Archive for August, 2009

Frenzy, Food & Fits: Help! The foster kids are coming!

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

“What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy?” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

One of my many fond memories was when mom used to let me skip school every once-in-awhile, so we could just hang out together for the day.  We’d watch TV, make cookies, go shopping, hang out or grab a bite at Grant’s lunch counter in downtown Dover.  Grant’s had THE BEST hot dogs, the kind with those squared-off buns which they’d grill with a bit of butter on the delicious toasty bun.  To wash it down, Grants had the tastiest icy-cold strawberry thick shakes.  Mmmm…lunch at Grant’s was the icing on the cake when you get to play hooky with ma for the day!

I liked being the only child, loved my own space and I did really enjoy my independence (yeah, I probably enjoyed all of the attention too).  When I was finishing up seventh grade change was coming, as mom and dad made the decision to try out foster care to take care of local children in need.  I guess it was the right thing to do — they loved kids, I was getting older, and we did have a pretty decent size four bedroom Colonial.

I really couldn’t be bothered with the whole foster kid process, I was about to be thirteen – a teenager! I do remember the social worker from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) meeting with the guidance counselor at my middle school to see if I acted nuts in class, was abused at home, or on the fast track to becoming a wayward Dover youth.  Mom and dad were interviewed and background checked, so apparently they passed the requirements.  Luckily for mom and dad DYFS did not have a “road test” on their roster.  Not that they did anything wrong, of course, they are great and loving parents, but I think we all could have been classified as a bit “off” in a fun crazy kinda way.

We had the Whitman’s Sampler “family pack” of about sixteen various foster kids over the years.  When I say variety, I mean it.  The Romano family welcomed deaf ones, crazy ones, semi-retarded ones, babies, black, white, mocha, girls, boys, you name it — they were part of our looney spaghetti-and-meatball eating Italian family for a time! Some stayed for only a few weeks, others for months to years — and two are still family to this day.  Each comes complete with their own story, and a couple of those stories are pretty heartbreaking, but we’ll get to that much later on.

Maria, Victor & Me

Our debut foster kids were Victor (eight) & Maria (seven) a local Spanish brother and sister duo. They seemed innocent enough. Victor was thin and lanky with such pretty dark brown eyes – almost black.  He has the craziest head of hair too, these chocolate-colored tight curls, which if you pulled a lock out to play, it would stretch out about a foot and snap right back into place with a big BO-ING!  Maria was a shy and quiet little girl, with such a cute little Cheshire cat smile. She had a lighter hue of ultra crazy afro hair, which when picked it out would resemble a extra large basketball.  She used to like it rolled into two Mickey-Mouse ponytails on the either side of her head. I guess that was her mother’s styling, and what mother she was.  Correction: mother f*cker. The reason? Her two kids were with us was because she could not cope and I believe a neighbor called social services. Her “failure to cope” was that of a sadistic bitch, since some of her punishments involved making the kids kneel down on sharp cheese graters, burning their butts with lit cigarettes, holding their hands on a hot stove, and forcing them to sit on a hot radiator – these were punishments for wetting the bed (out of fear I am sure) and God knows what else.

Soon after these two siblings entered our world, so did something we Romano’s were not familiar with (we only understood crazy).  This was called Hyperactivity. Yeah, we had loud and drama down pat, but this stepped it up a notch.

(Italian Lesson: hyperactive = iperattivo)

Victor was diagnosed as a “hyperactive” kid and came toting Ritalin pills which were given to him at certain times during the day to keep him less hyper I suppose.  What a crock! The second or third day Victor threw one of his “fits” as we called them. He would scream – no SCREEEEEEEEEECH at the top of his lungs,  punch his arms and flail his tight little balled-up fists in the air, all while jumping up and down NON-STOP!! It was like he was auditioning to play the Zuni fetish doll (that frenzied, totally mad creature starring in Trilogy of Terror).

WHAT THE?? These fits went on for a few days, weeks, etc., and my mom was told that Victor must stay on his meds, and as foster parents, no hitting or spanking of any child would be tolerated.  Luckily for me, mom and dad were not hitters – but they were yellers. In fact, they made yelling their own art form.  I recall being yelled at by both of them a few times, and at least one (usually my dad) would chase around the dining room table a few times when I was acting fresh.  I think the dining room chases were more to burn off steam, because I don’t recall ever being caught, I think it was more for the show of it, or the thrill of scaring the living sh!t out of me.  I wonder what would have happened if they ever really did catch my wise-crackin’ ass!

Eventually, my mom thought this whole scene with Victor was total bullshit, so she she took him by the arm and carried out a much-deserved royal crack on his little hyperactive ass! Needless to say, those crazy Zulu fits stopped, and so did the Ritalin.

Mom: One

Ritalin:  Zero

Ritalin, not just for breakfast anymore.

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The Jersey Devil’s in the “The Sticks”

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that, poof. He’s gone.”  ~ Verbal, The Usual Suspects

Mom grew up a pretty quiet and relatively happy little red-headed girl in the bustling (very Italian) area of  Nutley, but when she and her two younger hell-raising sisters (more about them later) were approaching their teenage years, my grandfather Lewis (“Poppa”) was smitten and bitten by the “let’s move the family to a rural area” bug, and he settled on the very isolated (yeah, backwoods) Hopatcong, New Jersey.  After visiting the area for a family summer vacation, Poppa was sold on the idea lake living.  He imagined boat rides, swimming, his three daughters amazing him with their new found love of diving, family picnics, fishing, a yard with a pool –  all that Hopatcong had to offer.  Mom was most definitely not sold on any of it.  Sorry Hopatcong residents, but mom called that area “the sticks” and still does to this day. (Just remember this was back in the fifties, so it was a bit stick-ish). 

Lake Hopatcong

Hopatcong (go ahead, you can call it the sticks) is filled with long and winding roads,  hungry deer, possums, raccoons and plenty of mosquitoes (ugh  – I cannot stand those little blood-sucking bastards).  It’s the perfect place a guy like Tony Soprano would send out his wiseguys to dump a tattletale’s body deep in the woods (after dismembering it on the basement butcher table over a few glasses of homemade red)

Mom was not happy, she was a city girl after all, on the verge of hot guys with hot cars, but she really had no choice, so she made the best of it.  She’d get really bored with their new found country lifestyle, so to stay out of trouble, she acquired quite the appetite for reading.  Mom was a voracious reader, at night she would curl up with her novel, a bag of the always greasy Wise potato chips and bottle of Coca Cola at her side (funny, she still does this to this day). 

(Italian Lesson:  evil spirit = diavolo / the devil = il diavolo, il demonio)

Speaking of mom’s book collection, when I was a little I remember looking through her collection of books in our hallway bookshelf as if they were candies displayed at the local dime store. Those titles and spicey book jacket descriptions (many with words I did not yet understand) those colorful covers – even the authors’ photos totally fascinated me.  My imagination would run wild and I’d dream up my own little stories from mom’s books, and what made it more fun was I really didn’t know the difference from fiction and non-fiction at the time.

Besides books, mom’s teenage years in the fifties consisted of a bit of drag racing adventures, plenty of shopping and, of yeah, the Jersey Devil even made a cameo appearance.  What the heck is the Jersey Devil, you might ask? Jersey D, as he is so affectionately known throughout the region, is a supposed mythical creature which has haunted New Jersey for the past 260 years.  The rumor is that the little naughty bugger Jersey D.  has terrorized towns and even caused factories and schools to close down.  Yet, many people believe that the Jersey Devil is a legend, plan ol’ bullshit — a Sasquatch-esque beast simply originated from folklore.

Yes, mom witnessed the Jersey Devil prancing around through the woods one snowy winter day.  And yes, he was red disturbing and sinister. (Funny though, I  always pictured that little red dude with his tiny pitchfork on the cans of Underwood deviled ham I’d see in the supermarket – what a creepy little shit, if you ask me!)

Is this the little devil mom saw in the woods?

Is this the little devil mom saw in the woods?

I have no idea what this actually symbolizes, but it is a fact (if you believe in that little red guy).  Over 260 people have their own personal sighting tales, although discrepancies in these stories exist, the origins provide some validity to the existence of the Jersey Devil.  OK, enough about him, I am starting to get goosebumps.

  Jersey Devil, meet mom

The Jersey Devil made me do it! Quickly,  let’s back to the home of  “Madness “:

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P.S.  This just in: breaking news from mom directly!  Mom wants me to be clear about the fact that when she lived in Hopatcong as a teen, she still only had eyes for the “city” boys, and although not a snob, she just wasn’t into country guys.  More about mom’s quite interesting romances, black lips, old dudes and stalkers to come.

This Little Piggy…

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

“There was an old lady who lived in a shoe – she had so many kids  – her uterus fell out” ~ Andrew Dice Clay

While flipping channels on the tube today I happened to stumble across a commercial with a cute nursery rhyme jingle, and it made me think of  a few of my favorite expressions mom would say to my younger cousin Tracy and me when we were kids. 

Of course, once I recalled these gems I just had to share!  If you’re a parent, you may even want to use a one or two on your little monsters. 

  Chiclets, can you spit some Mom?





Two of my personal favs:

 “What do you want me to do, jump up and down and spit Chiclets?” 

 ~ or ~

What am I supposed to do, shit some out for you?”

An example of usage:  say cousin Tracy & I wanted something unattainable at the moment — let’s use chocolate chip cookies as an example — mom would say, “Do you want me to sh!t some chocolate chip cookies out for you?”  The spitting Chiclets was randomly thrown in to conversation here and there;  I guess it’s the visual of mom jumping up and down spitting out Chiclets that used to really get us going a bit wild, then we’d get these type of comments:

“Be quiet or I’ll slap you silly!” (which would make us all googly and act even more silly.)

“Don’t get smart with me” (what ma? you want a dumb child?)

Dad’s favorite line was “do as I say, not as I do” (hey, isn’t that a bit hypocritical dad?)

This one always made me smile:

“What time is it mom?”  Mom’s reply would sometimes be:

“Half past the donkey’s ass, quarter to his balls” – Classic!

 "Mom, what time did you say it was?"

Bedtime was always a treat too, with this little nugget: “Here is the candle to light you to bed, and here comes to CHOPPER TO CHOP OFF YOUR HEAD!!!” (you have to be certain to say the chopper part in a monster-like voice to really make it work).

(Italian Lesson:  nursery rhyme = filastrocca / a little rhyme = una breve poesia)

I have to mention our silly tongue-twisters like,  The big black bug bled black blood” and “I slit a sheet, a sheet I slid, and on the slitted sheet I sit.”  Say that one (in church) five times fast kiddies!

After all the kidding was over, mom always made sure to tuck me into bed, and each night her last words to me were “sweet  dreams” (no kidding about this sentiment,  she really meant it).  I’m sure many a night things got confused in my kid-cranium and I ended up dreaming of bloody black bugs, donkeys spitting – or shitting – out Chiclets.  Or maybe just their balls,  decapitated heads rolling around slitted sheets — a dreamworld carnival of crazy.

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“Madness: True or Total Bullsh!t?”

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

I just added a bit regarding “truth or fiction” to my blog’s ABOUT page, and I thought it was a good idea to post an update here as well.   You may be wondering if this stuff REALLY happened, or if I’m just another sh!thead writing some piece of fabricated crap, only to find myself one fine day on Oprah’s couch trying to minimize the effect of a face-pummeling by Ms. O on national TV.  

Yup, everything I write is true — really happened.  Yeah, some of my “stories” may be a bit hard to relive for me, but that’s life I suppose.  You get the cherry on the Sundae some days and you get a thermometer up your ass the next.  Really though, my mom and I have a great relationship; she practically pees her pants laughing when I read some of the madness snippets to her.  Gotta love it!

I recount and write my life’s stories to the best of my acid-trip free recollection.  Most of the madness is permanently etched into my little head with a sharp ballpoint pen anyway.  Yes, I did change a few of the names  toNo Bullshit Zone, Baby! protect the guilty but, alas, their tales are true. 


So, with that said,



~ Me



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Mom sticks her head in the oven!

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Retro Range “I try to take one day at a time,  but sometimes several days attack me at once.”  
~ Jennifer Unlimited

I’ll get straight to the point of the dark side of being a young mom…my young mom.  Looking back (fondly), I now believe mom had undiagnosed issues like today’s classic panic attacks sprinkled with generalized anxiety disorder.  Maybe Mom felt a bit trapped in the reality of her world — maybe she was just a bit nuts.  She may have just craved more attention, and perhaps she relished the drama just for drama’s sake (I definitely think mom loved drama, but it was most likely a combination of all of these gems). 

A bad day for mom would usually mean the oven goes on.  You could always smell when our gas range was on, so I’d wander down to the kitchen and see what mom was cooking up for dad and me.  On my way,  I’d wonder  “will mom be baking my favorite treat today? Maybe chocolate fudgy brownies – or a creamy chocolate Betty Crocker cake? Lemon cupcakes with colorful sprinkles on top? Would I be able to lick the batter off the spoon?”.  Licking the batter – mmmmm, one of the best yet simplest pleasures life has to offer a kid.  Well, unfortunately, this was not about cakes, cupcakes or my delicious chocolately cake batter….damn!

(Italian Lesson: gas stove = cucina a gas)

No, this was all about our gas oven, a prime prop for my mother’s drama.  Mom would turn on the oven, open the door – gas aflame – that “funny” gassy scent filling up our tiny kitchen.  At times she threatened to stick her head in the oven and end it all, leaving me a motherless kid.  Sometimes she said we were ALL doomed, and our trusty little gas oven would take us all out. 

I was just a kid, so I believed her (not knowing that just lighting an oven with a working pilot light wouldn’t kill a freaking moth).  However, for some strange reason I never panicked when the range of death went on.  Yeah, I thought it was peculiar, but perhaps it was the frequency of this nut-job behavior that it became an in home show – a performance put on by a mom for her daughter.  Masterpiece Theatre in my own kitchen.  Bellissimo, Bellissimo!

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