Sunday, September 18, 2011

Being a Carny

When I was nineteen, my sister Kathy got me a job as a carnival worker in Ye Olde Tyme Photo Booth. My job was really strange. I was supposed to dress the women.

The outfits were incredibly hard to get on, with all of the ties and straps in the back, out of sight of the camera. From the front, the old timey clothes looked authentic. From the back, they were sort of like a hospital gown. It was my job to tie the ladies into them.

It was weird because the people who came never really knew why I was there, and often looked at me like some sort of creepy gal who liked to watch women undress. I learned right away that I needed a sort of speech to tell every client, or I was going to get punched in the face. I figured it out, and things started getting rolling pretty well, except that I couldn't help but stare at most of the naked ladies, because of their tattoos.

This was the early nineties, when it was still a little bit unusual for women to have tattoos. The kind of women who came the Ye Olde Tyme Photo Booth were different, though, and they all had tattoos. Some of the tattoos were so beautiful, I just couldn't take my eyes off of them. Full back body art was very common. The ladies would look at me like I was a pervert, and then I would say,

"That is just the most gorgeous tattoo I have ever seen..." and they would immediately soften, tell me all about it, and I would get in trouble because I was just supposed to move them through, hustle hustle hustle!

This went on for I can't remember how long, but not longer than six weeks. We had a set with a whiskey bottle as a prop, and one day, someone knocked over the whiskey bottle. I reached out to catch it and it shattered on my hand. My finger was gushing blood everywhere. Everyone in Ye Old Tyme Photo Booth (which was actually a trailer) was horrified and speechless, until finally my coworker said,

"That was seven year old tea in that bottle! If anything gets infected, it'll be your finger! You have to go to the hospital right now!"

They magically procured my boss, whom I had never before met. He was shortish and brownish and nefarious. He drove me to the hospital, where they fixed me up in a hurry. (I actually don't remember that part at all. But I do remember the next bit...) Then he put me into a cab, shoved a gigantic wad of twenty dollar bills into my hands, and told me it was,

"Cab money. You don't need to come back! Season's over! Thanks!" and he ran away.

I took the cab home. In my room I had only two mattresses, laid out over the entire floor, so it was only soft. A friend of mine was waiting in my room. I was late coming home. I showed the friend the bandage over my right ring finger and the wad of cash. We lay on our backs and I threw the money up into the air, so that the twenty dollar bills fell down on us like green snowflakes. I gathered them up and did it again. Eventually, the money was counted, and it turned out to be $500.

I still have a little scar on my right ring finger. It never got infected.

New Topic for August

Making money.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bands

The Decemberists
Wolf Parade
Cold War Kids
Fleet Foxes
Mumford & Sons
Local Natives
The Avett Brothers
Pearl and the Beard
The National
Arcade Fire
Vampire Weekend ....

I am having a hard enough time keeping up with all of the new bands I like to remember which ones I wish were still around. In fact, I am frustrated right now. I am so busy and overwhelmed with all of the million things that I have to do right now that I can't keep up on all of the new music I love. I drive past Lake Kegonsa everyday and I always think of this song:


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More Mainstream

I'm much more mainstream than I thought I was. Here you are all listing these great bands I have never even heard of, and I'm about to bust out with stuff like Gin Blossoms and Counting Crows.

Counting Crows is one of my all time favorite bands, and I miss their music. My favorite song by them is called "Raining in Baltimore" from their August and Everything After album. I love the emotion and feeling Adam (the lead singer) puts in the songs. You can feel the heartache or happiness depending on the song he's singing. I also like the lyrics. Counting Crows was the first concert I ever went to. The Wallflowers opened up for them and the concert was really good. I was hoping they would perform this song, but then Adam announced that they took it out of their tour. Everyone was bummed, but then after a few minutes Adam just walked over to the piano, a single spotlight shone on him, and he soulfully began to sing the song. It was awesome. Afterwards he said he wasn't going to sing it but felt like he needed to that night. Here's the song from the CD:


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mother Love Bone

I miss Mother Love Bone. They were a Seattle band on the edge of the beginning of grunge. Their lead singer overdosed on heroin right after their first album came out. Two of the members of Mother Love Bone went on to form Pearl Jam. Mother Love Bone had quite a few influences...and you can hear it when you listen to the entire album. I'm going to share my favourite song:





Spooky Tooth

It's hard for me to pick just one. At the top of that list is the obscure, barely-successful late 60s/early 70s band by the name of Spooky Tooth. The band roster reads like a Who's Who of B-List 70s music, including Gary Wright (aka "Dreamweaver"), Ariel Bender (aka Luther Grosvenor during the Spooky Tooth years) from Steeler's Wheel and Mott the Hoople (another band I wish was still around!).

So why is it that I want these quasi-celebrities to still be crankin' out the jams? Because this perfect storm of lackluster stardom produced one of my all time favorite records from that era. I was raised by music-loving hippie parents. My mom was all about the 70s and disco. Dad was all about the drug-fueled, peace loving, psychedelic hippe music... the man's hero remains to this day David Crosy. 'Nuff said. Step-dad was all about the hard-rockin' music, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, Jethro Tull. Between them, I received a first rate music history education. Still, and not surprisingly, Spooky Tooth went under the radar. The produced a number of records, one of which stands out as an achievement in my mind. Spooky Two is one of those rare albums where every song can stand alone as a hit. To this day, that is still difficult for a lot of bands. The guitar riffs and bass lines have the same vibe as T. Rex, Cream, and Jethro Tull. The organ is solid and not overbearing. Considering who's playing those instruments, this is one hell of an album.

You can listen to a preview here. Or just go buy the damn thing through iTunes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Carbon Yard


This is the band that nobody ever heard of, but they invented grunge. They were the originals. If any band deserved to make it, they did. Unfortunately, they didn't make it, and they broke up. I think it was because

a. They were before their time. They played grunge in the late '80's,

b. They were in Berkeley, and grunge finally emerged in Seattle.

c. They were unlucky.


They have a myspace where you can listen here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Resuscitation

I am declaring a new topic: bands you wish were still together.

Mine is Cibo Matto!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I will be here asap

So sorry

I think maybe it has died. It's sort of lame. So sorry. Topics are open for discussion- i.e., if you have a topic, declare a new topic and write about it! Maybe it can be revived. I'm not sure.

I think we need a new topic.

12 days and no entries???? Has this blog died? Is anyone paying attention?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Trials of Buying a Bathing Suit

I swim laps three times (thrice?) weekly, and it's really hard to find a bathing suit these days that is suitable for actual swimming, while simultaneously NOT looking like something your grandmother would wear. The problems can be narrowed down to three problematic trends.
Problem trend #1: The Tankini
The tankini is a great idea in theory. A two-piece swimsuit where the top comes all the way to the bottom, like a tank top? Perfect. No tummy showing, and you can buy a black bottom and several different tops, so it's like getting all these different suits. The problem here becomes obvious after you begin swimming laps in them: they have a tendency to float up around the waist, and eventually end up near your breasts anyway, so you may as well be wearing a bikini for all the coverage you end up with.
Problem trend #2: One-pieces for grannies
A friend of mine recently told me that she was shopping for a swimsuit and wanted a one-piece. She's got a fantastic figure and would look great in a bikini, but she is not that type of girl at all. The problem was that all of the one-piece bathing suits she found in the stores looked like something a 60-year-old would wear on the chaise lounge beside the pool. She originally thought it was something a 40-year-old would wear, and then she realized that 40 is just around the corner and she still wouldn't wear that hideous thing.
Problem trend #2: Lack of breast support
Let's face it- my boobs are big. Huge, actually. And while water does have certain gravity-defying properties, it's still not good to have a lack of support. Something has to keep the great, pendulous things in their proper place. I recently purchased a bathing suit through mail order (see Problem trends #1 and #2 for why I resorted to mail order) and I had been in the pool for half a lap when I realized my right breast was floating free of its fabric-y bonds. I was mortified, until I realized that no one was looking. Then, I was even more mortified. Needless to say, that suit was returned to sender post haste.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Starving Student Bikini

My college was paid for, on the condition that I did not get a job until I finished college. It was very nice, except that I was definitely on a budget. I didn't really have a bathing suit for a long time, so when I saw a bikini bottom at K-Mart one day for 75 cents, I bought it gladly and felt like I'd gotten a good deal.

There were two minor problems with the bikini bathing suit:

1. It had no top, and this was Colorado, not Sweden.

2. I've never really had what you would call, "a bikini figure."

Neither thing stopped me from wearing it. For the first issue, I just wore an old grey sports bra instead of a bikini top. It looked okay, by my nonexistent standards. For the second issue, I did nothing, and it looked okay, by my nonexistent standards.

I went to Navajo Lake with friends, and wore my bikini. I hung out in a toddler pool outside the dorm on hot days, and wore my bikini. You know. It was just my bathing suit.

And it started. I had girls come up to me, overweight girls who didn't even like me, and say things like,

"I just really like what you're doing for us. Wearing a bikini like that. I've never seen a girl with your figure wear a bikini."

They thought I was making a statement for womanhood. These serious girls. These girls with body issues. It was so nice. I didn't have the heart to say that I was just a cheapskate who never gave a thought to fashion.

New Topic for the End of July

Bathing Suits.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Playing in the dirt

I grew up in desert places. We lived in North Las Vegas Nevada for a while and then moved to the high desert in Southern California to a place called Apple Valley (no apples, no valley, just dirt). It was hot and dry and hot. There were plenty of places to play, but they all involved dirt. I, like Gina, did a lot of playing house in the dirt. We had a big open field in the back of one of the places I lived and for some reason there were a lot of holes in the ground that were just deep enough for us to carve stairs out of and walk into. There were several of these grouped together, so we made a bunch of different rooms for the house and spent most of our time out there.

Another place I lived we had a trampoline and we spent hours and hours jumping and trying to see who could bounce the highest. We spent so many nights out there sleeping on the trampoline. We would all start in our separate places at the beginning of the night, but by morning we were one big pile of arms and legs all on top of each other in the middle. It was awesome. We jumped on that trampoline as often as we could, and I can't tell you how many times I fell off that thing. One time I landed on my neighbors old wooden fence and slid down, palms facing the wood, to the ground. The fence was about six feet high and as a result the splinters were the entire length of my hands. That one hurt. Another time I was bounced by my brother and flew so high up into the air I actually said, "I can see my house from here!" even though I was in the backyard. I landed on the ground over an old fallen tree with my eyes closed. I didn't want to that log to be the last thing I saw before I died, because I was sure I was going to die. I laid there for a couple of minutes until I realized I could hear my brothers asking if I was alright, and I could hear my own heart beating. I opened my eyes and was so surprised that I lived (and that nothing was broken) that I jumped up and screamed "I'M ALIVE!!" at the top of my lungs. I jumped right back on and kept playing. Some of my brothers could easily do flips in the air on the trampoline and I so desperately wanted to do one too. When I finally braved up the courage to try to do one, I chickened out half way into it and landed on my foot wrong. I ended up breaking my pinkie toe and I think it was one of the most painful things in my life.

My brothers were always coming up with new tricks on the trampoline. They invented something called the Shredder. They would jump up two or three times, then jump on their knees, fall back onto their back, and flip around 180 degrees onto their stomach and jump right back up again. It was awesome to see it in action, and when someone mastered it, it was a big deal. We loved doing the Shredder on the trampoline. Whenever we went to the trampoline my mom would make us take my younger sister who was only two or three at the time. We hated having to take her with us because it meant that we couldn't jump as high, or do any Shredders or flips. So we invented a signal that we could do back and forth to each other to tell them we wanted to go and jump on the trampoline. We would take our first two fingers and move them up and down as if they were legs jumping in the air. All we had to do was call the persons' name, make the sign, and we'd each go out different doors and meet up at the trampoline. To this day most of my brothers remember the signal and then the reminiscing begins. We had that trampoline for a while, until my youngest brother (who is twenty years younger than me) fell off of it one day and broke his leg. After that my mom took it down and gave it away. It was a sad day for all of us, except for my mom of course. She was quite happy.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Farm of Dangerous Delights

I grew up next to a dairy farm in Wisconsin. My best friend lived on it and we did everything: bareback horse riding, haymow jumping, motor bike riding, letting calves suck on our hands, you name it we did it.

Looking back my friend and I wonder how the hell we lived. Once we held Mercury in our hands. Another time we "swam" in the grain silos, and we ate peas fresh out of the pesticide fields. It was always sort of a dare and no one was afraid of anything.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Books and Trees

When I was a kid there was no place I wanted to be more than curled up with a book in the big squishy chair in the living room. That was fine with my mom...in the winter, she was always urging me to go outside and play when the weather was nice.  She would bug me, until she got me outside.  The thing is...as soon as she was busy doing something I would sneak back into the house, grab my book and then go back outside.

If I "had" to be outside, I wanted to be up the crab apple tree in our front yard...so, I perfected the art of climbing a tree with a paperback book in my teeth.  It solved my problem and hers quite well. I was still reading, and I was outside.  In all those years I only fell out of the crab apple tree once! ;) 

The Bushes

We lived in a condo, so there wasn't really a yard to play in, but there was a schoolyard across the street and a park in the back of the complex that butted up against the freeway. Of course I played in the schoolyard every day, but most of my playtime memories involve the park. Since it was right next to the freeway, it was bordered by a 10 foot high chain link fence that was covered in oleander bushes. They would get pinkish red blooms in the summertime that didn't smell at all. But the bushes themselves were more interesting than the flowers. They were higher than the fence, and it was easy for us kids to play inside them. The branches formed "rooms" and we would spend lots of time playing "house" in the bushes, making mud pies and having our friends over to pretend we were having tea, and the like.
Sometimes my mom would let me go to the park without an adult when I got a little older, as long as I had another kid with me. Usually this was my cousin Shelly, whose mom was my uncle Jerry's third or fourth wife and who wasn't actually related to me at all except through marriage. Shelly was a couple of years older than me- she was 12 and I was 10- and she always bossed me around, treated me like a baby and generally behaved as though she was far superior to me. I couldn't stand her, but I tolerated her because she was the only one I had to play with, since my brother was only 2 years old.
Once, we went to the park and were playing house in the bushes and I realized I had to pee. I was going to run to my Mema (grandmother) and Papa (grandfather)'s house, which was right by the park, to use their restroom, but Shelly said, "This is our house. Why don't you use the bathroom here in the bushes?"
"I don't want to. I'm going to Mema and Papa's."
"No," she whined, "I'm not allowed to play out here alone, and I don't want to go with you. Just go in the bushes. No one will see."
I had to pee so bad, and I knew that Shelly would argue with me until I peed my pants, so I actually did it- I found a closely wooded spot, did my business, and then went back to playing.
Later than evening we went back home and Shelly walked right up to my mom and said, "Gina peed in the bushes at the park," then she smiled and went upstairs to her apartment and left me there alone.
"WHAT?" my mom shouted. "Gina LOUISE, you do NOT use the bushes to pee! There are perverts everywhere! Something terrible could have happened!!"
"Shelly told me to," I said meekly, realizing that it was a feeble excuse but having no other defense.
"I don't care," my mom said. "I raised you to know better than that. You have to think for yourself. You're grounded. You can't go to the park for a week, and you're not allowed to play with Shelly anymore unless Mema or Papa or some other adult is around. Now, go to your room."
I wasn't happy to be grounded, or to have the park off limits, but I have to say, I wasn't terribly broken up about not being allowed to play with Shelly anymore. She was always much nicer to me when parents were around. And I still think that it was a really shitty thing she did, to coax me into peeing in the bushes and then tell my mom about it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Playing Spa

One time, when I was a kid, two of my friends (two sisters) and I dug a gigantic hole in their backyard. We were thinking we would create some sort of mud bath to make our skin softer. This was a lot of work. The hole was as big and deep as an old bathtub. Then we filled it with water. That took the better part of an afternoon (I don't think it really held water well). We rolled up our pants and soaked our legs in the mud for a while, but soon decided that we needed the mud to cover our bodies. We put on our bathing suits and soaked in the freezing mud. We all pretended to like it. We lay out in the shade (there was no sun in their backyard) until the mud was all dry and caked onto our bodies. Once we looked like we had a mud mask over our entire bodies, we took turns rinsing each other off with the freezing hose water. Again, we dried ourselves in the shade.

Then we ran our fingers over each other's legs and said (with some bizarre upper class accent),

"Feel how luxuriantly soft your skin is!"

This was called, "Playing Spa." I can't decide if this was really sophisticated play or just plain torturing ourselves for no apparent reason. I've never been to a real spa, so I have no comparisons to make. Maybe going to a real spa is exactly like this experience. It has always stuck out in my mind as a weird memory, sitting in that mud hole together with the two other girls, whom I actually didn't know very well because they were Catholic and always had to go to Catechism whenever I wanted to play. Until I was about twenty, I generally thought that all Catholics spent all of their time either going to Catechism or digging gigantic holes in the ground.

We had another game that also used the hose. It was called, "Snake," and it involved running around an invisible obstacle course and avoiding getting bitten by the "snake", which was really just a hose. Then we would watch their dog eat snails off of the wood fence, which was also incredibly entertaining. I don't think these girls had any actual toys, but they were still lots of fun and most of the time I really wished they weren't Catholic and didn't always have to go to Catechism.

Eventually, their mom made us fill in the spa hole with dirt again. I thought she was pretty cool for letting us dig it in the first place.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gnomes Away

Several years ago, in a school district not very far away, we had a gnome. The gnome got planted in different places around the school. The rule was that if you found a gnome in your room you needed to plant that gnome in someone else's classroom undetected.

This prank was started anonymously. Just a gnome and a printed note.

It was slow going at first, but within a few weeks the gnome ended up in some very creative places: in the trophy case, standing in the window above the door to the English class, and my favorite: inside a bass drum looking out.

After weeks of suspicion around the staff, the usual subjects (the guys) had been questioned and no one could figure out the rampant prankster.

No one expects the little Spanish teacher!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Changing Places Between Oakland, California and Fort Collins, Colorado

When I was twelve, my aunt, my dad and I drove from Oakland, California to Fort Collins, Colorado. (They did most of the driving.) Between the two places are a whole lot of deserted diners. We stopped at one of these places, the only customers, and in spite of the lack of business, there was a sign instructing us to wait to be seated. A nice lady placed us in a brown booth at one end. Let's call it "The South End" of the restaurant.

We looked over the menu. She took our orders. Then we looked around.

Aunt Lou: "It looks nicer over there. Why did she seat us over here?"

Dad: "It does look a lot nicer over there."

Twelve Year Old Me: "Yeah."

Aunt Lou got a familiar gleam in her eye. "Should we switch?"

Me: "Yeah!"

Dad: "Yeah!"

So, feeling like we were being a little naughty, we moved to the sunnier, happier North End of the restaurant- far from our assigned seats. The waitress came in with our tray of food and looked momentarily confused, then plastered on a false smile and commented on our switching places.

To twelve year old me, this was all so crazy! We made a waitress slightly annoyed! Holy cow!

But, the best part was, at the next deserted diner, we did it again! And then at the next one! We were just switching seats for no particular reason! Doing whatever we wanted! It was anarchy! You should have seen the looks on those waitresses' faces! They were all a little bit annoyed!

Once we got back to places where we weren't the only ones in the restaurant, though, the game was over.

I mentioned this once to my dad and he doesn't remember it at all.

New Topic for June

Dirty Tricks and Practical Jokes

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mad Fat Beats-- NOT

I have always been a passive fan of Blondie. Largely, the Blondie phenomenon was over by the time I became aware of music, but there are a few songs that I like quite a bit. I enjoy "One Way or Another," in spite of it sounding like it was written by a stalker about her victim, and there are others I don't remember right now but which I like a lot; but mostly I love Debbie Harry. I think she's fantastically cool. She's beautiful and strange. She (still) wears too much brightly colored makup and bleaches her hair and dresses punkily and has a very big persona. She was also on the forefront of quite a few trends, back in the 80's, several years before they became pop culture phenomena.
Like rap.
The Blondie song, "Rapture," was the first mainstream song to contain a rap. And Debbie Harry was, unfortunately, the one rapping. Take a look. Forward to 2:06 and let the horror begin:


She's just horrendous. I've never heard such a bad rap. I have heard better raps at comedy improv shows. Or on commercials. For that matter, I'm willing to bet that better raps have been laid down at a retirement village in St. Paul.
Of course, at the time this song came out, no one outside of the NYC street/club scene even knew what she was doing, so we had nothing to compare it to. We just knew it was new and intriguing. Like Debbie Harry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Always Constant

I have always had issues with weight. I grew up in a family of eleven children and I was the only one that was overweight. Going to school was bad enough with kids picking on me because of it, but going home and actually seeing it was another story all together. My brothers and sisters never made fun of me, or ever made me feel bad for it. Sometimes my parents would make a comment and it would sting, but I wouldn't let them see that it hurt me, because I didn't want to give them ammunition to use in the future for any other times they wanted to upset me.

I had lived with being overweight my entire life, but by the time I was a freshman in high school I can honestly say that I hated myself. I had no self esteem. None. I wouldn't look people in the eyes. I would wear baggy clothes to try and hide my weight, and every day I wanted to die. My freshman year in high school sucked. My older sister was viciously mean to me and would pick fights with other kids in school and tell them I was saying things. This resulted in many confrontations with kids I thought were unbelievably scary, but somehow I managed to walk away without being beat up...at least not physically. I walked home two miles every day from school and thought about how awful I looked and what a horrible monster I was. To me, weight was a very big issue. So big, that I was convinced the only reason people would talk to me was because they felt sorry for me. I was super shy, and content to be invisible, though I knew my size prevented me from being such.

In my English class there was a kid who sat a few seats in front of me. His name was Nick Conn. He was a "skinhead" (or at least as close to a skinhead as you could get in Southern California) with his hair shaved half way up his head, while the rest of his hair fell straight down to his neck. He had light blond hair that he would occasionally pull back into a ponytail, and light blue eyes. We didn't know each other before class, but he was friends with another boy named Aaron who I kind of knew. I didn't pay much attention to either of them. My one goal for every day was to make it through the day and get home without saying much of anything. I hated going to school. I felt so out of place and so conspicuous. I wore this gray sweater that zipped up the front every single day. It didn't matter if it was 50 degrees or the more constant 110 degrees. I hated the way my arms looked and so I wore it no matter what. I hate that gray sweater to this day.

Every day I came to my English class Nick would smile and wave at me. At first I just ignored him because I thought he was making fun of me. Later on, whenever we had free time in class, he would come over and spend a few minutes talking to me, even though I rarely, if ever, said anything back to him. After a while, he started giving me hugs. At first I was super apprehensive about this, certain once again that he was making fun of me. The hugs were never returned. My guard was up and I was on to him.

One day I was sick so I stayed home from school. I relished those times because it meant that I didn't have to be seen by everyone at school. I didn't have to walk the halls wondering what kind of insults people were going to throw at me, and reviewing in my mind the quickest escapes from those type of situations. When I went back to school the next day and walked into my English class, there was Nick. He had a big smile on his face, and he came right up and gave me the biggest hug before I even had a chance to step all the way into the room. He said, "I missed you yesterday. Where were you?"

"I was sick," I replied curtly.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Are you feeling better today?" He inquired.

"Yeah," I said, then quickly went to my seat.

He followed me over and continued to talk to me about everything I missed and shared with me all the things that happened to him as well. I could tell in his eyes that he meant what he was saying and that it wasn't some kind of joke that he was leading me in to.

It took me three quarters of the year to realize that he considered me a friend, and wanted me to be his. I realized that he was being nice because he wanted to, and that maybe it was possible for someone to talk to me out of wanting to be my friend, and not just because they felt sorry for me. One day, Nick gave me a hug and I gave him one back. I could tell by the shocked expression on his face that it surprised him, but before he could say anything about it I raced to my seat and buried my face in a book. I saw him smile as he sat down and class began. The next day we had a free period and Nick came over to talk to me. He told me a funny joke and I smiled. He stopped and looked me right in the eyes and said, "You have a beautiful smile. You should smile more often." I got embarrassed and looked down again.

The last few months of the year found Nick and I talking about all sorts of things. I didn't offer much in the way of conversation, but I liked that he enjoyed talking so much. It gave me a chance to escape my own troubles for a little bit and listen to stories about his life. By the end of the year he really changed my thinking about how I felt about myself and my weight. I noticed a change in my thoughts and attitude towards how I looked, and it was good. Nick gave me one more final hug good-bye on the last day of class, then smiled and left.

The school year ended and summer was in full swing. I felt free to be myself in my house and my yard, and around my family a little too. It was a learning and growing summer for me. I knew I had to be back at school in a few short months and I was changing so many things. I couldn't wait to go back to school and show Nick the new me. I hadn't lost any weight, but I had gained self confidence and self esteem, and it probably didn't hurt that I gained a bit of an attitude toward those who would try and make fun of me for my weight. I armed myself with insults and comebacks that would cut down the best of them, thanks to my sister who helped me learn how to deal with those type of jerks.

The first day of school came much too quickly, but there I was in Birkenstocks, blue jeans, a black short-sleeved shirt (can you believe it?!?!) and a new hair cut. People didn't even recognize me. It was such a great day. I searched everywhere for my friend Nick, but I couldn't find him. At the end of the day I saw Aaron and asked him where Nick was. Even he didn't recognize me. I was an entirely different person and I was happy. He told me that Nick had moved away at the end of the school year the year before and he didn't know where he went. I was sad as I walked home from school because I really wanted to thank Nick for taking the time to befriend someone who was so down on themselves and truly hated the way they looked and who they were. I wanted to give him the biggest hug I could possibly give and express my gratitude for his friendship and his persistence. He changed my life. It's been almost eleven years since then and I still think about him. He really helped me understand betterh who I was and how I looked. I still have issues with my weight to this day, but I know how to handle it now, and it's all thanks to this tiny blond-haired kid named Nick Conn.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weight. Hmph. I don't like this topic very much, but I cannot escape it. It's a damn fixation in our society.
Nearly everyone I know is obsessed with it. At least four people at work are currently going to Weight Watchers, which means they sit around all day and talk about food. What foods they can eat, what foods take too many points away from their day. It always happens when I'm having a snack, too, which makes me feel weird and exposed, like some sort of carnival freak. Even though most of my snacks are fruit, or low fat yogurt, or a small handful of peanuts, or the like- healthy things. Another one of my friends is now on the wait list (what an unintentional pun that is) for bariatric surgery. It's completely inescapable.
Weight has dogged me my whole life. I come from a large people. No matter what I eat or don't eat, how much I do or do not exercise, I've never been able to get to a number that makes people back the fuck off. I've been heavy my whole life. And to tell you the truth, I generally don't care, except that people always harp on it. They don't generally point and laugh (although it has been known to happen from time to time), but they do unintentionally offend me sometimes while trying to be good natured. I eat mostly healthy foods, but I am not fanatical. I love candy so I eat it when I want it, not as much as I want to, as it should be. I swim three days a week. I stand up in my cubicle for at least 6 hours a day instead of sitting on my butt all the time. I am five years smoke free this month! I am generally taking steps to be a healthy person- and yet, people who don't know these things assume I'm a lazy over eater.
I spent all of my adolescence and quite a long time in my adulthood being convinced of that myself. I had the lowest self-esteem imaginable. People would tell me I was pretty and I actually thought they were lying to me for some reason. I have finally gotten to a point in my life where that is behind me, but I still find myself being self-conscious in the most mundane situations- at the ice cream parlor, in a restaurant, eating lunch at work- because I know that other people are making snap judgments. They can't believe it's possible to be healthy AND heavy.
So, yeah, not my favorite topic. I know that I chose to interpret it this way- but do you blame me?

Heavyweight

When we bought our little farmette, there was a gigantic metal wheel (like a wheel from a large tractor) hanging on the wall inside the barn. One day I went out there, and the wheel had fallen off of the wall. Had anyone been standing underneath when it happened, it would surely have killed the person standing there. This was a big, heavy object.

I thought about calling the former owner and telling him that he shouldn't hang half ton objects from narrow pieces of wood on barn walls, but he's such a nice guy. I didn't have the heart. He would have felt so bad about it.

It took my husband and me together to drag it to the middle of the room. There it sat. We kept gallon jugs of water inside of it. That was maybe a year and a half ago.

The big heavy wheel has been kind of annoying, just sitting there in the middle of the barn. I trip over it now and then, but what can I do? It's too heavy to move by myself, and I never think of it when my husband is around.

These past few months have been full of heavy work for me. I have two hours each morning before I go to my part time teaching job, and I tend to do a lot of farm work, housework, and just general heavy work during that time. I don't mind it at all. It's like a meditation for me. And the nice thing is that when you do something like build a fence, you can look and see, there's a fence where there didn't used to be one. It's a nice feeling. I also feel the work when I go to bed at night, in my back and shoulders and chest, in my arms and just about everywhere. I've never really done any weight lifting, but if I did, I imagine I would feel about the same way afterwards.

About three days ago, I was building a turkey shelter in the barn, and that giant metal wheel was in my way. I scooted it over next to the wall. Then I remembered that I'm not strong enough to do that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

My name is Meg and I have two addictions. Citrus fruit and Johnston County tomatoes. I mean, it stands to reason that my addictions are food seeing how I'm a chef and all.

As far as citrus goes, tangerine and grapefruit make me weak. I can't stop. I'll take oranges or orange juice if I have no other choice, but man... tangerines. Grapefruit. That sweet, tangy, slightly bitter flavor makes everything better. If I keep juice around, I can't help but drink from the bottle every time I pass the fridge. Many a times I have brought home a jug of Simply Grapefruit and find it is gone within two days without ever having had a proper glass of it. It satisfies my soul in a way that nothing else can. Except for a Johnston County tomato.

I grew up in Pittsburgh and lived in Virginia for a while. I never liked tomatoes until I moved to North Carolina. Can you blame me? Good tomatoes were scare in Pittsburgh in the 70s. But now... I live about 2 minutes from the Johnston County line in the Old North State. Agriculture is a huge business here. I mean, just north of where I live is the largest chile pepper farm in NC, supplying nearly the whole state with hot peppers. Our three largest agricultural (food) exports from NC are watermelon, pigs and sweet potatoes. But I digress, back to My Precious. You haven't lived until you've had a German Johnson in mid-August. White bread, mayo, salt and pepper, thick slices of the pink, juicy, slightly oval fruit that's mostly meat and low on the snotty seedy pulpy bits. it's getting warmer now. The days are getting longer. Something inside me is stirring, making me cranky because it knows that I have to wait three more months. An eternity, really. Can I make it? I get sweaty and agitated just thinking about it. But the time will come when I can lay my hands on those tomatoes, my precious precious tomatoes. I'll slice them up, make my tomato sandwiches and scarf it down like a malnourished stray dog while standing at the counter. I'll eat as many sandwiches as it takes to finish that large tomato. Until I've gotten my fix. And them the cycle begins again. Dashing off to the farmer's market, a wad of one dollar bills in hand, spending an hour or two to find who has the best tomato for the best price.

I can quit anytime I want to. I just don't want to.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Addiction


For all the things I've done in life (and there have been some things) the only thing I have ever been addicted to is Diet Pepsi. It's a little embarrassing.

I'm over it now, though. Just sparkling water for me!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Non-Addictive Personality

People throw the word "addicted" around so loosely nowadays, that I think it diminishes the true meaning. I've been known to say that I am addicted to cheese, addicted to "Burn Notice,", addicted to cuddling, or whatever. But if I absolutely could not have cheese for some reason, I wouldn't steal my husband's last $20 out of his wallet while he slept and walk barefoot 5 miles in the snow to go to La Fondue, so I really don't think that qualifies.
I can't honestly say if I've ever been addicted to anything. I smoked cigarettes for years and tried to quit several times, including a period where I was occasionally smoking on the sly, hiding it from my hubby and my friends. Not quite a betrayal, but borderline. But the final time I quit smoking, I just went cold turkey and never smoked a cigarette again. No patch, no gum, no hypnosis, nothing.  I have had absolutely no desire whatsoever to have one ever since. That was five years ago. So I'm not sure that qualifies as an addiction, either.
Maybe it's for this reason that I totally do not relate to behavioral addictions, such as shopping, or sex. I love both of these activities, but I honestly don't understand how someone becomes a shopping addict or a sex addict. I love to shop. I LOVE IT. But there have been many times in my life when I wasn't able to shop because I needed the money for some other thing, like food, or electricity, or rent. Although it sucked big time, I didn't shop. And I didn't have a fit or anything, I just sucked it up and did it. I am even able to go into a shop that I love and look at things and not buy them. Obviously I am not addicted to shopping, although I thoroughly enjoy it.
 I think a good judgment of whether you're an addict is if you'd betray the person you love the most for the thing you might be addicted to. What short-circuit causes otherwise normal people to become addicted to something? I have no idea.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Topic for the Ides of April

This last one isn't so popular. Let's start a new one for the Ides of April: Addictions.

BTW, the Ides of April is not the fifteenth, but the thirteenth.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Picture It"

Picture it: Texas. August 1998. A sticky hot air had been born that morning, giving way to an even hotter afternoon. There I was, minding my own business as I drove down the street, when suddenly a neon arrow as big as a building glared out at me like my friend Gladys' front teeth. The sign was pointing at a window just below it. There, painted in bright red letters, were the words, "Drive Thru Liquor Here!" It was the darndest thing! I swear!

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Happiest Baby on the Block



When my daughter was under a year old, but not a newborn anymore, she generally never cried. She was just happy. Content. Glad to be a live and kickin it. Sometimes, she would look bored or sad, but generally, wouldn't cry.

She cried so rarely that I can only remember her crying on a few occasions:

1. I gave her a a piece of avocado to eat. She tasted it and cried. It turned out to be rock hard and not at all ripe.

2. She occasionally cried for a minute or two when I put her to bed.

3. She cried for a minute when I put her coat on.

So, basically two minutes of crying a day, if that.

When she was a newborn, her father and I used to joke about "The Baby Wheel of Fortune". It just seemed completely random, when she was happy or sad or angry. She'd cry. She'd laugh. She'd sleep. But, after a few months, it changed. One day her father said,

"You know, it seems like the wheel of baby emotions has just been stuck on 'happy' for a few months now."

"I know," I said. But I didn't want to jinx it! So, we rarely spoke of the lack of crying in our house. It just was. I rarely spoke of it to friends with children, because I didn't want them to get jealous or suggest there was something wrong with her. Also, it's not the most polite thing, when someone else's kid is screaming, to say,

"You know, my baby never cries."

It's actually hard to fit it into any conversation without sounding like a complete jerk. So, I never mentioned it. But it was the darndest thing. Sometimes, you're just lucky.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Two for One Deal

We got these two cats at the humane society: Sweetie Cat and Mr. Kitty. How we ended up getting two was that we went to get one, and this really cute cat was in a cage with a really freaky looking mutant cat. The lady working at the Humane Society said,

"These two are best friends. They need to be adopted together. You'll only have to pay the adoption fee on one, though."

Just then, the cute one hissed at her best friend.

"Silly kitty," said the lady working there. Was there a hint of desperation in her voice? She picked up the cute one and shoved her in my arms. The cute on purred. The freaky one cowered in a corner of the cage.

We adopted them both. Sweetie was the cute one. Mr. Kitty was the freaky looking one. He had extra digits on his paws, and discolored fangs.

We loved them both, in the end, but they never really acted like they liked each other. The sparred a lot, and occasionally sat next to each other on the couch, with their butts facing each other. I figured that was just how cats were. They don't show a lot of affection. Sweetie seemed to just barely tolerate Mr. Kitty, and Mr. Kitty got along with anyone and everyone. He was more like a dog in many ways.

Fast forward twelve years: we've now adopted another set of "best friends". These two cats chase each other around, sit together, play together, and even give each other long baths on the couch. They sleep together sometimes, cuddling like teenage lovers. They are truly best friends.

Go back in time again to when Mr. Kitty died. Sweetie mourned him for about fifteen minutes, and then she was perfectly fine being an only cat. Actually, who am I kidding? She was elated!

It kind of begs the question: did they even know each other? Or did the no kill Humane Society shelter just really need to get rid of a weird looking cat, so they shoved him into a cage with a really cute cat, labeling them "best friends"?

It's funny how fate plays with our lives sometimes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Friend Replacement Program

A funny thing happened the other day; I was describing a friend to my son. She is a hippy farmer, she buys used clothes in boxes, and she talks about interesting things. He looked at me and said, "Kinda like Julia."

Julia is my dear friend. She is a hippy farmer, loves thrift stores, and makes me laugh. She moved to France.

Maybe we all have friends that we need. There just might be types of people that bring out things in us that we need. People that we need to find; people that make us smile. I think that we have lots of bff's and I think that's ok.

There was something more. Something profound and funny, but it escapes me right now.

I think that it is fine. I think that this is enough right now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Crafternoon

My friends and I have a group activity we like to participate in that we have been calling crafternoon. It started out as knitting night with just two of the girls, and then more people started coming who did different crafts (I'm a crocheter, myself) so it has evolved into crafternoon.
The group is comprised of mostly friends from work, or who used to work with each other, but we also bring others in who do not work there. My BFF Holly, for instance, started coming to parties and such a while back, and has since become a part of the craft group as well. We've also rotated in boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and pets. The rules are simple: bring a snack or a beverage, bring your craft, and prepare yourself to chat and have fun.
It's all very Golden Girls, really. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than gathering with friends and bonding over old-fashioned crafts?

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Bus Stop: Last Call for Posts

Any writers? Anyone? Anyone?

The posts have been exciting.

We'll start a new topic March 10.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The walk from Santa Monica to Brentwood

I got on the bus, and I recognized him. He patted the seat next to him with what I like to remember as a lecherous smile. (It was really just a friendly smile.)

We were in graduate school together, and had only exchanged a sentence or two. On the bus ride I learned that he lived in Santa Monica. (I lived in Brentwood.) He liked to ride his bike to the beach for a break from studying. Not my type, but he'd make a really nice friend.

He got off the bus before me, but it was only one stop before. I started walking to his stop in the mornings, hoping we might have the same schedule. I started riding my bike to the beach after classes, hoping to find myself riding along next to him.

He lived in Santa Monica; I lived in Brentwood--we lived a block apart. It was more a matter of perception than city limits.  I never ran into him biking--it turned out he had hurt his knee and didn't bike for awhile. But I did catch him at his bus stop from time to time. He finally asked me out, after a long wait of a week or so.

He started moving in, about 6 weeks after our first date, one paper shopping bag at a time, walking the block from Santa Monica to Brentwood. That was 1978. We're still living together.

Sometimes the guys you meet on buses are keepers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

About the Time I Embarrassingly Fell In Love With a Random Stranger at a Bus Stop In Little Rock, Arkansas

It was 1993. I bought a Greyhound bus ticket from Durango, Colorado to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Nearly everything on this journey by bus was inspired by a lack of sleep and a certain crazed desperation that prevaled amongst the majority of the riders. I didn’t share the feeling entirely, but it did tend to rub off on me a little bit. The people I met came and went, came and went, sitting in that seat beside me, and life became this strange and endless stream of hearing people’s stories, and then never seeing them again.

At the major bus stations, you had to get off and switch buses. It required waiting in line a lot, sometimes for forty-five minutes at a time.

I met Mr. West Virginia at the bus station in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had no crazed desperation about him. He was relaxed, enjoying himself. There was a long line, and he was in front of me, and we started talking. Mostly, he talked. He was in his mid thirties, and I was a week shy of nineteen. I’ve never been one for older men, but I was in this sort of half dream state, and living with those on the fringe, on those buses, it kind of makes you become like them.

This guy had longish hair and a pleasant face. He was a little on the heavy side, a little on the unkept side, a little short. He had green eyes. Faded hair. White. He started telling me about his place out in the country in West Virginia. He loved West Virginia. Loved it. And to this day, I can not hear a thing about West Virginia whithout remembering this guy (although I have forgotten his true name).

“West Virginia is the only state with a declining population,” he said happily. “It just keeps getting more open and natural out there. The road that leads up to my cabin is probably knee deep in snow right now. I’ll have to hike in,” he went on with a serene smile.

Mr. West Virginia loved nature. He described the trees around his house in the different seasons, the near impassable road that led to his little cottage, the reason he was riding the bus- the old jeep wasn’t that reliable. But he liked riding the bus, watching the people. It was always an experience. Mr. W.V. just loved his life.

And as we got closer and closer to the front of the line, the place where we would split off and take our separate buses, it became more and more clear that this monologue about his life wasn’t just talk at all. This was an invitation. He had to say it in a very obvious way, because I don’t catch on to stuff like that very well, but I can’t remember. I think it was something like, “You’d like it there. You could try it a while, you know.” Which seems very creepy, now, but there was this feeling that we, we two, we were different from all of those other people at the bus station. The rest of them were the crazed underbelly of society, but we were mere observers, nature lovers.

It’s entirely possible that all of this was true, and it’s also entirely possible that he was an ax murderer luring me to his home in the forest where he would take me and cut me up into tiny little pieces. In my innocent youth, I really didn’t consider the ax murderer possibility. I was actually considering going home with him.

When we got to the front of the line, he clearly wanted me to walk away with him, to take his bus to West Virginia.

He was one of those people who talk with their hands a lot. I was drawn to him like I have not been drawn to hardly anyone.

Of course, it was insane to think of running away with him. Insane! That’s what made it so appealing. He said,

“You’d like it there.” And then he just paused. Time stopped. We were probably surrounded by fifty crack addicts, but I saw no one but him. He and I looking at each other.

I remember I was wearing a long white coat made of fake fur.

I felt the draw to Grandma’s house. For a moment I imagined what would happen if I didn’t show up at the bus stop in Pittsburgh. If I just ran away with some guy I'd met at a bus stop, the modern Ralph Waldo Emerson of West Virginia. Still...

We were at the front of the line. I hesitated to hand over my ticket for inspection. You could have your ticket swapped for free- I’d seen people do it. It felt like I was flying for a second. And then it passed.

“Well,” I said.

“Well,” he said.

And there was just a nod and we went out our separate doors. A nod and a smile.

I was happy the next twenty hours, maybe, considering what might have been, watching America roll by.

Since then, I’ve come to wonder how many girls he tried to pick up at bus stops, and did anyone ever go with him?

I’ve never shared this story before because I was so embarrassed about having fallen for some random older man at a bus stop in Little Rock.

Pick-up Line-?

I don't have a lot of bus stop stories, maybe because we always lived close enough to school that we walked.  So, my story is not a school bus stop story but a city bus stop story.

I had dressed up slightly, in that I had on a denim skirt instead of jeans.  I also had my fabulous very vintage looking green coat on.  Every one wanted to know where I got the awesome coat and then nobody believed me when I told them it had come from Target! 

Whoops...I'm wandering again... I was listening to my portable CD player, as I do whenever I ride a bus, because it usually keeps people from talking to me.  I was just standing there, and this guy was standing sort of off to the side from me, and I realised he was talking to me, I have no idea how long he had been talking to me. I pulled the headphones off my ears and said, "I'm sorry, if you were talking to me,  I didn't hear a word you just said."
"I was just saying that you have a very Jackie O vibe about you." I had no idea what to say to that, first of all anyone who has met me for more than 5 minutes knows that is absolutely not true. All I could do was smile and say thank you.  There was some small talk about my coat...and then the bus got there thank God for small favours! I put my headphones back on and didn't get bothered again the entire way home!

Practice Makes Perfect

I was a kid who liked to keep to myself on the bus. Waiting at the bust stop I was always closer to the back, but not the last person on. No. That was reserved for the bullies and the people who kept walking farther and farther backward so no one would get behind them and they could be the last person on.

The bus took us all the way around the city, so we had a long bus drive. It would take us to the outer edges of the city and pick up some of the kids from my class. They all generally ignored me, which was ok. I just sat at the window watching the city go by and enjoying the scenery.

I was young, maybe about second or third grade, I honestly can't remember. The bus would always travel this long stretch of road that was practically empty except for one building at the corner of a four-way stop. Everyday we passed it, and everyday I tried my hardest to pronounce the word displayed in flashing lights at the top of a tall post. It had a weird combination of letters in it and I just wasn't quite sure how they all fit together. I didn't have a whole lot of time to try and pronounce the word, so I had to try and practice while we drove by it, stopped for a few seconds, and then went on our way again. By the time we got to school I had promptly forgot all about the word and didn't think of it again until the bus ride home.

For months I practiced sounding out the word, but it didn't come out right. I would wait for the moment the bus started to accelerate before trying with all my might to catch a glimpse of the sign and remember the combination of the letters. I knew there was a "Q" and  "U" right in the middle, and those were the letters throwing me off. I didn't want to ask anyone because I didn't want anyone to make fun of me for not knowing the word. Plus, I wanted to figure it out on my own.

It was a cold, cloudy day when the bus took off from school one afternoon. It had been a bad day for me and I just wanted to go home and put it all behind me. I was sitting in the seat, looking out the window and not talking to anyone, when I felt the bus accelerate. I knew the sign was coming, but I didn't even want to try and figure it out. I was just going to ignore it. The bus started to slow down and I stole a glance at the sign, I couldn't help myself. At this point it was out of habit. Yet, for some reason, all the letters fit. For one brief moment the sun poked out from behind the clouds and lit up the sign, and I knew exactly what they said. After all these months, it finally clicked! Gone were all my thoughts of the bad day. Gone were the kids on bus chatting with their friends. Gone was the world around me. All that existed in that moment was that sign and I. Without hesitation, I excitedly stood up, threw my hands in the air, and yelled the word as loud as my little voice would go: "LIQUOR!!"

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pink Fleece and Yellow Bus

She stood in the bus circle, waiting to board, resplendent in her brand-new pink and grey checked fleece jacket that she had just gotten the night before. It was long time coming.
"Please, mom," she whined. "All of the girls have one!"
"But we don't have the money. Why can't you wear the jean jacket? There's nothing wrong with it."
"I do wear it," she said, sulking. "I just want the pink one."
"I'll see what your father says," her mom replied.
Later that week her mom came home from work with a plastic bag from Mervyn's, and she knew that she had won the battle. The jacket came out of the bag, with the tags still attached, smelling like cloth-making chemicals and popularity. It was soft, and pretty, and had a nice collar, and a baby pink zipper pull, and was just like all of the other jackets worn by all of the other girls at her school. This time she wouldn't look like she was from the poor side of town. This time, she wouldn't look like she was dressed in an older woman's hand-me-downs because all of the clothes in her size were intended for adults. This time, she would fit in.
She went to school that day and never took the jacket off. She walked to the bus stop in it, she wore it all the way in on the bus, she wore it to each of her classes and didn't take it off inside or at lunch. She was especially careful not to spill anything on it, because if she did her mom would have to wash it, and it wouldn't be as soft anymore once it was washed. She was careful. She was proud.
She got on the bus and sat near the middle. Too close to the front, and you looked like a goody-two-shoes; too far in the back, and you ran the risk of smelling like smoke or bottle rockets when you got home, and then you had to answer uncomfortable questions from your parents when you hadn't done anything wrong. The middle was fine.
Her bus stop was towards the end of the route. It took nearly an hour and a half to get to her house on the bus. It was a big school district with only one junior high. They had already passed through all of the close neighborhoods. Now they took a jaunt through the rural areas, where the people lived whose parents didn't have enough money to buy houses in town. That's where her stop was. After her came the final area, a brand-new housing development where all of the rich kids lived. Gold-plated assholes, her dad called them. She tended to agree.
Suddenly, there was a very strong aroma of nail polish. Christy must be painting her nails again. She hated that girl. Christy lived with the rich kids. Christy always had new clothes in the latest fashions and plenty of money to spend on nail polish and Aqua Net hairspray to make her hair roll up in the front like the cool girls all did. Christy was also terribly mean and nasty.
She heard snickers. Turning around in her seat, she saw Christy sitting a few seats back and Donnie, that annoying skater kid, sliding into the seat next to her, with a bottle of red nail polish in his hand. Those gold-plated assholes stick together, she thought.
Something red caught her eye against the forest green vinyl of her bus seat. She looked down. There was a smear of red nail polish on it, where she had been leaning a minute before, with a few pink fleece fibers stuck to it. She craned her neck around, but she couldn't see her own back, so she took off her new jacket for the first time that day.

There was a giant, red X painted in nail polish on the back of her brand new jacket.
She turned around so the other kids couldn't see her cry.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Middle Name

My first name comes from a crystal silverware commercial my mom saw on TV when she was pregnant with me, but that's not my story today. Most people are a bit skeptical when they hear my middle name. They think I am making it up, or better yet, trying to make them guess. It always makes me smile when I tell them and see their reactions. You see, my middle name is just a letter. T. Just one little letter, which just so happens to be my favorite letter, if I had to choose one. There is a story behind that middle name of mine.

I am the third oldest child with two older sisters. When I was born, my parents had split decisions on how many children they would have after me, so they talked about what to name me. My dad's first name starts with a T, and my mom's first name (or at least what she goes by most of the time) starts with a T. The story goes that my dad didn't think he was ever going to have any boys, and my mom didn't think she was ever going to have any more girls, so they decided to put the letter T for an initial as my middle name as a sort of reminder for them both.

Needless to say my parents had seven boys and one more girl after me, making a total of eleven kids in our family. The middle name story is sweet, but didn't really hold true after all those kids. In high school when I got tired of people asking me what the T stood for I decided to become a bit more creative and I told people that it stood for "The Greatest". For some reason it stuck. My friends would pass me notes in school addressed to Crystal the Greatest. I've had autographs of famous performers address them to Crystal the Greatest and I once even sang in public under the name of Crystal the Greatest. To this day, I am still fondly known as Crystal the Greatest to my friends and family. It makes me smile.

Housekeeping

If we go a week with no one adding anything on this topic, I think we'll move on to the next topic!

So exciting...

Thanks to everyone who's posted so far!

There are still spots. Write to cellar27door@yahoo.com .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

And for that name which is no part of thee

Name. I did not like it as a child. It is Heather. I have never considered changing it.

Parents name their children. My parents are reflected in my name. If I had been a boy I would be Leonard Robert III. Can you imagine such a thing?

I study linguistics, even now, 10 years into a different career, I always include linguistics in my course load of continuing education. Linguistics is an interesting mistress. It is the escape hatch from language. In very complicated ways it teaches you that words are everything and nothing. 'We are such stuff
As dreams are made on.'

Words are a construct. They are sounds put together. The sounds only have meaning because groups of people unconsciously accept their combinations and associate those sounds with some type information. There is actually no absolute truth.

Let me give you an example:


MorphologyThe structure of word forms and patterns
Morphemes are composed of morphs

Morphs are composed of phonemes
 Phonemics The perception of sounds within a language
Phonemes are composed of phones
 Phonetics The pronunciation of speech sounds within a language
 .
A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language.



This is a simple chart to explain how words are created. We assign specific information to phonemes and these  phonemes are combined to make morphemes (we call them words or parts of words). Phones on their own are given multiple meanings by different cultures around the globe. Your phonemes are only meaningful in your context.

With all of that in mind, words have no 'absolute' meaning. They only have a 'percieved' meaning. They are assigned phones collectively understood to mean something.

Which, to bring this all back around, leads me to never see words as profound or meaningful. I can't say that any one word in any language has more or less meaning than any other. I don't really believe in words. They certainly exist and transmit meaning between people. They encode many of our thoughts and I sometimes resent them for that reason. Our thoughts are constrained by the 'words' that we have available.

I am lucky. I can think the world in a few different languages. I know that my thoughts are different when I use different morphology and syntax to represent them. But ultimately, that leads to the terrible beauty of no truth to hold onto and there be dragons in those waters.

Too much knowledge is dangerous. I know that all of the truths we hold self evident are not. I know that we construct our world, our gods, and our distance from our animal reality. My name means nothing. It just is and there is no point in really caring about it.


 

No-Name says, "No cheating on your taxes."

Lots of people invent imaginary friends at some point during their childhood, even if it‘s just to pass the time on a particularly boring rainy afternoon. I was no exception. Except that my imaginary friend was actually an imaginary older brother. And he stayed with me for almost four years.

Though it was long ago, I remember the day that he entered my life. I remember that I was seven years old. It was the summer before 2nd grade, and I was where I could usually be found on a summer day - on the creaky little swingset in my parents’ backyard.

I had passionate feelings about the swingset. Swinging was fun. I enjoyed it. But it was also serious work. I would often swing from just after sunrise (when my mother slipped outside to water her plants and sing to her rose garden) to right around dusk (when mosquitoes and a fear of the dark drove me back indoors). Hands aching and rust-colored, with chain-link indentations molded into each palm, I would fix myself a glass of chocolate milk or sneak a few good-sized lumps of rock salt from the box in the highest kitchen cabinet (I had a salt addiction. Still do.) and retreat to my bedroom to continue whatever fantasy my imagination had spun while I was swinging all day long.

That particular day, my imagination had conjured up a big brother. I could picture him as clearly as if he was a real person. He looked just like my actual brother (tousled brown hair, olive skin, dark eyes framed with mile-long lashes), only older. Taller. Stronger. Quieter. He stayed beside me all day as I worked my swing, pushing me higher when I needed it and swinging right alongside me when I found my pace.

When I finally headed back into the house for the evening, my invisible brother was close behind. I didn’t ask it of him or make a conscious effort to imagine it. He just stayed with me. He followed me from room to room, watching over me silently like a bodyguard. He stood nearby and observed as I stole my little portion of rock salt and pocketed it. I could sense his disapproval, but I ignored it and walked - new brother in tow - to my bedroom. Once safely inside my room, I retrieved a chunk of salt from my pocket and popped it into my mouth, sucking purposefully. My imaginary brother watched and frowned.

“What?” I said defiantly. “I can have some if I want to. Mom and Dad never use it. They won’t know that I took it.”

His silence was condemning, and I became furious. I had created him, but it never occurred to me that I should be able to control him. He had a mind of his own. We began to argue, me defending myself aloud and him responding with mute reprimand.

“Jennifer?”

A knock on my bedroom door, followed immediately by my father’s face peering between door and frame.

“You okay in there? Who are you talking to?”

It never occurred to me to lie. I was a skilled thief, that was certain. I could sneak rock salt into my pockets on a regular basis without my parents ever suspecting a thing. But when presented with a direct question, I found it impossible to come up with anything but the truth.

“My big brother,” I replied.

My father, being the wonderful man that he is, was unfazed. “Oh, okay. What’s his name?”

Because humans have a natural instinct to want to name things, I knew that he needed a name. But like the ability to control my imaginary brother’s actions or lie to my parents, it had not occurred to me that my creation needed a name. At least, not until someone inquired about it.

“No name,” I told my father, meaning that I had not decided on (or discovered) his name yet.

My dad smiled at the space beside me, behaving as though he could actually see the invisible boy in my room. “Nice to meet you, No-Name. Be nice to Jennifer.” And he was gone, shutting the door gently behind him,

And that was that. My father unknowingly named my imaginary brother, and for years he was a very real part of our family. Always looking out for me. Guiding me to do the right thing. My own strange version of Jiminy Cricket. I’m convinced that even my parents gradually began to think of him as real.

We’d be at the dinner table, and I’d be pushing tomatoes around on my plate. I hated tomatoes when I was a kid. Absolutely hated them.

“Eat your tomatoes,” my mother would command.

I’d avert my eyes and keep playing with my food.

My mother would squint at me, sigh, and say, “No-Name says to eat your tomatoes.”

And I’d eat them. Every bite of them.

No-Name stayed with me until sometime around the middle of 5th grade, when I became too distracted by friends and crushes and “growing up” to need a protective, imaginary older brother any longer.

I still remember him, though. I think back on those years fondly. And to this day, every time I’m tempted to do something that I know I shouldn’t, or every time I hop onto a swing (You’re never too old for swings, you know), I can picture No-Name there beside me. Just as he was when I was a kid.

Good ol’ No-Name.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Just call me Meg. Please.

In 1972, my parents named me Megan. We lived in Pittsburgh, PA at the time. Megan wasn't a family name and had no significance beyond the fact that not many Megans were being born then. Along came 2nd grade in Miss Graham's class, and suddenly we were three Megans and a Meg in a class of 20. Now every little girl and her cousin are named Megan.

They also picked Megan as the spelling instead of Meghan since it was simpler. I'm not sure that anyone beyond friends and family have ever spelled my name correctly. It never ceases to infuriate me either. How can you not come close?! At least up north, everyone misspelled it with an "h". I live in the south now. People in NC want to spell my name in so many crazy ways. Meghan, Magen, Meagan, Magin, Meaghean (seriously?), Maygen, Megann. I could go on. They also mispronounce my name 'round these parts too. Instead of simply "Meg-an," they call me "May-gin" or worse, the dreaded "Meee-gan."

So now I go by Meg. One syllable, three letters. So far so good. If I could only find a way to abbreviate my Polish last name that they also can't pronounce and spell, I'll be in good shape.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's a family name!

I think that the tradition of "family names" is odd at best, and possibly more sinister than that on occasion. Why, you may ask? Why do you have such disdain for this fine, time-honored tradition? Well, here's a list of reasons.

1. Confusion. If one person in your family is named, say, Chester, why would you want to call someone else the same name? It just seems to be unnecessarily confusing. "Oh, Chester, please come in here and give me a hand with this." So three Chesters show up? It's just cumbersome. We already carry down surnames; the least you can come up with is a different first name. It's a cop-out, if you ask me. Show some creativity, mom and dad!
2. Irrelevance. Many family names sound really stupid to today's ear. The name Mildred was a fine name in our grandparents' generation, but today, not so much.  In two or three generations, Ashley and Jayden will sound like old people names. It's best for them to stay put where they were invented in time.
3. Bad precedent. It seems to me that naming a child after someone else is like a way of honoring the person you're naming her after. It is possible, however, for a child to be named after someone who later goes on to commit some atrocious act, and who wants to be responsible for that? I'm sure most of the men post-1945 who were named Adolf were mortified to be saddled with the poisonous moniker.

My name is sort of a bastardized family name. My name is Gina Louise. My grandmothers were Jean and Louisa. My mom hated both of those names, so she changed them to Gina Louise.  She told me once that the only other Gina she had ever known was a woman she didn't really care for. But in her mind at the time, it seemed like a logical thing. I really don't know why they felt compelled to name us after our grandparents, but my brother was named Charles Arthur, after my grandfathers, who were named (care to guess??) Charles and Arthur. My parents really skipped the whole naming discussion, didn't they? Had he been a girl, my brother, funnily enough, would have been named Melanie or Melissa.
Following their logic, if my husband and I had a girl she would be named Margaret Juanita, or Juanita Margaret, and if we had a boy he would be named Charles Eufemiano, or Eufemiano Charles. Yikes! Thank goodness there are no children in our future.

Yao Ming

We have a 6 year old adopted kitty that we named Yao Ming.  When we picked him up from the shelter, his name was Vermont.  See, the shelter named all of the cats after states and our cat got saddled with Vermont.  Fortunately, the people at the shelter said the kitty didn't know his name was Vermont, and that we could name him anything we like.  This was good, as Vermont is one of my least favorite states.  I have never been there, but it seems like a stuffy, white bread kind of state.  Plus, I imagine all the Vermont men wear turtlenecks, and nothing bugs me more than a man in a turtleneck.

When we got our kitty home we discussed what we should name him.  I of course wanted Satan, the Markitty de Sade, or Chairman Meow.  My husband suggested something less evil so we decided to name him after an NBA star.  We started shouting at the poor kitty names like "Steve Nash" and "Charles Barkley" and "Baron Davis."  The kitty just looked at us like we were crazy (a look to be repeated many, many times over the ensuing years.)  Finally one of us said "Yao Ming."  The kitty looked at us and meowed.  Yao/Meow-it seemed to fit.  Later we learned that our kitty was half Siamese and we felt very proud of ourselves for giving him such an appropriate name.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hannah

In 1998, my only child was born.  The entire family worried silly because the doctors found a problem with her kidneys in-utero – her little organs weren’t functioning correctly and her life was in jeopardy.  Three days after learning this news and seven weeks before her due date, we drove to the hospital to have our baby.   When we arrived at the hospital, I was already in labor.  It felt like a stomach ache but certainly nothing like you might see by watching those films they show us in baby classes.  I figured the stress caused me to go into labor.  More worry.
We arrived at the hospital and I was hooked up to a lot of machines with wires attached to every available place on my body.  A couple hours later the doctor said the baby was “struggling.”  Struggling translated to an immediate caesarean.  As I lay on the table with John by my side, doctors of every specialty had already been called in and a medical helicopter ordered to fly my brand new baby to Oakland’s Children’s Hospital as soon as she was born.  Overhearing conversations around me I wasn’t certain I would even have a chance to hold her before they whisked her off to save her life.
She was born itty-bitty with a very big voice.  There were cheers and tears from everyone as they assessed her then laid her in my arms.  We hadn’t wanted to know if she were a boy or girl so, in the midst of all the worry, we were joyous to have this little surprise.  Our little Peanut - our baby-bump name for her – was a girl.  She immediately calmed down and as I lay there convinced I would never be able to let anyone take her from me, doctors began shaking hands conveying their gratitude and saying goodbye to each other.  Goodbye?  Wait!   Doesn’t she need your help?!!?
We were taken to our room and after a battery of tests they brought her to us.  She was just under five pounds, could fit a little too easily in the palm of John’s hand, and was cute as a button!  Imagine our overwhelming relief that she was safe.  She was okay.  She could be with us instead of being flown far, far away.  The very day we left the hospital, and for many years later, we would be frequent visitors to hospitals and labs and she would have to endure horrible, horrible tests and procedures, but my baby did not have to be taken from me.
Her little steel bassinet with the number 18 clearly labeled on the outside, but faded from time and goodness knows how many babies before her, was delivered to our room.   We took pictures of our tiny little baby wrapped up like a burrito lying in bassinet #18.   More than a number it was a sign.  To those who don’t know, my precious little miracle was my eighteenth pregnancy but only live birth.
We are not a religious family so when we named her Hannah, I had no idea the Hebrew meaning is “gift from God.”  Hannah wasn’t even on our list of possible names but the moment they laid her in my arms she went from baby-bump Peanut to Hannah.  Hannah Lee Smith.
Hannah is now, as she would profess, almost thirteen.  A pre-teen.  I don’t know when six months from your birth date has turned into “almost” but she is right.  She is almost thirteen.  She is our miracle baby. 
And as we circled the Hoover Dam in a helicopter tour last year during a family vacation, I sent my thanks to the baby gods that this, twelve years later, was Hannah’s first helicopter ride.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Darien

My dad convinced my mom that it was a good name. He had heard it while living in South America. Darien is a Portuguese-derived place name common in Panama.

For thirty years I never met another Darien, although I learned about Darien, Connecticut, and Darien-other-places.

Then, my dad saw a Darien license plate. So I knew there were some others. Then, I heard a mom refer to her little daughter by name: my name. That was the first time I met someone who shared my name.

Recently, there has been a spate of Dariens. There are three of us at my high school these days: the librarian (me), a student who enjoys frequent conferences with the administrators, and an unassuming, pleasant student who flies under the radar.

Admitting that I am a librarian brings up the embarrassing but obvious fact that I clearly should have selected a different profession.  But, I didn't. I sometimes introduce myself as Darien the Librarian. I have found that among "mature" people and theater geeks, my name is easy to remember because they make the obvious connection to Music Man. Unfortunate, but useful.

My favorite Darien is someone I've never met, who contacted me on Facebook. He is a teenage musician living in Kentucky. We send each other kooky comments from time to time. We have the same first name, the same last name, and the same nickname. Boy Howdy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cellar Door: Names

My real name is Shoshanah. There goes my secret identity.

My name was never really an issue for me. I rather liked it, until I worked at Sears and was required to wear a name tag.

I worked in the hardware department, and it wasn’t exactly high society that came to see me. I was used to people learning my name and commenting, “That’s unique” or “That’s pretty” or, my favorite, “Where’d you get that name?” My mother gave it to me. The implication, however, was that I had changed my name in order to be unique or different. Lots of people in my life have asked me if I “made up” my name. That was mostly just comical and I didn’t worry.

Something happened, though, when I started working at Sears in Pueblo, Colorado. Almost every single day, someone would say,

“Shoshanah. Hm. Is that an Indian name?”

It seems like a harmless enough question. It’s not an Indian name. It’s a Hebrew name. That’s what I told people. But some people didn’t believe me. They would say,

“Are you sure? It sounds like an Indian name.” And then I would say,

“No, no. You’re thinking of the Shoshone tribe. Shoshanah is a Hebrew name.” Sometimes, they would still look at me, incredulously. These people did not know the definition of the word, “Hebrew.” “It’s Jewish.” I would say. “My mom is Jewish.” If they didn’t know what Jewish was, God help them.

It’s not the worst conversation you can have, day after day, but just having the same conversation, day after day like that, it can make you want to kill someone. Totally unreasonably, I know. But nevertheless.

The thing that really got to me was that some people actually thought that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Sometimes, it was a little bit fun, though. I was training a new guy one day, and I told him that, before the day was through, someone would say to me,

“Shoshanah. Hm. Is that an Indian name?”

When it happened, he was really happy. We had an inside joke.

Mostly, though, it was incredibly annoying. I realized that people in this world starve to death and I shouldn’t want to kill people for thinking Shoshanah is an Indian (well, Native American) name, but I just couldn’t help it. I just wanted to punch them all in the face.

It got really bad. After a while, I stopped wearing my name tag, and even my Sears smock. I went to work incognito and sort of lurked. It was clear my days were numbered.

Now, I live in the Midwest, and only one person here has asked me if Shoshanah is an Indian name. I no longer felt the urge to punch that person in the face. A few people have said, however, that they thought I was Black before they met me in person. I’m White. And I’m not even really Jewish.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Marla: Names

When I was a child I didn't like my name. It wasn't magical enough, it didn't sound beautiful when spoken aloud. My name was too connected to my life, a life that at the time, I wasn't very fond of. My parents divored when I was three and I lived 95% of the time with my mother in a sneeze and you miss it northern California town. One time when I was about seven, I was flying back from visiting my father on his farm in Pennsylvania. I was used to flying as an unattended minor. I was an expert. But this time, as chance would have it, my father put me on an earlier flight then agreed upon. While in the air during that foggy neither here nor there time a stewardess asked me for my name. Without missing a beat, I replied: Julie. When the plane landed, no one was there to pick up Julie. No one was there looking for Marla because of the flight mix up. And thus, Julie found herself in a suburban foster home with TV, and white bread, and everything that Marla wanted but didn't have. It took almost a week for my mother to track me down and convince everyone that she was a capable parent. When she came to get me pick me up, Marla was nonplused and Julie wanted to stay.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Idea Here

This blog is different from other blogs. This is a new community writing experiment. It's not really about me but about a lot of people. For the first 100 people who email me at cellar27door@yahoo.com, I will enable you to author this blog as well. Each person who volunteers to be a member will be given the opportunity to write on a given topic, once a month. If you are uninspired about that particular topic, then just skip it, and maybe write on the next month's topic.

Take a general subject like, "Taxi Cabs." Lots of people have a story about a taxi cab. All of the different blog authors, over the course of the month, could, if inspired, relate a true story on the topic of Taxi Cabs. The next month, new topic. Mothers. Community gardens. Shooting stars. Growing up. Think the Sun magazine's "Readers Write" section. The interesting thing about the Reader's Write section of the Sun is that, even though the topic is the same for everyone, none of the stories are even remotely similar. It's amazing.

The first topic for February will be "Names".

Just write when inspired. Write once a year. Write twice a year. Write once a month.

Blogger allows up to 100 authors.

True stories.

Sign up!* Go ahead! It'll be fun.

You're still alive and not dead! Tell your story.

It's less trouble than keeping your own blog, and it may turn out to be much more interesting.

* If you want to be an author here, please email me at cellar27door@yahoo.com with the email address that you use for your blogger account. Then you can post things yourself here without my intervention.