Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Mystery of Adjective Noun Road

Among all the other problems I have with my family, I frequently feel like I’m the only one who remembers things. The rest of them might state the problem as “Drew doesn’t remember important things,” and that’s true — I don’t, resulting in awkward situations such as “No, I don’t recall the directions for how to get to this place I haven’t been to since I was a kid” and “What do you mean she died?” and “Louise who?” However, the one thing I have on the rest of my family is the ability to remember the weird stuff — stories about strange, unexplained happenings that I can relive vividly but which everyone seems to have pushed out of their minds.

For example, I have the clearest memory of playing on the lawn with my brother when I was maybe seven. It was late enough to be dark, and my parents were in the midst of a dinner party inside. I spotted the family dog hurrying off into the recesses of the property with something in his mouth. My brother and I chased after him, but the dog wasn’t having it; whatever he had he wanted to keep to himself. Eventually we cornered him and got a look at his prize: I said out loud, “I think he caught a bird,” then reaching down to pull it away from him. It wasn’t a bird. It was a deer’s head. And the head had been cleanly removed from the rest of the animal’s body. I remember dropping it. I remember the noise it made on the grass. My brother decided we should probably tell our dad, and I even remember standing on the edge of the dining room while my brother went over to my dad, at the head of the table, and discreetly told him what we’d found. I remember the look on my dad’s face.

But here’s the weird part (and no, in this version of the story, finding a deer’s head that had been cut off from its body, clearly by a human clearly using some kind of sharp instrument, is not the weird part): My brother has no recollection of this happening. My mom doesn’t either, though to be honest we may never have told her. “Don’t tell Mom” could have been stitched on a sampler and hung above our fireplace. Only my dad retains any memory of this incident — he thinks he tossed the head over the fence, washed his hands and then returned to dinner, but he’s not even sure — and to me, that seems so very strange, because the whole scene, start to finish, was surprising and horrifying and mysterious. It left a big impression on me.

There are larger implications to this incident. I, uniquely even in the context of my extended family, am the only one who seems to think that anything out of the ordinary is immediately more interesting and probably better than whatever standard-issue thing everyone else has. This has likely shaped my life to some degree. This has likely shaped my family’s opinion of me to some degree as well

I have written this lengthy preface just to get to a weird, vaguely Halloween-appropriate story I have that I, once again, am the only one of my (surviving) family members who remembers anything about. And while yes, that does seem like something an unreliable narrator might say, that’s the case and I blame this uneven distribution of memories on my family’s preoccupation with sports, dynastic families in my hometown, people whose relatives I apparently attended high school with and this Louise person, whom I’m not sure I’ve met.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents — that is, my American grandparents, my mother’s parents — and this is not strictly a result of the fact that they had a pool which I loved dearly and now miss dearly. On more than one occasion when I was at their house, I heard my grandmother answer the phone and speak something along the lines of the following: “Hello? Oh, hello, Sam. No, we don’t want any potatoes today. But you have a good day!” And the she’d hang up. Her response would vary from call to call. Sam would be George or Bob or Joe, and potatoes would be pineapples or rutabagas or cabbages. This happened a lot — like, over the span of several years — and every time I’d ask, my grandmother would dismiss my questions. The most I ever got was, “Oh, that’s just someone who calls a lot, and that’s how your grandfather told me to deal with him.” This quickly became a mystery I fixated on, Nancy Drew-style — and yes, I realize the implications of that phrase and shut up — but it was something my brother had literally never noticed. I’d point out to him, “That guy called again,” but he never seemed to retain any memory of it having happened before.

One day, I was swimming in the pool without my brother, and my grandmother, who was watching me swim (and covertly napping), had to attend to some friend who was delivering some parcel that apparently required the cooperation of two old ladies to bring inside. My grandmother told me, “Don’t use the diving board and just be safe,” and left me in the pool alone. For grandchildren-watching purposes specifically, my grandparents had had a telephone installed by the pool — like Hollywood movie stars or something — and while my grandmother was out on the street, helping her friend, the phone rang. It was in the same early afternoon span of time that the vegetable man would always call, and I realized that this provided me a unique opportunity.

I got out of the pool and answered the phone, and to this day, I can remember the conversation vividly.

“Is Ray there?” the man on the other end eventually responded when I picked up.

I lied. “He’s busy. Can I take a message?”

“Tell him that I have something for him, and he should come out to Old Stage Road.”

“Where on Old Stage Road do you want him to go?”

“There is only one house. He knows where.”

“Okay.”

Then there was a pause. And then the man spoke again. “Which one of his grandsons is this?”

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guys, It Has All Come to This

Those of you who know me well in real life understand that I’ve spent the last five years falling through the high-energy rabbit hole of Italo disco, the ’80s music genre that combines New Wave synth, disco beats and delightfully broken English. It’s not a phase. This is just who I am now, and I’ve spent more than a few quiet nights wandering around YouTube, clicking from one video to the next in hopes of finding some new (to me) track that I can like ironically and then not ironically and then force my friends to listen to.

Last night, I found something that made all that clicking worth it. No, it’s not a particularly memorable song, even.

It’s Nina Pee.


I know, I know — this is a lot to take in. Foremost, it doesn’t seem to be a joke. I have found very little about Nina Pee online, but nothing about her music seems to suggest that this name was intended as anything other than a legit, appealing name for Europe’s next big pop star. It’s like “Ding a Dong” all over again, only with the poorly chosen word being baked right into the artist’s name, inescapably.

An imagined origin:

Producer: Hey, Nina — what’s your last name?
Nina: Pentrandolfino.
Producer: Oy. That’s going to look like dogshit on an album cover. What if we abbreviate it?
Nina: Yeah, cool. Whatever you decide is fine with me.
Producer: BTW, I don’t understand American slang at all.
Nina: Who cares? I’m-a gunna be famous! [dances offstage]

Look at that pose. Notice how happy she is to be a person who sings. She’s practically bursting. Unfortunately for her, because her last name is Pee, it’s hard not to imagine her bursting with pee instead of bursting with happiness.

Consider that this, apparently, was the best photo they got from the shoot.

Consider bracelet placement.

Now look at those song titles. The first, “You’re the Sun of My Life,” could almost pass as something a native speaker would title a song, but that second one is just beyond even the most minimally fluent speaker could ever dream to come with. I think it’s the hyphenation of “fire-bell” that clinches it. Also? “Wait, why do you need to ring the fire-bell, Nina? What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO, NINA PEE?!?!”

(I imagine that she burned down the home of however encouraged her to perform with a last name that means “urine.”)

This amuses me to no end. I shall hold Nina Pee in my heart always. Last night’s Italo disco adventures also turned up that video that your parents made, but it’s Nina Pee who has told me that I am, in fact, moving in the right direction.

(EDIT: A Soundcloud posting of “Now I Must Ring the Fire-Bell” indicates that Nina’s last name may have been Pée and not simply Pee. You can just barely see the accent mark in the album cover. I am unsure whether to shame or praise the graphic designer for not making that accent mark more prominent. In the end, I don’t care. This changes nothing.)

Italo disco, previously: