SOME PEOPLE PROBABLY look at Paul Westerberg’s face on the cover of the Replacements album Don’t Tell A Soul and feel warm, flannel-like waves of nostalgia wash over their bodies; others may merely be reminded of an uneventful stint during the first Gulf War. Me, I look into Paul’s droopy visage and am instantly reminded of a kinky weekend getaway gone awry, a weekend that included embarrassing underwear, imitation crabmeat and Jimmy Carter.
My girlfriend and I had a tradition of going on little vacations every New Year’s Eve. For some reason, in 2004 we had scant time to plan anything. I suggested just staying home, but Francesca would not have it. This was tradition. Tradition was important. Kinky hotel sex, the kind where you don’t have to respect the furniture or appliances around you, was also important. I couldn’t argue with that last point. Thus, we grabbed the only vacation available: two days at a luxury golf resort on the edge of Orlando, 40 minutes from our house.
Fran and I got to the palatial resort and immediately tore into each other. There was a hot tub next to the bed and we utilized it in a variety of ways. It seemed like hours of delightful carnal pleasure lay before us. Then, unexpectedly, Fran attempted to up the kink factor by presenting me with a handful of early birthday gifts.
Exhibit A: a pair of men’s briefs in a black-and-white checker pattern with neon green trim around the waistband and leg holes. These unmentionables were to be my “sexy undies.” They could have been, had they not been so garishly designed and two sizes too small. I tried them on and felt a potent mixture of hilarity and shame. Fran changed into similarly designed lingerie, and there we were, two ska fans ready to fuck on Mars.
The second item introduced into the proceedings was a 1976 issue of Playboy. Politics junkies will remember this issue for its interview with then-presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. Carter was something of an in-joke between Francesca and I; several months before, we had “ironically” visited the man’s hometown of Plains, Ga. It was all fine and dandy to crack malaise jokes outside the bedroom, but now Francesca insisted on dragging Mr. Peanut into our sex life? That seemed to cross some unspoken boundary.
Shortly after this, I was presented with my very own copy of Don’t Tell A Soul, which became the unwitting soundtrack to this increasingly bizarre weekend. Paul’s expression on the cover mirrored my innermost feelings at that very moment.
Well, at least Francesca and I were getting along, right? At least there were no apocalyptic, potentially relationshipending arguments rearing their ugly heads, right? Pffft. Here is something people said about my ex-girlfriend: If you like her mood, wait 10 minutes. It’ll change, usually without reason or warning.
Actually, there was a reason this night. The smell of the imitation crabmeat in my dinner hoagie from Subway unwittingly became Fran’s Kryptonite; she started haranguing me about “the stink” the second I peeled back the wrapper on this delectable sandwich. Our tiff quickly escalated to silent treatment levels of bitterness and disgust, and we ended up ringing in the New Year in separate rooms, still fuming over my meal selection.
Relations were frosty through the next morning. Although I wasn’t surprised at Francesca’s attitude, this was without question the stupidest event to plant the seed of break-up in my head. As I loaded our bags into the trunk of my car, I considered the pros and cons of cutting Franny loose. This spunky Native American girl had captured my heart two years earlier with beaming smiles, gorgeous long black hair and sweaters that barely covered her perky little chest. I wanted in, and somehow I bluffed my way past the door.
Little did I know a stockpile of emotional radium rested just beneath Fran’s surface. Anything could set her off: groups of small children (“They’re judging me!”), something someone said to her decades ago… then there was that week we broke up over the price of turkey legs at the county fair (I ended up throwing that damn turkey on her parents’ front lawn). Now, crab meat? You’re gonna let some processed Charlie Tuna shit do us in?
Just as my rage began bubbling, I noticed our car had a flat tire. My body heaved involuntarily as I grabbed the can of Fix-A-Flat from the backseat and violently attempted to jab the nozzle into the deflated rubber. Unable to focus because of that godforsaken hoagie, I misconnected and shot industrial solvent directly into my eyes. There was no pain, but everything became very cloudy. To prove a point, I attempted to drive home without first flushing my ocular cavity. I was furious, but I was in control.
A few miles down the highway it dawned on me there might be airplane glue drying on my eyelids, so I reached behind my seat into my bag to fetch my eye drops. I was careful not to give Francesca the pleasure of knowing of my weakened state; she had already seated herself in the car when this accident happened. Upon freeing the bottle, I flipped the cap off and squirted the cold saline directly into my face while keeping a firm gaze on the road. Somehow, I did not barrel over the I-4 divider and pilot us into oncoming traffic. Fran stared at me coldly as I acted out what probably looked like a Will Ferrell skit.
Fran, the underpants and Don’t Tell A Soul all exited my life years ago. I still have that issue of Playboy, though, because nothing can ever really taint the pages that printed President Carter’s famous admission of hellish lust within his heart. You have to wonder if Jimmy ever put on checkerboard underpants just to please that foxy and insatiable Rosalyn.