If weirdness freaks you out, stop here. Mom, if you’ve found your way to this page, stop here.
It was my 21st birthday. What could ‘The Ma’, myself, Millie and Jusepa possibly get ourselves into? Bar hopping? No, no, no. That was for rookies and the bar scene had been played out during our years of underage drinking. It had become a bore by age 16, easily. We were driving around ‘Stoneytown’ and decided to stop in at the apartment of some of our friends. Carl was the only one home at the time which was perfection because we knew a big bong was about to ensue. Bake-o in our cushions, Carl says “so your looking for something to do for your 21st birthday, huh?” Carl always had the best mischievous smile and giggle. I miss it. ‘The Ma’ chattered on the phone and gleefully bounced her curly head of hair into the living room to inform us that her friend Ani was having a party at her house and we were invited to go. We were undecided on whether we wanted to go because it was quite a drive into the middle of nowhere (nowhere more than usual). Carl with his sweet grin presented a bag of mushrooms and promptly distributed. We all chomped them down in unison and one by one began to proclaim “I’m in”. While I am certain at that moment, Carl was in his glory to get fucked up and hang out with 4 chicks. I wonder, after this night if Carl was ever really the same.
We packed into the car and for some stupid reason decided it was best to let ‘The Ma’ drive. That was not a mistake we made often. One too many times of diving ditches, backing into dunking donuts and jumping out the car while leaving it in drive would teach us to consider this decision more wisely. And I guess it worked out for us on this particular night because after a significant number of back roads and the possibility that there was a giant ‘British Knight’ on the side of the road (according to Jusepa) we made it to our destination.
We were kindly welcomed into Ani’s home. They were a polish family and we were entering their traditional??? Polish thanksgiving celebration. The party was not what we were expecting. In the living room there were a bunch of metal chairs lined up around the perimeter of the room, a strobe light blinking, music pounding and a bunch of teenage girls having a dance party. Uh……..?
Ani had a huge dilapidated farm house, thank god and we shuffled into the kitchen/dining room. Behold a feast. We were all ushered to the table to sit while food was cooked and landed endlessly in front of us for hours on end. I had been studying the taxidermy zebra head on the kitchen wall. I wondered why a) it existed and b) why it was hung so low that the nose seemed to nuzzle the forehead of the chef. I stared and believed if I kept willing it to be so, it would stick out its tongue and lick Ani on the head. I just couldn’t make it happen but after about 20 minutes I turned to see my friend Jusepa staring at and studying me with the same intensity as I had been willing that zebra to lick Ani’s head. That was when we, as a collective group knew that the shrooms had kicked in. We all exchanged wide eyed glances around the table as we wondered what the hell have we gotten ourselves into?
It was at that very moment when were snapped out of circle gazing by the cling clack clang and Jusepa impressively ducking to avoid being impaled. Ani’s son Bart and Uncle Yahoo (this is the only name that I will not change to protect the innocent. I’m certain that he doesn’t give a shit if he is even still alive AND because there is no other name that I could come up with to better portray this man) were taking their fencing spar a bit too seriously.
“Everybody, this is my son, Bart and this is our Uncle Yahoo”. Whose uncle Yahoo? We would not learn. Just, everybody’s.
Freeze! Description of Yahoo essential. Yahoo greeted us with a boisterous ‘Vwelcome’. Never had I ever encountered someone with such wide eyes and huge smile. He was a middle-aged man with greyish blue hair containing a lighter white streak going up the middle. It was kinky and stood straight up about a foot off of his head as though the mad scientist had just pulled his finger out of a light socket. The only thing that could have made Yahoo creepier would be if he threw his hands in the air and screamed “It’s alive!!!” But….instead he held a sword at us, a worthy equivalent.
“It’s Vwonderful to have vu. Eat. Eat! EAT!” Every bellow of ‘eat’ grew in volume and intensity. It was an order not an offer. He reached down and picked up a container of chip dip to peeled of the lid and plastic covering. He lost his grip and chucked the dip onto Jusepa. It rolled down her arm and landed face down on the floor. Yahoo picked it up, made a quick inspection, pulled off a hair or 10. “Ah, zis is very very fine” and handed it to Jusepa who reluctantly accepted the kindish gesture. The last thing any of us wanted to do was eat. We wanted to leave! The place was beyond sketchy, the food safety questionable and the people super weird. But there was the ‘The Ma’ happily chatting away at the stove with Ani. We (Jusepa, Carl, Millie and I) were abandoned to blend in on our best behavior while tripping our faces off.
Yahoo scooched himself past me to open a door. Apparently, he had decided it was a perfect time to unleash the pack. I wish I could say that a group of tiny dogs energetically ran past us but no, that would NORMAL. Instead a pack of tiny dogs rolled, scooted or dragged themselves out of the room. I swear there were like 15 of them and more than half of them appeared to be paralyzed. Some of them ran on their front legs at a reasonably impressive speed, dragging their hind quarters behind them like a sack of potatoes. A couple of them had some kind of wheel apparatus rigged up so they could pull their hind quarters along. Some of them just made feeble efforts to claw at the ground and attempt to propel their little bodies whatever distance they could. I am left baffled, speechless and horrified wondering why or god forbid how this family accumulated such a large collection of disabled dogs. I wasn’t able to sit with the thought for long before Yahoo walked out of the back room with a blanket wrapped bundle in his arms. He introduced the tiny wiener dog (insert some bizarre name here) and presented him to us with the enthusiasm of a proud papa with a new born prince in his arms. The blanket was soaked with piss, the dog scrunched and disheveled looking to be about 110 years old. Its eyes were glazed over with blue cloud and he was clearly blind. The dog looked like a glazed over zombie resurrected in the body of a large turd. MMMMMMMM. Appetizing. Yahoo returned the dog the back room and a large plater of Herring a la garring landed on the table in front of us.
Horrified by the dogs and now the smell of fish, I listened painfully to the stories of Polish tradition and the back ground of Herring a la garring. I didn’t touch that shit. And no one else did either save Yahoo. If I recall correctly and it is unlikely, the platter contained raw herring fish, raw onions and a shit ton of oil. Multiple courses would follow. I don’t remember what they were. This family was cooking for us endlessly and we were eating none of it. It’s not like we weren’t trying. I picked here and there and made an effort to clink my spoon around my plate or bowl. The weirdest thing was that never ever did they offer or present a beverage. We were too afraid to ask for one. It could have opened the door to pandora’s box. We just crossed our fingers that each presentation would be the last.
Let’s not forget that in the background was the over bearing unz-unz-unz of the dance party in the living room. We watched as girls would pack themselves into the bathroom. We heard giggles and they would all emerge from the tiny space like clowns from a clown car. We were emerged in an environment of insane oddities and their tweakiness was exasperated by our being under the influence of psychedelics. Finally, the stove turned off. The deliverance of food stopped. Much to our horror we heard the words straight out of ‘The Ma’s’ mouth. “We’ll help you do the dishes”. Dammit, Ma. Dammit, dammit, dammit! I will give credit to ‘The Ma’ because this was a trait about her that has stuck with me to this day. She was taught and taught onto us that when someone cooks for you, you do the dishes. My stomach dropped as I scanned the massive destruction of dinnerware splayed across the large farm table, the pile filling the sink, rolling over the counter tops and across the room. I cringed at the still bubbling gloppy pots stacked on the stove top. What did this mean? It meant that we were trapped to sit and make chit chat with Ani and her family until Every. Last. Dish. Had. Been. Washed.
In the wee hours of morning, slightly before dawn, we dropped Carl off outside of his apartment. He didn’t say a word as he exited the car and walked to his door. We never spoke of the nights events again. I was officially 21! Booya!
Is there a moral to this story? Why, yes. Yes there is. The moral is that people are strange. They scare the crap out of me. We come from all walks of life but the most common thread is that we are all looking for connections. That night we endured the most awkward and uncomfortable experience of my life (to date) and despite it; we were inducted into this group of people and became a part of the inner circle.
Ani would share many more adventures with us. She became really good friend with ‘The Witch’. One day when I strolled in to the home of ‘The Witch’ I had the pleasure to meet Ani’s husband, Siegfried. I knew he existed but he had been off in Poland for some reason or another and Ani was so please I could make his acquaintance. He reminded me of a professor. He was stern and intimidating. He scowled and shouted at me to ‘chin up! Turn your head! Stop making that stupid face!!’ as they discussed his opinion that I resembled that of a Raphael painting. I was flattered, flustered and a bit annoyed but made note to look up Raphael paintings. Google wasn’t popular then.
This was my first and last exchange with Siegfried. I would see him again only in a hospital bed. The next morning ‘The Witch’ would call me and ask if I could drive her to the hospital so she could be there to support Ani. While sadly looking down upon Siegfried seemingly lifeless body, Ani told us the story of how he just lost consciousness while they were having sex. I will admit that I spend some time wondering what their sex life must be like for such an astute and stern man to just internally die in the process. He lingered in a coma for a few days before crossing to the other side. There was no explanation or disclosed cause of death. How very fitting for this family.
A couple of days later we would all reconvene at Ani’s house. I don’t actually remember the details of this day. I know there was a notably small group dressed in black and ‘The Witch, me, Jusepa and Millie. We stood outside in a circle a passed a blunt. It was a solemn circle. We may have tossed the remains of Siegfried in the bushes, but I can neither confirm nor deny that.