Category Archives: memories

Tornado Warning for Wilkes-Barre Brings Back OK Memories

Today is an odd weather day in Northeast PA. We have a tornado watch. That doesn’t happen too often. Sure, we get hail and damaging winds. But I believe the last time we had a really devastating tornado in Wilkes-Barre ish areas was in 1998 at Lake Carey. At any rate, I had one of my end of the world dreams last night. We were leaving town quickly and by the time the bus we were on got out of town, I overheard someone saying the town was gone. In my dream, I had to pee so I told someone that I was glad I didn’t stop to pee after all or else I may not have made it. (I don’t know what the end of the world came from in my dream.) So, like you may also experience, when you have to pee in your dream, sometimes you wake up and have to pee, too. So, I woke up. I grabbed my iPhone to see what time it was. It felt early. I have no windows in my bedroom, so it’s a dark dungeon and I never know what time it is. Oversleeping is a result. A welcome result. My iPhone though was as dark as my room. Died overnight. (Like all those people in my dream.) I plugged it in and ran downstairs to pee. The clock on the stove told me it was just after 11. I took a few swigs of apple juice from the jug and when I got back upstairs to return to bed, I saw my phone also got some juice. And several old texts from earlier in the morning popped up. They were from the weather channel.

Tornado Watch for Wilkes-Barre.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Luzerne County.

Shit, I thought. Is my dream coming true? I lay back down,heart still racing a bit from having a movie-like Armageddon dream (it wasn’t a nightmare – it was more like a movie) but maybe racing because fear of dying in a tornado in the waking world was setting in.

I lived in Oklahoma for three years and that’s when I first really learned about tornadoes. In my memoir, I wrote a chapter about aclimating to Tulsa. Here’s a small excerpt of that chapter. To bring you up to speed, this is almost halfway through the book – the first part is about growing up in the Poconos. Here, I was 13, it was the Spring of 1992 and I had just moved to Tulsa — this was my third school that year.

Excerpt:

One of the first things I learned in my new school is that we may have made a tiny mistake in moving to Tulsa. I am not sure if my mom knew how much she was endangering our lives by bringing us to Oklahoma.

tulsa tornado
This is an image from the most deadly tornado in Tulsa. I also lived there for that, 1993 or 1994 I think. It destroyed a huge truckstop when it came up I-44. Image credit from bogoboo.com

I knew what tornadoes were: I’d seen the Wizard of Oz many times. But, I never thought I’d have to prepare for one. Since it was spring, which everyone in Tulsa called Tornado Season, we had tornado drills to practice how we’d survive if high, spiral-shaped winds hit Nimitz Middle School. Back in Pennsylvania, we only had fire drills, so this was quite scary. When the tornado drill bell sounded, we proceeded to the interior hallways and sat Indian-style facing the lockers. Being by the interior walls was safer, we were told. There were no windows, so we’d be protected from glass shards. We put our arms behind our necks and placed our heads down in our laps. This would shield us from the debris. After the first tornado drill, when we were back in the classroom, we were issued an informational packet with all sorts of safety tips and preparation techniques from an educational program Channel 8 News put together called Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide. Travis was a local meteorologist, so I trusted his judgment and studied his guide as if it were material for an exam.

But, I wasn’t at school the first time a tornado threatened my new city.

One Thursday in mid-May, Joe, Theresa, Michelle, Dan, and I were planning on going to the movies, New Jack City I think.   It was raining and I was getting petrified. I knew that rain in the heat could cause a thunderstorm and that thunder and lightening could bring a tornado. Our television had been on all day and, on the little ticker beneath the show, there was a tornado watch for Tulsa County. A watch, according to Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide, meant there was a possibility a tornado could form. But, a little later in the day, that watch transformed into a warning, which meant there were actually tornadoes on the ground. There was no way I was going outside.

“I am not going!” I yelled to Joe, even though going to the movies was one of my favorite things to do. Not much could tear me away from the prospect of Reese’s Pieces and hot, drizzly butter, but dying in a tornado did the trick.

He just laughed at me and continued watching TV. I called my mom at work. The mall management was instructing all employees and shoppers to head to the mall’s tornado shelter but, yet, she assured me everything would be fine; it was just a precaution. I’d be safe at the movies. My aunts and Dan had gathered at our apartment for the family outing. They saw I was freaking out.

“What’s the matter with you, Gutt?” asked Dan. He’d nicknamed Theresa and I “Butt and Gutt.” He even drew stick figures to represent this duo. Mine had a bubble in the front; Theresa’s bubble was in the back. I hated it.

“Don’t you watch TV? There’s a freakin’ tornado,” I cried from the hallway, the interior hallway.

“Well, a huge movie theater is safer than this place,” he said.

I didn’t care. I did what Travis Meyers said to do when severe weather struck. I pulled my twin foam mattress into my bathroom and told my family I was climbing in what was dubbed the safest place in the house, the bathtub. A video we watched in school showed totally destroyed houses with toilets and tubs still standing admist the debris.

“Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ, Donna. Stop your happy horseshit. Let’s go,” Joe said.

“We’re gonna die. Don’t you care?” I said getting into the tub. “Oh, I forgot my radio.”

I got out of the tub and went across the hall to my bedroom to grab my AM/FM alarm clock, which had batteries inside as a back up. This way, I would be aware of all the destruction and find out when it was safe to come out of the tub.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna miss the movie,” yelled Theresa. I was leaving her alone with all adults. She liked being with the adults anyway; she always sat at the adult table on holidays while the boys and I had more fun at the kids’ table. “You’re such a wuss.”

Wuss, I thought. I had the guide, in black and white, right here. Meteorological professionals don’t call it a tornado warning for no reason. There was a serious threat. She asked me one last time if I was really going to sit in the bathtub while they went to enjoy a movie.

“Yes. I told you guys. I’m staying here. You guys are crazy.”

She left the bathroom and I heard the front door slam. I could hear thunder and rain. I read and reread Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide in the bathtub until I became bored. The weather had calmed down. I put the mattress back on my bed. I plugged back in my alarm clock. I survived my first tornado. I waited for my family to come back from the movie theater, secretly wishing Joe got caught up in the winds like the cows in Wizard of Oz. But, the tornado had passed our part of Tulsa — this time. In fact, the Tulsa World the next day called it an F0 tornado, only causing some tree branches to fall.

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I Love Uncontrollable Fits of Laughter, Even at Inappropriate Times

Ever laugh so much you cry?

I sure as heck hope you answered, “Yes. Often.” If there’s any trait I like in a friend or boyfriend, it’s the ability to laugh. I think that’s why I’ve assembled such a great group of people I associate with because the ones to which I’m most close, we have these uncontrollable fits of laughter. And you know what? Sometimes they are at nothing. Sometimes, you “just had to be there.” But those moments are so memorable. I can tolerate boring people, but if you can’t laugh, chances are we won’t get along too well.

And the past seven days, it’s been a Thursday tradition of sorts. Today and last Thursday, I laughed until I cried until my belly hurt as if I actually did something with my abs.

NAME SOMETHING THAT WOULD CAUSE A MAN TO LOSE HIS MANHOOD

This is an insanely fun game.

Last Thursday was the first time since I’ve been in my new place that I actually had a group of people over. It was for a laid back board game night. It was great. I picked up two cases of beer, some cheese, some crackers, some tortilla chips, some cookies, some soda, made a killer nacho dip and laid out the spread. My friends brought over mango sangria, a hot spinach dip, salsa, and an amazing banana cake.

Then, the games began. We chose Loaded Questions: The Adult Version, which was my secret Santa gift from one of my Wilkes creative writing friends at our April retreat (yes, I just said Secret Santa in April – I told you. I have fun friends). As if the game wasn’t hilarious to begin with, one question spawned the best laughing fit I’d had in months. If you aren’t familiar with Loaded Questions, basically, one question is asked and players write down answers. Then, whichever player’s turn it is, must guess who wrote what. On this particular turn, it was my turn to read the answers for someone to guess. I forget who was guessing, but that part doesn’t matter. The question is: Name something that might cause a man to lose is manhood.

J.S. (female) hands me her sheet and says, ” I am not sure if I spelled that right.”

I look at it and see she crossed out a bit of the word and rewrote it, but I knew what she meant. “It’s all cool. No worries. I gotcha. Doesn’t matter how ya spell it.”

I assemble the entries from the other players- there were 7 of us total. I read through them, and get to J.S’s.

“Va… Uh, vast…. uh…”

Shit, I think to myself. I know this freakin’ word. Why can’t I say it?

“Vast economy!” I say.

I realized immediately I messed that up.

“Vast economy?” laughed J.S.

Everyone started to laugh so hard that no one said anything to each other for a good two or three minutes. Seven adults. Crying. Laughing. Gasping for air. It was so freaking comical.

Of course, I was trying to say “vasectomy” but the Yeungling Lager must have messed with my pronunciation. So glad I mispronounced it. It made for an incredible, uncontrollable fit of laughter with friends. Of course, the rest of the time, R.S. and K.K. especially worked “vast economy” into regular conversation. K.K. is in sales, so he was like, “Tomorrow’s gonna be a big change at work. My number will soar because it’s a vast economy.” R.S., who is a newspaper reporter chimed, “I better call the business editor! Cover story! The recession is over! It’s a VAST ECONOMY.”

I was showering the next morning and starting to laugh. I started to laugh so hard, I had to prop my naked self up agains the wall and take a deep breath, “Oh, God! Vast economy, hahahahhaa.” I was hoping my neighbors didn’t hear. That Friday night, J.S. and another friend, K.S.,  who was at board game night, but had to leave before Vast Economy, went to the movies and J.S. and I were laughing even more as we told our other friend. Ah, here’s hoping 2010 does bring us a vast economy… what that even means.

I’M SORRY. WE DON’T COVER MEDICAL EXPENSES RELATED TO BLIMPS

To bring us to the next uncontrollable fit of laughter, we go to a company-wide benefits meeting this morning, which happens to include K.S. who missed out on Vast Economy. A woman from an insurance company is going over some voluntary benefit plans we could enroll in. One of them was accident insurance. I was paying attention, but also reading ahead.

I started to read some of the fine print, such as things that aren’t covered, accidents related to: skydiving, bungee jumping, race car driving, war… I am amused. I push my copy of the pamphlet over to K.S. and point.

She scans it and points to one of the sentences and giggled: Falling out of an aircraft.... (like a blimp or balloon).

I jot down on my notebook: “What if I am pushed?”

She reads it and immediately covers her mouth and starts to laugh, which makes me laugh. We are both in an important meeting trying so hard to contain the laughter. We’re not laughing out loud, but we’re crying. Our bodies are moving like we’re laughing. She’s crying and just looking at her is making me laugh.

I fell out of an aircraft once as seen here.

I am thinking of the lady up front doing her job (and well by the way – she and our corporate HR people are very dynamic and nice and make benefits not painful to listen to) and hoping she’s not thinking we’re laughing at her. This proceeds to make me laugh even more, because now my comment wasn’t the only funny thing. The situation is also terribly funny.

Finally, I just can’t hold it. I let out a burst. Just a little one, but something came out.

“Bless you,” says another co-worker. Thank god he thought I sneezed. But, that he thought I sneezed made me laugh even more.

She and I could not even look at each other for fear that we’d not make it. We finally regained composure, signed up for dental coverage, a flexible spending account, and filled out a questionnaire on what information we wanted about those extras. Then, we laughed when we were finally out of the meeting.

What makes you laugh? Share your story….


Wilkes Homecoming 2009 was great! Reliving old memories with my old roommate

“No one believes me when I tell stories about college that involved you,” said Tanner.

“That’s why I am writing a memoir,” I responded. “Life with me is always a little more outrageous.”

We giggled as we walked back to campus from Ralston field, the same route we walked form our old dorm, Evans Hall to go to Amnesia, the then 18 and over dance club. As we told stories on the walk back, she held hands with he fiance. And, since I had free hands, I took pictures and talked with my hands (the 1/4 Italian in my went directly to my story-telling handicap) as I told outrageous stories from the past ten years that she hadn’t heard. (The ones I hope will make up my second book of non-fiction: a collection of essays.)

Tanner and me in front of our old college apartment in Wilkes-Barre. We lived there together a few years. I had left Wilkes but still lived there. After she graduated, I lived there another year with another college buddy. This apartment was where most of our crazy stories happened.

Tanner and me in front of our old college apartment in Wilkes-Barre. We took a walk back on Homecoming Weekend. We lived there together a few years. I had left Wilkes but still lived there. After she graduated, I lived there another year with another college buddy. This apartment was where most of our crazy stories happened.

But, I was happy to confirm to her fiance that we really did do the Hokey Pokey with Faith Hill in 1998 in Keenan’s after a show at the Kirby Center. Although, she reminded me of a few details I forgot like I wanted Faith and her band to do the chicken dance, but none of them heard of it. I always thought it was the Hokey Pokey they didn’t know. (I also don’t think anyone believes me or my friend Jenn G. that we danced onstage at the Kirby with Davey Jones and got to me the Monkees backstage after – that was in 1996. Unfortunately, since we were both on stage, there are no pictures. Anyone at that show??)

“Do you still have the pictures,” she asked.

“Of course I do,” I replied. “I have to look for them, but it’s funny you brought that up. I blogged about it the other month.” (Turns out, it was actually in January – read about our hokey pokey with Faith Hill here.) Mental note to self: go hunt through pics. Not sure if they are in the storage shed or here.

It was a blast to talk to Tanner again and just have all these memories come out. I stay in touch with here on Facebook and e-mail, but until you talk and laugh in person, it’s not the same.

Some other things that she brought up that I had long forgotten was our perpetual leak… we had this one area in the long hallway of our apartment that just always leaked water, almost like a horror movie would have a hotel corridor that would leak blood. She reminded me of the time I went back to a boys dorm after a party but didn’t know where I was and called her for help getting home.

Tanner, Bonnie and I at Ralston Field on Homecoming Weekend, 2009

Tanner, Bonnie and I at Ralston Field on Homecoming Weekend, 2009

Perhaps the funniest memory was of Charlie and her friend Joe. Charlie was a homeless man (who many speculated really had money and lived on the streets because he didn’t want to pay taxes or something like that) and was very well-known in Wilkes-Barre. He had psoriasis and was always bundled up, but his outer layer was always a worn in, tan coat and he also wore a furry brown hat. He was nice when you talked to him. Well, Charlie took up residence in the foyer of my building. Some guys who lived downstairs would give him food and sometimes let him shower. Sometimes I would leave food, too, although, , my roomies didn’t know. It was like feeding a stray and having them always come back.

So one time, Tanner’s friend Joe put a wire hanger on the end of a broom and used it to fish for Charlie’s bag – we were on the second floor. Joe was successful. We looked through his bag and we pretended we were detectives. I recorded everything on an audio tape as Joe cataloged the items. We used the contraption to replace the bag where we found it. Then, Charlie started to cough and Joe said, “He needs a doctor! Quick, get me my lab coat.” I ran to my room and brought Joe back a white robe which would have made a fine substitute to a lab coat except for the lace ruffles on the ends of the sleeves. For some reason, Tanner had a chef’s hat. So, Joe went down to Charlie in my robe and Tanner’s chef’s hat and woke Charlie up and discussed the cough. It was very funny.

I can’t believe I forgot that. But, after Tanner told the story it all came back to me and now I can see Joe, well over 6-feet tall wearing my robe. I laughed so hard I cried. It’s nice to have memories that make your stomach hurt with laughter. Nothing like a tear rolling down your cheek from a great memory. Going back to the line I started this blog with, it just makes me feel pretty cool that I am part of people’s favorite stories to tell.

Overall, homecoming was a blast. I say it on this blog so much that I love Wilkes, so I didn’t want to get too mushy in this post. Instead, this one’s for you, Tanner! Great memories. Was glad to laugh with you so much on Saturday!

Now off to find that Faith Hill picture.

Update: A few hours later after writing this post, I found the album these pics were in. Surprised I never scanned these in yet. This is from February 2008 at the Faith Hill concert at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, which the radio station I worked for, Froggy 101, sponsored. This was right after “This Kiss” came out when she really hit big. This was the last show on her tour, hence the big after-party. Always trying to be silly and get the crowd involved, I requested some silly kid songs and Faith Hill and her band joined in.

The memorable night (yep, Faith still remembers this night from what my buddies tell me) where I had the DJ play the Hokey Pokey at the post-show after party. Faith Hill and her band did the Hokey Pokey with me, my co-workers, my old roomie, and some fans.

The memorable night (yep, Faith still remembers this night from what my buddies tell me) where I had the DJ play the Hokey Pokey at the post-show after party. Faith Hill and her band did the Hokey Pokey with me, my co-workers, my old roomie, and some fans.


Last October – What was I doing this time last year?

Sometimes it’s fun to look back at a blog post or posts from last year. Last year, this week I

  • had just moved to my new place in Swoyersville (now: still here)
  • just got back from San Fransisco for a work convention (now: no travels this fall)
  • did Wilkes homecoming (now: going this year again, and now on a committee)
  • did Oktoberfest and hung out with someone pretty awesome afterward (now: no Stegmeier Oktoberfest, but a friend had one. No awesome boy afterward this time.)
  • had my side view mirror smashed off (now: got mirror fixed seven months later but today, car is broke down)

Surprisingly, no drastic difference between the first week of October 2008 to this week, this year. Most people still in my life, car still having something wrong with it, still drank Steg Oktoberfest, still single.

Just some observations because I can’t sleep. Oh. So, what was I doing this week in October 2007?

Car trouble. Ha! I had run out of gas in the Yukon. (Still living with Dave.) He got on me about it, and I explained that there must be something wrong with the gas gauge. He didn’t believe me. Then, as if on cue, we got a letter from GMC about a recall for a malfunctioning gas gauge. We took it to the dealer to get fixed.

Also this week, I blogged about sleeping trouble. How funny is that? I’m blogging because I can’t sleep and I find on this very date two years ago, I had the SAME issue. My blog post was about Bigelow Sweet Dreams Tea.

Guess I should go tea shopping.