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Author: Modesty

Modesty Fiona Blaise was born in Notting Hill, London. At the age of 14, she became a muse for Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon, gave diet tips to Twiggy, and bounced back and forth between being a Mod and a Rocker. Upon dropping out of school, she became a magician’s assistant, until the tragic incident with the saw.

My Favorite Aunt

Everyone has that favorite relative…it could be an aunt, uncle, or cousin. There was just something different and special about them that made them stand out in your mind. Mine was my Aunt Peg, who was married to my mom’s brother, John.
Peg was a petite woman with bleached blonde hair worn short, with loose curls on top. She wasn’t thin; she was what some would call “curvy” or if mean, “chubby.” Peg also had an eye condition, which caused her to wear tinted glasses at all times. Those glasses, paired with deep red lipstick, made her seem like the most glamorous person I ever saw up close.
But her best quality was she was funny…she was hilarious! And her humor was appropriate to whoever she was talking to, whether it was a 6 year old or a 40 year old. She was my role model growing up.

I’d often spend weekends with her, and she’d spoil me rotten…I was allowed to stay up late and watch TV with her into the wee hours of the morning, and when morning did come, I’d have coffee (with a lot of milk and sugar.) She smelled of coffee, cigarettes, and her signature Chanel No. 5. Peg’s preferred color was black. Black pants, black tops, black sweaters… Occasionally she’d go rogue and wear a beige top. I never saw her in a skirt; always pants, even at weddings. Looking back now, I see how she influenced my fashion choices, as my closet resembles a professional mourner’s.

One of her many quirks was her hair routine. I’m not talking about the bleach she’d apply every 3 weeks (which I started doing for her when I was 12) but her styling method. The woman used cardboard tampon applicators as rollers.
Yes, you read right: the cardboard housing for tampons. The first time I realized it, I was dumbstruck…why? was the first thing that popped to mind. Her answer: “I get two sizes – small and smaller, and they give me the size curl I want.” I howled…when she took the “curlers” out, she’d run her fingers through the curls, messing them up a bit,  then sprayed the hell out of it. Her hair could withstand hurricane force winds.

Peg was full of surprises. She was an incorrigible flirt – she could have guys 30 years her junior wrapped around her little finger. She loved Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, which was to be expected. But she also loved Elvis and David Bowie, which tickled the hell out of me. I think she envied his hair and makeup from the Ziggy years.

After my uncle died unexpectedly from complications of a routine surgery, her light dimmed…and not too long after, she suffered a massive stroke in her sleep. I arrived to the funeral home early, before the viewing, and realized her hair looked too neat. I reached in and tousled the top of her hair to more resemble her normal look. I felt it was what she would have wanted me to do.

See you on the other side, Aunt Peg…

 

 

Tupperware Hell

As a female of a certain age, I’ve been invited to all types of home parties: make up, candles, clothing, even wigs. But nothing compares to the Hell on Earth known as a Tupperware Party.
You receive an invitation…it promises to be a “fun” night, with refreshments. And there’s “no obligation to buy” anything. Bull…of course you’re obligated, after all, there’s refreshments!
Short of saying a relative died or that you’ll be out of town, you’re trapped. So after sighing heavily several times, you go. Upon walking in, you are hit with an array of plastic storage items; some that you never knew existed. After all, I’ve been reusing the plastic tubs I get my deli takeout in. There are squares for sandwiches; round containers of all sizes, from nuts to a cake (with a cover and handle!) and sectioned crudite containers for parties, butter dishes and pitchers. If you have a house at a lake or the shore, I’m sure this might be of use to you, but since I don’t have a vacation home, did I really need anything? I looked around wildly and took a large slug of the mediocre wine…what could I purchase and not look totally cheap?

The woman hosting the party was extolling the virtues of everything – look, you can transport a cake for the holidays easily! And this 9×12 will hold two dozen brownies, keeping them fresh! And they make great gifts (as if..) for loved ones! As I listened to the group ooh and ahh over the various items, I looked to make my escape – there wasn’t enough wine there to keep me. And then I saw it…it was too adorable. A lunchbox, with various containers for all the things you might put in a lunch…I fell in love. Never mind I rarely (if ever) packed my lunch; this was just too cute for words. So I bought it.
The reason I bring this up is I was cleaning my storage room in the basement the other day and found it, 35 years later. It’s still adorable….and still unused.

Traffic Court

Ah, Traffic Court…where those possessing a lead foot gather to mourn the loss of money and gain points on their license. I was dreading it, but found out it’s nothing like I expected.
Yes, I was speeding – 17 miles over the speed limit; 42 in a 25 mph zone. I had no idea…I had the windows open and was singing loudly as I zipped down a small tertiary road where I lived…then I got waved over. The nice young officer said, “Look, plead Not Guilty, pay the amount on the ticket for a Not Guilty plea. You’ll have to show up at Traffic Court, but chances are you’ll only get 2 points max instead of 5.” Sounded good to me, because I did not want an increase to my auto insurance.
I started getting letters from attorneys…vultures, really, who troll the police reports that are public record. I started to worry a bit…did I really need one? Pfft, I’ll wing it. What could go wrong?

On court day, I scoured my closet, looking for something that said I was serious, mature, contrite…who am I kidding? My wardrobe consists of jeans, yoga pants, and a collection of tee shirts not suitable for court. I mean, wearing a shirt that says “Beautiful Badass” isn’t exactly serious, mature, and definitely not contrite.

I show up for the 2:00 hearing and find approximately 40-50 other people in the room, most who looked like they just came from the gym or gardening. And I was worried about clothes?? They call your name to check you in, and at one point the clerk announces that “we have a married couple here today – the Mulhollands. Everybody give them a round of applause!” So we did, with a few doing the Wave.
It became apparent this was a bit of a joke, because if you paid your $161.50, you could leave…and no points. THIS is what I go worked up about? And it’s not reported to the state. Do the math – 40 people x 161.50 = $6,460. And this was just one group!! The Mafia could learn something from these guys…
Oh, and the judge never showed his face… I wonder if the Honorable John Hunter even exists.

My Dinner at Virgilio’s

I’ve had some interesting dates in my life, but none was as scary and weirdly funny as my dinner at a place called Virgilio’s in Philadelphia. It was owned by a mobster named Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa, who was immortalized in a Bruce Springsteen song.

Virgilio’s was a small Italian restaurant tucked away on a small side street in the city. The guy I was dating was not Italian, and he was totally fascinated with the Mafia. Yep, lucky me. It was the kind of place where you were asked to check your guns at the door by the two behemoths who let you in.

So we get seated in the middle of the room. Now, if you don’t know anything about the Mob, sitting in the middle of the room is the LAST place you want to sit. You want a table by the wall, and every man in the place was facing the door. You see where I’m going with this?
Our lovely waitress, Nancy, comes by to take our order. Date was so thrilled, he ordered a bottle of champagne. As the cork is being removed, it popped with such force, it made a loud noise – I mean LOUD.
Men dove under tables, behemoths came charging in, guns drawn, and out of the back room comes Chicken Man himself, with what looked like a Thompson submachine gun. I froze, Nancy burst into tears, and Date looked like he was enjoying this a little too much.
“What the fuck is going on?” Chicken Man bellows. Nancy tearfully holds up the bottle of champagne. “I’m sorry, Mr. Testa. It just exploded.” He looked, nodded, and returned to his meeting in the back.

Have I mentioned at this point I’ve lost my appetite and couldn’t wait to get out of there? But nooooo….Date was grinning from ear to ear, like the kid who got the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka.
Men climb out from under tables, tuck their napkins back in, and go back to their meals, while the wives looked on nonplussed. Was I the only person in this place who just about wet her pants?

Needless to say, it was the last time I went out with him….and two weeks later, Chicken Man was blown up by a bomb placed in his front door.

Please Don’t Sit On The Body Bags

Looking back on it, I’ve had an interesting job history. Ad agencies, clothing manufacturers, hospital, hair salons, marketing firms…and that’s not counting the jobs when I was in high school and college. Today, I’ll revisit The Hospital. (disclosure: it’s no longer in existence)

The Hospital was an inner-city hospital that after two weeks of working there, I made all those near and dear to me promise not to take me there unless I was already dead. It wasn’t the greatest job, but it was a paycheck. I worked in Corporate Purchasing, which meant I was responsible for procuring everything from radioactive isotopes for the Nuclear Medicine Department to rental cars for executives. Every purchase order had to be signed by the head of the department requesting the purchase, so this entailed a lot of running around. Including the Morgue.

Now I’m not a squeamish kind of person (except for eyes, but that’s another story) so I had no problem going to the lower level of the hospital to find Dr. Jones and have him sign off; and occasionally I had to hunt him down. I mean, the man needed his bone blades, right?

One day being in a hurry, I banged on the door where the autopsies took place and upon hearing a bellowed, “Come in!” I went in….to a man on the table, flayed open like a butterflied shrimp. Three medical students were there, and by the looks of things, one was either going to pass out or puke, whichever came first.

Me: “Dr. Jones, I need you to sign these PO’s if you want your supplies by Monday.”
Him: “Come here. Do you have a pen?”
Now I know this breaks about 87 laws, but it was in the days before HIPA, and I couldn’t see the guy’s face anyway, because his scalp had been cut and pulled down over it. Lucky, right?
At this point, one of the medical students starts doing the pass-out weave, and I shoved a chair under his ass so he wouldn’t hit the floor.
Bloody gloves were snapped off, papers signed, and I went on my merry way.
The following week the head of HR asked to see me. I didn’t think I was in trouble, but with me, who knows? Turns out that Dr. Jones was impressed by my lack of squeamishness; to the point that he put in a request to see if I wanted to work in the Morgue.

It’s nice to be wanted, but I declined.
Work with those stiffs?
Hell no.

College Hell

It’s May, and we all know what that means – college graduations. That day when your pride and joy graduates and is ready to face the world as an adult. Or so you hope.

For me, it’s Christmas, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July rolled into one because it means I’m finally rid of those damn college kids until late August. I live in the Bermuda Triangle of College Hell. I have a large university a mile up the road and two smaller ones less that 2 miles from me…and thousands of those kids. The ones who park like Stevie Wonder at the supermarket, who throw beer cans on my lawn when they are being chased by the police, the ones who have a fit when they discover there’s no Taco Bell in my township. Add the local military academy and it’s the seventh ring of Dante’s Inferno.

Yes, those damn kids.

The funny thing is the girls are the worst…they travel in packs of three or more and are oblivious to everything around them. But the supermarket drives me to distraction. The concept that aisles are two “lanes” escapes them. They park their cart in the middle of the aisle while reading the nutritional content of every single thing like it’s the Oracles. “Oh no, this has 130 calories per serving, this has 6 grams of sugar, this has 15 grams of sodium…” and the one whining about this looks like she hasn’t had a good meal since kindergarten. And she’s carrying a Louis Vuitton purse, with Uggs and Daisy Dukes. I find myself fighting the urge to smack them…instead I restrain myself and break out the laser glare and a frosty “pick a side, ladies”
Anyway, graduation is coming up…they’re staggered so my little town isn’t completely overrun with distracted parents driving like they’re on a mushroom bender with a tequila chaser. So bear with me, folks, if I’m a little cranky the next few weeks…