A friend will let you stand under her umbrella when it’s raining but a true friend will take yours, run away, and yell, “Run, Forest, run!
So as promised I am going to tell you the slightly PG version of my friendship with the girl I call PoPo. Her real name is Jennifer Cindy (Vickers) Ross and I know I will struggle with some of the memories and she will read this and correct me where I am wrong. Truth is I am so happy that Jen and I have maintained a friendship for so many years; she knows way too much to ever become my enemy! I haven’t seen Jen in almost 17 years. We have become women, wives and mothers but I think we are generally the same crazy asses we always were. I am going to see Jen in about 3 weeks and we have just one quick night to catch up, that should make one whopper of a story!!
I met Jen around the time I turned nineteen, an adult, though I was far from. I knew nothing about nothing and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had recently become single after a four year relationship and being the other half of a couple was what I knew but what I really wanted to do was have fun. I met Jen at a Restaurant that I started working at as a waitress. The Restaurant was called Great West Steakhouse and I owe some of my best memories to that place. When I met Jen she worked at the Salad Bar or the Nutrition Preparation Technician as we liked to call her. I don’t think we became friends immediately but it was such a smooth transition when it happened it was as if we had been friends forever. I had always wanted a sister and Jen was that to me. In a way she was the bratty little sister that never listened and always got her own way but as much as myself and Jen’s other trusted friends liked to believe that she needed us I think it was the other way around. Jen was the leader of the pack and she knew it. She led us into temptation and several other situations and we went, under the guise of protecting her. Jen insists even after all these years that she never needed protecting, that she was always fine and safe no matter what but I can tell you if my daughters ever make the decisions that my PoPo did my hair will turn grey instantly. She did what she wanted, when she wanted and in me she found a willing yet mouthy accomplice. I was always beaking off about some possible dangers and how we should just go home but I always ended up at the after party. My life would have been much different had I never met Jen and would certainly be void of some fantastic memories.
Jen is the person you hear about on Dateline NBC that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet she wasn’t. For one she had her mouthy protector (me) and she had really good instincts. I questioned her instincts constantly and she will not dispute this.
One evening Jen and I left one of our favorite watering holes “the Ceeps” in London Ontario. We were feeling no pain as we had spent the evening partying with Hockey players and I was pimping Jen out. That sounds bad but Jen had a FANTASTIC voice and she did wonderfully engaging versions of Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz and Me & Bobby Mcghee and people always wanted to hear her and sometimes she played coy. I knew free drinks would always loosen up her singing voice and liven up the party. I remember that particular night we thought we were quite cool because we were partying with Eric Lindros’s cousin. Now that may or may not be true, I have since learned that some guys are known to stretch the truth. Regardless we were cool and the party was full out and they were buying drinks. When the bar closed it was just a given to Jen that we were going back to party with these ten hulking hockey guys at their condo. I thought that was ridiculous. Two young girls and ten hockey guys, not happening, no friggin way and I was adamant! In true PoPo fashion PoPo told me to suit my mouthy self she was going anyway. So in true Michelle fashion I thought I would call her bluff until I realized she would call mine and nobody would win if I let my best friend go to a party alone with ten burly hockey players. So I went and probably loosened up after awhile when I figured out that these were just regular guys and they didn’t want to rape and murder us. You never know, and I was all about safety. Nobody gets more loosened up at a party then Jen. When she was ready to go to sleep she would take off her pants, crawl in bed and sleep like a baby…anywhere. She was fearless, never for a minute did she it occur to her that something bad could happen. Why should she worry? She had me for that!! I was the leader that was really the follower. So when I realized that Jen had disappeared from our party I found her. A nice guy had shown her to a bed and she threw her pants on the floor and crawled in bed for a long and “fearless” nap. I had to of course assess the situation, probably lecture a little, and make sure my PoPo was safe at all costs. Unbeknownst to me the room she was settled in used to be the solarium in the condo and was converted to a bedroom to accommodate all the guys. Someone closed the glass sliding door behind me and when I went to go back to the party, at a full run I slammed into the door face first and landed on the floor screaming “I broke my FKN nose, I broke my FKN nose” My pantless friend was in absolute hysterics at this and laughed until she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. She reminded me the next morning about how we were safe and sound and all my worrying and lecturing was for nothing. Jen had won again!!
Around this time we had discovered the movie Friday, starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker. We watched it so many times we still know all the lines. Having just been canned from his job on his day off, Craig (Ice Cube) and his best friend Smokey (Tucker) spend the day smoking up in their South Central neighborhood while dealing with a neighborhood bully, relationship troubles, an angry drug dealer, and a lot of other odd characters. Jen and I were not dope smokers. We were straight up boozers but I think we watched the movie so many times something clicked and one night we brought this guy back to Jen’s place that we called MacIver. I am sure he had a real name but it was not uncommon for us to assign names to people as we saw fit to how they served our purpose. MacIver was going to get us high. He made us a bong from a Coca-Cola bottle and to this day PoPo tells me the most unattractive vision she has ever had was of me with smoke coming out my ears, she says I looked like a dragon. RELAX Mom “I didn’t inhale” We never saw MacIver again, he had served his purpose.
When I refer to bringing guys back to our apartments it implies a lot but the truth was our main concern was the party. We were girls in our early twenties and we had fleeting romances, some shorter than others but we really had little time for guys other then as friends or fellow party goers. We were having the time of our life and we didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to a relationship. It was party time and we were not going to miss the last call for alcohol.
Young friendships are not always built on the most solid of ground and it though it sounds like our friendship was built on just fun I think it was more than that. We never wanted anything from each other. We didn’t borrow each other’s clothes or steal each other’s boyfriends so there were very rarely any hard feelings between us. One thing we liked as much as booze is late night eating. We used to cab to taco bell and then if they were closed we would go through the all night Burger King Drive-thru! We had a favorite Chinese take -out restaurant as well called Wok and Roll. I called there one night and they said “Good Evening Wok and Roll, we closed already!” Jen did not believe me that they would answer the phone if they were closed so she called back and sure enough they answered the phone and said “Good evening Wok and Roll, we closed already!” This became a past time of sorts, calling there to see if they were “closed already” Sometimes they were open and they had the BEST spring rolls in London, Ontario.
Jen and I also matured a little at some point and we became pet parents. She of a kitten named Charlie and me of a rabbit named Casey. Casey and Charlie became friends and had sleepovers. One night we were at my place and we lost them and we were freaking out!! The best we could figure is that they must have snuck out when we let the pizza guy in the night before so we were running through my apartment building like mad women. Turns out the little buggers were under my dresser hanging out in a very small lip. When Charlie got pregnant we were a little concerned but they turned out to not be Casey’s Cabbits. I remember what a doting Mom Jennifer was to Charlie. She barely left her when she was pregnant. It was cute. Charlie had her kittens in Jens bedroom closet and we barely came out of the closet for days. I also had a budgie named Tweety. I had adopted Tweety from a woman whose husband threatened to kill the pretty yellow bird if it didn’t disappear. My animals were like children. Casey would run around the apartment and eat up all my baseboards and Tweety would fly around, swooping at your head and digging in all my plants. As much as Casey loved Charlie, he did not take kindly to Charlie peeing in his litter box and from then on would pee orange rabbit pee all around it. When I left that apartment I didn’t bother to ask for my damage deposit!! As I said we were very mature pet parents and one day I got the bright idea to get Tweety a new cage. Jen suggested against because she had heard that birds get very attached to their homes and it could cause anxiety. I asked the bird brain at the pet store who was still shitting yellow his opinion and he told me to switch them outright and get rid of the other cage. I bought Tweety a huge white Bird Castle. In my opinion it was marvelous. Taking the advice of a 16 year old minimum wage pet store employee I immediately got rid of the other cage. Jen and I went to watch the movie Friday for the hundredth time and when I went to check on Tweety is his white castle he was deceased. Death by suicide. Death by negligence. Death by taking the wrong advice. I was distraught and Jen immediately took control of the situation and then like any good friend she took me to Taco Bell. To this day I am not sure what she did with Tweety. Apparently she gave him a suitable send off and I swore her to secrecy on the details. In fact, I was texting her about this earlier and she still insists that she is taking the secret to her grave because it is what I wanted. This is the ONLY time she has ever listened to me. Maybe I am better off not knowing but we don’t have other secrets so I am kind of a child about it and I know I will bother her about it till her grave and she will continue to deny me access to the secret I long ago thought was best. I did feel better when my friends Mom told me that she accidentally killed the kid’s budgies by sucking it up with the vacuum cleaner, trying to clean up bird seed at the bottom of the cage. My intentions were pure; I wanted a grand life for Tweety!!
Jen could be persuasive. You may have gathered by now. Despite my reservations and conscience I could be convinced of almost everything. Remember when Alanis Morrisette came out with Jagged Little Pill? I certainly do. I bought the CD for my brother Gerry for Christmas and it was all wrapped and ready to be mailed when in the middle of the night Jen coerced me into opening it so we could listen and then buy Gerry another. We listened to that CD on auto replay on my Samsung stereo (that is still in my garage) over and over and over again and then some more! For years whenever Alanis Morrisette came on the radio I had to change the station. It was overkill. If we liked something we liked it a lot and creatures of habit we sometimes overdid it. During our Alanis Morrisette/Taco Bell phase we decided on a late night cab to Taco Bell one night. Once back at Jen’s eating in her living room something about the cathedral ceilings and twirling ceiling fan intrigued us and we decided to throw the bag of tacos one by one into the fan and watch them spray outrageously all over the ceiling. God that was fun!! What wasn’t fun was the thought of facing PoPo’s roommates the next day so when I woke up I booked it out of there.
For all the craziness, like ending up at scary Biker clubhouses that were like Hotel California (once you are in you were locked in) and getting involved in drinking games with questionable people who claimed to be doctors (and wanted to play doctor) we managed to survive unscathed and I would like to believe that this was largely due to my lectures on safety that sometimes took place the morning after the night before over grilled cheese sandwiches. If we woke at your house and you had bread, cheese and a frying pan I was making PoPo a grilled cheese. It was her comfort food.
We did have some serious times together. On more than one occasion Jen cabbed to my house and sat with me while the cops questioned me about the Creepo who liked to masturbate at my bedroom window. Gross right?? They had been trying to catch this Peeping Tom for years. It played a serious role in my moving back to Nova Scotia when I started having panic attacks from trying to stay awake till it was light outside. Jen did her part by partying with me till daytime, staying over or dragging me to her house. The only annoying thing is she used to order pizza and pass out. This was a usual occurrence. One morning I awoke to a bunch of nasty messages on my answering machine from Western pizza, the only 24 hour pizza place in the city. She was highly pissed at us. Dammit we pissed off the only 24 hr pizza joint in the city. I left Princess PoPo sleeping and went to work. I decided to call the Western pizza delivery driver and apologize and tell her to come by and I would pay her for the pizza and give her a tip. She told me she saved the pizza in her car and would bring it. I assured her I did not want it, she could have it. It was only good when you were hammered. The woman was scary. I can’t even explain fully without being rude but she was short and very overweight and her shirt was filthy and the armpits were badly stained. She asked me again if I wanted the pizza that was in her car. NO NO NO, I did not.
By this point of our friendship I was now working at Great West as a manager and Jen had been promoted from Nutrition Preparation Technician (Salad Bar) to Mixology Specialist (Bartender). Well my bartender was late and I had to send our hostess to go get her. The owner came in and I had no hostess or bartender….good times! Jen sassed me constantly, as a friend and as her manager; she really did not distinguish between the two. My unvarying demand to her was “Stop Aresin around!” to which she would make fun because apparently Aresin is only a word in Nova Scotia. To those of you who don’t know it means, it means you are being an ass! I guess that is not an appropriate thing to say to an employee but she was a friend first. Sometimes these moments led to yelling matches and lectures but often Jen was able to spin them to her benefit which was the case when my boss walked in on us in the back kitchen playing Celery/Tomato basketball. If there was a game that involved food you can guarantee PoPo was involved.
There were many times that Jen proved her friendship. I know that all her friends would agree that though she tries your patience in so many ways she is truly one of the best friends to have. She allows you to be yourself makes you have fun even in the darkest of times. I was with Jen when I got a call from home that a friend had passed away. He was a dear friend of my older brother Mike and it is really hard to be away from home when tragedy strikes. Jen cried with me and then took over the situation immediately walking me to her neighborhood pub so we could reminisce in a place where everyone knows your name. Well, they really didn’t but I am sure they did by the end of the night!
Several drinks in we realized that in our haste neither of us had brought a wallet. We had already made a friend and he had a bike so Jen biked back to her place for her debit card which we were sure would run out of money someday but hadn’t failed us thus far! On the way to the pub we had passed a strange pile of bumblebee colored computer monitors which we thought was odd. On the way back from the pub the pile had diminished substantially and we began to feel that we might have been missing out on a great deal so we walked back to get a wagon or a wheel barrel (not sure which) and went back and filled up our vessel with these huge atrocious bumblebee looking monitors. I remember PoPo saying “Holy, we got to get some, they are going like hotcakes!” When we woke to them in the corner of Jens living room in the morning we realized that we had dragged home a useless pile of trash but it was very funny! I am sure her roommates must have thought we did drugs!
Jen was also very loving with her family (some of them were still pooping their pants I recall). I remember several times for one reason or another she was left in charge of her MUCH younger siblings for extended periods of time and she was wonderful with them. Without a second thought to the interruption in her routine she welcomed them and made them feel loved and special. If she had to work and I didn’t I would make them boxes of Kraft Dinner and watch cartoons with them all day. I know her children today are very loved and cared for and I am sure one day they will give her loads of trouble!
To clarify Jen gave me her own share of lectures which I didn’t always appreciate. She would not let me have fleeting romances with employees and reminded me constantly that I was still the boss in the morning. If she felt that my interest in the opposite sex was interfering with our friendship she was sure to remind me that my behavior was “Hoochie-like” Thank You Jen, I think.
I could go on and I know I have. I am so excited to see my Sassy friend again and excited for her to meet Kirk. I have often said he is the male version of Jen. They are both hardworking and compassionate but they put a great deal of energy into having fun. They have in turn made sure that I have fun and of course I make sure we are all kept safe.
Below is from the movie Friday.