From its earliest origins in Mesoamerica where the ancient Olmecs whipped up a brew of crushed cacao beans and chili’s to celebrate weddings and mourn the dead, to American G.I.’s giving out Hershey bars as an offering of compassion to war weary children, our seemingly universal love for chocolate has crossed cultural divides and brought people together. With chocolate’s rare unifying ability in mind, it was only fitting that the incredible chocolate emporium, Chocopologie of New Haven would be the setting that brought together the cast for of the Real Life Survival Guide. While sweet, chocolate confections may be able to fill a room, once there, it is the connections we make with each other and our choices that affect our lives. Whether it’s the difficulties that can go along with being a step-parent or the ageless problem of finding someone worth dating, life will always try to hide the disgusting orange creams in our collective chocolate boxes. From Step-parents to crazy stalkers, non-stop talkers and job leaving walkers, this expert panel puts a little map in life’s Whitman’s Sampler and leads you to peanut cluster nirvana. So grab a Mounds or and Almond Joy and listen to Episode 48, because sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you’re just stalked by one.
First out of the box was Susan Campbell’s story of suddenly being thrust into the role of Step-grandmother when her son married a woman with five children. Susan was naturally worried for her son taking on the instant and immense responsibility of raising five step-children but she also feared that she would become the “mean” step-grandmother. Bruce spoke of how he is a step parent and how he called his step- grandfather “Gaa-poo.”. Now I never met my grandparents; they had all passed before I was born so when I was a child I wanted grandparents so badly that I would go up to random old women, take them by the hand, look up at them and say, “Would you please be my grandmother?” Then they would always say the same thing, “I’m sorry little boy but I can’t, I already have grandchildren of my own.” I would start crying, “If you can’t be my grandmother, can you at least give me five dollars?” Then I would cry very loudly until they paid up. The ol’ Gaa-poo ska-doo is what us grifters called it. It was quite the lucrative scam, paid for my first big wheel.
Next up was Danyel’s disturbing tale of a man she met who can best be described as a stalker. After giving someone her phone number she was immediately inundated with dozens of texts and messages that continued even after she made him aware of her displeasure. Danyel admitted that she has a hard time saying no to people and that she doesn’t want to be mean or hurt anyone’s feelings which led to Jane Tamarkin’s point that if you don’t clearly communicate what you do and do not want, it can only lead to bad things; like marriage. Susan agreed and said she only married her first husband because, “She didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” Duo offered his son as a bodyguard and Harlan Brothers mentioned that women should trust themselves and just say, “No, you are not entitled to my number.” As a brother of four sisters I was always very concerned about the type of men they came in contact with which is why I devised a questionnaire that every single woman should use to weed out unsuitable suitors.
1) Have you ever run a motel while dressed up like your dead mother?
2) Have you ever boiled anyone’s pet rabbit?
3) How many copies of Catcher in the Rye do you own?
4) Do you have an, “I’d rather be stalking” bumper sticker on your car?
If the answer to any of these is “Yes” and he admits to owning more than 5 copies of Catcher in the Rye, do not give him your phone number. But, he might post some interesting pictures so if you want to Facebook him, that’s up to you.
After the tension of reliving a stalker nightmare the group needed a break and discussed what they do with their downtime. Jane goes shopping, Harlan does yoga and Danyel babysits. Susan mentioned that she had just left her job as an award winning Journalist at the Hartford Courant and would soon have more downtime than she knows what to do with, which led to the question, “When is it time to leave?” How do you know when to call it quits with a job or a career? Danyel said, “It’s when you stop learning…and there’s nothing new.” Susan knew it was time to go when she felt she was becoming “That hateful, dried up, old husk of a journalist sitting in the corner yelling at people.” Jane and Bruce spoke of how leaving a job can be both a liberating and a terrifying experience. I knew it was time to leave my last job on the first day when my alarm clock went off at 5:30 a.m.
From walking away to hanging up, the group then gave up all of their secrets to ending long phone conversations. Jane Tamarkin said that she crinkles wax paper on the receiver to simulate a bad connection. Duo does the “WASP 2 step” where he lavishes praise on the caller and then quickly drops them. “So wonderful to hear your voice, it was so great of you to call, can’t wait to see you. Bye!” Click. Danyel does what I call, “The Blackout deluxe.” She simply hangs up on you mid conversation and then texts you to apologize how she lost connection and that she’ll call you later. This is an ingenious plan but just like teaching a chimpanzee to read will eventually bring about the planet of the apes, the “blackout deluxe” will come back like a simian boomerang and soon Danyel will be receiving a text, not from a stalker but from a friend who suddenly dropped their connection and is texting to let her know that she’ll get a call back “real soon.” Real Life Survival dictates that turnabout is fair play.
In the end, you can only hope to find a few good friends who look past your hang ups, and through all the static and white noise that make up modern life, still understand you clearly. My friends and family all know me well and they all know what I want out of life. It’s simple, I want a grandmother. Short of that, I want five dollars.
Gerry McGuire took his love of history, trivia, comedy, literature, music and film and turned himself into a pop culture quoting, chat machine. He is like Cliff Claven from Cheers if Cliff Claven was stunningly handsome, awesomely funny and unbelievably humble. He fancies himself what the French would describe as a raconteur or what Americans call, a loud mouth. Gerry writes for Milford Living Magazine, sings in the Celtic rock band The Butcher Boys and is a stay at home dad.