Thursday, August 28, 2008

Surviving Cleveland Style

Erin's note: the following was originally intended to be a "Rainy Day Woman" entry--at least in some form, but I have posted this version here as the future of my column is now uncertain. If you have something to say about that, please email Cleveland Scene Editor Frank Lewis at

I was languid on the couch in the 90-degree heat, blinking at the television and sweating as copiously as my glass of iced whiskey and soda. The images on the box were little more than moving lights, the sound was an aural version of white noise.

" … for the Survivor casting call from 4 to 8 p.m. … "

I sighed and said absentmindedly, "I oughtta go to that," but didn't think much more about it. My dutiful husband, however, noted the time and locale of the blessed event and left the memo on the kitchen counter, making it unavoidable for the remainder of the night as well as the next couple of days. The more accustomed I became to the note, so it was for the idea of prancing around half naked in the jungle before all the world. I could take on those skinny little Survivor chicks. I'm a fleshed-out woman, for pity's sake. Why, one of those buff things they wear as a whole dress would barely cover one of my boobs. They'd be terrified of me.

I went online and downloaded the 19-page application. How's your swimming and are you married and what will you bring to the table? That sort of stuff. They asked me to describe my perfect day. I said it would include inhaling, exhaling, sex with my husband, a cold meatloaf sandwich and time with my kid. What public office would I like to hold and why? I said President of the United States because I could ensure a citizen's right to bear arms while mandating a $10,000 tax on every bullet. Marital aids, conversely, would be tax-free. The questions went on and on.

I got to the casting site (A car dealership in Brunswick) an hour and a half early. The unruly crowd I expected was not there. I navigated easily through the parking lot and headed to the giant inflatable blue devil and white tent near the front. There were about twenty people inside and a few lounging on the hot asphalt around it. Save the one guy in the red, white and blue Uncle Sam suit, the crowd was completely ordinary--as if someone took a random sampling of people exiting Home Depot on a Saturday afternoon and dropped them here.

"Survivors ready?" I boomed and they all looked at me with varying degrees of confusion, amusement, respect and disdain. I started snapping pictures. And so the competition began.

"You're number 24," said a perky twentysomething as she handed me a slip indicating as much. "It's just an unofficial numbering thing I'm doing." She added that she was also an applicant and had been there since 7:30 a.m. We started chatting and I asked her about one of the questions on the application. "What were your three nonessential items?"

"Duct tape, my stuffed gorilla, and a journal," she said.

Mine were pen, paper and insect repellant; although now I wish I'd listed waterproof poncho and machete for my first two items. "The duct tape was smart," I said.

"I use it to make stuff," she said and showed me her duct tape wallet.

"Nice," I said.

People smoked, talked on their cell phones and drank cold sodas from their coolers. One group ordered a pizza from the Pizza Hut across the street. It was 87 degrees beneath a relentless sun.

The crowd had grown to about 60 when the CBS people arrived. I was stunned when everyone lined up politely according to their unofficial number slips. We signed in and got our marching orders: we would each have two minutes in front of a camera, completely unscripted. "Tell a story," advised one CBS staffer. "Let your personality show through."

One man in a bucket hat and sunglasses introduced himself as Indiana Jones. A mother/daughter team did a loud clapping cheer routine. Many gave just the facts: name, locale, family details, etc.

I told the milk floatie story: Years ago, I visited an older family friend and he served me a glass of beer. As I drank it, a dried circle of milk on the bottom of the glass became apparent. I didn't want to embarrass my host, so I said nothing of the floatie, which became more and more detached each time I tipped the glass. Eventually, it disconnected all together and came rushing at me, a gelatinous white booger. I swallowed it wordlessly.

But will my milk floatie story steer my fate towards brushing up against the likes of Richard Hatch's pecker, falling into a fire and finding Jesus, or ending up on YouTube climbing a tree in my underwear?

The call back date was designated as "sometime in August." Hence, unless my phone ring-a-ding-dingies in the next couple of days, I'll have been effectively voted off the island before I even got there.

So be it. In the end, The Rainy Day Woman and I will find a way to survive one way or another. As always, thanks for reading.

Thank you so, so much for reading.


Geoff Schutt said...

Erin -- as we both know, good writing always finds a way to survive. If not in one venue, there will be another. The words do matter. The words WILL prevail. Long live the words!
-- from "This Side of Paradise," where we're already creating the signs: "Words Equal Life."

Alice said...

Shut the fuck up!! So hope you get casted!!!


the future of your column is "uncertain"? sons of bitches!!!!

i know you'll survive, and maybe even find greener pastures... but i think it's worth emailing the editor to let him know that any cleveland free weekly paper needs EOB!

Paul said...

Consider Frank emailed. I hope to see you in a future edition, and soon - Scene would suck without you!

Ms Baroque said...

Hey Erin, one of my kids made a duct tape wallet... it was... nice. And now I find that you, too, have seen one! I thought he was the only one.

Here's to you, your column, your column's column, and all the rest of it!


DogsDontPurr said...

Wow. You totally rock my socks off!!!

Anonymous said...

"...nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile. I couldn't have done it otherwise. Gone on, I mean. I could not have gone through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence."

Samuel Beckett


Anonymous said...

"...nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile. I couldn't have done it otherwise. Gone on, I mean. I could not have gone through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence."

Samuel Beckett


philbilly said...

Survivor,bleh. Howbouta SurvivorCleveland show about livin in th rustbelt w/thugs attached. need a bank? fyou. needa lawyer? fyou. needa doctor? fyou. needa break? fyou. needa car w/ball joints? fyou.needa road that's paved(NOACtA)? fyou. needa political leader? fyou. needa good landlord? fyou. needa cop? fyou. needa councilman? christ its like a swarm of mosquitos.
I swear to God the 7 minutes of life I'll never get back watching these narcissitic backstabbing phony candyasses makes me sick, worse than Kongress on CNN. Me and my CLE compatriots'd kick their self absorbed asses in a newyork minute. And we're the nice guys.

Best duct tape in the world, Manco,Avon, Ohio, 200mph tape we call it in my world. God I love this town.

philbilly said...

Erin, start your own paper, we need it. You got skills.

"Eventually, it disconnected all together and came rushing at me, a gelatinous white booger. I swallowed it wordlessly."

That's grace and compassion. Which is rare, in the CLE.

Funny as hell, too, bachelors know this happens cuz we're so f'in lazy, and no one around to slap us.

Ever just rinse a dish in water after yer animals licked it? Very energy efficient.

Anonymous said...

aww another casting post! i wish i had your entertaining story to tell during my audition. :) don't ya know, showing up in a bra and panties would have secured your place on the island?? or maybe not.

p.s. i'm writing to Frank Lewis.

deangc said...


1. You would be awesome on Survivor. 2. Your luxury item would have to be your cheap sunglasses.
3. Or a vibe.
4. I don't imagine you could take a goat as a luxury item?
5. Rainy Day Woman, in some form, will survive.

Amy L. Hanna said...

Sheese! Think I'd rather stay put with the beer!