That Banana Has a Cough

My mother called yesterday. Here was the entire introduction to the phone call:

Me: “Hello mom.”
Mom: “Hey, it’s your mom.”
Me: “Yes, I do have caller ID. How are you?”
Mom: “Well, funny you should ask…I was at the super market the other day and I had a bad cough so naturally I was sucking on a throat lozenge. Anyway, I was in the produce section and I had a coughing fit and believe it or not, I shot that cough drop right into a pile of bananas.”
Me: (laughing)
Mom: “Anyway, how are you?”
Me: “Well, did you pick it up?”
Mom: “No. Why would I? That’s just gross.”
Me: “Mom! You can’t just leave your infected cough drop in a pile of bananas. That is so inconsiderate and uncleanly.”
Mom: “Oh it’s fine. They’ll just put them in bargain bin for 99 cents tomorrow.”

And there you have the disconnect in logic:

  1. Does the store know my mom coughed a germ-infested cough drop right in to some perfectly good bananas? Probably not.
  2. Were there any witnesses? Did she even tell anyone at the store? I don’t think she cares.
  3. Is this really the standard sales procedure for viral contaminants shot (in a projectile manner from human mouth) into fresh produce? “Just sell it for 99 cents. People are willing to contract illnesses for a bargain.”
  4. An even better question: Would my mom buy contaminated food to save a buck? Well, she thinks other people will, so chances are…probably.


Reunited And It Feels So Good

I traveled back to Iowa this past week to attend my 20 year high school reunion. It was preceded by feelings of both dread and excitement, but those hot and cold systems joined to form a most interesting weather pattern within my psyche when all was said and done.

"Cereal Mascot Reunion" by Rob Sheridan

“Cereal Mascot Reunion” by Rob Sheridan

Upon my arrival in the Hawkeye State, I dropped in on my mother – who was working at a retail outlet – to surprise her. The first thing she said to me wasn’t an exclamation of surprise or joy, but rather a subdued:

“Let me measure your neck.”

She then pulled out a tape measure from an adjacent cashier’s drawer and did just that. There was some rhyme to her reason, however, as she does work in a mens’ clothing store and wants to fit me for that damn suit I have to be buried in. The hugs and happiness came after the business transaction. How could anyone not love this woman?

After that abrupt but hilarious welcome, I proceeded to plot my strategy for the weekend gathering of old, but memorable, faces: Would there be the same bullshit from back in the day? Should I prepare for the inevitable tip-toeing around my sexuality? Would people have matured at all? Would anyone be dead or on their fourth marriage? My inquiring mind wanted to know.

As it turns out, pretty much all of the above, minus the death and marriage part.

I met up with a handful of my peeps the night before the reunion. We sort of came together organically at the high school Homecoming football game and then flocked to a bonfire afterward. Libations were had and in the chill of not knowing what to expect, I found a very warm group of people. Open and interesting. Jokes were told, histories revealed and a sense of belonging (at least from my perspective) formed a shield around us. I had a very enjoyable time and I looked forward to the real reunion the next night.

In the expanded group of the actual reunion, there was a little more formality and slightly more posturing. However, I still found the evening to be time well spent. I do not think that feeling was shared by some people and I felt bad that some of them were not finding a connection to the night’s glistening bath of memories. A few left early and I barely had a chance to catch up with them. I was certainly lucky to have a built-in portion of the crowd in my corner pocket – as I see them every time I return to the Iowa prairie. It reminded me how fortunate I was to have those solid friendships in place.

The night closed with a friend requesting Prince’s “Pussy Control” from our born-again-Christian classmate who was the DJ. He accepted our song choice good-naturedly, and we danced……badly.

The subsequent day was dichotomously emotional as I reflected on how grateful I was to have escaped the Midwest for a better life, but also have known such unique, and gifted people. I suspect we will not be doing another reunion as this was our first one in two decades. However, I will attempt to remain optimistic that I will see more than a handful before my ultimate demise from vodka and honey mustard.

Mother/Son Bonding Over Deadly Aliens and Burning People Alive

I have a very unique relationship with my mother when it comes to film. We have nearly identical taste in science fiction and horror movies.

I can remember when I was but a wee child, maybe 8 or 9, and the the film Alien was being shown on network television for the first time. Granted, most of the scariest stuff was cut from the film for obvious reasons, but I remember my father being mortified that I planned to watch it. My mother actually defied my dad and said, “My son and I are watching this movie whether you like it or not.” I think he just walked away saying, “You deal with his nightmares then.” So we gleefully made popcorn and wrapped up in blankets on the couch to watch Lt. Ellen Ripley run for her life on a claustrophobic space freighter.


“Alien” (1979)

Of course I was completely terrified, even by an edited version. However, in my later years I came to appreciate what a fantastic film Alien was and how it has stood the test of time. It feels so visceral and real. It’s gritty and unpolished, and the obsidian alien itself is truly a cinematic virus of nightmares.

Tonight, I called my mom and in our discussion I mentioned I would probably be seeing the film Riddick this weekend. We saw the first film of that character’s anthology, Pitch Black, before I moved to Seattle years ago, and we both loved it. And from that mnemonic lily pad she made the leap back to the Alien film where our mutual love of dark, twisted sci-fi was first born. “Wasn’t that a great movie?” she asked, and then added, “Did you ever see the special edition with all the scenes that were cut…like when Ripley finds that captain cocooned and he asks her to kill him so she burns him up with that flamethrower? That was so creepy.”

“Yes, mom, it was creepy.”

But in that moment of reflection with her, the memory didn’t feel creepy at all. It felt like being wrapped up in blankets with your mother experiencing terror together but knowing it’s not real. Just a moment that you got to share together, and one I will no doubt continue to cherish after she’s gone. And as strange or twisted as it sounds, it is curated in my brain like a valuable artifact.

Weird Shit My Mom Says (Vol. 2)

My mother called me the other night to wish me happy birthday. Among the fragments of unrelated conversation she dropped this completely serious nugget on me:

“You know, you should really get a nice suit to wear…that way we’ll have something to bury you in.”


My immediate reaction was, “Am I dying soon?” And then she was like, “Well, you know what I mean. Whoever buries you will have something to choose from.”

Thanks for the fashion advice/planning ahead/birthday wish, mom.

Going Postal

Tonight, I received the strangest voice mail from my mother:

“Oh hey! I was just calling to let you know that I put that package in the mail. I threw in a doily I made plus a pamphlet on riverboats. I also put some pieces of an Oh Henry! bar in there, but they might be a little hard. I bit in to one and it still tasted good. Anyway, talk to you this weekend. Love ya! Bye!”

I’d like to note that I have never expressed to my mother an interest in riverboats or half-eaten candy bars, let alone those sent by U.S. mail.