Banana Splits on New Year’s Eve (1976)

banana_split

New Year’s Eve: a raucous celebration with drinks and delights for everyone—except me. I, forever the baby, old enough to want for the midnight merriment; young enough to be excluded from what ‘the big kids’ and my parents enjoyed.

But 1976 changed Everything. Jimmy Carter, 52, poised to pull The White House out of Republican scandal; I, 10, finally allowed to stay up and greet the new year.

Still a month away from the Blizzard of ‘77 that would incapacitate Western NY, the gray, frigid Eve perpetuated a gray, frigid December. The twelve-degree outdoor temperature coaxed me into my new Christmas snowsuit, a down-stuffed, full-body outfit, to hike with my older brother and sister to our neighborhood supermarket. I didn’t care about the cold. Midnight loomed large—and we had a rare $5 bill from our unemployed dad. “Treat yourselves,” he invited, handing my brother the money as he and Mom left to play a piano-and-vocalist gig they’d been lucky enough to book.

Five dollars! In the Freezer aisle, we negotiated with the fervor of a United Nations debate; my tiny vote for Spanish peanuts nearly lost amidst my older siblings’ insistent selections: the cubed carton of Sealtest Neapolitan; the jet-black can of Hershey’s syrup; the tall canister of spray crème; the brown ooze of Smucker’s caramel; the stemmed cherries suspended in red fluid; the sticky jar of wet walnuts; the blonde trio of bananas.

Back home, we pulled out the cut-glass, canoe-shaped bowls and began scooping, doling, slicing, dribbling. Transporting our creamy treasure to the family room, we fought over TV trays and couch space.

Finally settled in front of Dick Clark, I spooned in mouthful after mouthful of the banana-laced bounty, waiting for the glittery ball to drop, marveling at the privilege of grown-ups.

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Gregory Gerard is author of In Jupiter’s Shadow and The Martini Chronicles, and serves as editor for the
net’s newest narrative nonfiction journal, The Big Brick Review. For more, visit www.gregorygerard.net.

My parents drank coffee. When I was really young, from the chug-glump-chug-glump of the percolator. In the eighties, that graduated to the drip-hiss-drip-hiss of Mr. Coffee.

My brothers and sisters drink coffee. You couldn’t keep the glass urns full enough for my brother Paul when he worked the counter at my father’s store. If the cup languished too long, he’d just pop it into the micro and, 45 seconds later, continue the ritual.

My husband drinks coffee. He advanced the system, introducing me to Krupps and steam-frothers and whole beans.

Through it all, I resisted. I was ‘The Baby’, The Caboose.’ Coffee was for grownups. And, somewhere along the way, I read that it increased your blood pressure.

So here I am at 47, during one of the longest, grayest, snowiest, arctic-est winters in history for ALL of us. Which brings me to my discovery.

About a month ago, my husband brought home a new flavored bean: Chocolate Rum. They smelled damn good. Damn. Good.

I don’t know what made me do it.

It could have been that I was alone in the house.

Or that I am middle-aged and feel my dreams drifting, floating, threatening to break away and soar beyond my grasp.

Or that I was just cold and it was hot.

Whatever the reason, I found some of that chocolate rum coffee in the carafe. He’d left it there, my husband, filling his ‘to-go’ mug as full as it would go and trotting off to work.

I sniffed it.

I poured the tiniest bit in a mug and tasted it black. I’d always heard, if you’re gonna drink coffee, drink it black.

It was warm.

It was good.

I filled the mug and discovered caffeine.

* * *

Flash forward the month. I’ve been off-again, on-again with this whole coffee culture. On one hand, it feels great to ‘belong’ to this thing that everybody else seems to belong to. And I did some Internet research; looks like coffee can help with memory, Alzheimer’s, prostate cancer, and more.

On the other hand, if I drink it on an empty stomach, I feel jittery and my thoughts start firing in all directions. I feel like I can write the bestseller, sing the Grammy-winner, and work out until I’m as skinny as I long to be — all before the close of day. And, if I drink two or more cups, I notice a big crash afterwards — crankiness ensues.

So I ask — at 47 — is this new discovery a coup or a curse?

The jury’s still out for this former Catholic schoolboy.

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The Big Pencil Awards 2013

Posted: November 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I am very honored to be one of the recipients of this year’s Big Pencil Award this evening from Writers & Books.

Enjoyed meeting lots of literary folks, including fellow McQuaidian David Schickler!

http://www.wab.org/event/the-big-pencil-awards-night-2013/

Writers & Books November 16, 2013

Writers & Books November 16, 2013

CAMP’S INVERSION
by Gregory Gerard

Camp stood his ground, assessing the damage. Most of the bistro was intact; in fact, the only evidence of danger was the man-sized hole in the wall, blackened at the edges. A brick wall, Camp reminded himself.
He glanced at the tourists, trapped in the corner, too frightened even to snap a picture with one of the cameras that hung around each of their necks. They didn’t appear to be hurt.
Camp had arrived in time.
His stance relaxed ever-so-slightly beneath the hunter-green muscle suit he’d adopted for his work. Father G.’s rotund housekeeper, Mrs. Schultz, had helped him pick out the material—and she’d used her ancient Sears sewing machine to fit the costume to his broad-shouldered frame.
A colorful design covered the chest; those who got close enough to Camp’s lithe form could see the many tiny images woven into the fabric. The mosaic that decorated his pecs was formed from more than fifty movie posters: some gay favorites, like Some Like It Hot and Tootsie; some gay-themed, like Big Eden and Patrick, Age 1.5. At the center was his number one, all-time favorite: The Sound of Music. Camp loved movies and he’d decided to theme his ‘super persona’ around his beloved pastime.
On the surface, his tousled, boyish locks and scuffed uniform suggested he was unprepared for action. In fact, he’d already spent much of the day sorting out a teen gang war on the city’s north side. But the surface appearance was just that: surface. Closer inspection of his cobalt eyes—the depths that reflect character—revealed the burning passion of a super hero. ‘Super-queero,’ as he sometimes joked on the nights he and Father G. shared a beer.
Camp returned his attention to the grinning villain in the sleek gray costume standing between him and the restaurant patrons. He returned the smile, while his mathematical mind calculated the space between them.
“I’m so happy you’re happy,” he said, doing his best Bette Davis, living up to the reputation he’d been named for. Being a gay superhero for almost four years, he’d learned early on that campy banter was a requirement for any entanglement with a super criminal.
Delivering diva-worthy sarcasm seemed to put the bad guys off their guard. That alone was worth being a little more flamboyant than he might be otherwise. And, besides, he was gay, for God’s sake. Sarcastic humor was part of the proverbial package, nestled right in there between the disco CDs, Broadway tickets, and Grey Goose Citron.
GrayMatter laughed, a sour, throaty sound that echoed of darkened alleyways and screaming victims. “Getting rid of twinks like you always makes me happy,” he spat out, leaning forward and touching his bald right temple. A small cloud of energy coalesced in mid-air between them, oscillating frenetically, its pulsing lights reflecting off the villain’s steely eyes.
The three guys hiding behind the bar felt the heat in the room rise. The two ladies hiding in the men’s restroom (it had been the closest place to run when GrayMatter had exploded through the bistro wall) heard a crackling buzz like a downed electrical line.
“Get ready for a bumpy ride, Camp.” GrayMatter touched his forehead again. The cloud shot forward.
Camp stared into the space between them and concentrated.
The energy ball slowed. It shimmered and spun as it paused in flight. Beads of sweat dampened the superhero’s bangs. His hand reflexively massaged his stomach.
GrayMatter’s eyes blackened.
The energy ball wobbled uncertainly. Camp’s whole body clenched tight, his muscles bulging. He brought his right foot forward, planting it firmly on the cafe’s smooth hardwoods, as if in defiance of the advancing threat.
The energy ball came to a complete stop for a full five seconds—scorching the ceiling above—then, with purpose, abruptly reversed direction.
The villain’s head dipped forward in futility. He managed a guttural howl as crackling light enveloped him. Camp watched the pulsing glow rise to a blinding flash.
It was over in an instant. GrayMatter slumped to the floor, still breathing, but unconscious—and a little charred.
“And, for the record, loser, it’s a bumpy ‘night’…not ‘ride.’ If you’re gonna quote All About Eve, get it right for God’s sake,” the superhero said, taking a moment to secure GrayMatter’s hands behind his back.
Camp lifted his head toward the tourists. “You folks okay?”
They nodded.
“Great.” He waved his hand around. “Now don’t think this is what our city is all about, okay? The Central Museum is really cool—and the zoo is worth spending a whole day at!”
They nodded again. Cameras began to click and flash.
Camp turned to a waiter, who’d risen from behind the safety of the long wooden bar. “Call 911, okay? They’ll know what to do with this guy.”
The waiter gave a thumbs-up. Satisfied that danger had passed, Camp strode out the twin glass doors.
Nobody got in his way.

THE FULL STORY OF CAMP’S INVERSION PUBLISHED IN THE UPCOMING ANTHOLOGY IMAGEOUT OUTWRITE 2013: I DO!

Gregory Gerard is honored to receive the Golden Goose award from The Grimm Report today. A fantastically clever and humorous blog. The Brothers Grimm got nothin’ on Eric Wilder! 

Sunday, January 03, 2010 

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 36 – Vision
Current mood: chill
Category: Life

Okay, I’m fourteen and thinking that this ‘masturbation-will-make-you-go-blind’ thing might be the reason I have to wear the proverbial coke-bottle glasses now. But wearing glasses, I decide, isn’t too high a price.

I’ve been a mystery, comic book, and TV fan since I was like two, which means I love Nancy Drew and Captain Archer and Superman and Wonder Woman and all the other icons who put their lives on the line for truth, justice, and the American way. Since it’s snowing like crazy outside and the rest of my family is trapped at my Aunt Celina’s (I faked a stomach ache so I could stay home) I decide to spend the day making up my own hero, somebody who can really cut it in a new decade.

I start typing, burning through the page after page on my computer screen until it’s late afternoon. A dark hero develops, a teenage boy whose superpower is so dorky, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s supposed to do with his life. His skill? The kid can make bad smells good.

I’m just launching into the big caper where he’s fighting his town’s most hated supervillan, Gas-O-Matic, when the loudest rumbling I’ve ever heard in my life begins. The whole house shakes for several minutes. Seconds later, my computer screen blanks out. Dead. Along with the TV, furnace, and lava lamp. Without the lights, it’s much darker in the room than it should be for two-thirty.

“No fucking way!” I scream, thinking about the ice-packed mountain that just happens to butt up against the back of our house. When I open the mudroom door to check the circuit breakers, I am greeted by a wall of snow.

“Cooper!” I yell, calling my beloved spitz husky to my side. At the same time, I work to close the door before too much snow tumbles further into our house. Cooper bounds down the hallway and shoves his front paws against the door. It clicks shut. “WTF, huh Boy?” I say. He barks his agreement.

We stumble through the darkness up the stairs to the second floor. I grab my high-powered X-Files flashlight (my dad ordered it special from the Internet after I made a fuss about how cool Mulder and Scully’s flashlights were) from my bedroom and turn the beam toward the window, trying to look out. Hard-packed snow, all the way up to the top of the frame, looks in.

“OMG!” I holler. “Coop, we’re freakin’ buried alive!” Cooper and I race up the attic steps to the third floor. As I was afraid, the windows are dark. We’re completely covered.

“What are we gonna do?” I ask him, starting to feel the fear that makes your balls crawl further into your crotch than seems healthy. Our house is far away from the neighbors, so they won’t be any help. Our phone is IP, so it doesn’t work when there’s no power. My parents and little brother aren’t due home from Aunt Celina’s until (at least) ten. Maybe later – if Aunt Celina makes her trademark “indigestible pizza sauce” and they have to spend some time in the rest area on the interstate.

All of which will be too late for me. If we’re truly buried under snow, I’m thinking oxygen is now my and Cooper’s greatest concern. “Damn global warming!” I yell to no one and slide open the attic window. Cooper and I begin to dig.

Three hours later, we’ve made some progress in an upwards direction, but no light. No air. My head starts to feel woozy. My cuticles are cracked around the knuckles. The house is as cold inside as outside. I start getting that warm feeling they describe you’ll get when you freeze to death. The end is coming quicker than I expected.

Easing back from digging, I think that maybe it’s best this way. It’s been a damn cold winter and they just took Dollhouse off the air. “What’s the point?” I mutter to Coop, who’s now lying by my side, looking equally exhausted.

But then I think of Buffy and Jupiter Jones and all the kids with a vision to make the world a better place. Teen Titans. Clay Aiken. The Balloon Boy. I can’t give up now.

Cooper nudges me with his snout and barks a Lassie life-is-really-worth-living bark. I rouse from my snoozy, oxygen-deprived slow freeze to make one last effort. I think of all the heroes I’ve known. If they were me, what would they do? Diana Price would probably just punch her way through the snow. The Hardy Boys might use some chemistry knowledge to melt their way out…only to discover that Aunt Gertrude has made them a hearty meal of beef stew, candied potatoes, and apple pie as reward.

Mulder and Scully would…”I’ve got it!” I scream at Coop. Pulling off my spectacles, I shine my super-powered X-files flashlight through the thick lenses. Twin beams shoot out at the snow pack, burning their way through the frozen threat. The attic becomes thick with steam as oxygen deprivation gives me giddy hallucinations. I giggle uncontrollably.

The flashlight/glasses combo does the trick; a now-cavernous tunnel breaks up through the snow to reveal the last light of day – and precious fresh air. Cooper and I gulp breath after breath as we lay on the now-steamy attic floor.

“Thank God for masturbation,” I gasp out to Coop. He barks in agreement. 

 

For FUN, I put my stuff at www.GregoryGerard.net.
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at www.JupitersShadow.com.
I invite you to visit my stuff.

 

  
   

   

  

   

        

   

   

Currently listening:
    The Doors
    By The Doors
    Release date: 2007-03-27

   

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 35 – Road Trip
Current mood:road trippy
Category: Life

Okay, I’m thirty-six and thinking that lay off doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds. After all, nine percent of all Americans are in the same boat…and now I can have a cosmopolitan at noon. And I have more time to promote my new memoir, In Jupiter’s Shadow. I just overnighted a galley copy to FOX news yesterday, figuring stirring up a little liberal memoir controversy might give them something else to trash besides President Obama.

Instead of a mixing my favorite fruity drink, I throw a weekend pack and my first print run of books into the Honda and speed south. Cooper, my trusty spitz-husky, joins me for the ride. “Maybe we can find someplace to do a reading in Florida,” I tell him. He licks my face in response.

Sleeping overnight in one of those highway rest areas (to keep my laid-off expenses to a minimum), I wake in the a.m. to view the sun creeping over the edge of the rest-area building. “Time to get up, Boy,” I poke Cooper.

I think if I had awaked just 15 or so minutes earlier, you know, like 6:10, or even 6:15, I might have been able to avoid the whole thing. Cooper and I would have toileted and tramped on south at 70+ mph. Maybe to Myrtle Beach, and homemade fudge at The Island Fudge Shoppe. Maybe to New Orleans, and a hurricane drink at Pat O’Brien’s.

But no, I have to wake up at 6:30.

As I reach for the car door handle, in the rear view mirror, I see a tractor trailer bearing down on my teensy Honda and my 50 remaining copies of In Jupiter’s Shadow. I make out the banner across the top of the cab: FOX NEWS CRACKDOWN.  Damn that GPS I installed last month.

“Cooper, let’s GO!” I shriek, grabbing at my dog’s mane, diving out of the vehicle into the damp weeds next to the Interstate. Cooper, half awake, tumbles along with me. We’re about eight feet from my car when a terrific crash splits the morning air. The tractor trailer crunches over my little vehicle like a train smooshing pennies on a railroad track. Glass and metal peck the ground around us as spare copies of my book, shredded to a fine pulp by the impact, rain like confetti throughout the entire rest area.

The tractor trailer driver slows, waves, blasts the horn twice, then continues back toward the highway. 

Now I am not just perturbed. I am not just angry. I am furious! Furious for all of it: the endless news cycles about Health Care Death Clauses. The scrolling banners about Government Stimulus Overspending. And now, my shredded Catholic, it’s-okay-to-be-yourself-even-if-you’re-gay, memoir.

I leap to my feet. “AHHHHH” I scream into the morning air, already running to catch the rapidly accelerating truck, Cooper close behind. With a leap worthy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I land on the rear ladder, climbing onto the roof. I run to the front and, twisting the FOX NEWS CRACKDOWN banner off the cab, I use it as a springboard to rocket myself through the open rider’s window.

“Did you even READ my book?” I hurl at the trucker, pummeling his gut and opening his door simultaneously. He’s out and in the dirt before I can say “conservative bias.” I grab the wheel and slow the truck slightly, just long enough for Cooper to leap up into the cab.

“I hope FOX provides good healthcare benefits!” I shout to the trucker, as Cooper and I speed back up and head to the publisher for more book copies.
 

For FUN, I put my stuff at www.GregoryGerard.net.
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at www.JupitersShadow.com.
I invite you to visit my stuff.