Friday, February 23, 2007

Can't sleep and I'm thinking of you...

Well, "you" isn't really a person... This past Christmas, I went home to visit my family on Long Island for the weekend. My mom (and family) love Mitchell's, a coffee shop on Rockaway Avenue. Although the place has been renovated several times, all these feelings came back to me. It was so weird. I don't know why my mind went into reverie mode, but it did.

I remembered sitting there as a small child, feet dangling off the sticky booth and ordering meals off the kids menu. They had silly names. My favorite was "The Little Steer" (I think it was a burger) and there was something called the "Funky Monkey," but I don't remember what it was. My mom would tell us stories about how she would go there for a milk shake after school and how the place would be packed with school kids. When I was in high school, nobody went there unless they were with their parents and it was after our seasonal school musical or some sort of production. It wasn't the type of place where high school students of the late '80s would go to hang out. They were filling the diners on Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway because they are open later and sorta have better parking.

Sitting in the pastel pink booth, I remembered how I would walk over a mile to meet Scott there, because neither of us drove in 11th grade. I remembered how we'd go to Slipped Disc records and then hit Mitchell's for lunch. It was right across the street.

Rockaway Avenue in my hometown (Steve Buschemi grew up there and so did Ed Burns) was like the classic "Main Street, USA". We'd go to this tiny hole-in-the wall store called "Elegant Junk" which was the very first dollar type store in existence I think. They had cool, offbeat cheap tchotchkes. One could spend an hour in there just looking.

Anyone from Long Island knows, Slipped Disc was theeee record store in Nassau County. People came from all over, just like how we'd go to Hicksville to buy our hard-to-find tees and posters at Utopia. In the mid '80s, metal bands would sign albums or CDs at Slipped Disc. Kids would line up to meet them. I was never into metal, but I shopped there for my Depeche Mode VHS tapes, T-shirts and pins. I'd cover my Trapper Keeper with Smiths and Cure stickers. I thought I was so cool. I'd blow my babysitting and allowance cash in a matter of minutes there on any given weekend.

My favorite thing to order at Mitchell's was a ham and Swiss melt on whole wheat. Buttery, yet salty, oozing with cheese. It was a heart attack right off the grill, served with a free pickle which would give it just the right hint of sour. Scott and I would sit there in our Docs, baggy sweaters and DIY punky hair cuts. We'd talk for hours about our teachers, music, movies, our thoughts, our dreams for the future, college, how much we hated our town and couldn't wait to leave, you know, the typical high school weirdo convo.

The saddest memory I have of Mitchell's is my first weekend after a devastating break up with my college boyfriend. It was my first weekend without him and my parents were still together then. They usually went to Mitchell's on Saturday for dinner or just coffee and ice cream. They invited me, because it was early and my plans weren't until later that evening... It was months before cell phones were as popular and easy to get, March, 1997. I wanted to go to the pay phone and call him so badly. I even got up and walked to the bathroom where the phone was. I think I even dropped 50 cents (he lived in NYC) and let it ring once, then hung up... It's a bit fuzzy now.

I remember sitting in the same pastel pink booth, in a haze. Thinking about how easy life was in high school with Scott and our syrupy sodas and grilled cheese sandwiches. I was out of college now and not sure what direction I was headed, though I had a great job that paid very little...

So fast-forward to December, 2006, back at Mitchell's. Still not sure what direction my life is headed. My parents have been split up for a long time now. My brother, who once sat next to me in that booth spilling his ice cream cone all over the place, is months away from become a father. Scott is months away from becoming someone's husband. I still wear the same style sweaters and Docs and although things have changed so very much, Mitchell's will always be there back home waiting for me...

Send Him Back!

Yesterday on the treadmill, I began thinking about my younger brother. He and his wife are having a baby boy in June. I asked him what they were going to name him and he wouldn't tell me.

This must be like some new trend for expecting parents, Drew's friend Dan did the same thing. I'm guessing there are articles that say to keep the names to yourself so nobody will sway or criticize you. In a way, I agree. My baby names would always make people cringe. Not that I'm in a position to have a baby, but before I settled on the name Ben, I always liked Oliver, Chase, Josh, Adam, Nigel, Sebastian, Shamus, names that people hated. A while ago Drew and I were joking about having a baby and (I only want a son) agreed on the name Chandler Devon. When I told my family at Christmas they went into hysterics and it made me feel bad. What if I really had a kid and named him that?

This blog wasn't supposed to be about baby names. What I was really thinking about while on the treadmill, was in addition to his "don't ask-don't tell" baby name policy, I remembered the day my brother was born. It's a story my family told and retold for years. Apparently I thought my mom was having a girl. I'm not sure exactly if she knew she was having a boy and I was in denial or if back in 1976, they couldn't tell the sex and she truly didn't know... whatever the case. I remember that day vividly, yet I was only 3.5 years old. My Uncle Tony (he was in high school then) and his girlfriend Nancy were driving us around in his convertible. It was a super hot August day either the 15th or 16th... I was yelling out to the world in this three-year-old singsong voice, "Mommy's having a baby! Mommy's having a baby!" My uncle was nutty and still is, so I'm sure he encouraged that sort of excitement, in fact, I think he too was singing along with me or maybe even started it.

The next chain of events are a blur and we fast forward to a scene I can only really recall because someone has a photo of it in one of their photo albums. I think we're at the hospital and I'm in the backseat of my uncle's car on the floor hysterical. Crying my eyes out. Bright red face, soaking wet messy hair with tears and sweat dripping off of me with my fists pounding like nobody's biz... I had just found out my mom had a boy. I wanted a sister. I remember chanting, "Send him back! Send it back! I don't want a boy!" To my dismay everyone thought this was funny. It was like a big joke only I wasn't joking. I didn't want a brother. I wanted a sister to play dolls with. Someone to play dress up with. Funny because I always picked out my brother's clothing - even in high school I had a say in what he wore. I made sure he was a mini-me in the '90s. We shared oversized skate and band t-shirts and both wore a men's 9 Puma.

Anyway, to ease my anxiety about this boy baby, my dad ran out and bought a male "Joey Doll" complete with a boy pee-pee! I'm not sure if "Joey" was a real doll name since my brother's name was Joey. I'm thinking it might have been because All In The Family was popular then and Gloria had given birth to 'baby Joey." Oh boy, I just checked on eBay and it really was a doll. See below... I remember that blue baby blanket too! Ha ha!

OK, so I now had this baby Joey doll. My dad also brought me a wooden high chair and wooden crib. I was in heaven. As mom would feed the real Joey, I would feed Joey Doll. As mom put real Joey to bed, I would tuck Joey Doll into bed. It worked. My dad was a genius. I guess having parents as teachers, paid off. All their behavior classes must have equipped them for my new-baby adjustment issues or they were just clever parents. Ha ha. I wish I still had that doll!

My brother and me in 1976 (look at how my arm is around him, ha ha) and of course I'm yelling something... People call him "Joe" now, but Mom and I still call him "Joey."


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