Charlie and I are kindred spirits for a few reasons. We are both Cancers. We are both deep thinkers. We can both quote Alanis Morrisette at the top of a hat (him more so than I -- I can admittedly only do so for her first three albums). And while he is six years my junior, we both love that era of WWF/WWE that was the "Attitude" era, especially when the women are concerned. My favorite will always be 7-time WWE Women's Champion Trish Stratus, and his will always be Terri "Marlena" Runnels, who had a remarkably long tenure in the business for a woman. While Terri was never a wrestler (although she *did* win the Hardcore Championship once), she worked tirelessly in different roles, as a glamorous silent manager to Goldust, a shrewd businesswoman in "P.M.S.", a horny little she-devil in a rivalry with The Kat, and finally as an interviewer who would occasionally get thrown into the ring to make one of the bad girls look even meaner (see the times Victoria or Molly Holly/Gail Kim beat her up to get the crowd to boo).
"Do you want to go meet Terri in Wisconsin?" Charlie asked me months ago.
"Sure!" I said. I thought nothing of it. I went to school in Menomonie, WI (about 70 miles east of Minneapolis), so Wisconsin wasn't a far away land to me. I didn't ask any follow-up questions. I assumed we would have a lovely day trip in Eau Claire.
"I'm so excited to see Terri!" Charlie said months later. "Did you take the whole weekend off work? It's in Milwaukee."
My trepidation was quelled when I found out Sean would be there that weekend, too! His family is from there and he was going to be in the city at the same time as us. Charlie and I booked a two-night stay at the Hilton. I felt bad for missing Jared's birthday party and suggested that my mother go on his behalf.
"I'll go if he's not so drunk he can't keep his eyes open," she said. "Maybe next year when he outgrows that kind of thing."
Charlie is from South Dakota and is used to driving for hours at a time with no interruptions, but when I wasn't complaining about wanting to sleep, I was complaining about wanting to pee! We stopped in Menomonie, Wisconsin, so I could relive my college days. We stopped at The Acoustic Cafe, where I was impressed by their gender-neutral bathrooms and horrified by coverage of Scott Walker. Scott Walker is the dirt worst. He is so bad that Republicans from Minnesota are writing letters encouraging businesses to open up shops in Minnesota. True story.
In the car, I asked Charlie for chap stick. "I don't share that kind of stuff," he said. "You need to trim your nose hairs, too."
"Oh, no, I didn't bring my nose hair trimmer!" I cried. "Can I use yours?"
"Ew!" Charlie scoffed. "No."
I understand not wanting to share a nose hair trimmer (and I thought I looked like Cousin Itt until I looked in the mirror and realized that it wasn't that bad), but the chap stick thing threw me for a loop. Charlie would later apologize and I told him it wasn't necessary -- I just found it an interesting quirk. I think of myself as someone who shares everything, but I suppose I am in between the extremes of Charlie and my friend Jacey, who will walk up to you if you are eating ice cream and ask for some and when you tell her you don't have a spoon, she'll say "I don't care" and use yours without even asking. I love her, by the way.
We had a few stops before the hotel room. We had to pee so we found a Burger King and both ordered a small fries. We were the only ones there and it took five minutes. I was going to ask for ketchup but one of the girls behind the counter was crying and I decided my ketchup could wait. Then we went to a store that was part liquor store, part grocery store, and part convenience shop where you could pay your light bill and things like that. We were going to stop at a vintage store Charlie had seen on Yelp but it was all boarded up.
"This is ghetto," said Charlie, who is from rural South Dakota.
"Stop saying ghetto," I said.
"It just ... doesn't seem right," I said. Yes, Milwaukee is 85% African-American and most of its income is in the greater suburbs, and therefore the public schools are not very good, and there are some neighborhoods the police don't even patrol anymore, and this was the first time I had been panhandled walking outside of a Walgreens. Still, I do not feel comfortable using the term "ghetto" when describing an impoverished, mostly black neighborhood. It feels icky.
We finally arrived in downtown Milwaukee. Any fatigue I had left when we were greeted by handsome men in full formal military apparel. Our hotel was having a military ball!!! God is real. My favorite things are ladies in pretty dresses, Marines, and a good love ballad.
Sean was visiting with his parents and joined up with us about 10:00, while Charlie and I enjoyed the WWE Network (and being ripped off by the hotel which tried charging both of us for Internet access. Ugggghhhhh).
Charlie started drinking earlier, but I wanted to wait. If I'm going to be out at 2 AM, I don't want to be half in the bag at 11, y'know? We watched more wrestling and listened to sad Alanis and Mariah song, and Sean was our chaperone for the course of the evening.
First we went to a club called .... Liquid? ... They blur together. We saw some drag queens. It was nice. Then we went to La Cage, which had cash only cover. I was bitching about this because just before our trip Wells Fargo had completely decimated my checking account. It was between these two venues that Charlie was getting belligerent.
I played darts with Sean and two of his friends. A shot boy walked around with a tray.
I am the last person to make comments about somebody's body. When I take my shirt off, I look like an albino 16-year-old girl who is growing slight chest hair because her body is eating itself due to anorexia.
That said, I am not a shot boy. In Minneapolis our shot boys are people like my friend Tan Man who works at two different gyms and is 9% body fat, or my friend Robin who is a classically trained dancer and is 9% body fat. In Milwaukee, the shot boy had man boobs, stretch marks, and was wearing grey Hanes. If you would have asked him who Andrew Christian was, he would have probably thought you were drunk and talking about two of your friends.
Charlie somehow finagled a free shot. And then he continued being rude. He wasn't throwing drinks or anything, but he kept talking about how bored he was, and was generally acting like a 15-year-old girl that you bring to your grandma's house on the lake for a weekend. Also, at one point he made fun of someone's hair and apparently that person has had five rounds of chemo. Whoopsie.
In a surprising showing of maturity, Charlie agreed to go back to the hotel. I paid for his Uber and it was less than $5. And then I was able to see what Milwaukee is like on the town!! By which I totally made out with that shot boy. You can't shame the shameless.
Sean and I ended our night at This is It, which was really quaint and reminded me of the 19. And I met Season 7 RuPaul's Drag Race contestant Trixie Mattel!
No, she was actually there. I didn't just talk to a poster. She was out of drag and was super nice and friendly, and I'm sure I mortified her by trying to present myself as a peer ("I'm a performer, tooooo ....)". I'll be rooting her for this season (And Max, of course, because local girls gotta stick together).
Sean and I went to Toppers Pizza and I ate the whole damn thing. I think I gained a good ten pounds in Milwaukee.
The next day, Charlie felt terrible, both in terms of hangover and shame.
"Was I really that mean?!" he kept asking.
"Text Sean about it," I said. It was between the two of them. As embarrassed as I was about Charlie's behavior, he hadn't said anything mean to me, and I'm much more willing to forgive bad behavior if someone is trite about it immediately.
"That's why I don't drink that much," he said.
I do find this fascinating. I drink, um, a bit -- okay, a lot -- and I don't get mean. The worst thing I ever did was slap that kid's ass when he wore the Adrian Peterson family because I thought it would be funny! (Turns out his last name was Peterson and his boyfriend did NOT find this amusing). And there was the time a boy who was a thousand times better looking than me was going to sleep with someone I was in love with and I said "I know the score". Okay. Nobody is perfect, certainly not me. However, I don't get mean! I don't understand the concept of being a mean drunk. You drink to dull your pain, not maximize it. If you're a mean drunk, stay home or drink club soda.
On a lighter note, this is the AMAZING card that Charlie made for Terri.* How creative is he?? We went to Walgreens to buy 99 cent Wet 'n' Wild lipstick, and clearly Charlie is a better kisser than me. Then, on the inside, IT PLAYED TERRI'S THEME MUSIC.
*I suppose I can write here now a note about code names. By using real pictures and even evidence of real names, you might wonder why I am still bothering with the use of code names, at least for this particular "character". I can only suggest that, for this particular person, it is a matter of striving for consistency. There are few people who have never had code names, and they will stay that way.
In the card, he wrote her a beautiful and heartfelt letter about how he was a gay kid from South Dakota and he found strength by doing the "Terri pose" against his fence (when Terri would enter the ring, she would lean against the ropes and do a kiss-face to the crowd, with her back leg raised up in coquettish fashion -- I would do the same thing climbing my bunk at summer camp). He wrote that he was here with his friend Jakey, who was also gay, also a Cancer, and also a fan of all things Divas.
He then wrote that he would love to take her out to dinner and gave her his phone number.
"Is that too much?" he asked.
"Well ... I wouldn't," I honestly said. Truth. I could be in an elevator with Channing Tatum and act like I didn't know him. "But it's also a now or never thing. When will you have this opportunity again? You are braver than me."
Of course, getting to the arena took forever because I left my debit card in the room, the ATM at the hotel wasn't working (but we did get to walk past the Broadcasters Hall of Fame plaques, and there was a guy whose name was legitimately Dick Record. I loved it!), and it was snowing! We arrived and the line to meet the wrestlers was a good 200+ people long.
The other wrestlers were Matt Hardy, King Kong Bundy, and Kevin Nash, the latter of which I was going to have sign my copy of "Magic Mike" and I forgot it. And I have two of them!! While in line we stood next to a young woman and her niece, and she went on and on about who she met and invited us to indie shows she was working on. While I don't follow wrestling nearly as much as I used to, it reminded me of conventions I would go to in Las Vegas with people on the forums of wrestling observer.com -- and as dorky as it sounds to someone not familiar with it, there is this instant connection of kindred spirit and brotherhood that happens with a fellow wrestling fan. Charlie and I driving six hours to meet a particular woman was ample evidence of this.
To meet the wrestlers you had to buy tickets to the hockey game, so we were at the Bradley Center, where the Milwaukee Admirals were hosting the Rochester Americans. The first period ended while we were in line. While I have never seen a hockey game, I was kind of bummed. Those tickets weren't cheap, and when would I ever see a hockey game again?"
"How long is a period?" I asked Charlie.
"Like ... a woman's?" he asked.
"No!" I cried. "In hockey!"
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Probably shorter than a woman's, though."
"Well, no shit, Charlie," I said.
A burly man came up to us as we neared the pillar. The signing went from 2-4, and it was about 3:40.
"FOLKS!" he cried. "At this time there are NO PICTURES!! JUST AUTOGRAPHS!"
My heart sank in my chest. I had begun to think this trip had all been a bust. What if I had had cash on me to begin with? What if I hadn't forgotten my debit card? What if Charlie had come back from lunch with his professor friend earlier? Would we just get her autograph, smile, and walk away?
Matt Hardy was up first. He can still get it, girls. King Kong Bundy didn't say anything but smiled. Then. Oh crap. Here we go. Terri Runnels.
"Hi, Terri," I said in lightning fast fashion and handed her the card. "I made this for you." I totally lied! Charlie made it!
"Open it," I cried. "It plays your theme music!"
She was elated. "Oh my god," she cried. "Oh, just get one picture."
WE TOOK THREE BECAUSE CHARLIE IS MUCH MORE CONFRONTATIONAL THAN I AM AND ON THIS OCCASION IT WAS FOR GOOD. THE GUY YELLED AT US THE ENTIRE TIME.
Amidst the yelling, Kevin Nash graciously signed an 8 x 10 for my mother (who loves him!), and Charlie and I hi-fived like Terri and Jacqueline of Pretty Mean Sisters.
Then we were finally ready for the hockey game! Charlie was too much on a high from the Terri moment to focus, but I wanted to relish the moment. I decided that I LOVE HOCKEY. I think I was spoiled because the game itself was really good and went into overtime. But I also loved the aggression of it. 85% of my love for hockey was heterosexual, but there was a 15% equivalent of me hoping that at one point the dudes would take their masks off and start kissing.
Nevertheless, my newfound passion of hockey only led to positive things, BECAUSE THE ADMIRALS WON IN OVERTIME!!!
They actually won 6-5, but that's the picture that came up. Okay, then.
Charlie and I prepared for a quiet night in, watching the Grammys. My favorite performance was Rihanna w/Jay-Z and Paul McCartney. I loved Sam Smith's speech about thanking the man who broke his heart. It was just like when I wrote a show in the Fringe Festival only not at all. Also, I have realized my celebrity doppelgänger is Beck and I am not sure how I feel about that.
We invited Sean out for Round Two, but he decided to stay in (a decision for which I couldn't entirely blame him). As the Grammys came to a close, Charlie's phone went off from a Florida area code.
"Who is ... oh, crap," he said. "I think it's Terri!"
"Answer it!!" I cried.
Charlie did his best impression of a teenage girl who is finally getting asked out by the star quarterback for spring formal.
"Hello?" he asked, trying to keep his voice from shaking.
"Hi, can I ask who I'm speaking with?" the demure voice on the other end said.
"This is Charlie," he said.
"Oh, good," the woman said. "This is Terri. I just wanted to call and let you guys know that I fell in love with you two from the minute I saw you, and that card was so creative and warmed my heart. I just got back from dinner with Kevin Nash."
We invited her out to the gay bar but she said she was too tired. Maybe next time.
Oh, but this was the best part.
"If you guys ever need anything, let me know," said Terri Runnels. She, who kicked Marc Mero in the nuts and formed the first ever female stable in the World Wrestling Federation. She, who was sprayed by a milk truck by Kurt Angle. She, who had The Fabulous Moolah in her corner at WrestleMania 2000. She, who in the very building we had met her, was tarred and feathered by Stacy Keibler after a lingerie pillow fight and legitimately almost died because one of the feathers got stuck in her throat from the syrup. Okay, they're not all glamorous.
I decided to let Charlie keep her number under lock and key. I don't need to be texting Terri Runnels at 2 in the morning next time I'm sad about a dude.
But I love him, Terri, I will write. Even if he comes and goes like inclement weather.
You need to find a man who will be like Florida, she will write. Always warm and comfortable ;)
A boy can dream.
Oh, also, this:
I was so saddened to find out that we had lost Linda Reed to esophageal cancer. I have worked at the Mall of America for six and a half years, and Linda, who was a cashier at Holiday on the first floor, was always a highlight of my day, especially on those in which I was sleep-deprived or hung over or crabby or broken-hearted or all of the above. She genuinely *loved* that job and the people she interacted with every day, and there was not a mall employee who wasn't affected by her genuine joy for her customers and occupation. They had this posted on the counter for about a week. I was most moved by the discovery that she had a family. I had no reason to think she *didn't* have one, but to all of us she was Linda. I had no idea she was a "wife of", a " mother of", a "sister to", or that her father was a reverend. I will think of her every day.