Mother’s day. Even when my mom was still alive, I always felt like certain holidays were made up simply to sell shit. Even still, you can’t really boycott these holidays if you have any friends or loved-ones in your life without looking like a stuck-up, pretentious asshole. Even now, with my mom gone I still have other moms in my life that need to be celebrated on their special day. There’s my friends that have become moms, Ross’ mom, co-worker moms, etc. Its inevitable that you must celebrate it. Its also inevitable that the holiday will make me feel like a bag of emotional garbage. It honestly shouldn’t. Its just another day. I suppose if social media weren’t a factor, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Its really hard to log on to your Facebook and see everyone’s pictures of themselves and their moms celebrating in various ways. You can’t help but reflect on the lack of your own mother, and to think about how much you miss her. This year was no exception.
Ross had to work, as well as all of my close friends. That left me to my own devices for the day. I had no idea what would make me feel better. I walked Ham, sent texts to all of my mom-friends wishing them a happy day, then sat down on the couch to watch a Dateline mystery. It hit me then that I was pretty fucking sad. I had to get out of the house. I checked the paper to see if there was anything interesting going on. Of course there was. The CAPA Classic was in full swing. For those who don’t know, its a show where they judge and award prizes for the best Alpacas and Alpaca fleece. It was free. I guess I’ll go do that.
Although the event was free, parking at the Expo Center is not. Its a flat $8 fee to park. You could do that, or you can park your car at a park n ride, take the MAX one stop up for $2.50, and get dropped off right at the center’s doorstep. Sure, it may be cheap to care about saving $5.50. My point to you is would you rather pay $8 to see Alpaca Fest, or pay $8 to see Alpaca Fest AND have a glass of wine? See?
The MAX is interesting. I take it electively to work a lot because I a) hate to drive downtown and b) can’t afford the $12 a day parking fee at the garage near my work. I feel lucky to even have it as an option. My hometown of Fresno had one bus line that went to limited places and was an absolute dangerous chariot of shit. Seriously. You’re completely fucked without a car in Fresno. The few times I was forced to ride the bus were the most uncomfortable and scary minutes of my life. The Portland MAX is clean and safe, runs often, and goes nearly everywhere. Even the busses aren’t bad. Oh sure, you get the homeless rambling to themselves, Oogle kids yelling and stinking, ratchet kids playing their “music” on speaker for all to enjoy, creepy guys leering and sitting uncomfortably close but considering how large the city is it really isn’t that bad. I find the train oddly soothing, even though I’m claustrophobic, and find it to be a nice beginning or end to my day. I pulled into the parking lot, parked the car and waited for the train to arrive.
This day was gloomy, and broke a lovely streak of gorgeous weather we had been enjoying. I supposed it matched my mood. I sat at the train stop alone, which wasn’t that odd considering the stop I was at was the second-to last one. The Expo Center being the end of the yellow line. I wondered if anyone would even be at this alpaca thing. I mean, it was Sunday and Mother’s Day. Who’s going to the Alpaca-Fest except lonely, sad-bastards such as myself? Actually, I’m sure most sad-bastards would be at the bar today. Trust me, I considered it but knew it would only make me feel worse. In my experience, misery does not enjoy company. My train arrived, I boarded. There were only 4 other people on the train with me. We rode the short distance to the Expo Center and all got off.
The parking lot was absolutely packed. As I walked to the entrance, I noticed a lot of parents and grandparents with children coming and going. I guess little kids would like to see alpacas. As I approached I saw a massive line of people inside the lobby. Holy shit! This event is fucking popular! Then I noticed that in the main building, there was some sort of badass dinosaur thing going on. That’s what the line was for, as well as all the little kids. To the right was the alpaca show, in the smaller building. Oh. I asked about the dinosaur show. It was $10. Alpacas it is.
I walked in and I saw no-one in the lobby. I began to feel sad. This is really depressing and pathetic. To the left of the entrance was a bar. I decided to have a glass of wine first. The bar was empty, save one employee. I took my glass and sat and stared out the window. Predictably, it began to rain. ‘Tis a very bleak picture, I know. I finished my glass quickly.
Depression’s best and worst company.
When you first enter, you are greeted by vendors selling their various wares. They have these at every animal show I’ve been to, regardless of breed. Some items are for other people who breed and show alpacas such as feed, shearing tools, harnesses, etc. Some items are for fans of the animals such as t-shirts with alpacas on them and wacky mugs. These two types of merch I totally get. There was a third type of vendor there that I didn’t understand at all. There were booths of completely unrelated items such as African woven baskets, heavy farm equipment, and gifts from Peru. I perused all the booths and headed in to the main area to see what an Alpaca beauty contest looked like.
There were pen after pen of Alpacas, holding anywhere from 4 to 10 animals each. Some had curly hair like a poodle, others had long hair like dreads, others had long ear hair, and some looked like teddy bears. Most of them had little harnesses on their mouths, presumably because they spit. I don’t know anything about alpacas, but they seem like llamas and I know those fuckers spit. The walls of the pens were low, and you could look at them all face-to-face. They were all very curious about people. When you walked up to them, they would come and investigate you but did not like to be touched. They were skittish, and if you reached your hand out to pet them, they would immediately duck away. They were friendly with their owners, though. they must just need to get used to you. I walked up and down the isles. They all looked different. They would often throw themselves on the ground and roll around in their hay like a dog would. There weren’t a lot of people there. Interestingly, children seemed afraid of them. I saw more than a few little kids that were being picked up and held so that they could get a closer look at an alpaca scream and cry.
These guys were grand-prize winners. Why? I have no idea.
So alpacas make a noise. Its like when a dog whines. They seemed to make this noise when other alpacas walked by or when their owners left.
At the back of the room was the judging arena. There was actual grass laid out, with alpacas being judged. Judged for what? I’m not sure. Because they don’t like to be touched, there was the hilarious moment when the judge would have to run his hands down the alpacas to check their frames and said alpacas would spazz the fuck out as the handler tried to hold them still. I took a folding chair and watched that for a while, audibly laughing at this otherwise stoic and serious event. After judging, I walked around some more. They were pretty interesting and funny animals. I felt a little better. I had seen on the website that there were fleece awards too. The site showed pictures of piles of hair with various awards underneath them such as “best luster”. I wanted to see that. As I meandered, I noticed things were getting packed up. I looked at the time. 2:30. The event was supposed to go until 4. Well fuck you too. I was at Alpaca-Fest 2013 for all of 30 minutes.
When I say things were getting packed up, I mean it was like a tornado was coming. Alpacas were suddenly being hearded out by the dozens, folding tables getting broken down. Damn. I guess I’m done here. I was really pissed off I didn’t get to see the piles of hair with awards.
I left not feeling that cheered. I walked back to the Max station and got back on. 5 minutes later I was back at my car. I got in, and drove around in circles for about 15 minutes trying to decide what to do. I eventually found myself heading home. I went inside and put on all my Tom Jones records, one after another. My mom was a huge fan of his. When I say huge fan of his, I mean she was a member of his official fan club and had seen him live over 20 times. I grew up listening to his music so much, I know every song the man has ever recorded and all they lyrics backwards and forwards. If there was some sort of contest where you had to name that Tom Jones song, I would own that shit. We played Tom Jones at my mom’s funeral, and for 10 years after it I couldn’t hear a song of his without crying. Only recently have I been able to listen again, and remember my mom singing and dancing to his music while vacuuming like she used to when I was a kid. I sat down on the couch and cried. The next thing I knew, the needle was skipping gently on the center label of my LP and it was time to pick ross up from work.
I have a tradition I do every birthday and father’s/mother’s day in remembrance of my parents. I go to a bar and drink one of their drinks in their honor. For my dad, I like to pick a bar that looks like the one he frequented in my old neighborhood. A cozy dive filled with older regulars. The other requirement is it has to serve Kessler. Few bars do. Its during these two days a year you’ll see me drink whiskey. For mom, I choose a fancy bar. One that resembles one you would see in a Vegas Casino, which was her favorite place to escape. Here I order a Baileys, which was the only drink I ever saw her touch on the very rare occasion I ever saw her drink. After picking up Ross, we went to the fanciest bar in St. Johns. I sat and sipped my Baileys, and reflected. I thought about those things you can start forgetting about someone, if you’re not careful. I tried to remember how her laugh sounded, what her hair smelled like, and what her hands looked like. Sometimes when I do this tradition, I cry silently in the corner while I drink my drink. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I talk to the bartender about my tradition. Sometimes I do none of these things and feel nothing. After my cry on the couch, this year was the latter. I drank my drink and didn’t really feel anything.
Mom passed away in September of 2001. Even though its been 12 years, it still hurts. I suppose it always will. Sometimes attempting to pet alpacas will cheer you up, and sometimes it won’t. Sometimes being completely alone is exactly what you need, other times not. Next mother’s day I’m hoping there will be a wolf-fest or a sloth-fest in town I can go to. I think maybe either of those two things could do the trick. Maybe even a pizza-fest, or champange-fest. I mean, I do live in Portland so any of those things technically are possible. Maybe next year will be the year it finally stops hurting. Fingers crossed.
This is my mom, circa 1988. Note my rad side-pony sneaking through. She liked chain-smoking Winstons, Stephen King, slot machines, and Pepsi. She always wore just jeans and a t-shirt. When things got difficult, she would escape to Vegas. She had extreme road-rage, sometimes told inappropriate stories and was a staunch athiest. She told it like it was, and people either liked it or they didn’t. She raised me to be tough, and taught me that intelligence would be my greatest tool. We grew apart towards the end of her life. Something I deeply regret.
This was my mom’s favorite Tom Jones song. Enjoy.