Bangin’

“A woman who cuts her hair, is about to change her life.” – Coco Chanel                                 

When life seems to be spinning out of control, I do this thing wherein I drink two glasses of wine, grab my best pair of kitchen scissors, watch a couple YouTube videos, and then cut my own bangs. I know what you are going to say, probably the same thing my husband says, “What the hell are you doing? Go to a salon. You said you’d never do this again. Remember that time you cut your eye a little?” Blah. Blah. Blah. But calm down, I’m a professional.

I will first decide what length I want to go. I decide this by grabbing my hair from the back of my neck, and swooshing it down over my face, looking quite like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family (see below).

Minus the beret and groovy shades.

Then I think, hmm, about right here, holding my hand up to about the beret line. Then right before I make the first cut, I put the scissors down, flip my hair back into place, and text my best friend.

Me: I’m gonna cut my own bangs.

BFF: DO IT!

So then I flip my hair back. Then… ping.

BFF: Wait.

Me: Why?

BFF: Have you been drinking?

Me: Just wine.

BFF: How much?

Me: Like two.

BFF: Bottles?

ME: Glasses, bitch.

BFF: Where’s Jerimiah?

Me: Why?! He doesn’t care, he said do whatever.

BFF: Did he? Let me text him real quick like.

ME: No, stop! Okay, he told me to go to a salon.

BFF: So two bottles?

Me: No, dude! I can do it this time.

BFF: That’s what you said last time.

Me: Last time I was legit drunk. And I had the bad scissors.

BFF: Did you buy hair shears?

Me: Uh, no. Do you know how expensive those are? Whatever, I’m doing it.

So then I Cousin Itt it again, and just as I am about to lift the meat scissors to my forehead, Ping…

Jerimiah: Are you cutting your hair in the bathroom?

Me: Bitch! No. Leave me alone.

Jerimiah: This isn’t like a “new year, new you” thing. Think this through please.

Me: Leave me alone!

Scissors up. Then I realize if I cut where I want to cut, then I cut a lot more hair than I intend to. It’s not so much a bang cut, more like a hair cut and do I even want a haircut? Hmm. What about that video I saw where the girl leans over and lets her hair hang over and she cuts it at an angle?

Me: You know that video where the girl hangs her hair over and they cut it at an angle?

BFF: No, dude. No.

Me: But I think I can probably do it.

BFF: Remember that time you wanted me to dye your hair and we used all the holes in the cap and you had that layer of blonde only at the top and it was like three days before senior pics?

Me: Yeah.

BFF: Shit like that will happen if you do this.

Me: Damn it, man!

Then I stand in front of the mirror. Scissors in one hand, my phone in the other, and I wait for divine intervention. A sign. A signal that this is exactly what needs to happen right now, this very instant. Then suddenly. Ping…

BFF: Dude, I think maybe you should do it.

Me: Why?

BFF: Cause honestly, it’s your life and you only live it once, and who the hell am I or Jerimiah to tell you whether or not you have the forehead for bangs?

Me: Did you pour yourself some wine?

BFF: For sure.

Me: Want me to wait ten minutes then we can FaceTime and do it together?

BFF: Oh, no, for sure not, no. I’m not spiraling here, you are.

Then I cut my own bangs.

Listen, here is my point in as much as I have one: Sometimes when you need to feel a little, teeny, bit in control of your life because things feel like they are totally spinning out of control, then okay, sure, cut your own bangs, but try to limit your control to that. Just the bangs, y’all. Just the bangs.

M.

Cards

I love cards. All sorts of cards. Christmas cards, birthday cards, Valentine cards, cards for support, cards for friendship, congrats cards. I love to give cards. I like to send “I miss you” cards, I like to give thank you cards. Those are my favorite. Telling someone how much they mean or meant to you during a certain time in your life, how can you beat that? I like postcards from far-off places. I like postcards from super close places. My mother-in-law used to travel a lot for work, Hawaii, Alaska, Asia. We have post cards from places we have never been. Then there are the cards from places we have been, but were sent to just say hi. New Orleans, Memphis, California. I treasure them all the same. My husband, not much of a card guy, likes for me to give him handmade cards, because, well, “Why would you spend seven dollars, SEVEN DOLLARS, on a card?!” He does have a point. Homemade cards ARE pretty great. But in a pinch, store-bought cards work the same. Because it doesn’t matter so much what the card says, it is what the writer of the card felt, thought, and wrote that matters the most.

My love for cards wasn’t always there. In fact, when I was a kid I remember stripping the money from the card, or disappointingly shaking it to find stickers or stick of gum (who does that to a kid?!) then tossing them aside. My mother, a lover of cards, would say, “Now Missy, you have to read what they wrote.” But I didn’t care. Nowadays, I get so excited when an unexpected card arrives in my mailbox I will wait to open it. I will wait until I have a quiet time, with a quiet spot, so that I can dig into the words on the card. I’m a weirdo, we know this. But words. I like them, ya dig? My mother still sends cards to Jackson once a month. He strips the money out (she always sends him a couple dollars to add to his allowance) then tosses the card. “Read what she wrote,” I say, my mother’s unmistakable voice coming out of my own mouth.

We’re moving next month, and we have been packing. Going through old tubs marked “Memorabilia”. We have found our old high school year books. Our letters, not attached to jackets. Jerimiah’s prom pictures. My old awards (proof that there was once a time I excelled in math), and tubs of Jackson’s art work from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. And we’ve discovered cards. Lots of cards.

It pains me to say, but I’ve started throwing cards away. I have flashes of my son, grown, sitting in my attic going through my things after I’m gone and him finding cards from 1989. Or sugar packets. Or expired cans of tomato soup. (I don’t know, I’ve heard stories.) The point is, I don’t think he will appreciate the things I do, maybe I am wrong, but probably he will flip the card over and say, “Seven dollars for a card! That is ridiculous!”

I’ve found other kinds of cards in our tubs: Baseball cards. I remembered that I was a collector of baseball cards. I loved them. I started playing softball in 3rd grade and I played through high school. I played on co-ed leagues in my 20s. I love softball. Unfortunately, they don’t make softball cards, or didn’t when I was a kid, so I collected baseball cards. (Thought: See if they make softball cards now. How cool for little girls to collect cards of the college girls out there doing it?!)

My baseball card collection eventually went deeper. I started collecting all sorts of cards, the size of baseball cards. Maybe this was a thing when I was a kid. I remember falling out of favor with stickers around this time and picking up the old baseball card habit. My adorable, fuzzy, scented Rainbow Brite stickers, were replaced by the best Derrick Thomas cards, or Scottie Pippin (my heart swooned) or GASP! Casper the Friendly Ghost cards?! I even started collecting cards from popular music groups back in the day. You remember these cards? Super Star Cards they said. I had Paula Abdul and Debbie Gibson. I had Cheap Trick, and one time my sister tried to steal that one. Bitch. The weirdest collection I think I came upon in my tubs were the Desert Storm cards from Kaybee Toy Stores. Whew! Was that a flashback or what?

Found this bad boy! R.I.P. #58. I remember the news like it was yesterday.
Did you think it was all a lie?
Watchcu know about Kool Moe Dee?
.69 for a pack of cards! My husband would be proud!

Of course, it isn’t the actual card that I remember. It is that moment in my life. Or the person who sent it. Or the emotion behind it that surges through me now. I know, for example, that the Desert Storm cards from KayBee came from a very specific KayBee in Lawton, Oklahoma. There wasn’t a KayBee in Leavenworth, but there was one in Lawton, and we went there frequently right around the start of Desert Storm because my sister and her husband were stationed at Ft. Sill. I remember the mall. I remember the store. I remember the feeling of pending war all around us. The stifled, humid summer air. I remember lunch at Taco Tico. And Prairie Dogs. And the swimming pool at their apartment complex. These cards bring up all of that.

Maybe I am not being fair to the cards. Maybe they deserve a spot in my scrapbooks or photo albums. Maybe some silly, little piece of card stock is just as important as a snapshot. But I fear they are only that important to me. My son, sifting through those attic boxes, won’t understand the excitement of unwrapping a Randy Johnson rookie card. He won’t scream with joy from unearthing a Raef LaFrentz Nuggets card. He won’t feel that particular anxiety rise up in his chest when he remembers Desert Storm, the night that Bernie Shaw came on our little colored television and said, “Something is happening outside…Peter Arnett, join me here. Let’s describe to our viewers what we’re seeing…The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated…We’re seeing bright flashes going off all over the sky…” 

Because, after all, it isn’t the cards that matter. It’s the memories and they are mine, not his. Not yet.

Maybe I will save the cards after all. Maybe we all should.

M.

Butt Stuff

Hey, y’all, let’s talk about butt stuff. I was listening to a new book the other day by a writer who I think is funny, and witty, and thought-provoking. I was just about to inch up in the car line at Jackson’s school when she started describing a sexual encounter that she had recently had that involved, you guessed it, butt stuff. So I did what any respectable mommy would do, I turned it up so the people in front of me could hear too, because people want to hear about butt stuff, they just don’t want to admit it. Now she was not so polite as to call it that, she had some other choice phrases for it, maybe “butthole licking” and what not, but I’m gonna stick with “butt stuff” as a general topic and I am going to go ahead and say now, I ain’t into butt stuff.

Now I know what you are thinking. This is one of those Doth Protest too Much instances. Like how Mike Pence “hates” homosexuals, or when I get drunk and tell everyone that women need to stop wearing low-cut shirts. Read: Pence enjoys being tea-bagged and I love a good low-cut shirt on a voluptuous lady. But I really don’t like butt stuff. However, I am not shaming those of you who do. You do you, BooBoo! You’re not alone. In fact, there are a million articles about how men and women both secretly like butt stuff, and of course my generation is to blame for it. Like we are all walking around tapping people not he shoulder and saying, “Psst, hey, let me stick this vibrator up your butt.” And then promising a trip to Applebee’s afterward.

There probably isn’t a trip to any once-popular dining establishment that would get me to do butt stuff, which is saying a lot as I once said, “There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a waffle-dog from that place in Hell’s Kitchen.” But there is something I wouldn’t do, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing Meatloaf wouldn’t do, but maybe our reasoning is different. Here is mine: Poop comes from that place.

I know you know this. Or at least I hope you know this, but do you know that poop is there even when you don’t know poop is there? Follow me.

About 12 years ago I went to the doctor because I had some weird stuff happening in my butthole area. (Side-note: Jerimiah HATES when I say “butthole” as in talking about my ACTUAL FUCKING ANUS, but he’s totes fine if I am talking about the Butthole Surfers or calling our 10-year-old son a “butthole-io”. He just hates when I use the word to describe the actual place that poop comes from. Which is hella weird to me and so I do it whenever I can.)

So I set up an appointment with my doctor and her student that followed her around. This student was becoming a Physicians Assistant, and had been placed with my doctor for a year to shadow her. They were both lovely and sweet, until the day the student stuck her finger in my butthole.

It started with them asking about my symptoms. They nodded their heads and listened intently, then my doctor typed some stuff into the computer. She wasn’t one of those doctors who doesn’t make eye contact with you while you’re talking, she was always genuienly concerned while she listened, and she would wait until you were finished speaking to make her notes. But it was a little nerve-wracking to have two sets of eyes on you as you describe the various things that are coming from you.

As I finish up, the doctor decides that it was probably hemorrhoids and I’m like cool, what pill do I take for that? And she’s like, first we have to make sure. And I’m all cool, how do we make sure and she’s all, “Pull your pants down and roll over.” Hmmm. Maybe she said it in a nicer way, but that’s what I heard. Maybe, probably, there was a gown, and probably I had to get undressed in the quiet of the room while thoughts raced through my head like butt cancer and I should have just WebMd’d myself and does that window open?

But here is what I remember with clarity. I was on my side, profusely sweating, the white paper on the bed was sticking to me, I couldn’t move least I expose myself, and the doctor looked over at the student and asked her if she wanted to do it and the student said, “For sure!”

For Sure!

Right as I was about to ask, “Do what?” the student walked behind me, lifted up the gown onto my hips, spread my cheeks apart, and stuck her finger in my butthole.

Let me stop for a moment. In hindsight, I should have known what was about to happen. I mean, I went to the doctor complaining about butt pain. But I was young, 25-ish, and this was my first rodeo. And honestly I thought maybe the doc was going to wheel in an ultrasound machine and look into my stomach, or schedule me for some kind of procedure wherein I was put to sleep while they rooted around. This is to say, I was zero percent prepared for an actual exam to take place that day, at that moment. Even with these two fairly nice women who, thankfully, had small hands.

After the initial surprise, I wasn’t really sure where to look. I mean, I had visited this doctor countless times, she even did my annual exams, but I wasn’t used to looking her dead in the eye whilst someone had their finger in my butthole. When she had her fingers in my vagina, I usually looked up to the ceiling, but I couldn’t do that this time, because I was on my side. So I just closed my eyes. Then I worried that closing my eyes would somehow signify that this was a relaxing pose for me, which made me afraid that they would think I usually have a finger in my butthole.

Luckily the exam didn’t last very long. It was only a matter of seconds, less than a minute for sure, then she pulled her finger out and said, in a very excited tone may I add, “Ohh! Fecal matter!” I looked over my shoulder, along with the doctor, and there on the student’s finger was a bit of, well, fecal matter. She was very excited about this and I was very confused as I did not feel like I should have any fecal matter on deck at that time. In fact, I felt oddly cleaned out.

Then they explained that this was a happy moment, because they could send the fecal matter to the lab and run some tests on it. Then I remembered that time I had to chase my dog around with a ziplock bag to collect some of her fecal matter to have sent to a lab and I was like, holy actual shit, they are testing me for worms! Again, hindsight. They probably weren’t testing me for worms, but you know, I was distressed.

So I got dressed, the doctor and student came back in, and they explained that the student had felt nothing which means it probably wasn’t hemorrhoids and that they would send off my sample, and get back to me. A couple days later she called to tell me that there was nothing unusual and sometimes that just happens and to keep an eye on my BMs, but not to worry. I didn’t have butt cancer.

What did I learn? There is ALWAYS fecal matter in your butthole. Like, always. Even when you don’t think there is, someone, somewhere, can find some if they go deep enough. I know, I know I don’t have to connect the dots for you, well most of you, so let me just say this: The next time you and your consenting partner are fooling around and one of you is all, hmm, butt stuff sounds kinda fun. Please take the image of me, on my side, with a gloved finger in my butthole and a woman screaming, “Fecal matter!” into consideration.

Remember to be safe!

M.

Fly High Like an Eagle

Criminal statute of limitations: A criminal statute of limitations defines a time period during which charges must be initiated for a criminal offense. If a charge is filed after the statute of limitations expires, the defendant may obtain dismissal of the charge.

Alright, I think we got the important stuff out of the way. When I was a teenager some friends and I defaced a statue at a private establishment that was notorious for showing oppressive racism to certain minorities in and around the community. Whew. As far as I can remember, it went like this: We had this Black friend. (To be fair, we had a lot of Black friends. I am not stating this to then go, “So obviously I am not racist”, I am stating it to make sure that you are aware that this was not a “white only” kinda town. It was a pretty diverse town, actually, for it being Kansas and all. But the point is, at least a quarter of the population is minority and they were/are discriminated against on the reg.) Or maybe our friend was of mixed race, or maybe it was a family member of a friend, either way, we knew someone who was denied acceptance into this club on the basis of their skin color, or so we had heard. That is to say, we didn’t know if this organization was racist, but we had a pretty big hunch. Our friend’s story was one of a dozen or so other stories that floated around our community in the 1980s and 1990s regarding this club, that is part of a bigger group called: The Fraternal Order of Eagles.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles grew out of a theater troop in Seattle, Washington in the late 1800s. They engaged in performing arts and were instrumental in making Mother’s Day a national holiday. The most fun thing about their history is that, at one point the only rules of membership were as follows: One must be 21 years old, possess a good character, not be a communist and be a caucasian.* So, yeah, our hunch was probably accurate.

Anywho, The Fraternal Order of Eagles #55 sits on the corner of 20th and Choctaw Streets in my hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas. I spent many summer days swimming in it’s pool with a number of friends whose parents or grandparents were members. When I was kid it was much preferred to go to a pool a Fort Leavenworth to swim, the Leavenworth Country Club, or The Eagles (as it was affectionally called) as opposed to one of the gross, public swimming pools, and lucky me, I had connections all over. But this particular pool had a twisty slide that really filled up the fun meter. I never even noticed that there weren’t any people of different skin colors there. I just ate popsicles in the sun and took turns looking for that Polo nerd with my friends.

‘The Eagles”
The eagle sits right out front near the sidewalk.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager and heard the grumblings around town, and met actual people who had been banned, or asked to leave, or told they couldn’t come into the pool area, that I started to realize how racists those SOBs were. That’s also when I was called to take action.

One summer night my friends and I were hanging out at one of our houses when someone (I won’t name names here, but she knows who she is, we will call her LouAnn) had the grand idea to make The Eagles pay for being the racist SOBs that they were. She suggested that we walk the few blocks from her house and vandalize (gasp) the eagle. I was a bit nervous about being on foot, so I suggested that our friend, whose grandmother was a well-known member, should drive the getaway car instead. We all agreed.

Next day we got out hands on the brightest, most obnoxious spray paint we could find, gassed up the car, and all piled in. I believe there was five of us, including the driver. We all wore black, and we had a flashlight. After all, it was nearly midnight and we didn’t want to risk being caught, likewise, we didn’t want to risk me tripping over a rock and having to scream at them as they ran back to the car, “Just leave me! Leave me, damn it!” They would have felt guilty. I think.

We rolled up to The Eagles parking lot quite slowly. I wish I could tell you, dear reader, that this was our first foray into misdemeanor-ing, alas, it was not. We were a rowdy bunch, who routinely enjoyed rolling around town in a hot-boxed car looking for trouble, and trouble did sometimes find us. Thank the good, baby Jeebus this was well before Snapchat and Instagram and the like. In fact, while I was already a budding photographer and amatuer filmmaker, I left all that at home this night. If this were today, of course, I would make them all pile around the eagle after the deed was done and take a group selfie. I have very little shame.

Rachel, damn it I mean the driver, rolled to a stop with the headlights off, slammed it into neutral pointed toward a small incline, and said, I’m leaving your asses if this goes south. Ever the supportive friend, that one.

LouAnn hopped out first, always eager to get the party started. Followed by the other two. I took a little longer contemplating my move. I could always just stay here safe in the car with Rachel, damn it, I mean the driver. I mean, I was a lot slower than the other three. If someone did pass by and happen to see, I had no doubt they could take off in a hurry and hide. I sat motionless weighing my options until Rachel said, Go bitch, let’s get this done. Then I rolled out of the slowly moving car.

LouAnn and the gang were already at the eagle when I caught up, out of breathe and wheezing a bit. The eagle just sat there in all its iconic majesty. Should we sing “America the Beautiful” I wondered to myself.

Do it, someone said.

And so we covered that tired-ass eagle in bright orange spray paint, the kind utility workers use to draw lines on the grass.

Fuck you, Eagles, someone screamed into the darkness of the building.

Fuck you, Eagles, we all thought, as the paint made its way from person to person, all taking our anger and indignation out on this statue. This is for our friends, this is for our community, this is to send you a message, you racist bastards!

Soon enough the spray can was out, and Rachel blared on the horn as she circled the lot, a cue that someone might be coming. We ran fast back to the car. I don’t remember running that fast before that day, or ever since. My heartbeat pounded in my ear. My feet hard on the pavement, as I had pulled my flip flops off to run faster.

That night we drove through the streets of our hometown, laughing, and screaming, and singing No Doubt out the window. Sappy pathetic little me, that was the girl I used to be, you had me on my knees…

The next morning the Leavenworth Times ran a pic of the eagle on the front page. They said it was an affront to the town. They wanted to know who was repsonsible. Of course, we were already told about the eagle by the driver’s grandmother, who had cursed on the phone to her Who would do such a thing? As far as I know, the mystery was never solved.

That was 20 years ago, and I can’t tell you where all the people in that car are today. I’m not even sure if the Eagles is still the same old racist hold-out that it once was. But I can tell you, knowing what I know now, we weren’t as wild as we thought we were, and thank goodness for that. Still, those were exciting times, even when we weren’t fighting for social justice. Something changed for me that night. I realized that I had this power. Now I know it as white privilege. I understand now that I can use my life and my work and yeah, even my streak for vandalism, to fight for others who are ignored, bullied, and just plain made to feel shitty about themselves for no reason other than the color of their skin. We called bullshit on all that the night we turned that eagle orange, and I would do it again, with those same people, in a heartbeat.

Be kind, y’all. And use your power for good. Don’t spray paint eagle statues. There are cameras now. 🙂

M.

*As of 2019, membership is open to any person of good moral character, and believes in the existence of a supreme being, and is not a member of the Communist Party nor any organization which advocates the overthrow of the United States government. Uh huh…

*Exclusive* State of the House Address

Since Donald Trump got one, I get one too, right?

It’s in two parts because I accidentally turned off the recording, which sounds like maybe I am dumb, but actually, I am dumb.

Enjoy.

#StateOfTheHouseAddress #Trump #DogParks #RentalProperty #Doodles #UnderfundedSchools #CrazyAssNeighbors #NextDoor #GirlsTrackTeams #AOC SkinSuitCreepy #IForgotToWearWhite #ApplaudNow #NonBipartisan

Actual fucking sign that people are ignoring at the school.
Actual post from Next Door (which is basically FB for millennials). I can’t, y’all. Oh, but look! I got 12 “Thanks”! #ImSoPopular

Bartending, and What Not

Y’all remember that time I worked at a country club for four years? If not, get yourself up to speed here: https://missygoodnight.com/2019/02/03/beer-cart-girls/ When I quit serving at the country club to move to Southern Missouri in 2004, I swore off restaurant work forever. I had seen all I needed to see, and learned all I needed to learn. But, I still wasn’t ready to get, like, an office job, and I was far from being mature enough to give college a second try, but I still needed a job, which meant one of two things: Either sell drugs (which was a super easy job to break into along the I-44 corridor) or work in a restaurant. Now to be fair, there were obviously other jobs out there, but I already knew how to do the restaurant thing, so I shrugged my shoulders, applied to the first place I found that was hiring, and got hired immediately, because duh, look at me.

This place was a popular, casual dining establishment. It’s funny to me that I seldom name the actual place in conversation. It’s like I am protecting it for some reason. But to be honest, it did me no favors, so I worked for Ruby Tuesday. To be specific, I worked at the Ruby Tuesday at the Branson Mall in Branson, Missouri. At the time it was built it was part of a franchise owned by a man we will call Johnny B., who was total fucking nutcase. The restaurant was short-lived. In fact, not long after I quit they boarded that bitch up. Which has always brought me great joy, cause I was one loyal SOB to that place, and they took me for granted.

Though to be fair, I met some of my bestest friends and worstest enemies at Ruby Tuesday, and I still love and hate them just as much as I did back then. Shout out to the P-Trio Plus! We were some bomb-ass playas, ya dig?

Anyway. Things I learned from transitioning to a private country club in Leavenworth, Kansas to a public, casual dining establishment that actually had to for real, publish their health code violations:

  • You cannot stick your finger in the food of people you hate
  • It is frowned upon to carry cases of beer wrapped in trash bags out to the “dumpster” when the “dumpster” is actually your friend’s car
  • You don’t just walk up to the line and ask your favorite cook, the one who you sometimes make out with in the linen closet, to drop you a cheeseburger and fries, you have to like, ring up and pay for the food you order, because: inventory?
  • But, you actually don’t even really need to do that, cause you can just graze on the awesome salad bar all day long, which for real, is awesome, go eat it right now
  • You have to tip the bussers, but also, you don’t have to keep a detailed list of all the times you clocked in and out because the GM was stealing your tip money and/or a portion of your $2.35/ hour paycheck to pay for his mistress to have an abortion
  • Oh, but there are still people who scam the system: Looking at you, Hugo or “Richard” (who is now, no shit, working for Taney County in some real, adult role and trusted with money) and Jerry (who last I knew drives a cab and delivers pizza)
  • Again, how to make a realistic looking police report

I learned a lot in the serving industry. In fact, like most places, you can always learn from those around who have done more and seen more. Take for instance, Truck-Stop Judy. Now, I did not make up that name for her. She had that name when I arrived at Ruby’s, but it would appear that she came by it rightly. She, in her manners, look, speech, and demeanor, looked like a woman a man may find soliciting herself at a truck stop. But, she was kind of nice, sometimes, and she was the day bartender when I started working.

She was the first person to think I was worth more than the job I was doing. She told me this in between smoke breaks and what must have been a painstaking process of apply enough eye liner to stay on through the sweat of the day, but just a bit too much so that it would often run down her face when she’d sling the ice into the bar bucket. Truck-Stop Judy said that I was fit for “management” (cue that scene in Waitingwhere the guy is holding an ice pick and erratically jabbing at the ice, and if you haven’t watched the movie Waitingplease stop reading this and run now to watch it. It is real, real life).

Anyway, one day Truck-Stop Judy asked me to “watch the bar” for her while she ran to Walmart to pick up some Mucinex or some other over-the-counter drug that you probably use to mix up meth in your bathtub. I said sure, unknowingly walking into the late-afternoon bar rush. That’s when all the people who work first shifts, in retail, other restaurants, and down at the charcoal factory are done for the day and pick places that have cheap burgers, but also tequila. Shout out to Jimmy Cuervo, the mid-day manager at the McDonalds across the street who would come in every afternoon for two shots of, you guessed it Jose Cuervo, in the middle of his shift. Hey, we all have our things.

Anyway, she set me up. Hard. So I should have been mad, except I rocked that shit like I was rocking the cash bar (which is how I heard the song in my head), and I made a hell of a lot more money than I did serving soup to senior citizens at three o’clock in the afternoon. I was hooked on the bar and she was happy to have someone getting ice for her, so I unofficially became the bar bitch.

That lasted for a few short weeks until Truck-Stop Judy didn’t show for work one day, then the next, then the next, and they were like, “Hey Missy you wanna be a bartender?” And I was all, “Shit yeah, but does anyone know what happened to Truck-Stop Judy?” And they were like, “Ehh.” And I was like, “Who cares?! Dolla, Dolla, bills y’all!” And just like that I was a bartender, only this time it was legal and I was making a hell of a lot more money.

Being the day bartender at a casual dining establishment like Ruby Tuesday in the middle of Branson, Missouri isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. But to be fair, I tried the weekend shifts, and the Sunday morning shifts, and the only nights thing, and the day bar worked best for me. I didn’t have the right mentality to flirt with drunk men on Saturday nights, I didn’t have the desire to hear old-timers impart wisdom on me after they left church and stopped by for a Bloody Mary or two on the way home to their extended families, and I certainly wasn’t built for the sad sacks that roll in at 9 pm on a Wednesday all alone and tired of watching porn in their hotel rooms. Jesus, I have some limits.

The Monday-Friday day bar shift was the shit. I could roll in about ten am, eat some breakfast from Jimmy Cuervo’s McDonalds, set up my tables, get the bar rolling for the day, and usually not have a single guest until noon. Then from noon to 2:00 pm be balls to the wall busy, then have a small reprise from 2:00 to 3:00 to scarf down that salad bar, stock up for the next rush, and talk shit with the other servers. Then promptly at 4:00 I’d get the second bar rush of the day, usually women meeting after work (while they were still supposed to be at work) bitching about their bosses and their husbands, and families with a couple of kids who were headed to a show later, but who were totally hip enough to take their kids to the “bar area” of the restaurant. By the way, we were a “smoking” bar. This was before they passed the law in Branson that you can’t smoke inside, so people could puff it up, then blow their smoke directly into my face and their tiny kids’ faces. And they did. All the time. Eww.

Shift change was at 5:00 and nothing is sharper than a shift change at a bar. If the evening bartender was not there at 4:55, their ass was getting a call from me. “Where you at, Bro?” and “I’m not fucking kidding you better be here at 5:00 if you want you bar stocked.” Because I had to stock the evening bar up for them, you know, “Set them up for success” but I wouldn’t do it until they got there and took over the guests. So the longer it took for them to get there, the longer it took me to get home, and the longer it was before I was in pajamas in front of the tv watching Brokeback Mountain for the fifth time. That bitch needed to hurry.

When they would stroll in at 5:05, I would be pissy and short with them, and head back to dry storage with my list. Five Budweisers, three Mich Ultras, 15 PBRs, and napkins, tooth picks, and sugar packets. I would end up inside the beer cooler longer than I wanted because someone had knocked over a keg, or dropped a beer bottle and not cleaned it up. Assholes, I would mumble. Sometimes someone would walk by and lock the cooler up when I was in it and laugh and laugh. I would of course get them back by writing, “Sometimes I drink so much I pee my pants when I am asleep” on the receipt paper right before they printed off their table’s ticket and they would be met with laughter when they stopped back by the pick up the payment, realizing as they open the book what had happened. It’s the little things, really.

For all this bullshit, I still made only about $100 a day in tips, and that was good for this joint. Of course, the management liked to remind me, I’m still making my $2.35/hr while I am mopping up spilled vodka from the bar floor, or carrying a dead mouse out of the beer cooler, or ushering 22-year-old girls into the bathroom to vomit. So, there’s that silver lining.

I don’t know how normal fucking people make it in the service industry. I was not normal. I lived with my boyfriend, who always worked a “day job” in an office somewhere, and worked a couple bar shifts a week himself. We lived on a beautiful lake, in a house that his parents owned and we paid very little to live there. We both had working vehicles, and insurance, and some sense of obligation and duty to our community. We even fucking volunteered on Sunday afternoons at the damn library helping senior citizens learn how to work computers. But there were an awful lot of people that I worked with who did not have our life.

I quickly worked my way up through the ranks and before I knew it I was the manager on duty. I was doing initial interviews with possible candidates, I was making schedules, and helping people fill out I-9s. That is when I really learned the shit people go through for a crappy job.

Branson is a highly transient area, with a large hispanic population and many of them do not make it here in legal ways. This was my first experience with this and the first time I ever learned what a “coyote” is. We had a couple of them who worked in the kitchen from time to time. So I was forced to have uncomfortable conversations with immigrant workers who I knew for a fact where in the US illegally. I had to repeatedly ask them to bring in a social security card that was real (I had been trained to spot the fake ones) or an ID with their picture on it. “No me importa qué nombre es,” I’d say in broken-ass Spanish, “pero tiene que ser tu cara.” They’d smile and say no problem and promise to bring it in the next day, then I’d never see them again. I didn’t realize when I was living this life, and I lived it for nearly six years, how much of an impact it would have on me. Hindsight, right?

Today I tip the fuck out of people, yo. I tip servers and bartenders at least 20% even if they sucked, cause yeah, we all have bad days. I tip valet dudes. I tip hotel workers. I tip the dog groomer. I tip the mailman, but in baked goods cause I am still not sure how that works. I tip anyone in a service job who I think would appreciate a tip, and sometimes people who I shouldn’t tip. They look at me nervously and say they can’t accept that and I want to scream, take it, you deserve it, to the lady filling up the salad bar at Harris Teeter.

And you need to be doing the same. And if you are in a situation where you are not sure if they can get a tip, ask them. If it is someone who does something for you and you know they can’t be tipped, like the guy who drops off your Amazon package or the dude behind the deli at Walmart (I’ve asked), tip them in compliments. Tell them they are rocking it back there and that they are the best at cutting your roast beef. Tell them you like to come see them. Tell them their smile made your fucking day. Do it. And do it some more.

Serving sucks, y’all. My husband and most of my friends have lived that life and if you haven’t, then count yourself lucky. It takes a certain kind of attitude to do that work. To have a service mentality toward others and to outwardly show it. To deal with the day to day bullshit of what is thrown at you. And make no mistake. Servers you come across are not in that line of work “for fun”. They are there because that’s the only place they can get a job at that moment. Or it was the only place hiring. Or they live close and don’t have a car. Or they aren’t comfortable in an office, or a strict 9-5 and there are not a lot of other places that offer that. So remember to be kind. Especially to people who can totes stick their finger in your mashed potatoes and you’d never fucking know.

M.

Charcuterie Board Etiquette

If you’re like me up, until recently you had no clue what a Charcuterie Board was. Well, gather round kiddies, I’m gonna tell you all about it. See back in my day we called a charcuterie board a “cheese and meat tray” and more recently, at two am on a Saturday while I sat on the toilet gripping my stomach, I screamed to my husband that I shouldn’t have eaten all those “weird-ass cheeses and meats on that wood plank”. Which is to say, it goes by many names.

Picture this: It’s a warm, sunny day in Saluda, North Carolina and I walk into an ultra-hip restaurant with my friends and family and a hankering for some cheese. A thin man with a wicked-sweet porn star mustache and uncomfortably skinny jeans approaches our table, and I ask, “Y’all got cheeses and stuff?” And he’s like, “Uhhh…” So I say, “You know, cheeses and like, things” as I make a shape like a board in front of me. Then he says, “Ohhhh, do you mean a charcuterie board?” And I’m all, “Maybe…” Then he winks and says he will take care of me and I’m nervous because I think that might be a sexual suggestion and I’m not into mustache rides… from a skinny dude. Turns out he meant he would bring me meats and cheeses, because the next thing I know this fancy-ass board is placed in front of me, and Boom! I am introduced to the world of charcuterie.

Charcuterie is a French word, duh. (If you couldn’t work that out, then I just can’t help you, it’s above my pay grade.) It roughly translates to “cooked meats” like bacon, ham, sausage, and a bunch of real fancy, French-ass meats. (Side note: The person who prepares a charcuterie is called a charcutier, which means “pork butcher” successfully rendering me a butcher. Which has always been a life goal.) Basically it is shelf-stable meat, right? Forcemeat, emulsified sausages, brined meats that, eaten in large quantities, cause gastrointestinal cancer, as well as diarrhea (see above).

Then there are the cheeses. Oh Cheezus Christ, the cheeses. There is aged cheddars, and goat gouda. There is gorgonzola and stilton. There is asiago and brie. Stop it right now, I can’t take it anymore! I LOVE cheeses!

Whew. Sorry. That was inappropriate and uncalled for, but you know, necessary, in a get-all-your-burdens-off-your-chest sorta way. Thanks for listening. I owe you one.

So I decide, Missy, you can be fancy-ass too. You too, can host a party and have a charcuterie board. It can’t be that hard to do. And so I did it, in these 18 easy-to-follow steps.

Step One: Get a board. This step took me seven months. Listen, I know what you’re thinking, “What the hell, Missy? I just Googled it and I can have one at my house in three hours.” But listen, like most great ideas I get, I sorta, kinda, forgot what I was doing. Sure, I looked on Amazon as soon as I got home last summer, and even placed a couple of boards in my cart for good measure. And whenever I was bored or needed to shop I would look at my boards and picture what kind of cheeses I wanted to try. But I never pulled the trigger. Meanwhile, I did move on to step two.

Step Two: Get some favorite meats and cheeses. This was simple for me because I already knew two things. 1. Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheese is the best aged cheddar on the face of the planet and I will fight anyone who disagrees and 2. I don’t like hard salami.

Step Three: Invite friends over for a charcuterie.

Step Four: Convince them there will be wine too and tell them to stop asking you questions about the food, they will get fed, look, are you assholes coming or not?

Step Five: Go to Harris Teeter in a panic to get olives.

Step Six: Yell at your husband because you told him to get “fancy-ass beer” to go with the “fancy-ass cheeses” and then roll your eyes when he asks what the hell a “fancy-ass beer” is. “SOMETHING LOCAL!” you scream as you slam the drawer closed when you realize you have nothing to cut cheeses with. (I’m taking the high road here and not including a joke about “cutting cheese”.)

Step Seven: Google “How do you cut cheeses” and find that you need special cheese cutting utensils.

Step Eight: Drive to TJ Maxx. They have everything.

Step Nine: Buy the special utensils, a new wallet, three new dog toys, Christmas ornaments on clearance, two new toothbrush heads, and a llama painting.

Step Ten: Get home and realize you still don’t have an actual fucking “board”.

Step Eleven: Eye the trees in your backyard suspiciously. You have that old hand sander that you bought yourself for your 35th birthday. You could probably make a new board in the next three hours.

Step Twelve: Resign to use a big “platter”.

Step Thirteen: Start to cut up the cheeses and meats, realizing that you have no idea which utensils works for which cheese, abandon the utensils and saw at the bricks of yellow and white until they are start to crumble all over your counter.

Step Fourteen: Call your friends and tell them you have a horrible migraine and you can’t host the party. Send sad, sick emojis and promise a kick-ass party to make up for it.

Step Fifteen: Cry in your bathroom while you eat the crumbles of cheese from a ziplock bag.

Step Sixteen: Six months later happen upon a charcuterie board at TJ Maxx, snatch it up quickly and run to the register before you forget what you are doing.

Step Seventeen: Run over to Trader Joe’s and buy five bricks of aged cheddar, some asiago, some other cheeses that sound yummy, ham, salami, and some soft goat cheese. Get crackers.

Step Eighteen: Pull out the board and all these cheeses at your Super Bowl party likes it no big fucking deal and you do this all the time. You don’t label anything, or make it look fancy, least your friends think you have lost your mind. But you know, you kinda wish you had more time to plan.

Actual fucking cheese and meat tray at my Super Bowl party this last weekend. No one ate the goat cheese. I will get better. Or not.

Enjoy.

May you live your best charcuterie li(f)e.

M.