Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Medusa


This is a poem I wrote. I haven't written one in a while. Only blogged and opined about my life. Hope you enjoy this other side to my writing.

Pale ghost girl
Sitting in a tower
Whining snakes
Beneath the ever changing colors
You call hair

Demon breath
And a cold hard stare
A soul that was never there
Just lie after lie
To appease your target

Fat, ugly temptress
You try to best me
And anyone who crosses your path
As if we can be fooled
By your simple charms

Blame your mother
Her sickness
For making you a beast
Cackling loudly and slandering
The woman who bore you

Blame your father
For having no back bone
Leaving you alone
To be had by the Gorgons
And to get the booby prize of becoming their queen

How serene you sing so pretty
But beneath is a banshee
The sound is merely borrowed
So are the thoughts
To disguise a demoness

Did you adopt a human name
To have an upper hand in the game
Where you could hunt for prey
Like you do every day
That believe all the things you say?

Oh and you write such poetry
The words scribbled dishonestly
Are your words borrowed to?
Of course they are.
Satan is never original.

You crack a joke
Almost funny
With the guile of the serpent
In the Garden of Eden
Which is fitting

Since his brother and sisters
Live on your dirty head
You claim to be at work
But you spend the day in bed
Dreaming of the havoc you want to cause.

Your skin is a gray
Probably because you didnt see the sun
Today but then again you are
Almost a vampire
But can't commit

A coffin isn't fit
For a woman pretending to be
Royalty that is living across the
Street from the houses where
They actually have money

You will snarl when I say this
You will scream in like a feind
But you are a feind
Cerberus is your pet
And he even tries to bite your hand

He won't heal to your command
But who could or would
Not I, because I see past your charms
That harm
A borderline who wants a guy

Then you find you male captive
Pathetic as they go
He doesn't love you
But he needs you
Your hell fix he feeds you

Then you become yourself
Snarling, lashing, biting,
Screaming, howling, and the snakes
Slither and bite him
He screams, "Leave me alone."

You eat his heart
And turn him to stone.







www.aprilbrucker.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

People Watching on a Sunday

It was a typical Sunday when Howard and I were having our usual coffee session in the deli. Absent for a while, Howard and his ex girlfriend who things are complicated with operate an air B and B downtown. As usual, the Yemeni counter guy and his Mexican employee were cracking jokes with the plethora of characters that drift in and out. Some of the guys are blue collar dudes, changing shifts and calling the counter guy a terrorist. The counter guy tells them he will blow up their house and steal their woman. We all laugh.

Then some other blue collar guy calls the Mexican dude a board jumper. Of course the Mexican dude says not only is this true but he will steal his woman as well. As I stated, we all laugh. It’s irreverent, politically incorrect, but we are all friends. In a way, it is like if Roseanne or Cheers came to New York, and their safe place was not The Lunchbox or the Cheers Bar. Rather, it is this deli and the glass window and the door are what protects our safe place from the outside world.

Yokels like my friend Howard and myself are ever present. We drink our coffee, have some breakfast, and read the paper. Howard and I found ourselves discussing the Bill Cosby controversy. Personally, after what I have heard I would hesitate to take a pudding pop from the man. Then again, it all pointed to rapist when he worked as a baby doctor on his television show. And anyone who has that much of a moral high ground and is that conservative, watch out. Still, it was fascinating.

As we had this conversation, Howard and I saw this bulldog walk by. This fella was strutting, puffing his chest out. By the way his teeth jutted as well as his distinct walk you knew this pup had personality. As the dog passed, I pointed this out to Howard. Then the dog passed again and Howard concurred. It was amazing how this pooch could have so much personality. As a matter of fact, I have nicknamed that bulldog Sir Winston Churchill. He has officially become Prime Minister of Hell’s Kitchen.

Winston’s strutting was short lived. He was overthrown by a miserable looking, displaced sheep dog with a white shag that looked like it hadn’t been washed in forever. With him was an owner who looked like a text book loser. With a cigarillo cigarette, he errantly blew smoke thus helping to further ruin the ozone. His annoyed dog pooped in one place, and then decided he wasn’t done and popped in another. It wasn’t because the sheep dog’s colon had a problem, rather he wanted to screw with his owner and get under the dude’s skin for not giving him a bath. He sheep dog succeeded. As this was happening, we felt the vibe from the dog that said, “Yes, I am with this loser but I am pretending to be adopted and not to know him.”

The owner did not get the memo, and continued to blow his smoke risking lung cancer to himself and pollution to those around him. His canine companion hung his head in a mix of teen angst and shame. The two continued onward. Howard agreed with me. The dog hated it’s owner. We hated it’s owner. Nobody liked this guy. I named the sheep dog Bernie.

As we looked out the window, Howard and I both agreed one could tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wore. This dude waltzed by wearing shorts despite the warm but not so warm weather. On his feet, he was sporting orange sneakers. “He is just trying to be cooler than he is, and he isn’t that cool.” Howard observed. “That is usually the case for people who wear colored sneakers.”

Howard was correct. I had an ex who wore both orange and red sneakers. Isaac was ever the wannabe and rubbed many a person the wrong way. I was willing to bet this same idiot with the colored sneakers probably had a band in high school and one that probably barely performed now. Either way, this was the guy at the party trying way to hard. Somehow, this dude always had a girlfriend and she had entered the most cheat free situation ever. Oh, and she constantly let him know she could do better. Then his mother probably regularly called him a mistake. Sigh, to the man with the brightly colored sneakers.

Seconds later, our next victim appeared. This gentlemen wore wool socks and sandals. Howard and I observed this was a fella that could commit to no season and would probably be a lousy boyfriend because he couldn’t plan a date. Not to mention someone that you wouldn’t want to hire to work for your company.

Then after him came the girl who was all out in the snow boots. Howard and I surmised this was a chick with a plan. Completely neurotic and no fun, she was ready for any and all emergencies. Walking with her was a chick who had on simple rain boots. She was also a chick with a plan, but much more fun than her uber neurotic friend.

After her came a teenage girl who was wearing a trendy multi-purpose sneaker boot that many of the kids wear these days. With her she was grudgingly walking a dog, and had a disgusted look on her face like someone forced to pick up droppings from her four legged companion who looked less than thrilled to be with her. “She looks like she has a plan, but doesn’t know what it is. But she’s got one.” I told Howard looking at the young woman’s foot wear.

“Oh, she is coming up with a plan, and her plan is to ditch that dog.” Howard observed. I agreed. My friend was correct.

Following her was a girl with nice flats on, clearly not rain appropriate shoes though. Howard and I both agreed that if we were to meet her in real life we would probably like her best. She looked vaguely like Lisa Turtle from Saved By the Bell. The girl seemed pleasant, and there was no way she could ever know that she got off easy under our gavel. Still, if she knew it might make her day while she gave us an ear full for being such jerk offs. But we were behind the glass. She could hear us just about as well as Helen Keller. Not to mention she might be judging us as two losers with no other friends hanging out on a Sunday afternoon.

As I sat there judging strangers, I thought about those I knew and barely liked and what their shoes said about them. Yes, I am talking ex-boyfriends. Sean always wore Velcro shoes, which said he was an idiot trying to be smart and cool but failed like an alcoholic at a field sobriety test. Scott always wore lace up black boots or high top shoes. Both say would be punk rocker, but emphasis on would be because his hair line was diminishing quickly, so he merely looked like a lost old man. Holden always wore work boots, which was appropriate because he always had transient jobs and hitch hiked quite a bit during his sprees of homelessness. Hell No, Joe always wore sneakers he barely tied, which means idiot jackass all the way. So there you have it. The shoes do make a man.

Howard told me this was to be my latest blog. It’s the least I could do for my pal. He hasn’t been around because his internet has been down. Plus he always gives me good material. Here I am hoping church saves my blackened soul. Once I exit the building, there is Howard waiting, eager to bring out the demon in me again. Alas, there is no hope all ye who enter our corner store.

When we die, that is in the event one of our people we are watching hears us and stabs us both, check Howard and I out in hell. The way this planet is going and knowing my fans it is possible anyone reading this blog will be joining us as well. If you do see us, we will be giving color commentary on the new arrivals giving them a crappy start to their eternal roasting. No worries, Satan scouted us for the gig ahead of time.

However, Howard and I don’t get off entirely scot free. He will be forced to spend an hour a week in church, and I will be forced to spend an hour a week with one of my old boyfriends.


And Bill Cosby will have pudding pop for all the unsuspecting pretty ladies.

Oh what tangled webs we weave

www.aprilbrucker.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bubble Bath

Winter is approaching in New York City again. Mother Nature has decided in her bipolarity that she is not only going to change seasons, but to go as cold as ever as soon as possible. Did Father Time leave her high and dry and cheat on her with Earth, Wind, or Fire? Or is she just the seasonal super trying her damnest to be a New York City landlord, mailing the world it’s lease and saying yes, she jacked up the rent, and she jacked it up high. It’s nothing personal she assures you with her snide grin. Then you ask how the hell you can do this another day, year, or decade.

There is only one way to fight a lonely, rough cold day and that is a bubble bath. Shedding my clothes, I slip into the porcelain enclave. White as the snow destined to fall out of the New York sky, I gently ease myself down. Seconds before I turn on the water, I feel the cold surface touch my body. Sure, it’s not nearly as cold as the world I left behind to the comfort of my apartment. It’s not as brutal as the subzero wind, as welcome in my face as an email from an ex boyfriend.

However, it is a different kind of cold. It’s not the evil cold from the outdoors come to crash the short skirt and sexy clothing party I had been rocking all summer. Rather, it is a different kind of cold. It is a kind of cold of the uncertainty the future brings. It’s a cold men never see because they always have the cult of personality to fall back on. However, it is the cold uncertainty that only a woman knows.

As young girls, we are led to believe time is not our friend. We remember overhearing the crow’s feet our mother bemoaned in the bathroom mirror. Yes, we also saw our mothers, beautiful courageous women, down themselves, slamming their bodies using the word “fat.” No, they weren’t obese. It was a pound here, a pound there, and a constant stream of diets that always ended in a binge. On top of that we had male relatives brain wash us. They told us in our 20s men would chase us, but once we hit 30 we were lucky if a man who wasn’t a damaged barfly looked our way. They also told us our clocks were ticking, so we needed to push out a baby or two or five before they developed flippers and Downs Syndrome. We were informed by memo that if we didn’t have these things we were failures. Jessie from Marsha Norman’s Night Mother believed this. She took her own life. Kathy Bates who originated the role would probably think the notion is bullshit.

And here I am, a writer, comedian, and ventriloquist who has had some success yet still barely treads above the poverty line. Of course I am single. The last decade has been spent married to my career. The last 72 hours have been shit. Whenever I hit a patch that is pure shit I reconsider my life. Let’s see, passed over for a hosting job not because I didn’t know about sports but because I didn’t look like I was going to star in a porno film. Then made a stupid money error, thank goodness for overdraft protection. On top of that, I got into a money argument with someone I did a job for that has balls of steel behind a computer. And an internet troll has been tormenting me. No, she’s not a treasure troll. Treasure trolls are cute and pretty. This thing is just desperate and lives by herself under a draw bridge, a good place for her like.

I picture the future like the coldness of the empty tub on my skin. There I am ten years down the road. I live on welfare in an SRO. Not to mention my puppets have gone solo and split. I am 500 pounds and have 16 cats that barely like me, but it is the closest thing I have to love. Sitting next to a huge tub of ice cream, I stick my right hand in. My self-esteem is so gone I no longer use a spoon. And I take a handful of ice cream and shove it in my mouth. Maybe this is the part of the ritual where I am supposed to snap back to the present and start weeping pitifully. I dunno.

I turn on the water. Gently, as if it were a friend giving me a hug after a nice laugh, it touches my skin. Slowly, my nerves, shot from the last 72 hours, begin to calm themselves. Taking a deep breath, I begin to feel better. That is the first step to one’s fortune turning around and things truly getting better. The bottom of the tub has lost it’s cruelty. I no longer feel like I want to burst into tears like the unstable woman in the last several paragraphs.

Positive thoughts begin to cloud my mind. I begin to think yes, the last 72 hours sucked. However, the 9 days before that pretty much rocked. “Hell No, Joe” debuted on both MUZU.TV and Dailymotion, both feeder internet networks to MTV where competition is cutthroat. My music video got on both with no label representation. MSN featured the video as well, which is a huge search engine and a pleasant surprise. 

As I soak in the bath I realize perhaps the 72 hour curse is coming to an end after all. This morning I did a delivery for a client my boss’s assistant Jacqueline said was high maintenance. It turned out she was a very nice woman who enjoyed my performance. I had to get some cupcakes, no biggie. Either way the delivery was fun and I was told I was “worth every penny.” If only a straight dude with a job would say that to me.

I also got the email that I am on World’s Longest Variety Show at the Metropolitan Room. Yes, May Wilson is coming. Yes, we will be broadcasting around the world live stream as we race to break the record. Yes, I am pleased to be a part of this event with my brother’s and sister’s in the New York City comedy community. Not to mention Jacqueline sold me for a bikini gram saying I was “pretty.”

Then in the next breath I think of how Jacqueline has been breaking down lately. She keeps saying I am “young and pretty,” but this burlesque queen then cuts down on herself. Yes, Jacqueline is over 40 and how much I will not say. However, she is a good looking lady. This past summer she shed her clothing at my book signing and the guys went wild. They didn’t ask how old she was, nor did they care. Jacqueline is hot. She is sexy and confident in a way I could never be. Yet at the same time every once in a while she too gets sucked into the lie sold to young women by society.

Looking at myself, I know there are some young women who would jump out the window if they were single and childless at my age. Yes, my age. The number where it is supposed to go down hill. Yet I look better than I ever have. FYI, Sylvia Plath killed herself at my age and her writing career really took off. It was a good PR Move. I want to tell Jacqueline not to get hung up on the number. Mae West was sexy until the day she died. The same will apply to Jacqueline.

As I add the contents of the coconut bath gel, the bubbles form around me. My transparent friends with the pink and purple tint dance within and on top of the bath water. At that moment, I realize that I am not alone nor will I ever be. I have my family at the telegram company who are just as entertaining as some of my degenerate relatives but without the need for money or legal advice. I have the comedy community of New York City, where whenever we see each other on the street, even if we have disagreed, we always say hello. I have the men who work in my building that always crack jokes with me. I have my friends at the gym. I have my fellow writers. I have my mentors. I have my Gypsy family in Chelsea who got me hooked on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and we all hate ourselves afterwards for watching. I have my family in Pittsburgh. I have my fans who multiply with time, and bring tears to my eyes as they support me and humble me all at once. I have my puppet children who let me give them life and personality. I have a closet full of costumes. I have my dreams at my finger tips. I have…..

Then I realize I still don’t have a man. Having a man is not a requirement. You don’t need one, and they can be a pain in the ass. Actually, most of the time they are an adult child in a grown body who want you to cook, clean, and give them a blow job on command. In return they all believe they are world’s greatest lovers set to sassify you, but they will more or less disappoint.

However, it has been forever and a day since I had a true male companion. I make him sound like a dog, but dogs are loyal whereas men most of the time are not. Still, as I sit in the warm tub bubbles surrounding me it feels like the caress of an imaginary lover who has yet to materialize. Yes, the perfect man who is seen and not heard. Right now he is neither.

It brings back memories of all the guys I had in my life. Yes, the silly nature dudes have and how they seem to crack a joke at the worst moments. At the same time, it is also when I desperately need to laugh and to forget the crap I obsess about. Not to mention the fun times we had as a couple. Sure, things always ended badly, but there were good times. The smell of the bubble bath hits my nose, and I remember all the spring walks in the park and all the train rides to his house. I still see us walking around, freshly blooming flowers in our midst. It was so sickly sweet yet at the same time perfectly ideal in the mind of a lonely woman like myself soaking in a tub that while warm and inviting is also cold and unforgiving once drained.

It’s accepting that I was a bad girlfriend to a good many dudes. Yeah, I was cold. I was unforgiving. Some tried to love me like the bubbles and bath water. Others would eventually turn cold like water that sits too long does and then they became drained just like the tub would. Some deserved it. Others didn’t. Hell if I know the difference between the two. Either way, there is nothing like talking into the night with a dude and then him tucking you into bed via telephone. It’s sweet. It’s cute. It’s love. It’s a memory overshadowed by other rotten actions on both parts.

And then I remember he would probably be disrupting my quiet time if he were here, imaginary bastard. So I wash away the badness of the last 72 hours. I wash away the lost hosting job. They can have the casting couch surfers. Miss Money Shot will cost them money when it is revealed the bitch can’t read a cue card. As for the money mistakes, thank goodness I invested in overdraft protection. Now I know to take breaths and be where my feet are when life gets big. As for the money argument with Mr. Balls of Steel Behind the Computer, it was my bad. His resolution was shitty, but it was my mistake. As for the internet troll, I drown her in my mind in as if my tub were a bottomless pit. That way my resentment can be squashed and I don’t get a felony charge.

As my hands wrinkle, I take it as a signal that it is time to get out of the tub. It is time to face my seventeen errant puppet children. It is time to face my sprawling closet of costumes. It is time to face my house that every time I clean it only gets messier. It is time to face adulthood. It is time to step into my living room with boxes of my book left unread. It is time to face my own home repairs, evidence that there is no man in my life but it’s okay, I got this. It’s time….

I greet the future with warm, fresh, clean towels as a result of the laundry I just did a day before. Touching my skin, it feels as if I am 6 and my mom is waiting for me with a towel after a nice bath. Taking an oversized sweat shirt that is also warm, fresh, and clean, I place it on my clean, shiny skin. In a way, it is as if my mom laid the shirt out as well, even though she lives several hours away. Then I throw on some fluffy mismatched socks. Maybe I don’t measure up as a woman. But fuck the standards. This is my apartment. The people who made the standards never had the guts to be their own person. And here I am, having the guts to wear mismatched socks.


I smell good, I look good, I feel good. The future will be a mix of defeats with failures. It will be bad and it will be good. That’s just life. Over all, it will be fine. I am who I am, and I am where my feet are. That is more than good enough. Hey, sometimes when life stinks you got to take a bath. 

www.aprilbrucker.com

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Devil's Arithmetic

If you know me, you know certain unalienable truths to be absolutely true. One is that sometimes the opening sentences of the pieces I write make Yogi Berra look articulate. Another is that I am good at being the center of attention and making people laugh. Then I am really good at speaking my mind. Add in that I am a damn good writer. Oh, and I am a superb ventriloquist and a decent mimic. However, I am terrible at math. Actually, the correct adjective is shiteous. Addition and subtraction are done on my fingers and toes. The rest is handled by calculator app.

My father is good at math, so much so he worked as an accountant before going to law school and specializing in taxation. As for my mother, she is God awful at math but still better than I am. Wendell is good at math, but his true talent and skill lie in the sciences. Skipper was excellent in math, but excelled in all subjects in school so much so that she was valedictorian of her high school class. On the other hand, I basically was lucky to escape math with a C.

One marking period, I got my usual progress report in the subject. My father freaked. As for my mom, she was somewhat more understanding. During dinner, my dad decided to let his feelings be known. Yelling at me, he informed me that this was no way to go in life. Mind you he ignored the writing award I won, and the perfect scores I got in history. So I said, “Dad, stop acting so surprised. I am always failing math midway through the term. The thing that saves me is I get a C. I get a progress notice every nine weeks. It’s happened since I was in second grade and isn’t going to change. Newsflash, I suck at math.” Of course, my Pops didn’t like that and I wasn’t allowed to use the phone for three weeks.

I wasn’t just bad at math, I was awesomely bad. It wasn’t like I didn’t try either. One time, our teacher told us to check our test answers. I listened because I didn’t want to make a mistake. Despite the fact I accepted my fate as the perpetual struggling math student, I wanted so desperately to be good. So I checked my test answers. I rechecked. I checked again. Then I turned my test in. There was never a paper which so much red ink when it was returned. To answer your question, I failed but I failed big. I got a ten percent on the exam. This was pitiful and incredible at the same time. So I wrote, “FUCK YOU MATH” on my paper.

My mother, who always has believed in meeting one’s fears head on, saw what I wrote and decorated my binder without my permission. In sparkly lettering, she wrote, “NO FEAR MATH.” Needless to say, my classmates all thought this was laughable, as in laughable at me and not with me. Every time I walked the halls someone idiot always yelled, “No Fear Math!”

To which I would yell, “Fuck your mother!”

Then they would yell, “At least mine doesn’t decorate my binder when I’m not around.” I had nothing to say back. They were correct. Math was ruining my life in every way possible.

My parents invested in math tutors for us. In part it was to augment what Skipper and Wendell already had, but also because math was such a struggle for yours truly. One of my favorite tutors of all time was Charlie, a guy from Thailand and engineering graduate student at Carnegie Mellon. Charlie was a kind man and the soul of patience when it came to my mathematical disability. More often than not, my answers were wrong but Charlie never lost it with me, even at my dumbest. We both knew I had no aptitude with numbers, and Charlie knew if he survived an hour with me his next hour with Skipper would be cake.

One day, during one of my usual disasters called a tutoring session, I was way off with my answer to some dumb equation I haven’t used since that time, may it rot in the pits of hell. While most of my sessions with poor Charlie were rough, this was akin to a horror show with numbers. While usually peaceable kingdom, Charlie was biting his tongue. When I showed him the answer, Charlie said in this thick Thai accent, eyes bugging behind his thick horn rimmed glasses, “What the hell were you thinking!”

The following year, I no longer had to take math in school and haven’t had to take math since. It was the greatest day in my life, the last math paper I turned in. I was done with the demon math. It could torture other children. I was free from it’s evil clutches. Is math a man? According to one Harvard President, forced to step down, he insisted women were innately worse at math than men. Skipper is quite good and I am quite awful. Maybe he used my old tests to back up his thesis. Maybe math is a woman. I say this because God is she a royal bitch.

While I am not forced to do math, these days I still dream about it. I have a reoccurring nightmare that I am still in high school, and have to take a math test. Or in another version of this nightmare, I have a math class I have not shown up to all semester and had no idea I was in, and now I have to do all the work or fail. So maybe I haven’t taken a math class or math test in years, but the memories are like Vietnam, they still haunt me. In the words of the film Apocalypse Now, “Oh the horror!”

Recently, I got a glaring reminder about how bad at math I am. My boss Bruce called me to do a Hershey Kiss singing telegram on Long Island. He told me it was in Levittown, a suburb that is not all that far out in Long Island. While I had not been there in a while, I had done some shows there years ago. The people are more or less blue collar and love to laugh at dirty jokes. Yes, my mind of peeps. Bruce told me the client chipped in for a cab, but to map it before I accepted the assignment in case the trip was too insane.

Bruce also told me the client wanted me to read a Bible verse to his wife. Apparently it was his birthday and he couldn’t be there. Maybe he was trying to convert people somewhere, and being the annoying heels those people can be they were probably going to shoot him so he wanted to say happy birthday in case he ended up dead. The whole thing seemed slightly goony to me, but business is business.

I mapped the destination. It was an hour by foot. My heart began to beat out of my chest. I became concerned that I would become stranded, because some of the middle of no where destinations have no cabs. I emailed and texted Bruce, concerned. He called me back and insisted it would be 10 minutes by car, max. I told Bruce he was assuming there were cabs. Then Bruce told me the client told him there were cabs. I told Bruce I mapped it and the train station the client gave was wrong and there were no cabs.

Bruce informed me that if I took the car from the train to the destination, it was ten minutes max. He said taking a cab to Chelsea was ten minutes max, same with the subway. I told Bruce he had neglected to account for traffic in the city and the point was mute. We began arguing and finally he said, “Save this debate for someone else who wants to have it.” Then he hung up on me.

I was stunned. Bruce hung up on me. Now I was on thin ice with my boss. I mapquested car directions from the train. Bruce was correct, it was ten minutes. My old nemesis math had come back to torture me yet again. To make matters worse, the random Bible verse had poured demon oil on this whole thing. I didn’t know how or when to apologize to my boss for being so math retarded. I decided to wait ten minutes, or perhaps until the next day.

The guilt gnawed at me. I love my boss. So after some thinking I texted Bruce. He was eager to accept my apology as well, and blamed the Bible passage for making me so insane. I don’t know what it is, but religion makes everyone a dumbass. That coupled with math was the perfect recipe for my mini breakdown.

The day of the delivery came and getting there hell on wheels, literally. The Bible verse and the fact math was involved already put a deadly pal on the thing I loved most. Because I had to transfer trains at Jamaica, I had to jump tracks. The track I had to get to was on the other side of the station and the train pulled away as I got there. To make matters worse, I found out the internet gave me bad directions and the client was right to begin with. So when I finally got on the right train I was winded.
When I finally arrived on Long Island, Wantagh, I was still early with some time to kill. In the train station, I made friends with some of the local townies. One man, a career alcoholic missing teeth in pertinent places, informed me he had been kicked out of the house yet again by his wife. The man also told me he had eight children and was currently living in the homeless shelter down the road. Eight children, how was he going to financially support them? This man was unemployed. Finally, someone who was worse at math than I am.

His friend, in a move to impress me, told me he was recently released from a boot camp alternative to incarceration program upstate. Another one of his buddies was visibly trashed after a long day of working on a high rise. Seeing them made me feel better and worse about my spat with Bruce. It made me feel better because they all probably failed math in school, and for as much as I sucked I still earned a passing grade. Hey, it’s barely but I passed. At the same time, these guys couldn’t keep a job if their lives depended on it. I had gotten into a fight with my boss. Plus I actually liked my job. Life wasn’t half bad. These dudes went out of their way to impress me. Years ago, they would have been my dream men. Now they impress me, but not in a good way. Still, I found them funny.

As luck would have it, there was a cab stand at the station. The driver agreed to wait for me as I delivered the telegram. When I told him what I did he said, “Singing telegrams? They still have those.”

When we finally got to the destination, the moon shone on the suburban lawn and was clear in the crisp, autumnal night sky. The smell of wood fireplaces wafted through my nose. In the city, one never smells such things. However, in the quiet suburbs, a planet of their own, they are ever present reminders that there is life outside of Gotham City. As I walked to the front door, the moon glistened on my Hershey Kiss costume. It sparkled as if I were under bright stage lights ready to perform for thousands of people instead of one unsuspecting person. With my bag of kisses in hand, I knocked.

No answer. The meter on the cab was probably going up like that scene in Arsenic and Old Lace. I told him I would tip him well for waiting, but the rate was probably going up. I am bad at math and even I know that. Plus I always tip my drivers well. I knocked and tried the door bell. The barking of a dog answered with every knock and ring instead of a person. This canine grew more and more furious each time I tried to get a human. It was as if I was interrupting Cujo’s favorite TV show and he had a bone to pick, no pun intended.

As there was no answer, it was one of those moments where I questioned my life’s decisions. No one was answering the door. At times like this, my job can be rather frustrating. Yeah, her husband, the one that quoted the Bible, said she would be home. Yet there was no woman home. Maybe she was off sinning. That is when I began to regret shirking out of math because I was bad at it. Maybe math and I should have been better friends. Sure, I would be boring as hell, but I wouldn’t have an angry cabbie glaring at me, a large dog barking at me, and have no one to greet my performance and my bag of kisses.

Just then a woman answered. In her night sweats, it was clear she had been woken up. Our Cujo was next to her. Instead of being the big dog I feared, he was a little man with Napoleon syndrome who growled and treated me with the utmost suspicion. This is the dog that would have eaten my math homework and I would have let the vile little fiend.

“Who are you?” She asked rubbing sleepy sand out of her eyes and trying to calm her fur covered body guard.

“I am a Kiss from someone who remembered your birthday!” I said excitedly. I began to sing, and Cujo continued barking. By now, he was less harmless and more the unintentional accompanist to my performance. At first the woman looked puzzled, then she smiled, and finally she laughed. I had warmed her up.

Then it came time for the Bible verse, the craziest part of the delivery. The demon dog growled as I read it, but as tears came into his owner’s eyes, he calmed. She was speechless. I was almost speechless as well, but talking is a large part of my job so I had to keep going.

When I was done I handed her a bag of Hershey Kisses. Seeing she was happy, the pup had calmed as well. I was no threat to his home. Rather, he was now wagging his tail. While the approval of the recipient is key, the approval of an angry dog has value that no words or money can be attached to. Either way, I had won.

Finally, she said, “This is odd and wonderful at the same time. Wait right here, I have something for you.” She left, and I glanced at my driver signaling one minute. He gave me the thumbs up and was smiling. Apparently he had enjoyed the performance, too.

When the woman emerged, she had a surprised $20 tip for me. This was amazing. While I am God awful at math, I know an extra tip means cha-ching. On the way back to the station, the cabbie told me that he was recently divorced and his wife had tried to take everything, including his car. He told me they were still friendly, but when the sex stopped he knew it was over. That is when I stopped regretting my pitiful mathematical abilities. Sure, people who were good at math had normal jobs and such. Maybe they even had stability. One thing is for certain, in no way are their boring, predictable lives that end with a logical answer to every question as exciting as mine. They also age badly and have crows feet. I, on the other hand, remain young with my never ending sense of adventure. Sure my life might kill me, but damnit I will die having fun.

I let Bruce know about the surprise monetary donation, which he was pleased about. Sure, April could be crazy but she was decent at what she did. The next day Bruce got a glowing review from the client. In it, the client said how pleased his wife was, and how she was surprised and awed to see me. He told Bruce God loved him and blessed him several times in the review. Sure, it was a little nutty, but someone telling you God loves you instead of that God hates your guts is a kinder, more benevolent gesture.

The client was happy, Bruce was happy, and I was happy. I used to think the devil created math, and maybe he did. But my mother once said it best when I came home after a tear streaked math experience. “April, God doesn’t give us everything. You might be bad at math but you have other talents.”

So maybe while the devil has created math, God or whatever is upstairs made me good at being the center of attention, making people laugh, speaking my mind, writing, ventriloquism, and gave me a thirst for adventure and sent me on a never ending quest for truth. God or whatever is upstairs also gave me that experience as a gentle reminder that I am doing the right thing with myself, and I am where I in fact do belong. There is no price tag to be put on a smile. Just as the universe needs those who are good at crunching numbers, they need people like myself, too.


Still, math is evil. Math is the devil’s son or daughter. Fuck you, math. Fuck you. 


www.aprilbrucker.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prison Pen Pals

Several years ago, I was in a bizarre place with my life. Let’s just say my bad boy phase was hit with a bottle of Miracle Grow. I had the former fiancé who was insane and I still have a different mailing address because of. Then after him I had a string of guys on the fast track to no where. Why make one bad decision when you can make a thousand? Of course, after dating a string of defendants I decided to date a defense lawyer. Oh my gosh, he fulfilled the stereotype that all lawyers do is LIE, LIE, LIE!!! This one was supposed to be my rainbow on the Lucky Charms box. No such luck. He was bigger dirt bag than the rest of them.

After we broke up, I was kind of hurt in a way I had never been. This was the one who had the job, had the apartment, was the thing that made my parents relieved that I wasn’t on the same collision course some of my female relatives are with men. Truth, I had cheated during the relationship several times. Still, I felt as if I had let my family down and failed by not sticking it out with this dude, marrying him, and having his kids. Did I love him? I loved the idea of what we had, not how he subtly treated me like a second class citizen and I was so used to that I just let it go.

Of course, looking back, the thing that almost made this near disaster possible was that I didn’t have much of a dating history before my fiancé. In high school guys didn’t talk to me unless they needed answers for English or history homework. Even Bobby Parker, the chain smoking Caddy driving parent’s nightmare that liked me had a girlfriend in another district, and an official relationship never transpired. In college I wasn’t much of a dater until I met the trust funder with the nice apartment and wanted the benefits of being my boyfriend without the responsibility, but even the shelf life on that wasn’t long. So when I got engaged I had very little relationship experience, which is in part why that conflagration happened.

So after some thinking, I talked to a friend I had then named Bettina. A chain smoker who worked as a hairdresser in Queens, Bettina had a similar history when it came to men. We had met when she did my hair and makeup for a short film once upon a time and stayed in touch. Her fiancé could have been mine, except she got a kid out of the deal which kind of sucked. The dude was a deadbeat and refused to work, so she was rocking the single mother thing. Anyway, Bettina was writing a guy in prison. He seemed like the suave  gentlemen women always dream of. Bettina’s beau was in on a drug related charge, and actually seemed rather nice through the letters he wrote.

After ending things with the fiancé, before being swayed by the criminal lawyer who lied worse than his clients, I had dated a few guys out of jail. They are the only ones okay with a girl who’s ex is stalking her, and don’t run like they saw Godzilla. Most decent dudes do, and with good reason. The guys I dated that were out of jail were fun, and didn’t want anything serious. I am actually still friends with a few of them. What made things worse was around this time I found out the lawyer/liar was lying about the reason he broke up with me as well, causing several people who I am no longer friends with anyway to keep their distance. Me having a beefy, manly, muscle driven man would make him so damn jealous and make him pay for lying about me.

Plus I felt more at home with bad boys anyway. Growing up all the so called normal kids were mean to me, and the bad boys never were. They kind of left me alone. The so called screw ups talked to me in study hall, and one kid from a foster home caught another idiot making fun of me. The group home kid decked the idiot. I thought it was so romantic. Needless to say they kicked the kid out of school, damn them.

Either way, bad boys and I always connected. Even in high school when I was on the honors track, we always knew each other in the hall. I wasn’t a big dater then as I mentioned, so I wasn’t a party girl. Sometimes, it was as if they liked me more because of that. My parents were super strict, keeping us under lock and key. The only time my siblings and I could get out was to go to school, our numerous after school activities, and other volunteer work. While time with friends was occasionally allowed, it was on a very limited basis. My mother’s belief was leisure time was the devil and got kids into trouble. Even though I was popular at certain points for all the things I did and had friends in the so called “in crowd,” I always felt like a perpetual outsider.

Looking back, they were perpetual outsiders too. Instead of having no freedom, they had too much. Maybe that’s why Mark McAdams, the class president who I adored, thought it was like being told he had cancer when he found out I had a mega crush on him. On  the other hand, I was walking home from school helpless in the rain. Bobby Parker rolled up in his Caddy, cigarette out of mouth. I jumped in off we went. To them I was chronically helpless and they were my rescuers. And that spawned Bobby Parker fighting with the rest of the degenerates over our friendship. It wasn’t because we were friends, it’ because he got the idea first.

That is when I got the website name from Bettina and decided to go for it. Sure, I was going to pursue men on the outside, but who’s to say I didn’t have a friend on the inside. While things heated up with Bettina’s man, she had still been dating other dudes that weren’t incarcerated before things became official. Either way, it would be nice to have a dude that wouldn’t judge me. All the lawyer and his friends did was judge me. They judged my career, my friends, the mistakes I made. It was as if they had this comfortable superiority. The cons weren’t going to judge me. When you have robbed a bank, burned down a house, trafficked drugs, and killed a few people, you kind of lose that right along with many others the law strips away.

As I went through the profiles, I looked at the photos of each offender. Some looked as if they used their time in prison to get buff. I liked to weight train. Maybe this could be an ice breaker. Others wanted to look more soulful and thoughtful, probably so the ladies would send them money and naked pictures. I had a feeling my pen pal might be asking me for those, but maybe not. Under each photo, the men had whether or not they wanted money or legal help. While all answered no, it was probably a yes.

There was one bank robber who stole my heart, no pun intended. He had piercing dark eyes and a goatee. The man was doing ten years and was more smoking than the pistol he fired. I figured I might write to him.

Under him was an arsonist doing 300 years for burning down a series of buildings. The guy had a tattoo on his face and looked completely psychotic, but in that smoke and fire kind of way. He freely admitted he wanted money and legal help. The dude was honest. While the bank robber was cute, this man was forthcoming which is sexy. Maybe this was my prison pen pal. I was sold. Quickly, I drafted my first letter. Hey, I figured the second he got annoying I could just stop writing.

I had my battle plans until hanging out with my late friend Chacho Vasquez. A former drug dealer, Chacho had since stopped living the life but still acted as if he did. More often than not he would say, “Those bitches, they underestimate me. But I have a lock in my sock and I am ready to rock.” Then he would get out his nail file and go to town, always looking his best. That’s when I would laugh. Sure, Chacho had street swagger and didn’t snitch, but he was as gay as a storm of Skittles and Starbusts.

I told Chacho of my plans during one of his nail filing sessions. As I spoke, Chacho snapped, “Are you fucking stupid?!” Chacho was so aghast he dropped his nail file. This was serious. Then he screamed, panicked, because his nail file had touched the ground. FYI, despite all of his exploits Chacho was a germophobe.

“I would just be writing him a letter.” I told him. “It’s not like I am marrying him.”

Chacho then said, “No, you won’t be marrying him. Instead he will just want money and naked pictures. They all want money and naked pictures just so you know. All you will be doing is spending all his money on him. He should be spending money on you. Don’t be stupid.”

Chacho informed me he knew this from his own experience in the joint. He had seen multiple inmates write to multiple women, and many even concocted little hustles with each side piece he had writing. As he enlightened me, Chacho finished by saying, “And just so you know, before you think his feelings are real for you, after he seals the letter he is meeting me in the shower for some rubber ducky time. Yeah, and he says he’s not gay.” An evil grin spread across Chacho’s face as he finished with the kisser on this new bulletin from the shady. Then my Cuban Ratso Rizzo broke into a cackle seeing I was shocked silent and I sat there slack jawed. He always did this when he knew what he said was too much for words.

 “Why do you think they keep coming back to jail? They keep getting caught because they like the treats.” Chacho explained after he was done laughing maniacally.

Then Chacho told me as a teenager, after being kicked out of his Washington Heights home for being gay, he wrote a murderer who was locked up in Sing Sing. Apparently he got the dudes address from one of his drag sisters who was dating the dude before he was arrested. Anyway, at first things were rosy until this dude insisted Chacho sent him money. “I said bitch, I run my own hustle. I work hard. No hand outs here.” Now I was laughing. Chacho had a point there. Granted, it was a dull one on the end of the pencil, but he had a point.

Sure, Chacho had a head filled with awful decisions himself. Some landed him in jail. Others in the hospital. Then there were those that made him homeless quite frequently. However, in some twisted, odd, and ultimately surreal way Chacho was the voice of reason in this scenario. Chacho of course reminded me that a man’s only purpose in my life should be to spend all of his money on me, take me to fancy eateries, and of course high end vacations. It should not be the other way around. While I am not sure whether or not that is completely true, one thing was for certain, he had stopped a craptacular decision in it’s tracks. Yeah, the lawyer diminished my already fragile ego and kicked my self-esteem which was already dented. However, getting a prison pen pal was not the answer to my problems. 

Chacho also assured me that the lawyer would get his, and downgrade to some "worthless fat idiot." At the time this made me laugh, because Chacho never liked him. Turned out my dearly departed friend was right on this as well. Thank God I didn't degrade myself just to get back at a worthless mouth breather that had a decent job. 

 Bettina looked down upon Chacho and called him a disaster criticizing the frequent food stamp using Louis Vuitton wearing indigent whenever she could. But in the ultimate turn of fate, Chacho would call the disaster play for play that became her life.  Bettina would end up marrying her prison pen pal, and they posed for photos in front of backdrops containing butterflies, bridges, and streams, symbols of the freedom they robbed their way out of, no pun intended. Five months into the marriage, she discovered he was writing other women. To make matters worse, he had her cash a series of money orders in a fraudulent scam that left her high and dry. Oh, and she found all of this out when she got a call from his boy toy on the inside who had developed feelings and was sick and tired of being the second best kept secret. Needless to say, Bettina and her drug trafficker divorced citing irreconcilable differences.

After that, Bettina began seeing an 17 year old who dropped out of high school and sold weed. Seeing she was on the fast road to no where, I began to distance myself from her. While the convict pen pal had been a disaster that should have gotten her an award, this was just plain sad. Not to mention now I was starting to make decisions like someone with a more sane head on her shoulders. Last I heard, Bettina was dating a Latin King. Sigh, and I thought I liked them bad.

I was telling my gay hairdresser friend Carter about my almost prison pen pal experience and the Ballad of Bettina. A little background on Carter, originally from Central Florida, he was mainly raised by extended family because his mother that he no longer speaks to is insane. As we spoke, Carter revealed his mother was a serial prison pen paler. Not only did she routinely write men in prison, but even invite one to live with them when Carter was a kid. The whole thing was a complete disaster, and the dude left after nine months for a better meal ticket.

As if that wasn’t enough, Carter’s mother felt the men in the Florida penitentiary were the problem, not the fact she was writing convicts to begin with. So she began writing inmates in the Midwest. To be with her former burglar that she had become enchanted with, Carter’s mother pulled him out of school and moved house to Kansas City. This too was a disaster. Carter didn’t adjust well, and since all of her money was going to buy her beau whatever because he wouldn’t work Carter went without winter clothes. The whole thing literally exploded when the dude’s former cellie came to visit and the arsonist on parole burned their house down. Mother stayed behind, and Carter returned to Florida to finish high school. Now I know why they don’t speak. He’s better off without his mother.

Looking back, it can all be explained quite simply. Love makes people do crazy things, and heartbreak makes you more crazy and desperate. Bettina, Carter’s mom, and I were just three heartbroken women. Bettina had been engaged to a psychotic loser who refused to work, and had terrible luck when it came to men. Carter’s dad had been a drug addict who left the family and ultimately committed suicide. I had a crazy fiancé and just bad luck with men in general. Eventually, you are so used to table scraps that crumbs don’t seem so bad. At least a crumb is just a crumb, and knows it’s a damn crumb.


While I have firmly put my foot down that the future Mr. April Brucker will not wear prison orange and be housed in a state pen, I know one thing is for certain. There is a country song in here somewhere. I have already recorded one. Maybe it is time for “Hell No, Joe” to have a B-Side. What can I say? Bad decisions equal good stories. 

www.aprilbrucker.com

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Love of a Woman (Travis Tritt)

Back in June, I was hired to deliver a singing pink gorilla telegram to a woman who worked in a doctor’s office. My boss Bruce explained that the client was a Marine named Brent MacAdam who was stationed overseas in Japan. The assignment was a Happy Belated Birthday. From the appearance of it, either they started the relationship during one of his furloughs and he was shipped off, or they hung out a few times and he was stuck on her. I had no clue whatsoever. After accepting the job, Bruce called me and told me the client requested I wear a WWE Championship Belt.

Sigh….why should I have been surprise? He was a Marine. One thing about Marines is that they are the first in and the last out. Trained to take any amount of crap and eager for armed combat, they are ready to go Rambo and live off the land if need be. Jarheads never give up their identity even when discharged. Once a Marine, always a Marine, and they will tell you this within seconds of meeting them even if it has been years since they served. I had seen a special once about Sergeant Eddie Wright, a Marine who had both his arms blown off in combat. Despite his disability and reliance on hook hands, Eddie Wright still taught self-defense to Marines and his men respected him. While it was brave, it was also slightly insane. After losing both hands I would be enjoying my disability. That being said, why would I expect normal behavior from anyone who calls themselves a Marine ever!?!

At the same time, some of my greatest fans have been Marines.  As a matter of fact, two who served in Iraq have followed my career and used to show up at my shows to surprise me. Dave Rosner, who is still an active Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines, is one of my oldest friends in comedy. As a matter of fact, he encouraged me not to let my book sit in my drawer but to publish it. What I love about Marines is their willingness to be courageous, dedicated, and ability to not only honor their Marine code but laugh at themselves.

In addition to the WWE Championship Belt, Brent had another request. He wanted the pink gorilla gram to sing “Love of a Woman” by Travis Tritt. As I read over the list of commands this love sick soldier was giving me, I was amazed, awe struck, and felt like yes, this was my life. I could not make this up one bit. I laughed at the surreality of the situation, and then realized there was some work to be done.

That day I purchased a WWE Championship Belt, and spent the evening memorizing “Love of a Woman” by Travis Tritt. To say the song wasn’t so syrupy sweet that it gave me a mouth full of root canals would have been the understatement of the year. To say it wasn’t so cheesy that it would have made a plate of nachos look modest would have been a lie. These lyrics were much too much. The woman Travis Tritt sang about stuck by her man even when he was a jack ass. Not to mention this same woman viewed her man as her hero. YUCK! I wanted to tell Mr. Tritt who clearly wrote this from a sexist standpoint that most of the time, when my man was a jerkoff I pretty much let him know he was on his own. And oh, I also knew my dude was human, would disappoint me, and would probably be the one to screw the relationship up. Then there were times I would just burst out laughing because the song was just too funny for me as a feminist. I Googled Travis Tritt. The man is a die hard Republican. If he met my friends and I he would burn us as witches. In my mind I nicknamed him Travis Twit.

The next day I got to Brooklyn to deliver to Juliet, the lady love in question. I knew this was either going to be a big hit or to go over like a fat rat infected with rabies. Putting on my pink gorilla costume and WWE Championship Belt, I was armed and dangerous with the Travis Tritt lyrics. Sure, they were sexist and no such woman existed unless she had half a brain. However, I listened to them with a less cynical heart. Despite singing about a fictional woman that doesn’t exist, Travis Tritt was singing about how important a woman’s love was, and how it was important in a man’s life.

Entering the medical office, I was greeted by some odd looks from patients who were probably waiting for blood work and some other potential awful news. That is when I asked, “Is Juliet here?”

“Yeah, and what are you?” Asked a young woman with a long, dark, onyx colored mane, copper skin, and almond eyes.

“I swam all the way from Japan to get here.” I explained. Then I began singing. Juliet turned bright red and asked me to keep it down. She told me there were patients.

One patient, an older woman said, “I wanna hear more. It’s New York.”

Juliet turned bright red and I continued singing. Joining her, iphone out, was a black nurse who had a weave that was a combination red and blue. I could tell that when she hit the club, Juliet could probably doll up. However, she was wearing a comfortable pants suit and practical shoes. The nurse on the other hand had nails that had more stones on there than the rims of a decked out car. As I kept going, Juliet worked the range of emotions. At first she begged me to stop. Then she became resigned. After that, a smile spread over her face and tears welled up in her eyes. The hearts of the patients in the waiting room, the nurse,  and hers were melting. Mine, which is normally encased in ice, was beginning to thaw as well.

Tears that normally come when watching certain black and white movies like Casablanca were starting to come. Damn both Travis Tritt and Brent MacAdam. They were bringing the woman out in me and it was the worst possible freaking moment!!!!

Finally, I read the message. It said, “To Juliet, I couldn’t be here so I sent this from Japan complete with Country Western Song and WWE Belt. Happy Belated Birthday.  And if this is not a great day, I hope this makes it better. Your Favorite Marine, Brent.”

Now Juliet was silent. Her face was smiling, and now she was crying. Oh, navigating the moods of a woman are trickier than that of a mine field. This is where men and lesbians get my deepest sympathies. Okay, so the man missed her birthday. This was definitely new. It could have been yesterday, the week before, the month before, six weeks before, six months before….who knew. Either way, he was remembering now and that is what counted. Most men forget even when they know a woman for years. Brent was ahead of the game.

Brent MacAdams had joined the Marines and survived basic training. The dude already had my respect. Now he was letting the woman he cared about know he wasn’t messing around. This was courage under fire on a whole new level. Most men, soldier or civilian, are not brave enough to go there ever.

 “You call that man. You call that man, right now.” The nurse with the weave commanded.
“Denise, I can’t. He’s asleep. He’d kill me.” Juliet said. Denise, the woman with the weave and the nails had a name.

 “Oh, trust me. He will be happy for you to wake him up.” I said taking off my mask. “I think that’s why he sent me.”

“Yeah, I wish my husband would do that for me.” The old woman in the waiting area said.
“Yeah, totally call him. I would. And if you don’t, we will.” Denise ordered. The three of us laughed. She pointed to Juliet’s office. Juliet now knew what she had to do.

Juliet thanked me and went to call her boyfriend. I left still thinking about Brent’s bravery and how he just put his heart out there in a way I don’t often see from men who are worth anything. So many times, men feel that they have to be macho and cool all the time to win a woman. Yeah, being tough is nice and all, but being too “man” to tell a lady what is going on in your heart because you don’t want to appear weak isn’t man. It’s stupid. To be tough under pressure, cool under fire, but to be able to tell a woman you care about that you care about her, now that is a man. Brent MacAdams was a man.

Going to the train, I saw a cat fight between two women on the court house steps. They were yelling about who the idiot in question loved more, Trash Bag 1 or Trash Bag 2. As I witnessed this, I walked past a woman who was a little older than I was and we exchanged a glance. “No man is ever worth that.” She said.

“Yeah, especially since he’s enjoying every second of it.” I told her and she nodded  in agreement. Then we were both on our way. What I really wanted to tell those two wasting their breath over a piece of flesh that was probably jobless was that yes, he wasn’t worth it. However, there were men out there that were. And instead of fighting over this moron and reducing themselves to idiots, maybe they should go look for a man who is strong, dedicated, committed, has a wicked sense of humor, and wears his heart on his sleeve. Yes, they are out there. I know one. He is a Marine by the name of Brent MacAdams.

While my heart went back to it’s same frozen status hours later, for a wrinkle in time Brent MacAdams had proven that there were still true, blue dudes out there. Chivalry was not dead but in a mere coma. Sure, my Prince might have worn prison orange one too many times, but I still have faith in a man who will come my way without a criminal record, drug problem, or who isn’t on more than one psych med. Brent MacAdams gave me that hope. With that, I also decided to stop making fun of Travis Tritt.

So to Brent MacAdams and the rest of the men serving overseas, have a safe and happy veterans day. FYI, the WWE Championship belt is now a regular part of my costume repertoire.

www.aprilbrucker.com

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I Drink Coca Cola

When I was ten years old, I took dance classes at a studio called Dance Connection. My teacher was Miss Aimee, a former New York City Rockette. Tall and leggy, she knew how to teach any step in jazz, tap, and basically had the best lines for ballet. While not a tumbler because she was nearly six feet tall, and most tumblers are short, what she lacked in experience she made up by being a killer choreographer. On staff she also had defectors, a family by the name of the Cravelli’s, who danced at a rival studio where they had a top notch acro dance squad. With her background and drive plus the Cravelli knowledge base Miss Aimee had some awesome recitals.

Dance Connection, despite the talent under it’s roof, was housed in a humble locale. Right down the road from South Park Shops and the Giant Eagle, the supermarket where I later worked and everyone knows my mother, it is right as my hometown becomes less residential and more industrial. That is one thing about Western PA, is even though the steel industry is a pale shadow of what it once was, that blue collar factory element still persists in a way.

On the top floor, before one went downstairs to the studio, was a television repair shop owned by an old drunk who chain smoked on the stoop. Up the hill was a ferocious pitbull. Angry and evil, he growled at anyone and everyone. This beast used to distress my mother, because she feared he would break from the chain that imprisoned him and possibly mull my sister Skipper or myself. Of course my mother was not the only one that feared the lost son of Cerberus. Eventually, it would be revealed that the animal was beaten, abused, tormented and starved by it’s alcoholic owner and apprehended by the state to a better home. While in hindsight the son of Cerberus proves sympathetic, at the time he scared the bejesus out of me.

The building was owned by a slum landlord named Lesier. Actually the Lesier’s were a family notorious for not only being terrible about the upkeep, but aside from that they were deadbeat fathers and womanizers. One was even revealed to have a second family. Then again, when you are Don Juan that is a full time job I suppose. Either way, they were terrible about the upkeep of the building. More often than not, a pipe would leak suspicious liquid as we entered, and there was always something wrong with the stairs or banister. Of course on our way to class we passed apartments that housed either singles trying to get their start, divorcees looking to start again, or some sort of drifter.

Then we would enter the studio. Unlike the outside, the place was pristine and clean. Mats were out, and we were ready to tumble. Most of the time I liked to throw the hard tricks. Sometimes I landed on my head. Actually, that was more often than not. Other times, after a lot of work I got it. Then there were those times I scared the crap out of my teacher because I didn’t stretch. I hated stretching. Like a frustrated child at a dinner party I wanted my desert first. Then I would get hurt and wondered why. Still, the dance studio was my safe place.

Whenever I was in my tumbling class, all that mattered was my next move on the mat. School was difficult. I was a reader, and I was kind of quiet and strange. This made me a moving target for a lot of my nasty classmates. To top it off, I had braces with rubber bands, gum bands as they were called when I was growing up, and cystic acne. Sure, I fought back, but they were still awful. Sometimes, I fought with my parents. I wanted my own way. My brother Wendell could be an asshole. Skipper could be a know it all. Here those things didn’t matter. Even if I ate the mat, I was safe. In a world crawling with so much drama, that is all anyone, especially a young person wants.

In the studio, there was always a coke machine. My brother Wendell was a Pepsi guy, and had drank so much of it and more often than not shirked his teeth brushing. Once, his teeth were so stained the dentist thought he was chewing tobacco. My mother denied this, and the dentist had dealt with Western PA youth. He knew my brother could be lying and questioned him about this. Finally, my brother came clean about the volume of his Pepsi drinking. While he was on limited access after that and my parents inspected his teeth before bed, Pepsi was never my drink. It was too sugary. That is why I fell in love with Coca Cola.

After class I would rummage through my pocket to find change. Then I would insert my quarters into the machine and out a can would come. Sweat pouring down my face, I would take a gulp. The icy outcome would be a reward for a job well done. I would watch some of the older girls, star cheerleaders at our local high school. Others twirled and were on the pom pom squad. I didn’t know if I wanted to do any of those things, but I wanted to entertain people and share my writing with the world. The dream seemed lofty, the goal seemed out there, so I would just stop thinking and finish my coke instead.

When dance ended, before my parents remodeled a retirement home in South Carolina, we would vacation in Florida. After dinner, we always made our way to a local Mom and Pop store for candy and other groceries that my mother might need. Wendell and I burned and our father looked like a lobster. We got the Irish set of the genes I suppose. Skipper freckled beautifully, and my mother bronzed like a miniature gold statue.

Most people who frequented the store were local redneck types, and rocked a mullet better than anyone I had ever met. These, not the transplanted Cubans and Haitians, were the true Floridians. Others who came in from the North were those who retired or moved down to the panhandle because living was cheaper. Our family were clearly outsiders, but we paid and minded our business so they treated us in kind.

Wendell usually got a Snickers and much to the dismay of our parents, a Pepsi. Skipper got a Kit Kat and water because she, being absolutely perfect, was never one to even touch soda, or pop as we called it growing up. I always got a Coca Cola and a Twix Bar. My Twix was never mine for very long, because Skipper or Wendell would always trick me into giving them the other half. To this day, I still share my Twix Bars.

Up North, we drank Coca Cola from cans or plastic bottles. In this store, they had glass bottles. This fascinated me, and my dad explained that this was the way they made Coca Cola when he and my mother were children. I had never seen such a thing, and it fascinated me. The hillbilly shop owner got a chuckle as the little blonde Yankee gawked at the retro construction. Of course I purchased it. How could I not? I wondered how I would open it. My teeny, tiny hands were not very strong. Wendell was no help, because he was not much stronger. He suggested I break it. Skipper was confused. At the suggestion of my mother, my dad was able to open it and down the hatch the Coca Cola went.

After that, I began a sort of OCD fascination with glass coke bottles. During my travels as a comedian, and trust me on the road you spent your fair share of time in diners, I have come across the same glass bottles. Same with some old school eateries in Brooklyn. The glass bottle is refreshing to see. It portrays a certain innocence lost and an era gone in a world that has become so dirty and corrupt. It symbolizes a time when things weren’t so complicated, and makes me want to set my hair in curlers.

Then I remember all the bad things from the era that’s gone. This was a time where women were expected to stay in the home and have babies. Of course being gay was out of the question, you had to marry a man or woman because that was just unnatural, and it was a mental illness. Add in the fact that some of my greatest friends and I would have never met because blacks and whites could not mix. Suddenly the glass bottles lose their romance. I become grateful times have changed. Sure I like the kitsch, just not what it stands for.

Around the time I was 13, my dance school closed because Miss Aimee’s husband got a job in another state. I remember feeling depressed because my safe place was gone, so I turned my energies to performing. Around the time I was 16, I began taking a weekly acting class downtown with a woman by the name of Jackie McDaniel, the wife of a well known Pittsburgh actor, director, writer, and teacher. The class was either Wednesday night or Saturday morning depending on the semester. Of course my folks were thrilled with my focus but eh, you only live once. So I was out to prove to them that maybe, just maybe, I could do this.

There was a girl in the class named Angelina Hammond. She was a real diva. Perfect in every way, Angelina acted, sang, danced, and even wrote. She got some local agent with a big mouth to promote her, and booked a few local gigs and thought she was amazing. Jackie’s prized pupil, Angelina received her five minutes of praise at the beginning of class. As a matter of fact, she had just landed a role in an indie film and even was fixing to publish a book. Oh, and she sang whenever possible. Angelina could sing, and sounded like Christina Aguilera. However, she would remind you of how great she was in case you forgot.

I really didn’t like her. To top it off, Angelina was head cheerleader at her high school, one across the way from mine. According to her friendemy Cheri, Angelina was bulimic but flaunted it rather than hid it. Whether or not she was committed to the eating disorder I will never know, but like everything else about her it was a way to get people talking. To say I didn’t want to beat the crap out of her on the regular is the understatement of the year.

Dealing with Angelica always meant a cold beverage break. I would go to the second floor, insert my quarters, and get myself a bottle of soda. Angelina irked me. She intimidated me. I wasn’t thin and pretty like she was. I didn’t have a voice like she did. I wrote but no one was publishing my stuff. Jackie liked me, but didn’t brag about me the way she bragged about Angelina. However, whenever the Coca Cola hit my lips, I knew I was going to be alright. She was just one of many like her I would meet. I would have my revenge on this girl who developed an eating disorder for the purpose of attention seeking. I wouldn’t rearrange the face of the phony bitch, but instead would have the better career.

As it turned out, Angelina got turned down by all the big name drama schools. They didn’t share her or her small time agent’s opinion about her work. The book that was supposed to hit the shelves was never published. As for the album, that never materialized either. Looking back, she sounded like Christina Aguilera and that was it. So do a lot of other girls, and their demos get thrown in the trash, a good place for copycats. Angelina did transfer to a good acting school though, and finished. Now she works as a car show model in LA, a far cry from her potential. These days, she seems healthy and has a fiancé. She seems to have mellowed and is happy. Maybe just as the bottle of Coca Cola gave me comfort, that, not success, is all she ever wanted in her life.

For the record, I became the one Jackie McDaniel brags about…

When I worked bagging groceries at the Giant Eagle, a local supermarket, there was always a soda machine in the break room. This was a welcome site after several hours of bagging groceries on my feet. I worked in the front end with the rest of the younger folks. Most of us were in high school. Some kids went to my district, others the next school over. Sometimes, we more or less hung out instead of worked. The lifers, those who made a career in the service industry, were sometimes annoyed with us. For the most part, we weren’t too bad, but it was a case of teenagers on the job which made things a little crazy for our front end manager.

After I would get my plastic bottle of coca cola, I made my way to the break room where I was greeted with a consistent, revolving door cast of characters. One was a guy by the name of Ryan who swore he was a vegetarian, but the only meat he would eat was steak. Another was Dominick, a kid who was slightly autistic that was always having a run in with Bob, our bagger with Down Syndrome. Whenever I would see Dominick, he would tell me about how much he hated Bob and vice versa. It was funny in a really horrible, wrong way. Add in Suzanna, the single chain smoking mother who had custody of her grandchildren because her dead beat daughter either ran off with a trucker pimp or was in rehab yet again.

Usually, I downed sugar cookies and coca cola as I listened to their tales of woe. Ryan would defend his vegetarian status, and tell me steak didn’t technically count. Kelly, a girl from a town over who was in love with her 50 year old band teacher and dreamed of becoming an undertaker would challenge him. Then she would cry about how her band teacher rejected an awkward advance she made as she wore her Britney Spears button with pride. Bob with Down Syndrome would call Dominick slow, an incredibly ironic turn considering the source. Then Bob would talk about Rita, another mentally challenged worker he was in love with and even once told me they had sex, an awkward but brave confession. Dominick called Bob a retard, which is not only terribly spot on but again, he had no room to talk. However, he was not so forthcoming about his sex life, Thank heavens. Suzanna would tell me all about her grandchildren, and how she wished her daughter would get it together…

Sure, my waistline expanded but so did the collection of stories in my lexicon. That is perhaps why Coca Cola has always been my lucky soft drink before going onstage. Heck, several times a week, I drink a can of coke with dinner. When times are good, this beverage is a steady friend. When times suck, it is a steady friend. Last year, I even got a Coca-Cola inspired calendar and cut the photos out when the month was done pinning them on my wall. Each of the young women looked happy, robust and of course had the warm smile coca cola brings myself and so many others.

Not so long ago, I was having dinner and received a wonderful fan letter from a young man in Australia. Like Joan Crawford, I will answer all my fan mail personally until the end of time, even if it overwhelms and kills me. In between bites of food, like I always do, I took a sip of Coca Cola.

As I read the fan letter, perhaps one of the most touching I have ever received, I took another sip. Flashing before my eyes was my journey. I felt the safety of my former dance studio, and heard the voice of Miss Aimee coaching me through a difficult maneuver. I felt the rays from the sun on our family vacations, and saw my first glass coke bottle. I felt the depression of losing my safe place, and the rage towards Angelina Hammond that wouldn’t let me quit. I felt the warmth from all my supermarket friends, and the laughter from the tales of their nutty lives that somehow made perfect sense to them.

While I am a long way from the dance studio/the family vacation/groveling under Angelina Hammond/bagging groceries, my journey is still not finished. I don’t know where I am supposed to go next. Will it be more recognition for my abilities as a ventriloquist and comedian? Will it be more book writing? Will it be more television? Will I cut an album? Will I play Sydney Music Hall, Carnegie Hall, or both? Maybe this is the farthest I am meant to go in show business, and my next stop is being a wife or mother. While the feminist in my cringes, my mother did a fine job at both and it is a worthy calling for any woman. Or maybe I can have it all.


Either way, no matter where the wind takes this swashbuckler armed with a puppet, story, costume, and song, rest assured a bottle, plastic but preferably glass, or a can of Coca Cola will be in my hand. 

www.aprilbrucker.com