for friendship

For friendship, fulfillment, and that loving feeling you've been longing for,

write to: PO Box 2333, Lake Ronkonkoma, NY 11779

Monday, October 31, 2011

ROADTRIP! (Part 1)

This is the first part of a much longer story. Enjoy! -CJS

Everyone hates where they grow up. If you don’t, you end up one of those people who stay, and although neither of us had left Long Island, Ali and I had running in our blood. We felt it there, thinning it like heart medication, preparing us for warmer climates in places not overrun by douchebags. Long Island wasn’t the worst place to grow up, but it certainly wasn’t the best. There was something about the high-tension wires weaving their way across the homogenous two-story developments that made Long Islanders, as a people, high tension. You could see it in their faces, taut from anger at the slow-moving line at the Burger King, grinding their teeth, and using the word faggot like it's the Long Island cheer. It is shouted at sporting events, school functions, and special occasions. Any pedestrian is a potential faggot, walking around, spreading their fag ways like some kind of faggy biped. On a simple bikeride from point A to point B, one can expect to have the word faggot shouted at them five or six times regardless of gender identity or sexual preference, as well as anticipate at least one open cup of soda being hurled at them.

Ali started wearing a helmet on rides to her job at the mall. She said it was for safety, but anyone who has ever had a can of beer thrown at them from a moving car can tell you it will take a chunk of scalp with it. I made the decision to ride only at night, joining the world of morlocks and creeping things that party when the sun goes down. I felt rebellious that way, kidding myself into believing I owned the streets, not that I was afraid of being jumped. In spite of my Ponyboy toughguy fa├žade and the unicorn stickers on Ali’s helmet, deep down, we both knew this was no way to live.

I was lucky to know Ali. I had spent most of my life in a friendless, nocturnal scurry from my parents' house to the 7-11 and back, but now I had someone to share it with. Ali drank syrupy three AM coffee without flinching, cut her own hair, and waitressed at the club where I worked the door. Together we followed neon lights into diners like moths and stayed up all night talking shit about everyone we knew.

We were at a diner and seated in the booth behind us were two guys who looked like they had just gotten out of work at a BMW dealership: ties untied, sleeves rolled up, letting their hair down and cutting loose after a long day of selling luxury sedans. Ali and I were sullen, moody, brightly-colored post-teens, the veritable furniture of late-night dining establishments. Bookended, these two looked out of place for the three in the morning vibe. From the sudden quiet at their booth, we sensed that we had just been noticed and braced ourselves for the inevitable hate crime.

“Are you guys in a band?” the shorter one said, drunk, stoned, or spiritually retarded by a dead-end commission sales job.

“Yes,” Ali said, confidently, as though we had just gotten back from our first European tour.

“That’s cool,” said the other. “What do you play?”

“I play drums. She sings.”

“Yeah, I sing,” I said, bobbing my head like an agreeable parakeet.

“That’s cool, that’s cool,” said Loose Tie. “I’m in a band, too.”

“What’s your band called?” Ali asked.

“Magic Beneath the Earth.”

Coffee flooded the flap of skin that keeps food from falling into your lungs and I started to gag. “That’s a really great band name,” I choked.

“Thanks!” said Loose Tie. “What’s your band called?”

“Spirit in the Sky.” Not even a split second of thought had brought that name to the forefront of my conscious. I had not recently heard Norman Greenbaum on the radio, nor had I been dreaming of the feedback airplane roar of the opening guitar peel. I just had the useless superhero ability to summon the titles of one-hit wonders for a laugh. I was the Aquaman of record nerds.

“Dude!” said the shorter one. “I totally saw you guys play!”

“Uh, really?”

“Yeah, at that fuckin’ place! Last month!”

“Which gig?” I asked. “We play so many, you know?”

“That fuckin’ place. On Route 110. Fuckin’ what’s it called?”

“The Crazy Donkey?” I said. All Long Island bars are either named after somebody’s Irish uncle or an adjective describing an animal. You can’t walk down Main Street of any town without seeing ten different places named Paddy Shaleighleigh’s or the Filthy Frog.

“YEAH! The fuckin’ Crazy Donkey!”

“Yeah, it was that show we played with all those other bands!” I said, wide-eyed at the non-existent recognition.

“Dude! Yeah! You guys fuckin’ rocked!” said the shorter one. “You put on a great fuckin’ show!”

“Thanks,” Ali said, almost blushing. “We try to give it our all, you know.”

“Nah, bro,” said the shorter one. “You guys fuckin’ got something.”

“You know what you gotta do?” said Loose Tie.

“What?” we asked. What could it possibly be that we had to do?

“You guys gotta get a fuckin’ van. Right? So you fuckin’ get a van, and you fuckin’ drive down to Florida. Then you fuckin’ play some shows. What the fuck’s that called?” He turned to the shorter one, expecting him to pick up the slack for the synapses misfiring in his brain.

“Hmmm, what is that called?” I asked, looking around for inspiration. “A tour? Is that called a tour?”

“Yeah! A fuckin’ TOUR! You guys gotta tour.”

“Thanks,” said Ali. “I think we will.”

“You guys gotta get out there and tour,” the shorter one said.

“You guys got something. You guys are gonna make it,” said Loose Tie, looking down at his watch. “Look, we don’t wanna bother you anymore. But you guys are fuckin’ awesome. You’re gonna make it. You just gotta tour. I’m serious. You ladies have a good night now.” They walked off, stumbling into the rounded glass case that held the museum-quality cheesecake.

Ali and I looked at each other.

Maybe those guys knew something we didn’t. Maybe they were prophets, sensing the white light, white heat streaming from our auras. We decided that day as we frantically transcribed the conversation on a paper placemat that those two drunken salesmen were right. What we had wasn’t a friendship. It was a band.

**

We left on a Friday.

It was two years of planning, Let’s-Go-Here, No-Let’s-Go-There, all packed up in suitcases borrowed from our parents into my small, fuel-efficient Toyota. Ali just wanted to hit the road and camp. I have an aversion to dirt and shitting outside, so I had saved enough money for Motel 6 to leave a light on for us in every state. First we were going to meet the Las Vegas penpal I had had since I was sixteen, then we were going to stay with some friends in LA. After that, we were going to shoot up the coast to hang out with my favorite writer in San Francisco and get dinner with my favorite band the next day. It was as though all of my Rolling Stone junior-reporting dreams were coming true in one tiny-dancing supernova of teen angst.

“I bought Carhardts today. I was at Sears with my mom and they just spoke to me.” I was sitting on the couch in the living room of Ali's parents. Her house was considerably more orderly than the house I had grown up in, no scratched-off lotto tickets all over the coffee table or the smokey blue overhang of negligent parenting. Somehow, though, the result was almost the same. Ali marched around in her stiff janitor pants and purple hair, doing lunges in the livingroom of her parent’s house, stretching and reaching for a sweat that would chemically unstarch them.

Ali’s plan was to minimize her stuff by wearing overalls every day. This was a noble effort to increase the leg space in the car that I was unable to match. I have a form of paranoid schizophrenia that comes out only when packing. One of my recurring nightmares is that I am the plane to Disneyworld and I look down to see I am not wearing shoes. I have to get off the plane and crawl home through broken glass barefooted and then fight my way back to the Happiest Place on Earth. This fear of being unprepared causes me to pack for the onset of a nuclear holocaust when I am only staying overnight with a friend. If I think there is even a ten-percent chance that I might not sleep in my own bed, I bring canned goods and a power generator.

The list of things I was bringing on our roadtrip included a ten-pound bag of dried cranberries, a CB radio, and outfits for every possible special occasion and weather pattern. The CB radio had come from this lonely, middle-aged packrat who was a regular at my job at the bookstore. In the 80s, Charlie had been a traveling punk rocker, caravaning across the country with a mohawk and a rattail snaking down her back. She seemed like a pretty cool lady when I first met her, but as I got to know her, the trails of garbage in her home and conspiracy theories about her ex-husband’s new life made it clear that she was not too interested in reality. Charlie was excited about my trip and the vicarious joy it was going to provide. She insisted I go to her house to pick up the CB before leaving Long Island in a trail of Craisins and exhaust.

Charlie was waiting on the porch for me, surrounded by fresh bags of trash and obviously riding the high of a manic upswing. Based on the sheer volume of trash at her house, I was pretty sure she was making daily trips to rob the donation bin in the parking lot of the 7-11.

“You made it!” she said. “Okay, now close your eyes!”

When I opened them, Charlie was trying to force my arms into a yellow raincoat. “This is for when you have to change a tire!”

“I’m gonna be in the desert, Charlie.”

“And what are you going to wear when you have to change a tire?”

“If that should happen, I suppose I’ll just wear whatever it is I happen to be wearing when the tire fails.”

“Well, I think it’s a good idea for you to hang onto this. Just in case. You never know with tires.” The raincoat landed next to the skirt with a soft vinyl woosh. “Okay. Close your eyes!”

“Charlie, like, really. Do I have to close my eyes?”

“Close them! Okay, so this is the best part. Hold out your hand.”

I held out my hand, the way one does when they are not sure whether to expect something wet or dead. When I opened them, I was holding a pink elephant bath mitt with a streak of blood on it.

“Every trip needs a mascot!” Charlie said. “You gotta name it!”

“Uh, how about Rusty?”

“That’s a great name!”

“I gotta go, Charlie. We’re gonna get stuck in traffic. Thank you for the stuff. Really.” I threw the elephant in the trashbag and backed up toward the car.

Charlie stood waving from her porch against a backdrop of trash. “Send me postcards!”

“I will.”

When I pulled up to Ali’s, she was already waiting outside. “What the hell took you so long?”

“Charlie wanted us to have a mascot.” I threw the blood-streaked elephant at Ali.

“What the fuck is this?”

“Our mascot. It’s for luck.”

Ali threw it in the backseat. “Let the bloodshed begin.”



Tune in next week for the next exciting chapter!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bank Transfer Day is November 5th...switch to a credit union, folks.

Things I Have Learned From Arguing with Giant Corporations:

1. Sallie Mae is not some cute girl from the south, and if she gets your number, she probably won't stop calling. You didn't tell her you moved four years ago, so she drives by your parents house when she is lonely, just to see if you're home.

2. Bank of America doesn't care if you're stripping to pay your credit card bill, because nothing is more American than a stripper just trying to pay her bills.

3. Bank of America can tell you are lying when you tell them you are sucking dick to pay their high interest rates and they won't do anything to help you.

4. The customer service representative at Bank of America will get very upset when you pretend to cry, long, deep, emotional wails, the sort of crying reserved for a very special episode of Highway to Heaven where it looks like even Michael Landon can't help. She will beg you to stop and eventually put a supervisor on the phone, who is gruff and significantly less sympathetic. Your interest rates will remain where they are.

4. American Express will reverse the charges when you tell them you are going to kill yourself over the phone. When you say, “I'm picking up the razor now, Christina,” they will beg you to hold and then speak to a supervisor, who will give you your money back.

5. It is easier to defuse a bomb on a moving schoolbus full of innocent children than to fix your credit score after a bank error from HSBC.

6. When you have a parking ticket, it never goes away. Instead it mutates in a collections office somewhere like space jizz in a NASA lab, and it gets bigger and stronger and sends you threatening letters like an illegitimate kid you could never afford child support for, who grows up to be taller than you and really into Marilyn Manson and collecting knives and wants to kick your ass.

Things I Have Learned From Being Really Poor:

1. Bones will reset on their own. They may not work as well, but it is cheaper than going to the hospital. Also, you can use Krazy Glue to hold your thumb together when you can't afford stitches.

2. A ride in an ambulance costs as much as a two-week Celebrity Cruise, only you are not conscious for it and there is no Richard Simmons to hold you in your suffering.

3. If you get poison ivy in your eye but have no health insurance and your eyeball swells up to twice its size, go to sleep. It will probably be okay in the morning, even if your vision is a little weaker from then on.

4. When your dentist mails you an appointment reminder card, it's because he lives in a magical world of imagination where people can afford to get their teeth cleaned regularly and not just pulled when they are hanging like Wayne Gretzky's after a hockey accident.

5. When your friend dumpster-dives a pallet of juice from Whole Foods, don't drink any of it, because there is probably something wrong that made them throw it out in the first place, and whatever it is will cause you to fart during an interview for a job you really need but are overqualified for.

6. You can lie on your resume and say you went to Yale, because nobody ever checks that shit anyway.

If you would like an official Cassie J. Sneider Fanclub INTERNATIONAL informational packet containing this information, as well as "How to Dress for a Job Interview" and "How to Make Money When You're Broke," send me an email!

Monday, October 17, 2011

I can remember it for you wholesale

Bucky and I have been trying to decide what to be for Halloween this year. Initially, I thought of “Predator” and “sex predator,” with Bucky in sort of a metallic dreadlocked wig, and me in a mustache with a combover, but we've kept brainstorming. Ideally, we'd like to include Pug in our costume decision, and Bucky suggested that we get an infant front-snuggling device for Pug so that he can be Kuato in Total Recall, the parasitic twin growing out of a man's stomach who also happens to be the leader of the mutant underworld.

“We'll strap him like this,” Bucky said, picking up Pug, whose front legs stuck straight out, slowly kicking like a turtle. “Look into your mind, Quaid.”

I didn't remember that much about Total Recall. The last time I saw it was when my parents rented it for us when I was eight, and we watched it last night as a costume refresher. A lot of memories came flooding back, and it was obvious that this is a movie no child should ever see. There were a lot of other movies I probably shouldn't have seen, major factors in me growing up to be the kind of adult who hides behind a door to scare her boyfriend, or stoops behind a couch long after it has become uncomfortable to grab at someone unsuspecting. This is how Sneiders show love, by scaring the living shit out of each other.

MOVIE: Total Recall
AGE VIEWED: 8 (1991)
SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORY: My mom turning to my stepdad after the scene with the lady with three breasts at the space brothel and saying, “Don't get any ideas.”
LASTING DAMAGE: 1. Fear that anyone could potentially have a psychic mutant growing out of their chest cavity. 2. The idea of a futuristic space woman with three boobs may or may not have made me gay. 3. Recurring nightmare of not having enough air as the world is exploding where I can feel my eyes popping out and my skin and hair falling off.

MOVIE: Critters
AGE VIEWED: 4 (1986)
SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORY: While the movie was still going, my mom went in my room, got two of my Popples, balled them up, and rolled them at my feet.
LASTING DAMAGE: I am always afraid that something that looks like a sea urchin with the face of a shih tsu will roll out from under a car and buzzsaw my legs with its teeth.

MOVIE: Ghoulies
AGE VIEWED: 5 (1988)
SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORY: I was so scared, I kept leaving the house and bothering my dad while he was laying cement in the yard. I thought it would be over, but I kept coming back inside just in time to see scenes like when one of the mini-humanoids bites a man's tongue out of his mouth.
LASTING DAMAGE: 1. Fear of intimacy. 2. Fear of a creature bursting out of toilet while I am using it.

MOVIE: Night of the Living Dead
AGE VIEWED: 6 (1989)
SPECIAL FAMIY MEMORY: My mom loping out from behind our minivan and slow-chasing me down the street.
LASTING DAMAGE: Lifelong distrust of my own mother.

MOVIE: Puppet Master
AGE VIEWED: 9 (1992)
SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORY: My cousin Jamie, who was also nine, brought this over on VHS and watched it with my sister, who was seven.
LASTING DAMAGE: I can't take relaxing baths because I am afraid a creature with a drill for a hand is going to scamper into the room at bath-height and kill me.

MOVIE: Pulp Fiction
AGE VIEWED: 11 (1994)
SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORY: Screaming, “Oh, my God! What's happening?!” at the basement scene, and my mom's answer being, “If you don't want to see it, close your eyes.” Also, after that, when my parents would go in the attic to get things like Christmas decorations, they would make comments about “getting the Gimp.”
LASTING DAMAGE: 1. Fear of ever needing an adrenaline shot to the chest. 2. Continual lifelong inappropriateness and fear of basements.

I want to hear about the movies that have ruined you. Send me an email at cassiejsneider@yahoo.com, or friend me on the internet and tell me all about it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Romance

Gustav and I broke up on the subway platform on the way to work, and it ruined my commute. I could no longer sit on the same wooden bench every morning, cupping coffee in my gloved hands, people watching with the sunny optimism of someone who was in love. I guess I could still sit on the bench, but it would be with the despondent anger and bad posture of someone whose relationship had dissolved just in time for Valentine's day. There would be no hello to the empanada cart man, no high fives with the African refugee selling scarves. I would just sit on the hard wood bench, risking bedbugs, glaring at people through the clouds of my own breath.

Fuck winter. Fuck New York. Fuck everything.

Even though getting to work involved a death march in the dirty snow through Bed-Stuy, I liked looking at all people more glamorous than me on the way to their jobs. There was Out-of-Work Model in Blue Corduroy Coat, Bald Guy with Hoop Earring and Beanie Cap, Bearded Hipster with Charles Manson Haircut and Peacoat. Everyone was so beautiful, standing in the freezing wind, looking immune to it because they were already dead inside from living in Brooklyn. My soul needs to maintain a core temperature of at least 98 degrees to look on the bright side. Any slight drop in climate and I am giving the finger to kids in strollers when their parents aren't looking.

It didn't help that everyone around me was in a relationship. After band practice, a time that should be reserved for shooting dope or banging chicks in an airbrushed van, my band would snuggle on the livingroom couch with their significant others. I took to sitting in my bedroom by myself, staring at the ceiling and listening to Gary Glitter, feeling the cold, diddling hand of February reach through the cracks in the windows and rob me of my optimism.

I was working at an antique store in Soho where the the heat had suddenly stopped turning on and I had to walk around following rich people, saying, “May I help you? No? Well, let me know if you need anything,” with a bright red nose and cheeks. It was vaguely demeaning in the way that jobs helping rich people always are, where you start to feel shrunken and insignificant and question your own purpose in life. My feet were numb all the time, a symptom which I started to wonder whether or not was diabetic neuropathy instead of just perpetual cold and a broken heart. The owners of the store were really nice, rubbing their mittened hands together, saying, “Eat is sooo cold!” and “He ease an eediot if he thinks he will do better than you!”

On one particularly freezing day, a couple came in off the street. She was blonde, with long hair and perfect rose-kissed cheeks. He wore a plaid scarf, a tweed jacket, and otherwise looked like he could be an underwear model. They gazed into each other's eyes with longing as he pointed to expensive objects, asking her if she wanted each one with a puppydog eagerness that made me want to throw up.

“Sweetheart,” she said, gesturing to a vintage sign for a 'SHOE SHOPPE.' “What do you think of that sign?”

“Oh, I think it would look great in the livingroom. Do you want it?”

“Well, I... perhaps,” she said. “I wonder how much it is.”

“Five thousand dollars,” one of the bosses said. “Eat ease from the nineteen-twenties.”

“Well, honey,” he said. “We can get it if you think it will go well in the livingroom.”

“But, lover,” she said, “five thousand dollars is so much.”

“Sweetcakes,” he said. “When it comes to what you want, money is no object.”

“Where did you guys find each other?” I asked, disgusted by their happiness. What I really meant was, What freak planet of unconditional love and mutual understanding did you both come from?

“E-harmony,” they answered at the same time, then giggled at the jinx.

“No way,” I said. “Really?”

“Yes,” the woman said, blushing just a touch more. “I never would have dreamed that I would meet someone so perfect for me on the internet!”

I had always viewed meeting people online with skepticism. Sure, it was an option if I ever decided to cyber with vocally willing underaged girls or Chris Hansen, but any relationship I knew that had flourished from the internet seemed like more of a last resort, a cool, dry place where you could just lay down and die, stop doing anything cool, and have regular sex with somebody ugly.

But maybe that's exactly what I needed: somebody ugly to settle down with. Somebody I could just let myself go with. Somebody I could throw away all of my old dreams for, and get a new set of dreams, dreams like microwaveable chicken, cable television programming, and human reproduction.

He warmed her hands in his, breathing on them while she looked at lockets. They spent three-hundred dollars on a heart-shaped one and left the store. I went home and signed up for OKCupid, which should pretty much be called, “OKCupid, I'm Doing This So I Don't Kill Myself Tonight.”

I filled out my profile honestly, maybe a little too honestly. The username I created was 45RPMayonnaise, which combined my two favorite things: records and mayonnaise. I figured it would weed out anyone who didn't like either, and I would only get emails from people who truly understood me.

I got three messages in a row when I first signed up. The first was from a dude who worked at a record store and was kind of jacked, but he was only five feet tall. His taste wasn't that great, mostly toughguy hardcore, which is kind of a turn-off to begin with. I am barely willing to pretend I care about Agnostic Front when someone is six-foot-seven, and even less so when I have to stoop eight inches to hear my tiny boyfriend tell me how well Victim in Pain holds up after all these years.

The next message came from someone named Supersperms who looked like Ted Nugent on the cover of Cat Scratch Fever and bluntly asked if I wanted to “get down.” The third email was from a guy who was wearing a trenchcoat in every photo, and his interests were roleplay and fencing. Did the anonymity of the internet allow me to be selective? Was I just being superficial? Why couldn't I just get down with Supersperms? What was keeping me from playing Magick the Gathering with Trenchcoat guy followed by a noisy and regrettable makeout on the band couch?

Perhaps I should have delved deep within myself to get to the bottom of why I was suddenly a picky, judgmental bitch, but there were already so many questions about myself I wasn't sure I wanted the answers to. I didn't reply to any of my new suitors, and got lost in the sucking void of the internet, looking at profiles of people's projected best selves when I could have been sleeping or crying or writing letters to God.

Then I saw him. My soulmate. The person I was destined to be with based on a computer-generated 96% Love Match rating: Bearded Hipster with Charles Manson Haircut and Peacoat!

Who knew that every winter morning when I had stared down the subway platform quietly hating everyone around me, that I had actually been gazing into my own future, my other half, who couldn't be bothered with shaving and stood frigid and stoic, looking annoyed by the cold and irritated by the other commuters? I had just written him off as some hipster douche, but how wrong I was. He was so pissy and judgmental, with his earbuds and his skinny jeans, of course he was The One all along!

I made my first internet move, something I thought was funny by being intentionally creepy. A real cyber yawn-and-boob-grope, which he would certainly understand based on our 96% compatibility rating:

I SEE YOU ON THE SUBWAY EVERY DAY. WE ARE OBVIOUSLY SOULMATES.

Three days went by before he replied. I was wrapped in ten blankets in my freezing room, lit only by the computer blue screen. Yea, I usually take the subway.

That was it. Our love had died before it even had a chance to blossom. The worst part was, he couldn't even bother to spell 'yeah' correctly, and had instead spelled it 'yea,' as in, Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of the elevated train, I will not use spellcheck or fear loneliness, for springtime is upon us, and I will find a skinny girl who listens to Animal Collective and fits into American Apparel leotards without looking like a chimp in a wrestling suit. Yea, I forsake you, Soulmate of Bed-Stuy, and banish you to six more weeks of winter.

It was awkward after that, our love, because I still saw him every day, whether I wanted to or not. Discouraged, I deleted my profile and decided to leave my romantic possibilities up to chance and actual human interaction.

The winter seemed to last forever, and Bearded Hipster pretended he didn't notice me, standing cold and indifferent to the elements, adjusting his iPod and yawning from seasonal ennui. Bald Guy with Hoop Earring and Beanie Cap read a new book every three days, and Tall Out-of-Work Model in Blue Corduroy Coat disappeared and left us behind for nicer neighborhoods and other subway stops.

I hopped around on the platform, cold and waiting, rubbing hand against gloved hand, trying to replicate the feeling of something to hold onto.