilted back her head for a swig from the Corona and rested her eyes on me for an answer. Her blue two-piece swim suit was slightly visible under her long, white v-neck t-shirt. In the eight days she’s been here, her skin has gone from Minnesota pale to an attractive light bronze, more suited to her surfer girl frame.

I turned my butt 45-degrees and put my legs on the couch and lied back on the floor. Cheney’s knees were next to my head. She smelled like chlorine and suntan oil, her hair still wet from her swim. As long as I’ve known Cheney, she’s always had a smell to her…never an odor, but always a smell and always feminine.

“Timing, I think,” I said looking at the whiter than white ceiling. “It had gotten to the point where I wanted that commitment more than anything I’ve ever wanted. And I was at the point in life where I was almost ashamed of not being married. On airplanes, in line at the grocery store…I would tuck my bare ring finger beneath my phone or a magazine.” I grabbed Cheney’s Corona for a drink, most of it falling on my chin as I lay on my back.

Cheney sat straight up, reached both hands behind her head and removed the small band that had been holding up her damp, dark hair. Her hair fell and created a black curtain around her head. She handed the little elastic band to me, and I put it around my wrist. It smelled like her.

I got up and walked to the kitchen to grab a Corona for myself. Looking around my place, Cheney’s presence was unmistakable…Zippo lighter on the kitchen counter, stray cigarette butts on the patio, two Piccadilly writing journals next to the Keurig, guitar pick necklace hanging from the pantry doorknob, dirty pair of blue Vans classics inexplicably in the middle of the kitchen floor, a small pile of clean but unfolded underwear at the bottom of the staircase and the empty Corona bottles slowly amassing on the counter next to the fridge.

“Why? I thought you loved your single life,” I asked her while grabbing a Corona by the neck at the back of the fridge. My townhome felt colder than the inside of the fridge.

“Yeah, but I need companionship and love like that. I want that, I think…I don’t fuckin’ know, I guess.” She reached her right arm around the back of her head, grabbed all of her hair and set it over her right shoulder, so that it rested over her right boob. “I don’t even want it just for the sex like I used to. I need someone to talk to and laugh with, so that I don’t spend so much fuckin’ time inside my head. My thoughts aren’t always the kindest to me.”

“Or I’d settle for being that chick from Gospel Gossip. Do you still have their CD?” She asked while looking into the milk crates that I’ve used to store CD’s since college.

She found the CD in the milk crate before she even finished asking me if I still had it and placed it in the disc changer.

I laid flat on my back on the floor with my head between the speakers, holding the Corona atop my sternum with my hands. Cheney lay right next to me and did the same with her Corona. We must’ve looked like two corpses impaled with glass bottles. We listened to the Gospel Gossip EP from start to finish without saying a word. There was the bitter after-taste of beer in my mouth, a wall of warm fuzzy dream pop in my ears and the satisfying scent of chlorine and suntan oil to my right.

Kristine was seated to my right in the pedi-cab, searching her purse for lipstick. While unscrewing the lipstick cap and turning to me, she calmly said, “Your blood pressure reading can vary depending on the time of day you measure it. You were also in pretty severe back pain at the time, which can cause your blood pressure to spike.” It’s hard not to find it patronizing when she dispenses simple bits of medical knowledge to me like that. It’s something that she probably learned the first week of medical school, and I’m just now learning it as she tells it to me. It’d be like dating an MIT mathematician and having him or her help you balance your checkbook.

After beers at The Belmont, we decided to pedi-cab to La Zona Rosa on the other side of downtown Austin. The wind was blowing the smell of Kristine’s shampoo right at me. It was a smell that reminded me of our first date, which made me realize that I was establishing memories with this girl.

A month before, what ended up being a muscle pull in my lower back, had me bed-ridden for three days followed by a week of painful unannounced spasms. It was a month before I was pain-free and didn’t have to stretch for five minutes every morning. The trip to the strip mall urgent care also informed me that my blood pressure was slightly elevated. Every prior trip to a doctor resulted in the doctors or nurses being impressed with my healthy blood pressure numbers. Not this time.

I rifled my mind for answers, like using your index finger to flip through the used CD bins at Cheapo in the 90’s. I stopped running, I had introduced eggs into my normally oatmeal-only breakfast, moving across the country, getting used to a new city – all possible reasons for raised blood pressure, maybe.

I was certain that the doctor’s blood pressure cuff was wrong, but a trip to HEB the next day proved it was right. The do-it-yourself blood pressure reading confirmed that I am “pre-hyper tension.” I was half-convinced it said “pre-death.”

I was uncertain about disclosing this…this thought…the worry…this confrontation with my mortality to Kristine. It was because I was uncertain of our status. Over the past several months, she was beginning to have a larger role in my life, but I didn’t have a name for that role. We never talked about it or discussed boundaries. Ever since Dawson’s Creek and My-So-Called-Life, I’ve had the dangerous tendency to talk and overanalyze anything good in my life out of existence instead of just letting it happen and rush over me.

She smacked her lips together twice while throwing the lipstick back into her tote, which I saw also contained a stethoscope. I heard the Bobbi Brown hit what sounded like an Altoid tin. She grabbed her sunglasses and put them atop her head to keep the hair from her face. She said, while staring directly into the headwind turning off 4th Street, “I’ll bring my blood pressure sleeve from work and take your reading tomorrow. I’ll measure it every day for a week right when you wake up.”

“No!” I shot back. Kristine looked surprised at my quick and flat response. I wasn’t sure if I was yet her boyfriend, but I knew for certain that I didn’t want to become her patient. And of the various labels I could attach to her, being my doctor was definitely not one of them. I don’t want to hear my doctor saying, “Cum in me baby,” on a nightly basis. My girlfriend can say that all she wants. The more my girlfriend says it, the better, but not my doctor.

“Ok, let me know if you want me to do that for you, though. I’d be more than happy to.” I thought she grabbed my hand just for a moment of assurance, but she didn’t let go. She held my hand for the remainder of the pedi-cab ride.

Tinder is the Night

I kind of wanted to be at home, sitting on my red love seat finishing Then We Came to the End, wishing for a Tinder notification from the sexy girl at work with the French last name that no one can pronounce and who is a dead ringer for a healthy 2007 raven haired Lindsay Lohan…a notification that she saw me on Tinder, is within my 20-mile radius, swiped right and wants to meet-up…tonight.

But I wasn’t at home. I was on a date. I was at Guero’s on South Congress on a seventy-two degree January Saturday night in Austin with Kristine. Just a little over 24-hours prior, she caught my eye on Tinder when I was in the midst of a happy hour buzz of Heinekens and hummus. I swiped right, we chatted via text and now we were eating Mexican food at an outside table.

At first sight, Kristine struck me as a creative professional – a graphic designer or maybe an art director at an ad firm. She was wearing a black Castro cap over her neck length blonde hair with a dark blue V-neck t-shirt un-tucked on top of light blue skinny jeans. The cap perfectly matched her black ballet slippers…ballet slippers never fail to remind me of an unhealthy 2007 bruised and track-marked Amy Winehouse. With her small, narrow nose and large brown eyes, Kristine reminded me of an animae girl come to life.

Kristine is a doctor in her first year of a psychiatric residency. I had to assure myself that she’s not necessarily smarter than me, just that our brains are dominated by different spheres causing us to think differently. If we both pictured a cube in our heads, mine would be floating and hers would be attached to the ground. Mine would be transparent and hers would be solid. Different, not smarter.

We sat at our table with our tapas and with plenty of foot traffic alongside our table. On any given night in this part of Austin, there is usually loud Latin music blaring from some undetermined location. Kristine gently gyrated her upper body in rhythm to the salsa horns and percussion.

Her being a doctor and a future board certified psychiatrist, and me having watched a ton of television in the late 90s and early 2000s, I brought up an episode of Felicity…the one where Noel seeks help from a psychiatrist after Felicity dumps him.

“I remember that one,” Kristine said. “It was a trivial portrayal of depression, almost insulting to people who suffer from it and the doctors who treat it.” She grasped the top of her Corona bottle and forced the lime down its narrow neck with her thumb.

“Why?” I asked with a real level of interest. The stray limejuice stung my cheek.

“Because no one suffers a chemical brain imbalance from a break-up. The only reason Noel was there was because Felicity dumped him…chose Ben over him. It would be borderline med mal for any doctor to prescribe meds in that situation, and that’s what that doctor did.”

“Med mal?” I asked. Different not smarter. I regretted not bringing up a smarter psychiatrist-TV reference. Jason Seaver from Growing Pains? Even less smart. Bob Newhart in his first sitcom? She’s too young for that. Sidney Friedman in M.A.S.H.? Still too young, even for the re-runs. The hot brunette psychiatrist in St. Elsewhere? I barely remember that one. My babysitter let me stay up and watch that with her.

“Medical malpractice…to potentially risk making a patient dependent on medication just because of a broken heart. Breakups trigger acute symptoms and rarely lead to chronic depression requiring medication.” She dipped a chip into the guacamole with her right hand. I’m left handed. Her blue nail polish looked freshly applied, like she cared about the details before meeting me. It made me feel guilty about wishing for a Tinder swipe from the French Lindsay Lohan.

“What about meds after a divorce?” I asked, thinking of Parker

“If there’s a prior history of depression, in some cases, and if it persists.”

“What about people who engage in recreational drug use?” I asked, thinking of Cheney.

“Maybe, when combined with rehab and treatment.”

“Day drinking and Internet porn?” I asked…Parker

Uhm…there might be deeper issues of addiction in that case,”

“Extreme episodes of sexual promiscuity?” I asked…Cheney

“Talk therapy would generally be the first route to take with that. Should we have some more Coronas?” She sat straight up and looked for the server.

Then I stopped asking because she changed the subject, and she started to stare at me for a few seconds before answering, indicating a suspicion that I was asking on behalf of myself.

The server took our empty plates and we moved inside to the bar for another 90-minutes of reminiscing about the early days of the WB network. After her fourth Corona, she said she was off work for 48-hours after being on for 72-hours straight. Then she asked if I wanted to drive her home.

Spotify Rainer Maria

“It’s the small things, you know…the two of them grocery shopping together, sniff, waking up together that first morning as husband and wife, boarding airplanes together, Jason calling her from the golf course, sniff, the framed black and white wedding photo in their cubicles at work, the joint checking account, getting ready for bed together for the rest of their lives…fuuuuccckkk…sniff.”

It was 3:14am and Cheney was freaking out about her ex-boyfriend’s recent engagement, which she found out about through a series of tagged photos that led directly to his fiancé’s Facebook profile. Cheney called me because she witnessed my slow, months long unraveling after I ran into Amanda at Lifetime Fitness and felt the stomach punch of seeing the engagement ring on her finger as she grasped the elliptical.

And Cheney was right. It is the small things…I didn’t know that then, though. The eye of Hurricane Amanda was the proposal, ceremony and honeymoon. That was it, and I swirled around it.  The metadata and micro-ness of it all never even occurred to me…until now. The shouting voice inside my head had to remind me that I’m over it, I’ve dealt with it. Move on. This is Cheney’s hurricane now, not mine.

Nonetheless, her way too early morning phone call shocked me out of bed. Scared the crap out of me, actually, like middle of the night phone calls will do to most people. With my iPhone on speaker, I walked the few steps in the dark to my fridge and grabbed a sugar free Red Bull. The refrigerator light was a sudden wall of illumination that made me squint like I was peering into a telescope. Cheney’s trebly, trembling, crackling voice filled my Austin studio.

I left the refrigerator door open for the light as I searched the kitchen counter for something to set the wet can of Red Bull on. I put it on a faded blue Post-It note that had ‘Spotify Rainer Maria’ scribbled on it. I wrote that reminder to myself over a year ago when I was still struggling day-to-day in Minneapolis. It recently fell out of my copy of Prozac Nation, which I re-read from time-to-time.

Cheney half-sobbed, “She wrote a comment on her wall that said, “Yesterday was amazing. Jason says we need to get a dog.”” I could hear the rapid tap-tap of Cheney’s finger on her laptop’s down arrow as she scrolled the fiance’s wall. It sounded like she was tapping out S.O.S. in Morse code. In a way, she kind of was. My job was to listen and be the sounding board.

Catastrophe keeps us together- Rainer Maria

Sniff, sniff, “And then some old lady comments in return that she was glad to help. She means they helped Jason and her move into their house. Fuck. I wonder if his fiancé knows about Jason’s collection of hardcore porn DVDs that I found when I was dating him…at least 30 of them with titles like Butt Sluts IV and Anal Intruders. All that porn and he was still shitty in bed. The worst.” Tap, tap, tap, sniff.

All the dams will give at the end of the world/Will you swim for me? – Rainer Maria

“Oh, here’s the best one…she writes here on her wall, “I saw a deer as I was getting into my car after work. They don’t understand why we have to work. It’s deer season.”” Tap, tap. Cheney let out a sincere laugh at that one, and it was kind of funny. It seemed like his fiancé was making an attempt at poetic insight that fell flat on its face. It was infinitely stupid, which comforted Cheney who never wrote a sentence that she didn’t edit at least four times.

And what you couldn’t find in books/And you’ve broken every spine/Is that I’ll make you mine – Rainer Maria

I got back into bed with my Red Bull, lied on my side and pulled the covers over my head. It was a 64-degree humid January Austin night, which caused little sparks when I moved my bare legs under the sheets. It looked like I was being attacked by fireflies. I put my iPhone on the vacant pillow next to my head. Pillow talk, literally.

Cheney’s voice grew sad again, “She posts a comment here about how she forgot to sign their Hennepin County marriage license and had to return to the government center on her lunch break to sign in it.” There was a long pause. I thought Cheney hung up, but then I heard rapid sniffling and sensed a severe holding back of tears. There was no more tapping.

The fruit is golden when it falls from the tree/And spoiled by the time it gets to me – Rainer Maria

That last comment revealed another level of the micro-matrimonial process that I’m glad never occurred to me during Hurricane Amanda. The marriage license has nothing to do with the ceremonial, and has everything to do with the legal and administrative process of becoming recognized as husband and wife.

It was about three minutes before Cheney said anything, during which I heard the low rustling of a plastic zip lock bag, which meant she was reaching for Adderall or Ambien, or a mixture of both. Then I heard the familiar hollow pop of a cork being pulled from a wine bottle. Cheney has no furniture or anything hanging on the walls of her studio. With nothing to absorb the sound, everything sounds digitally enhanced.

“So how are things with you?” She asked when she returned. Her tone sounded genuine, but I couldn’t bear to be honest. Misery loves company, and I would be shitty company if I told her how much I love Austin, the cool girl I met at Target last Friday, the life-affirming show that the Breeders put on New Year’s Eve, sleeping with the windows open in January, meeting Jacob from Kings of Leon at The Parish during ACL and how cool he was and the freelance work that won’t seem to stop coming my way.

“Ah, you know, it ain’t easy being me,” Is all I could manage.

There was nothing I could say to her, because I’ve been where she is and there was nothing anyone could’ve said to me back then…back then Amanda’s life was an exciting, constantly updated Facebook page with a scrolling wall of new friends, well-wishers and future in-laws. My life felt like an old MySpace page holding on for relevancy, with Tom as my sole friend and in desperate need of re-branding.

I’m supposed to be a seasoned fighter/It feels like my first hit and it hurts like hell – Rainer Maria

Parker and Surfer Girl

“Mid-day masturbation and random trips to Target.”

That’s how Parker described his daily life to me in a recent text. Since his divorce five months ago, he’s moved into the bottom apartment of a south Minneapolis duplex. He was initially excited about the pretty 20-something blonde living above him, whom he described as a surfer girl who looks like she smells like cocoa butter. He then concluded that she sees him as the old divorced dude, which means he hit on her and she felt creeped out by it.

Since I moved to Austin, he’s talked a lot about coming down for a visit. But I know he goes days without leaving his apartment, so any enthusiasm and initiative he shows for it is fleeting at best. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing him on my recent trip back to Minneapolis. It didn’t feel like I was visiting him, though. It felt more like I was checking up on him on a bitterly cold Saturday.

I met Parker when I was in fourth grade and he was in sixth grade. He was the kid seeking shelter from the cold during recess by leaning against the 4-story brick elementary school. His winter coat looked worn, thin and so small that the sleeves were almost halfway up his forearms. He didn’t have a stocking cap or gloves, so he kept himself semi-warm by holding onto a Zippo lighter inside his pants pockets and lighting it every few seconds for a burst of warmth. Our school uniform required dress pants with slant pockets, which allowed just enough room for his makeshift pocket furnace.

Parker has been in and out work, like Cheney, but unlike Cheney in that he does not think that he as any discernible talent. After greeting me semi-enthusiastically, Parker disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared holding two bottles of Heineken.

He was wearing red flannel pajama pants, a blue t-shirt and no socks. His blonde hair looked like it has every day since I’ve known him – like Calvin’s from Calvin and Hobbes. He had that look of someone who hadn’t left his home in days because there was no need to. His apartment felt and smelled warm. I was still living in central air when I left Austin.

The walls of his apartment were bare. The one piece of furniture was a satellite chair facing the television in the corner of the living room. The small circular ottoman serves as his desk and dining room table. I’ve never known Parker to play guitar, but there was a small practice amp leaning against the wall. I didn’t bother asking him about it.

“Beer?” He extended one toward me as I set my coat and scarf on the floor and looked for a place to sit. Even though he saw me looking around for a chair, he never offered me one. It looked more like he was squatting there as opposed to living there.

“I do not miss this fuckin’ cold, man,” I said shaking my head and taking a seat on the windowpane.

“I bet. How’s Austin?” Parker sat back down on the satellite chair. It made a loud creaking noise that sounded like it was about to break. He pointed the remote control towards the TV.

“It’s warm and starting to feel like home,” I looked around to notice the envelopes from the state unemployment office. Parker has been living off unemployment and the occasional temp gig.

It’s early Saturday evening, and I could hear the muffled, excited telephone conversation of the surfer girl in the above apartment as she shuffled around in stocking feet on her hardwood floors. Plans were being made and outfits were getting picked out. At that age, Saturday nights mean excitement, opportunity, memories, selfies and sometimes regret.

I was sitting on the windowpane behind Parker’s satellite chair, which was facing the television, which never stayed on one channel for more than ten minutes of the two hours that I was there. He commented that it feels weird watching the television that he and his ex-wife picked out together. None of our conversation was face-to-face. If he wanted to talk, I would have listened.

Parker was happily and busily married when I was under my post-Amanda dark cloud. Everyone goes through an isolated pajama pants period, but Parker’s seems debilitating. I fought mine with working out, writing and saying “yes” to almost anything in order to create opportunities and step outside my mind, because thoughts and imagination can be awful enemies at a time like that.

“Your ex-wife is likely taking this just as hard as you, you know.” His ex-wife’s name is Carrie, but I never knew her that well, so I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning her by name.

Parker heard my attempt at consolation, but he didn’t acknowledge it. Not even a shoulder shrug. I later realized that by saying that, I was disclosing that his life doesn’t look all that great right now.

I felt bad for him then I began to feel guilty, I guess, because I didn’t want to be at Parker’s anymore. He’s one of my oldest friends but all I could picture is me back at my hotel or in my Austin apartment – lying diagonally on the bed reading a Henry Rollins book while listening to Sugar’s Copper Blue. It seemed like he didn’t want company.

The shuffling stocking feet of surfer girl had now become the clicking of high heels on hardwood. Her hair and face are probably done, Facebook status updated, Tweets have been tweeted and iPhone fully charged. Her voice will be hoarse in the morning after an evening of shouting over club music.

I know Parker’s divorce broke him emotionally and financially. It’s easy to spot someone who’s underneath a cloud of depression when you’ve been there before yourself. The cloud covers you like Deon Sanders in his prime covering a receiver. No matter where you go, it’s there – swatting hope away from your hands and then shoulder tackling you out of bounds just for good measure. Eventually, you just give up and watch the game…watch life from the sidelines.

From my windowpane seat I saw a taxi pull up in front of the duplex. The upstairs door slammed shut followed by two clicks of a turnkey lock. Surfer girl high heeled her way down the narrow staircase. Her steps were slow and deliberate, so I could tell she was steadying herself with the guardrail. She scurried to the taxi wearing a tan overcoat over a black dress with black stockings. There was just enough daylight left that I could see her puffs of breath in the freezing air.

That’s My FWB!


(click for larger views)

Ever have a FWB (if you don’t know, click here), and then you see your FWB out on an actual date with someone else? A little jealousy creeps in followed by the guilt of feeling jealous because there’s a supposed mutual understanding that you’re not dating each other.

I stopped in two nights ago at Green Mill Uptown after an evening of Christmas shopping traffic. I sat at the bar and immediately saw Jessica (not to be confused with my ex-g/f Jessica) at the corner table with some dude. His back was to me and she was facing me, but she hadn’t noticed me yet. I sent her a text. I saw her type her reply right in front of him. He got up to go outside and smoke, so I walked over to her table.

“You cheating on me already?”

She smiled, stood up and gave me an unusually long hug (she smelled amazing). Her date saw the hug through the window and immediately put out his cigarette. He returned to the table while I was standing there talking to his date. Jessica introduced us, he shook my hand and I returned my attention to Jessica. He was prematurely gray, shorter than me, and I was standing tall after seven straight days of workouts…stomach flat, delts bangin’, arms jacked (I know that sounded douchey as hell, but he was with my FWB!)

Jessica and I were talking about her work and her family, so he easily figured out that I know things about her that he doesn’t know. She told me she has more free time later in the week and that she would text me to hang out. I didn’t look at his reaction because I didn’t have to. He’ll shell out money for dinner and drinks, get a friendly goodnight hug and never come close to seeing Jessica naked. And the chance of him reaching the stage with her where she’s peeing on the toilet while he brushes his teeth, zero.

I returned to the bar and we continued to have text with each other right in front of him. I win.

What Would Riggins Do?

(Angela’s text)

Cheney wasn’t hard to find. She sat at the bar wearing a black men’s V-neck undershirt draped over her skinny frame. Her long mane of black hair was unwashed and a clip held a pile of it on the back of her head, while the rest of it fell down over her ears and along side her black Buddy Holly eyeglasses. The giant blue $19.99 Casio sport watch that she “borrowed” from me months ago clung loosely to her left forearm. She looked like how Demi Moore still desperately tries to look.

She was flanked by middle-aged men in football jerseys and baseball caps with plates of orange chicken wings scattered about in front of them. Their wives sat tolerantly, only occasionally glancing at the plasmas, wondering if this is the rest of their fall Sundays for the rest of their married lives. It is, ladies. It is.

With the promise of food and liquor on me, I summoned Cheney to the Green Mill Uptown on a Sunday afternoon to help me sort out Angela’s latest text after I suggested we go on a date. I always seek advice from Cheney…the self-described master of the fuck-n-run who still cites Liz Phair’s Exile in Guysville as the way for a single lady to conduct her life.

I grabbed the bar stool Cheney saved for me and the bartender gave me a nod. I pulled out the bar stool, “Pint of Stella, please, and another for her. Thanks.”

“Let’s see it…the text,” Cheney said, her voice sounded well-rested for once.

I handed her my phone and her fingers with red chipped nail polish began tapping the touch screen.

“So let me guess, you’ve been obsessing about this text exchange ever since she sent it?”

“Umm hmm…I may stay home from work tomorrow to iron out the finer points if you can’t help me.” I was barely kidding.

Cheney began talking while still reading the texts. “It looks like she doesn’t want to date right now, but she wants to go on a date with you. And she puts ‘but’ in all caps and calls it a reading ‘date.’ And she tells you that she’s not back together with her ex. The easiest way for a girl to brush a guy off is to tell him that she has a boyfriend, so it’s important that she clarified that.”

Cheney grabbed her pint and took a sip while her other hand held the iPhone. Eyes still on the phone, “As a woman, which I am one, this is what I think.” She set the phone down on top of the City Pages, removed her glasses, rubbed her eyes and hung the glasses on her V-neck collar. “You’re in that little thought bubble above her head right now.”

My eyes were glued to Cheney as if she’s telling me the theory of Oswald’s magic bullet. This was that important to me.

“By you not yet replying,” Cheney continued, “She’s 1) wondering why you haven’t replied; 2) wondering if you’re still interested in going out with her; and 3) wondering if she should call you when she finds a reading she wants to attend.”

I grabbed my pint for a quick sip. I never thought of girls as having the thought bubbles like I do. I sometimes have the Hindenburg of thought bubbles when it comes to women.

“If you do send a reply, she’ll know you’re waiting patiently for her to maybe ask you to attend a reading with her if she happens to find one she wants to attend. And that little thought bubble bursts and you’re no longer on her mind.”

Genius. Not since Karl Rove breaking down the electoral college had I been witness to such brilliant analysis.

“It just seems rude not to reply at all. I like this girl,” I said with the pint in front of my lips.

Cheney put her glasses back on and stared at a menu. “Kilby, you’re a nice guy, but sometimes you can be too nice when it comes to relationships. This girl asked you for your number and you tell her in that text that you’re attracted to her. And there were times in your break-up with Melissa where you really let her take advantage of you.”

I straightened my back to start to defend myself but she’s right. In the midst of that break-up, I was already trying to lay the groundwork for a possible reconciliation that I knew would never happen.

“Remember when I had that cat, before it ran away?” Cheney said, adjusting the mop of hair on top of her head.

“Haven’t you had like three cats that escaped from your apartment?”

“The first one…the black one.”

“Yeah, I remember. Why?”

“I had a piece of string attached to an unraveled wire hanger. I would bounce that thing in front of him and he would get winded just trying to catch it. But the second I set it on the ground for him to have, he would look at it and then walk away. It wasn’t elusive to him anymore, so he got bored with it. Us women are like that…we chase things that are elusive and challenging to us. We’re fucked up that way. You are so worth chasing. Be a little elusive and challenging for once.”

I stared over Cheney’s shoulder out the window onto Hennepin Avenue. Cheney grabbed my forearm.

“Besides,” she said, squeezing my forearm. “What would Riggins do?”

And that’s all she needed to say. WWRD?!

Friday Night Lights Fandom

On my recent trip back to Austin, I had to track down the addresses to snap these photos of the Riggins, Taylor and Saracen houses. Luckily, Sue came through for me and we did the drive-by photos.

Matt Saracen’s, the QB, home.

Home of Tim and Billy Riggins

Coach Taylor’s home

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