Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dysfunctional family reunion

Lunch in the country
Originally uploaded by Dw in Paris.
Henry's recent post on Muslim Marriage Counseling has inspired me to peruse my own "Binder of the Bizarre," as Henry refers to his collection of freakish ephemera collected in his native NYC and his adoptive home in California.

About a year ago, BG received a strange letter from "Smith Family Reunion Headquarters." Who were they, what did they stand for, and what did they want?

BG's last name is not Smith. His dad, who also received a copy of the missive, vaguely recalled that the Smiths were some cousin's uncle's dog's brother's half sister or some such thing. He'd never met them either, but here they were, sending an invite from out of the blue to come visit for the day at some church site in Spiro, Oklahoma. Although BG was born an Okie, he and his immediate family haven't set foot there in at least 40 years.

BG, being rather unsentimental, promptly discarded last year's letter. The most memorable part, as I recall, was the entreaty to "bring a covered dish" to this apparently potluck get together. BG and I imagined getting stopped by guards at the airport because of some bizarre concoction we'd tried to smuggle onto the plane. Plus which, we're both hard-core New Yorkers: I was born in Queens, and BG has lived here for the most part since the summer of '69. Why would we want to take a train (which would take days) or spend the money on airfare (not to mention the cost of preparing the covered dish) to visit a bunch of bowleggers* with dubious and obscure connections to the BG clan?

Recently, BG received the second such letter announcing this year's annual reunion bash. Just for fun, I decided to deconstruct this one. Its overweening flaw seemed to be "too little information," combined in part with the dreaded "too much information." resulting in a generalized feeling of total bewilderment on the part of this hapless reader.

First and foremost, the letter (or more accurately, "The Smith Family Newsletter" was so impersonal somehow in its generically folksy, familiar tone that one couldn't help wondering what the writer could have been thinking--or not. Why at the very least wasn't there a little sticky note attached saying: BG--I'm Laura Nell Smith, your long lost second cousin thrice removed. I would love to see you at our annual bash." Instead, Laura Nell assumed that her long-lost city slicker cuz somehow knew everyone involved from previous wild and wacky Okie wing dings.

Here is the newsletter. My comments are in brackets. All typos and other lapses in grammar, syntax, and common sense are reproduced verbatim. I think it adequately demonstrates why, even if we were for some untold reason planning to swing by that neck of the woods, wild woodchucks couldn't drag us to this meeting of the "Deliverance" clan--even if BG's DNA is somehow remotely connected to his Gooberville "relatives."



This is our reminder to come & gather as a family on July 16th. [Well, greetings yourself! And who the f*uck are you?]

Next month, that's a Saturday morning, at the Spiro United Methodist Church, located at 109 East Broadway, as it has since 1920, we are hopeful that first time family we be joining this gathering or some that haven't been this way in many years.
[109 East Broadway--isn't that in Chinatown? Oh, I guess not, since the return address on the envelope says Spiro, Oklahoma. What's wrong with us; aren't we psychic, seeing as we're family members and all?]

Staying connected is a great energizer. Do you need a little more "GET-UP-GO!" to your days? [Hey, babe--you'd never make it as an Madison Avenue copywriter, ok? Don't even try the hard sell for this gathering of the aberrant.]

Sure it is a stretch & that is understood, but please try real hard, after all, there is food & great stories & lots of laughter & someone is really counting on seeing you, especially you! [What? The guest of honor? We had no idea! Well, let's see here: in order to partake of all this food & stories & laughter stuff, I'm figuring airfare & cab fare & hotel to some abject hole in the outskirts of Gomer Pyle-ville--but hell, well worth it for one day in paradise!]

Who knows, you might learn something new or even meet a new cousin or several cousins, surely you get it by now!


There will be a short business meeting before lunch. [See? That's why we should have attended last year. They would surely have had a business meeting then, letting us know that there would also be a business meeting this year, and doubtless explaining why a family reunion would require a business meeting--and maybe even provide some clue as to what sort of business they're into. Moonshine, perhaps?]

Bring your favorite thing to make & don't worry about having a balanced meal, just come for the fun of it! [Favorite thing to make? Hmm..anything? Play-Doh sculptures? Cheap, and not hard to pack. Next!]

Someone will be at the church [the church? Who knew? Will they allow Jew-girls like me to attend?] by 9:00 AM or close to that time, at least. [those country folk and their laid-back ways; so charming! I guess if they're late we'll just go chat with the pastor or something.] Jimmy & my home phone number is X XXX XXX XXXX [sorry all; family only!].

We will have a "White Elephant" bingo & for those of you that want to bring the REAL thing, don't, at least, not those live ones that make really BIG memories! [Ah, looks like they have that old BG family brand of dry humor down pat!] Just something from all stuff we collect that we really don't want to pass on to the next generation or maybe you do, but without them knowing it is from YOU, so wrap it up & no one will even suspect you would ever possess any such item, the more unusual, the better. Bring one item per person. [That old designer bong that's been sitting in the closet might be nice.]

Remember wonderful Glen's "Award-Deserving" ice cream? [Ah, yes, wonderful old Glen...shame that he only had award-deserving ice cream. Couldn't he have had the award-winning ice cream and perhaps received an extra "White Elephant" memento?]

The table centerpieces will be photographs, older & some more recent. These are going to be door prizes [more giveaways!] Please sign in as you arrive & get a ticket for the drawing. [Sign in where? Is the reunion in the church? On the grounds outside? Oh, well, I love surprises. Details--so anal!]]

Don't worry if you haven't sent Judy a recipe. [Ah, good old Judy, cooking away in the old country kitchen...] Just bring one with you & some reason why it's special to you. [Let's see, where did I put that recipe for homemade magic mushroom stew? I think that would be a big hit at the next reunion.] These projects [huh?] require time to complete, but will be a treasure when they are all ready.

If you think I may have missed an invitation to someone you really want to see, call me, and please leave a message on the recorder, if you can't speak to me directly.[Wow, so that's how it works! Goll-ee, those new-fangled recording devices sure are convenient.] I am not working these days which means I am home even less, go figure!

You all are invited to stay over Saturday night [oh, how sweet! At least we'll save on the hotel bill] & visit our worship service the next morning. And should you be interested in doing that, I am listing the following overnight accomodations [oh, f*uck. Thought we were gonna experience some down home family hospitality.] Both are less than 30 minutes from Spiro.

Guest House International (Ft. Smith) X-XXX-XXX-XXXX


Holiday Inn Express (Ft. Smith) X-XXX-XXX-XXXX

Please enter through the east side door facing parking lot.

Look for the church sign with "SMITH REUNION" [No map, no directions, no nothing? Ah, we'll find it. Let's book now!]

Ya'll come!!

Laura Nell

Lest anyone think I am a New York snob, well...I probably am. But from what BG and I have experienced, a lot of folks who live out of the city--even some as close by as Long Island or New Jersey--would sooner have knitting needles inserted in their eyes than set foot within the five bawdy boroughs.

Nevertheless, I plan to send out a big-ass invite to the whole BG extended clan to come on down and visit BGs beautiful digs in the Bronx. If they bring their sleeping bags, they can save on hotels by camping out in the hallway with the crackheads. We'll order up some Chinese or some real New York pizza, and I just know a good time will be had by all. But we're keeping it simple: no raffles, no door prizes, no church services. The only thing they have to bring is themselves--and maybe a nice covered dish.

In BG family parlance, a bowlegger is a country bumpkin or otherwise out of touch rube.

On this site, I affectionately refer to my boyfriend as BG, or Bowleg Guy. Despite having long ago earned his stripes as a real New Yorker by surviving the roughest possible periods in this city before the current "Renaissance," BG still retains some of that wide-eyed down home country innocence that is part of his considerable charm.

Bowleg is also used to describe a certain herbal supplement which is generally smoked or sometimes baked in brownies. Now THAT would have made for an interesting "covered dish" for the big Oklahoma blowout!


At 9:12 PM, Blogger Henry said...

You owe me. I have nerve damage to my face because of you. While laughing, I tweaked something in my cheek. It hurts. Hey, I laughed so hard, my face hurts!

This was fantastic!

I'm glad that my piece on Islamic instructions for saving your marriage inspired this wickedly delightful insight into the BG family rally.

I could hear the banjos dueling in the background, while invisioning the genetic deficiencies due to generations of inbreeding. The family photos from these events have to be a sight to behold. Geneticists and geneologists must be clamboring to get ahold of the photos and guest lists for analysis.

You neglected to consider the cost of shopping for something new to wear (well shopping at K-Mart isn't that expensive). BG's going to need some overalls of course, plus a new John Deere ball-cap, while you, of course, will need to get ahold of a new snood, or do you need a burqa?

That business meeting? That's how they decide which cousin will marry which. If there aren't enough to go around, they can always throw in a sibling or two. Hey, it's a game the whole family can play!

We have our own sordid little get together in my family. This one truly is under the guise of business: it's a family Foundation meeting. Oh, the anxious joy I experience after the announcement of the date and location arrives. But wait, this isn't an open invitation to the whole brood; just the elite chosen few, deemed to be of sufficient character to make decisions regarding oodles of family money. This is my second favorite holiday, just behind Christmas. I always get that warm feeling deep inside, as the smiling faces of my relatives greet me; complete with a small dab of maraschino venom in the corner of the mouth.

My wife has had the displeasure of attending some of these functions with me in the past few years. She has come to the conclusion that I might be mentally ill, but those people are dementedly deranged!

Ah, family: you can't live with them, and you can't shoot 'em.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Brink Craven said...

oh this is truly sick fun. what a hoot! gawd dang Elvira! I would think you would be tryin' to drum up the money like maniacs in order to make it to this
shin-dig! Do you think its ok to troll family reunions? Thats it, Im cancelling my trip to Paris--I'm going to Okie instead! Do you think they'll let me in the door if I tell them I'm Ellie May and I was invited by Uncle Jethro? It may not be enough to qualify me to have input at the bizness meeting, but damn if I dont wann be a fly on that wall! I wanna get the scoop on the family gossip. (as they like to say here in Texas) Yeeehawwww!

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Walker said...

That was great, way to funny.
Send them a note back, asking for BG's long overdue inheritance with interest before you can go.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger synternet said...

Great story, it sounds like the evangelicals are trying to recruit. Give 'em my name and I'll call to see if my husband and our two prepescent boys along with the goat we married can attend! I'm ready for some good ole bible thumping and subtle remarks that we are going to hell unless we believe in their Jesus.

BTW- We don't have kids yet or a goat

At 12:44 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Terribly sorry to hear the awful news about your face, and I wish you a speedy recovery. I'm going to wear some sort of iron mask or apply botox before I check your posts and comments from now on so the same doesn't happen to me.

K-Mart?!...I resemble that remark. I love the Big K, and BG and I both found WalMart so appealing when we visited the BG clan that we were almost ready to settle down there for good (not!). But I think even K-mart couture might be a little too fancy schmancy for the likes of the Smiths.

A snood or a burga, no--I think I'll go with a nice Bronx do-rag. I kinda like that look, truthfully. Shit, I wanna get all ghetto on their ass! Which reminds me, one of the things that really gives me the creeps about the hinterlands is how homogenized people seem to be. It DOES seem as if there's a lot of inbreeding involved, and it's not pretty. Give me NYC diversity any day.

The whole concept of "family" combined with "business meeting" seems very odd and just plain wrong to me. My condolences to you and your wife.

Ellie May (I mean, Brink)--I'm writing to the Spiro, OK chamber of commerce for some brochures on their fabulous vacation packages. I think us girls should take a little trip to the "other side" together. What do you say? YEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAA!

Walker: I have a sinking feeling that BG's only inheritance from the Smiths will be one of those "white elephant" prizes and a couple of down home recipes for a great covered dish. But BG can't resist any giveaways, large or small, so it's all good.

Synternet: Hey, I think cohabitating with a goat is considered a perfectly acceptable "alternative lifestyle" in that neck of the woods. BG's parents used to live in a very small midwestern town with its very own religious cult/shrine, and they knew the neighborhood was going to pot when some folk appropriated a nearby lot with a couple of old rusty cars on blocks and a genuine pet goat out in the yard. I think it's rapidly becoming THE de rigeur fashion accessory for small-town living.

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I rec'd the same Smith Reunion letter too. (I think all the B-boys did). I asked my dad about it, he told me about the blood connection of the Smith family from his mother's side.

It was the 2nd one I rec'd, just like BG. You would think they would get the message that we're not interested after not even responding to the 1st one. I guess that OKLA living gets a little too complicated to have anyone check to see who responded to the first time to their invite.

I'm guessing all the local taverns and motels will be full because of the influx of Smith's showing up. I guess we're all going to miss out on some good, clean, "Okie - from - Mc Spokie" fun!

By the way, Sharon had a similar invite to FL for a family reunion on her mom's side of the familly.

Now get this, we got a call after the event. (We did not respond, by the way). We were told by one of her great aunts that we had to pay for one of the nights at the motel for a non-cancelled reservation.

Why would anyone make reservations for someone without checking if they were coming? You guessed right, we did NOT send a check for the motel bill. These people are as bright as the ones in OK.


At 1:46 AM, Blogger elvira black said...


Maybe it's sll those spaghetti sauce and Olive Garden restaurant commercials ("When you're here, you're family") that has bred this long lost kinfolk reunion mania. Heck, maybe the cuz is SUFFERING from mania. That scheme does seem like a really classic manic case of getting a "wild hair," as BG likes to say.

Hotel bills? It almost sounds like some wacky telemarketing scam. Very Neo-Nazi style: "Achtung! You vill come to zee reunion, you vill follow orders, you vill sign zee paperz!"

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Henry said...

OMG!! Welcome to the Internet Zone!

I shit you not! I received an email from a dog park friend this morning regarding one of my own family reunions.

I guess BG is not the only one with family in Oklahoma. Hey, maybe we're cousins!

I swear that this is a real email, and I don't think Glen even knows my last name.

Since Slogger does not allow pics in the comments, I had to put this email up on my server. Please click here to see the email.

It's kind of freaking me out.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger elvira black said...


Hmmm. nice kinfolk! That is too hilarious!!

I kept thinking to myself--nahhh, I'll bet Henry really did this himself, right? But then I thought, nah, Henry sez it's his doggie park pal, and I gotta believe him, because, shit, this is HENRY! But man, it's almost too coinkidink to be believed, baby!

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Henry said...


It's not freaking me out anymore.

Glen confessed that he changed the name; I still thought it was too weird coming only days after you launched this post.

Now, I just think the whole thing is piss your pants hilarious!

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Anastasia Beaverhausen said...

Elvira - If you and BG go to the reunion, don't drink the fruity punch. Smith, Jones, whatever, be wary nonetheless. Henry, we've seen your kinfolk and you might want to BRING the Kool-aid to yours.

At 3:33 AM, Blogger elvira black said...

Yes, still weird, still funny...

LOL! I think it might be a wise policy to BYO. As my aunt used to say when it came to potluck dinners, you don't really know what's been going on in some stranger's kitchen or what nefarious doings might be involved in the food prep.


Post a Comment

<< Home