Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family Tripping

Cruise ship fire drill --
I love how Andy's life preserver is swallowing him whole

There are two kinds of parents:  parents who travel with their kids, and parents who don't.  Fortunately my parents were the kind that took us on every vacation they ever planned, and they planned a lot of them.  This meant I was lucky enough to go places that many, many people never get to experience, from Europe to Russia to Scandinavia to more.  Some trips were better than others, of course.  I would consider crossing the turbulent North Atlantic while being trapped on a dingy for 7 days not one of my personal faves.  On the other hand, visiting the bright and bustling city of Istanbul was one of the highlights of my life.

In lieu of all the drama surrounding my last blog entry (and I really can't take much more drama right now - seriously, taking away Teddy's pacifiers was enough for a while!) I thought I would write about some of the Kirk family's most endearing and preposterous moments together while traveling.

The first thing that comes to mind is this cruise we took as a family when I was about 16.  My grandfather always was taking us on cruises around this time, as he was getting older and it was kind of self-contained sightseeing.  You could go to the filthiest place on earth, step in dogshit, get food poisoning and then get threatened by a homeless vagrant, but at the end of the day you could go back to your clean little perfect stateroom, dress for the early dinner seating, and see a corny magic show at the end of the night.  It was truly absurd.  Anyway, on this one cruise, in which we were traipsing around the Greek islands, my brother (who was 11 at the time) won the snowball jackpot in bingo.  Let me explain what this means: bingo on cruises takes on a whole new level, like, truly cult status.  There are three magic components to this: 1) most people on cruises are old, and bingo is a legitimately worthwhile activity, 2) there is really nothing better to do aboard a giant floating hotel, and 3) gambling is perfectly legal when you are at sea.  So here comes this irritating 11-year-old punk among all the serious hard-core bingo fanatics (who have been playing bingo aboard the ship religiously every day) and he wins the final snowball jackpot, worth $1600 (probably about the equivalent of $5000 today).  People were outraged!  There were wails like, "It's not fair!" and "Children shouldn't be allowed to play bingo!"  I mean, come on!  It was like someone had just told them that their Dr. Scholls were actually aliens eating away at the soles of their feet.

Meanwhile, on this particular day I had opted out of bingo, and instead decided to go to the cruise toga party (um, this is getting really embarassing).  I'm wearing, like, this white sheet tied at my shoulder and have lots of kohl eye makeup on and am feeling pretty good about myself.  After the bingo extravaganza and the toga thing are through, Andy and I reconvene in our stateroom, he with a wad of cash in his pocket and me in my ridiculous sheet and eye makeup.  All of a sudden, for some God-forsaken reason we start fighting over the cash: he thinks I took some, I insist I didn't.  At this point our adrenaline, which has been raring to go all day with our extreme cruise ship adventures (I'm thinking that could be a TV show), takes over and we start fistfighting each other, and I mean hard.  I knock Andy down, he hits his head on the corner of the table, and begins massively hyperventilating!  I totally panic -- I had never seen anyone hyperventilate before -- run out to the hallway in nothing but my toga and kohl, and start screaming, "I need a doctor, a doctor!  Help, Help!"  The steward immediately sets off the emergency alarm (for our entire floor!)), and, of course, like, five men come running all at once.  We all tumble and scramble into our stateroom, only to see Andy, standing up and breathing fine, totally blase, saying "I'm fine now, thanks."  Oh...My...God...I seriously wanted to kill the little turd.  I then send everyone away, ask the steward to shut off the alarm, and turn to Andy.  I look at his face and anxiously await for him to thank me for trying to save his life, even at the risk of my own personal and humiliating Greek tragedy.  He earnestly grabs both of my hands in his, looks deeply into my eyes, and says, "You still owe me my money, sis."

One year later, at a stuffy hotel in London, Andy locked me out of our room in nothing but my underwear.  That was fun.  My parents still laugh about this story each time it is told, as if it is the ultimate laugh riot.  Meanwhile, I am haunted by the memories of the uptight bellhops walking past me, trying not to make eye contact as I'm trying to play it cool by crossing my arms and acting nonchalant, while simultaneously growling, "Andy!  Open up the door, NOW!"  Good times.

There are also amazing, slightly less embarassing memories:  bottle-feeding baby sheep in the English countryside, fly-fishing in Scotland, touching a glacier in Alaska, learning to Russian folk dance, and quite simply experiencing cultures outside of my own.

The truth is, I really came of age during these trips.  I got drunk for the first time on on a cruise ship (my mom still insists the waiter slipped something in my drink), I was proposed to by a piano player named Cezar, my father was offered 5000 camels for me in Morocco, I went snorkeling and saw castles and ate crazy delicacies.  And I feel so blessed for all of it.  Now, with the world the way it is, I worry that I won't be able to take my children to the kinds of places I was exposed to, but I dearly hope this isn't the case.  And I suppose I feel as if I always have a little deck of cards in my back pocket -- each card representing one of the amazing memories I have from my childhood family vacations, and I simply have to pull out a card to revisit it again.  And again.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Drug Bust

Sarah and Andy, teenage siblings
Drugs are really weird.  Personally, I would say I've had a moderate experience with them, nothing crazy, nothing too tame. 

My first drug experience, outside of alcohol (which, yes, I know, is a drug), was actually a nitrous balloon at one of the many house parties I used to go to in high school on Saturday nights.  Everything turned completely green and giddy, and of course that awesome feeling lasted all of 30 seconds (although it really could have been 30 light years, for all I know).  From there it was pot, which, honestly, is it even necessary to write about?  Almost every single person in the entire world has done it, and if they haven't, well, that's just weird.  Sorry, but it is.  After that there was Ecstasy, which -- dare I say it? -- was ecstatic, and which was plentiful in California during the 1980s.  Unfortunately, I did that a few too many times, and probably destroyed more brain cells and spinal nerve fluid than I'd like to think about.  I never really got into hallucinogenics, because, of course, I'm way too paranoid to enjoy letting my mind run away with me.

Then it got kind of weird.  I went to college and still did all those things I listed above, but I also kind of got into prescription pills.  I developed terrible insomnia and anxiety when I went away to school, and the school shrink (seriously, WHY was there a school shrink?!) prescibed me Xanax.  Looking back, I think I was completely hooked on it, although I didn't realize that at the time.  I even took too many one time and got into a car accident, but my muscles were so loose and lethargic, that I came out unscathed.  God, I was a disaster.

Things subsided for a while after that, although my twenties were really one giant cocktail party (now THAT was fun!).  At 29 I became pregnant with my first child, and, of course, my frivolous ways came to a screeching standstill.  As I described in my first blog entry, after Bella was born I kind of became a little OCD.  I would obsess about the weirdest shit, like what time to the minute the garbage men would arrive and how to keep my daughter's hair free from grease for as long as possible (I wouldn't even let my husband touch it!).   Total psycho, I know.  So my doctor put me on an anti-depressant which was fine for a while, and then I would go off of it every time I got pregnant.  But after Teddy (my third and final), I went on the drug for a little while, and then eventually came to the realization, "Why the fuck am I numbing myself?"  We're humans, we're MEANT to feel things, you know?  And I'm not saying people don't need it, because they do.  There are chemical imbalances and deep depression and all sorts of conditions that those drugs (and others) are a godsend for.  I'm just saying that, for me personally, I like to feel and to feel deeply - joy, sorrow, anger, whatever.  And fortunately I'm not terribly OCD anymore (probably a little of the opposite, ironically enough), but I DO have emotions and pain and all the crazy stuff that goes along with, just, you know, life.

Here's the downside: all those feelings are draining!  I'm emotionally exhausted, like, 99.9% of the time (although that could just be from my three adorably maniacal children).  But I now feel challenged and motivated like never before, and that in itself is kind of exhilarating.  Not that I don't like to go out and get a little crazy occasionally...ummmm, ok, often.  But then when I'm on, I'm really on.

And on that note, I need a drink.