For my Dad’s birthday we drive to the city. These trips to the city are marked by the ritual of eating at a specific Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown followed by the journey to the Times Square TKTS booth to score cheap tickets to a Broadway show.
When it’s my Dad’s birthday he continually says things like, “I noticed I haven’t received anything from you yet. Are my presents in your bag? Don’t worry; I’ll be here all day.” When it was my birthday in April, he gave me a mostly-eaten box of Malomars and said, “I saved these for you. Cuz that’s the kind of guy I am.”
When we arrive at the Vietnamese restaurant just off Canal Street, we are, as usual, the only Caucasians in the joint. My Dad orders for everybody.
“I didn’t get to order,” I pipe in.
“Don’t worry, I’ll give you some of my food,” he says.
My mother, who’s dressed to the nines, tries as usual to keep the peace by secretly placing her finger to her lips.
“I’m looking forward to your rent check,” my Dad says. When he speaks, he doesn’t like to stop. It doesn’t matter what he’s saying or how it affects people, he’s the funniest person he knows. “Don’t worry; you can have some of my rice.” He starts laughing. My mother can’t help but start laughing, too. I decide, since it’s his birthday, I’ll laugh too. As I grow older and mysteriously more compassionate, I don’t need to be right or justified anymore. I’d rather just let him think he’s funny. Even at my expense.
“Here, Linda, put this in your pocketbook, quick,” he motions to my mother with the Hoisin sauce.
“The guy at the front is watching you,” she retorts under her breath.
“No, he’s not. I looked.”
She quickly puts it in her bag. “Why don’t you wait til the end when we’re leaving?”
“I don’t want to wait. I need some birthday presents since I didn’t get any from my family.”
I look down at the tablecloth and try to pretend that no one in this whole place is watching.
I really love the summer rolls in this place. I’m biting into the third one when my Dad reminds me that I’ve eaten my quota. At the end, I try to urge them to order dessert, because I want to make the leap of kindness and have everyone sing Happy Birthday to my Dad, but he doesn’t believe in spending the money for dessert, so, so much for that.
They go off to try to find tickets for a show, and I walk around Chinatown and buy a t-shirt for the actor playing my Dad in the web series. It says, “THE MAN” with an arrow point up, and “THE LEGEND,” with an arrow pointing down.
My mom calls me on my cell to say that my father opted for cheap tickets to some unknown’s one-man show, and I tell them I’ll see them in a couple of days. I go uptown to my old apartment where my ex-roommate, is watching Vito. We are shooting the fundraising video for the web series the next day.
I am in my old bedroom, displaying my spoils of the day – my “Dad’s” t-shirts which also includes one that says “LESBIAN. Stuck in a man’s body,” and animal-print clothes for the actress playing my mom.
At the end of the evening, I call my Dad on the cell phone to say thanks for the summer rolls and happy birthday again. He asks me if I found a job yet. I tell him I applied at McDonald’s. He says, “Good, then you can afford my gift.”
Every interchange with him is awkward. Every single one. But, at least we’re not fighting.
The next day comes and we shoot the video which is an excerpt of the pilot for the “My Parents Are Crazier than Yours” web series. It goes really well!!! You’ll see it soon.
Even Vito turns in a stellar performance as my co-star.
I’m excited for what’s to come. But, I also feel guilty. What am I doing, putting my parents’ craziness out there on screen? What kind of daughter am I? One who’s trying to get the hell out of suburbia and back into my own apartment in the city – by hook or by crook.
As I’ve told you before, I’ve changed every single one of the names in this blog. Because even though they’re kind of nuts and do a lot of illegal and embarrassing sh*t, they’re still my parents. They gave me life and now they’ve given me a place to stay once again. But, I can’t help but think I was born to them to write about them. This is the dilemma I live with.
After the crew goes home, I go out with my old NYC friends to a Pulsd event; a night with NY Firemen. By the way, for those of you who live in NY, www.pulsd.com is a must subscription. They’ve got their finger on awesome events every single day. Not to mention my awesome event was making out with a chubby 5’4” fireman named Scotty by the DJ booth. He wasn’t what I pictured when I bought my ticket for the hot firemen event, but he was the only one who talked to me. Sometimes action is action – which stems from my grandmother’s words, “Free food is free food.”