Home for the holidays. Because once a year the Ranger gets a free pass to do whatever the hell he wants, it was off to Steel Town, PA for Jesus' B-day. So I packed a pinch between cheek and gum, pulled the gun rack off the Honda and checked it, popped some Valium, and off we flew. Over hill and dale, across six inches of ice on I-5.
And while it might surprise you to know that Second Edition attended Christmas mass with the Fam and NO, the steeple didn't snap off and the Virgin didn't cry tears of blood, let me just say I enjoyed the sermon very much even though it was a little hard to hear (Divorced people have to sit in the back. Behind a screen. And wear Halloween masks.)
The hymns were sung in Croatian (Papa Ranger's roots), a much perkier language than the Spanish songs I grew up with which sound so mournful and persecuted. Croatian has more bounce to the ounce, like we're off to fight the Huns. Or is it the Serbs?
Now Father Charles is a sober, articulate speaker, yet I couldn't help notice the twinkle in his eye. Still, I was surprised when, at the end of the service, he shook my hand and said, "I'm sorry I stared, but you're such a beautiful woman. I kept trying to figure out what TV show I've seen you on." Seriously. A flashback to when the Ranger and I first met and he asked if I was the Maybelline girl. Now, I know where the Ranger learned all his smooth moves. Church.
Sorry, Padre, but you could have only seen this mug face down at a wine bar, pressed against the glass of a pastry shop or getting passed hands over head at a certain Rose Bowl game in the late 80s.
So #10 in our countdown of Things We Love About Hill Country: Flirty Priests
#9: The Wi-Fi at Dunkin Donuts. By the time the Ranger and I drove all over town looking for THE SPOT, we weren't speaking to each other and I was tired of him muttering, "Jesus Lord, woman."
#8: Tailgating before the Penguins game at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. Okay, so it was a little awkward, clinking bottles with six 20-something boys from Steel Town. I felt more like the Homeroom Teacher or Hockey Mom than the Girlfriend. But they were very wholesome young men and politely turned their backs when I, too, took a whiz on the grassy knoll.
#7: Chicken Wings. Here in Steel Town, each bar has an entire MENU of chicken wings. I chose Parmesan garlic and hot chile garlic. Washed down with Blue Moons. And shots of whiskey. All I remember is waking up the next morning with red sauce under my nails and my tongue tasting like the walk of shame.
#6: Steeler Bars (pronounced "Stiller" in Hill Country)
It was Sunday afternoon. The Steelers were playing some team in brown. Everyone in the bar was wearing the jersey of their favorite player (I had Jimi Hendrix splayed across my boobs), so it probably wasn't the wisest move to wait for the tense quiet moments between innings to pump my fist in the air and shout, "Go Seahawks!" I did it for you, Seattle, I did it for you!
At first, I just got a few dirty looks thrown at me. Then chicken bones. But three times a charm. One last hurrah for the Seahawks got me bound and gagged with Terrible Towels, thrown in the back of a pick-up truck with giant Steeler flags flying and driven to a swampy bog for disposal. I was saved by Papa Ranger, who spit some chew juice, shook his head and sighed, "For crying out loud boys, put her down. She might be a dumbass, but she's our dumbass."
On a high note, Ranger Brother met his own Cougar that night. After exchanging THE SECRET COUGAR HANDSHAKE, she settled down on the bar stool next to me where we discussed the pros and cons of Social Security and of course, the ins and outs of menopause: chin hair, night sweats, a craving for meatballs. Then we both took naps.
To be continued...